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On Globalism and National Identity

I, again, find it difficult to post something to the blog this week. Not for reasons of a lack of what to write but rather because there are just too many things to talk about. Ok, too many things to write about aspects of life, society, culture, technology, principles, policy, pride, national identity, globalism or globalisation, education, educational technologies, etc, etc. And worse off, in my dilemma to find significance in these myriad of topics, I have to find the connection between them – the thin strand of commonality that links them, so that they make sense to me.

So I will try to start with globalism (noun, the attitude or policy of placing the interests of the entire world above those of individual nations or globalisation; verb, to extend to other or all parts of the globe; make worldwide) and link it to national pride and identity.

In 1960, when the Nigerian founding fathers gained independence from the British, a new national anthem was needed. One arrived from a combination of lyrics taken from the five best entries in a national competition. The first two lines of the new anthem (1960-1978) says,

Nigeria we hail thee,
Our own dear native land.

The second line of that anthem is similar, has the same number of syllables and almost ends with the same words as the first two lines of the Canadian anthem.

O Canada!
Our home and native land!

What is common to Estonia, Turkmenistan, Lithuania, Zimbabwe and Haiti? The reference to “native land” in all their anthems. Estonian (My Native Land, My Pride and Joy); what was called, the Black National Anthem (Lift Every Voice and Sing) has a reference to standing true to “our native land”; The Turkmenistan anthem has a line – “Native land, sovereign state”; The Lithuanian anthem – “working for the good of their native land and for all mankind”; the third verse of the Zimbabwean anthem beseeches God to bless our “native land” and so does the last line of the Haitian Anthem – pledging allegiance to the land and willing to die for it.

Besides the fact that some of these nations (Canada, Nigeria, Zimbabwean) may once have been under British colony and rule, these common references may highlight plagiarism in today’s context (D. Hlinka) but had nothing to do with it one or two centuries back. In fact, references or similarities in anthems may have been used as linkages, identity and relationships to colonial heritages so much that arguments for plagiarism or ownership of rights as today’s copyright laws demand were downplayed in the face of patriotism or identity to a higher power, colony or tradition. So, “God Save the Queen”, may no longer be used in most of these countries but the existence of lines that link these pasts to date, in these anthems may still remain an indication of such allegiance. What we sometimes fail to remember is that lines such as these moved from one country to another perhaps without the use of technology as we knew it – in their audio visual sense (the use of radio and TV) but technology did however play a part in the globalization of national pride and identity as defined by the anthems that characterized these nations. The ships, books, warring vessels and colonial tendencies enhanced by technology did play a role in how these words found their ways into widely dispersed national anthems.

So when Michael Buble started his performance by singing “Maple Leaf Forever” at the closing ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics, he ended it by singing the last lines of O’ Canada invariably linking centuries, times, identities, stereotypes, national pride, global influences, etc.

What was most fascinating during the presentation was the respect to time. It started at 7.30pm CET and ended promptly at 10pm CET. With all the chaos in between, the timing was still perfect. There were several points of failure in the entire production and one that stood out to me was the little “puck” skating in the midst of the giant hockey players. He could have tripped or delayed the production by a minute or two but everything remained perfectly timed. Perhaps David Atkins, the director of the production must receive credit for this but timing was important especially if this production was to be viewed by the global community represented at the games and separated by several time zones. Technology had to be respected and technology had to be used with respect to bring an exciting viewing experience to the global audience of the games.

Buble, sang a version of the song with a reference to lands; “Our land of peace, where proudly flies, The Maple Leaf forever.” Perhaps the common thread that linked all of these, from the time of colonial era signified by the 1812 version that referenced the queen to Buble’s (actually Radian’s,) 1997 version, Maple Leaf Forever is not just a reference to a flag flying in the sky but to one in which more significant value exists than meets the ordinary eye.

4 Comments

  1. Paul wrote:

    Hi Ben,
    I am wondering if you feel that Canadians are patriotic? There has been a lot of talk about it lately because of the Olympics. I am patriotic except around tax time.
    The first time I heard O Canada in a school was when I started teaching in Manitoba. Back in a Newfoundland Catholic school we had prayers several times a day, but no anthem. Schools here play several different versions of O Canada. During my first day teaching after the announcements, they played a real country/cowboy version of O Canada and I thought to myself "What the hell have I got my self into?" After several silent Hail Marys I was back to myself and I have been her ever since. I do however miss the Ode to Newfoundland! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ode_to_Newfoundland The only Provincial anthem in Canada.

    Sunday, March 7, 2010 at 19:48 | Permalink
  2. Mike wrote:

    Well, with the talk of anthems and patriotism, I will ask – does anyone remember the song that came out on the Centennial? The 'Ca-na-da Song' – here it is:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18-oRTLIe3I

    enjoy! brings back some memories (well most of you were not born yet – I was (144)^(.5) years old)

    Sunday, March 7, 2010 at 21:13 | Permalink
  3. Roland wrote:

    Hi Ben,

    I like your observations on the similarities of different national anthems that speak about a "native land". I never thought of how this may be a British colony mindset, as countries like the U.S.A. make no mention of any native land.

    I was also worried that the skating puck would fall, but everything worked out. You're right about the timing of the closing ceremonies: everything was timed right to the last second. It is interesting to think of the closing ceremonies as a work of precision and a work of multimedia art, the combination of science and art.

    Wednesday, March 10, 2010 at 13:10 | Permalink
  4. Garry wrote:

    Ben,

    Your analysis of the similarities and differences of anthems with respect to colonialism is interesting. I suppose that all colonies of a native land would could reference the home base. Havn't really given it much thought. As for me, I'm like Paul when the national anthem is played, I'd rather say a prayer. Allegiance to my Lord is my real anthem. The Hail Mary is a good one. At the beginning of the school day though, the prayer to Archangel Michael is sometimes very fitting. The prayer beings by saying, "St. Michael dear archangel, defend us in this day of battle and be our safeguard against the wiles and wickedness of the devil." It's a great prayer, yet trials may ensue no matter what. There are always guys like Mike who have to say they're 12 by citing the square root of 144!

    Thanks again for the informative and reflective post!

    Wednesday, March 10, 2010 at 20:12 | Permalink

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