We liver in polarised times. Our beliefs, morals and voting intentions shape the way in which we view and interpret the world around us like never before. Are we left, or are we right? are we in, or are we out? In recent years the answers to these relatively straightforward questions have become intertwined with their own ideological baggage, opening a Pandora’s box of dichotomies. In the age of social media and 24 hour click bait news we are constantly asked to pick a side, with any hope of nuance out the window.
This week’s victim? The BBC Proms. Yep, that’s right. The BBC Proms has somehow been entangled in the so called “Culture War”. It had been suggested that the lyrics to Land of Hope and Glory, and Rule, Britannia were going to be dropped at the Last Night of the Proms next month due to its associations with colonialism and slavery. Despite the BBC’s Director General Tony Hall insisting that the instrumentals will be played next month and will definitely be sung next year, the debate rages on.
So what are the “Culture Wars” and who is suggesting the BBC Proms stops singing these songs?
Well, as I have alluded to, we live in very polarised times. Now, more than ever, our lives are driven by the politics we prescribe to which in turn shapes the way in which we view, interpret and digest the world around us. As a result cultural conflict arises between social groups – labour vs tory, leave vs remain – as they struggle for asserts their values and beliefs on each other.
As to who is suggesting the Proms drop the song? Who knows. ‘They’ say that the “woke left” wants to stop the singing of Rule, Britannia as it celebrates Britain’s imperial past, whereas the “patriotic right” believe it’s a song which celebrates Britain’s Naval History.
The story wouldn’t even be worth talking about if it wasn’t for the outrage which engulfs it. Thinking critically about Rule, Britannia does of course raise questions about its historical context, the message it conveys and the Empire it celebrates, but, in reality the furore surrounding Rule, Britannia is, to put it lightly, nonsense.
No serious anti-racist organisation or Black Lives Matter movement has asked for the song to be dropped – it’s almost as if they have bigger things to worry about. And yet, those facts don’t seem to matter too much for the media organisations pandering to their audiences with this ‘story’.
Britain still has a long way to go in coming to terms with and having meaningful discussions about its imperial past. These discussions are not about erasing our history, but reflecting on them and appraising them sensitively in light of the multicultural society we now live in. However, when these discussions are relegated to social media, character limits and click bait articles I’m afraid they become redundant.
More has to be done, but no credible voice is suggesting it will be at the expense of the BBC Proms.