Irenic. Adj: favoring, conducive to, or operating toward peace, moderation, or conciliation. Notes from a Politics and Economics undergraduate just back from somewhere in the MidWest. "You said you were going to Ohio? Where the Hell's that?"

Friday, March 7, 2008

One of the very few things Michelle Obama and Margaret Hodge have in common: interest obsession

Chris Matthews has compared her to Jackie Kennedy. I'm going to do her a great disservice and compare her to the crazed excuse for a woman that is Great Britain's Minister of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Margaret Hodge. For there was something in Mrs Hodge's comments at IPPR that reminded me of Michelle Obama's "first time in my adult lifetime I'm proud to be an American" whoopsy. Mrs Hodge trashed the Proms this week in a thoroughly misguided attempt at defining the cultural apparatus of "Britishness" (anyone who can say the Proms aren't inclusive and then go on to praise The Archers for being a broadcast "everyone can feel part of" just needs help). But she also said this:

"National mottos and statements of shared values have to be lived and made real if they are to fulfil their purpose. Equal economic and educational life chances must match the grander statements in order for people to invest their confidence and their trust. Without them, exhortations about identity, belonging and cohesion will not succeed"

This seems to me similar to Mrs Obama's Freudian slip at Madison. It appears to be a common trait of liberalism either side of the pond. Mrs Hodge is saying economic and educational advancement is a pre-requisite for patriotism. Mrs Obama echoes this sentiment in rather narrower terms, pride in her country is conditional on the (as it happens, prescient) emergence of a movement for the kind of economic and educational change she approves of.

Yet for many, patriotism isn't about self-interest, or the consequence of the success of a view of the common good that one may happen to feel is one's self-interest. Of course, a known impossible ideal would be a depressing motto for a nation and the pursuit of perfection can always lead to frustration (See Franklin's speckled axe story). But by adopting the standard of these two very different women we give up on the nation as an entity capable of driving us to live outside of ourselves, its very raison d'être.

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