28 September 2022

Prince Philip was not an Englishman ... am I?

 I recently attempted to lighten your moods by offering you a selection of the verbal trinities ... Liberte Egalite Fraternite and the rest of them ... which the French Revolution bequeathed to the workoholic masses of Francophone Africa. 

Another such trinity, rather new to our ears, has, just now, hit our headlines: GOD FATHERLAND FAMILY.

This 'modern' trinity (although it is not exactly new) is popular amomg the political associates of the rather jolly-looking lady who has just done so well in the Italian General Election (I'd swap her for our grim Truss any day of the week). But is this trinity any more acceptable than the specimens I collected the other day?

I am particularly worried by the elevation of the PATRIE ... the Fatherland or the Vaterland or the Homeland. It is not on a level with GOD ... obviously ... and, in my view, it is not even fit to be bracketed with FAMILY. 

Where do these PATRIES come from?? Italy itself, for example, was invented by the associates of Garibaldi and of the ruling House of Piedmont. Our own 'Land of hope and glory' is such an unstable political construct that foreigners, poor chappies and chappesses, never quite know whether English means the same as British. Neither, indeed, do I. 

Serbia? Croatia? The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia?

Even Greece? - somebody recently wrote in The Times that the Elgin Marbles should be sent back to the Balkans because they are so uniquely emblematic of what the writer called "the Hellenic State". But there was no such thing as "the Hellenic State" when those Marbles were made; if they are symbols of anything, it is of the Polis, the City-State of Athens, the town and its little surrounding area of Attica with its countryside and villages. It was a city-state which was often at war with the other Hellenic city-states which existed in the area we now glibly call Greece.

The 'Athenians' often had somewhat murderous views of what should be done about misbehaving 'colonies'.

When much of Europe was a loose confederation called the Holy Roman Empire, what was the Patrie of its inhabitants?

I hope nobody will ask me to fall down and worship any modern Nation State. I share the views of the Man From Tarsus (Philippians 3:20).

Do they ever do any good? Even the "United States of America"? Or the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland"? The tortured history of such phraseology, on its own, bears witness to its protean and disunited instability. If we weren't so accustomed to it, it would make us laugh until we cried.

The apotheosis of such artificially delimited and evanescent territorial arrangements as Fatherlands makes me shudder. I just hope that nobody mentions the Ucraine.

Four or more cheers for the following anecdote about Prince Philip, quondam Prince of Greece and Denmark:

He was in Canada; talking in French to an arrogant and condescending French-Canadian politician (was it a Trudeau?). This individual had the nerve to congratulate him on the grounds that his French was "very good for an Englishman".

Philip snapped back "I'm not an Englishman and I was speaking French before you were born."

Ridete omnes quidquid est cachinorum.



Moritz Gruber said...

This is a rather interesting topic for those who like to theorize, especially if the theory has little immediate effects on morality. I belong to these people; so: well, maybe later.

In the meantime, off the cuff: to be fair to "them", "they" do not ask you to fall down and worship your nation state. What they do ask is to obey its authorities where they have a right to command (which is a no-brainer) and to love it as one loves family (by which I do not mean: just as much as, but: as opposed to a spouse and friends, whom you choose). Note that except in the utmost cringe varieties of nationalism (think that even the German Nazis officially pointed out that they disapproved of "hooray patriotism"), this does not mean you don't criticize them; it may mean you criticize it more than other things; but you do it in a different manner, it's not "those other people are nuts", it is not even "let's look at the failings of those others with the charitableness of a Christian and, gently, point them out to them to help them", but it is "here we are at fault".

As I said, an interesting discussion, but certainly none of this involves breaking the First Commandment, or indeed sinning against true Christian hope.

(To anticipate the end of said discussion, I have a fancy it would be: there actually is a duty to be patriotic even for the merely-temporal home, but it's probably one that allows for excuses in extraordinary circumstances and it is rather low on the priority list.)

Frederick Jones said...

Pierre Trudeau once declared that "They speak lousy French in Quebec".

Fr M. Smith said...

I believe the recipient of Prince Philip's remark was Jean Chretien, former Prime Minister of Canada.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. But you are a chosen generation, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people: that you may declare his virtues, who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:

I being to the Holy Catholic Nation and my Capitol is Vatican City (Rome)

B flat said...

The comment of Moritz Gruber is a gem.
Thank you, Father, for posting occasionally on provocative themes.
The Prince Philip story does not make me laugh. It is pleasant to see someone overbearing get his comeuppance, but since the Prince outranked the politician - even if it was the then prime minister of Canada - it was unkind of him to take advantage. Of course, he may have said it discreetly and quietly to avoid the politician's deep mortification; in which case, we would know of the remark only because the recipient told it as a joke against himself. If wishes were horses, then we would all ride.
But your doubt expressed in the Title of your posting, does betray your Enlishness. Would Scots or Welshmen ever express such a doubt? You probably only know at second hand the need to defend your home and your folk, which England experienced acutely in 1940, and subsequent generations in this country have not learned.
A diverting but perhaps sterile exercise, might be to try to rationalise the gender of each nation's designation of its homeland. Does the gender entail presuppositions of characteristics? The English language has no real equivalent of Patria, which may explain the gap in this aspect of identity here in the British Isles. In some languages it is Fatherland in the sense of the land of our fathers, but definitely seen as an extension of Motherhood, protecting and nurturing her children, and herself needing protection from enemies.
I accept whole heartedly, like yourself, the edifying words and underlying sentiment, of the "O Sautaris Hostia", customarily sung in England at the opening of Benediction. However, both Henry VIII and his bastard daughter Elizabeth, wanted in their pathology to ensure that Englishmen had no higher loyalty outside the shores of their realm imperial, which is why so many were separated from, and/or suffered for the sake of, the Truth which sets us free.

Cus said...

The meaning, content of "NATION" varies over time. Were the Jews a nation? Did they have a... hmmm... fatherland? The differences between the tribes were quite significant, still God (and they themselves) considered them one unity.

In my mothertongue 'fatherland' is HAZA, what is the word also for HOME. Maybe Father's anger has to do something with the bad historical connotations of FATHERLAND?

All I want to say is that a country's history has a deep influence on what its inhabitants think and feel when uttering that word, be it (in their mothertongue) fatherland, mother country, home or anything. Many invasions, cruel subjugations and, over their history, millions of their people dying while protecting that land. Not abroad! At home!

Cus said...

PS: I think this is a linguistic, translational problem. Fatherland and homeland may refer to the same territory, nation - but the first of them has now some sad, dark historical connotations. For me they are not synonyms! They are not interchangeable; at least you cannot substitute all occurances of homeland with fatherland without changing the idea expressed in the utterance.

Albertus said...

PrincePhilipp was 100 percent danish/german by blood. Ergo, not an Englishman, though, being Germanic, closely akin to Englishmen, who are - as St. Beda and other writers tell - and as the newest Dna research (2022) confirms - are mostly descended from the 5th century north Germanic Jutes, Angles (both from present-day Denmark), Saxons ( from northern Germany just under Denmark) and Frisians (from the North Sea coast stretching from modern-day North Holland to southern Denmark). In the 9th century there came another great influx of Danes, from a unified Denmark, which included the Jutes. In the 11th centurythere came a third wave of Danes - the Nirman "french", who only a couple generations earlier had come -mostly from Denmark - to settle in north-west France. Love of fatherland and one's own folk is a christian virtue, for to honour father and mother means to honour one's forefathers. A folk is a family on a much larger-scale, and the fatherland is the place where the folk, to which one belongs, dwell. I am most surely a believer in God, Faith, Fatherland, and Family - in that order. Italy has now been blest with a new Faith-Fatherland-Family- loving government. I pray that the forces of evil in Brussel will not bring down this new hope for Italy and Europe, as it did the Salvini government and two patriotic governments in Austria, and is trying very hard to bring down Hungary and Poland.

Moritz Gruber said...

By the way, "fatherland" happens to be the close translation of the German word "Vaterland"; this one, however, has no closer connection to "Germany" than the one given by the fact that if a German says the word, of course Germany is his fatherland. All the rest of the implication was a nice novel title by a very capable author, Robert Harris, but no more than that.

Dear Albertus,
>>God, Faith, Fatherland, and Family - in that order
I think that what the Fourth Commandment literally says trumps what it, granted (probably, generally, etc.) rightly, has been constructed to imply, which would mean for the latter two to change place in the priority list.

Banshee said...

Esther 15:1 -'Et mandavit ei... ut ingrederetur ad regem, et rogaret pro populo suo, et pro patria sua."

I think WWII was bad, but not bad enough to destroy all words and meanings. Why should we let the Nazis win?

Banshee said...

2 Maccabees 7:8 is also nice -- 'And he answered, in the language of his country (patria voce), " I will not do it."'

2 Maccabees 8:21 - "....pro legibus et patria mori parati."

Of course, Jesus complains in all four Gospels about a prophet's treatment "in patria sua." But He didn't inspire Jerome to avoid the word, did He? No.