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.