Dark Satanic Mills

Watching the Olympics made me surprisingly homesick. 

I can happily brush off that somewhat overbearing Jerusalem nonsense for its textual meaning but not so easily, it seems, for what it stands for without being played or sung, as a refrain that so rapidly evokes the nature of a country without detailing it, apart from mentioning, briefly, how it is pleasant in the countryside. 

You have to mentally edit away the actual meaning, which evokes a determination to use weapons of war or glory (or, if we're being very generous, divine energy) to create a holy land (or perhaps just a much more pleasant place) in England. 

But that's Blake's poetry for you. Always a little rapturous, a little ambitious. While wonderful, he strikes me through his writing as having been the sort of person you start talking to at a party and realize, too soon, that here is a keen soul, one with more enthusiasm than the norm, who keeps you constantly off balance conversationally and with whom you run the risk of ending up talking about the minutae of a passing mention of romantic philosophy for more time than is healthy at a social gathering.

I like Jerusalem much better than the official anthem, God Save The Queen which is a raving appeal to heaven to take care of the most powerful person in the land and damn anyone who stands against him or her, and is only considered an expression of patriotism by those who happily or intentionally conflate patriotism with acceptance of declared authority. 

I am looking at you, Piers "the athletes should show respect to our monarch" Morgan.

The <insert gender of monarch here> aspect of the national anthem is one of the things I find the most amusingly assumptive about it. Whoever you are, supreme individual, it says, we support you, and anyone you are against we want to fail. 
Alarm bells should be ringing at this sort of declaration.

Putting aside what it is striving for, Jerusalem is a very aspirational, let's-get-this-done sort of song, and ignoring that they are weapons of war being proposed as tools for urban construction (how does one excavate with a chariot of fire? can you weld with a bow of burning gold? hang on, are we using these weapons to enforce slave labor?) it's just a very stirring tune, hitting every psychologically nostalgic note I think I have.

So Jerusalem, and the other UK national choruses, coupled with the unabashed, unglamorized segue into the industrial revolution portion of the opening ceremony really got me feeling homesick. Instead of a bombastic, corporate-slick, brand-enhancing GREAT BRITAIN event, it was, beyond the spectacle and scale, a presentation of the complexity and mixed social and moral churnings of a national history given with no little pride but not shying from showing the struggles and failures along the way.

The lack of pretense or beautification of the rising smokestacks was so disarming it put a lump in my throat.


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