Thursday, January 17, 2013

keep calm, etc

... and now it's a bumper sticker (as seen, rather self-consciously positioned, on a very British Mini, that also has a sticker for the LSE in the back window).  I can't quite get my head around why I object to this sticker so much at some visceral level, and I don't think that it's just because of some perverted reverse nationalism, although I've spent a day battling with people here who couldn't quite grasp my accent.  I think my objection rests on how manufactured this sense of national identity seems to be.  The story's become well known: it was one of a series of wartime posters in Britain, but never, in fact, deployed, or pasted, or whatever the right word would be.  Only a few escaped - one that found its way to a bookstore in the north of England; a handful that were proudly brought in to the Antiques Road Show.  But because it's now out of UK copyright, the image could - once "discovered" in that bookstore - be reproduced endlessly.

So - is it that I object to this because it's not "authentic" in some way? But it both is (as in - designed in the 1940s) and isn't (it wouldn't have ever been seen by ordinary people - my parents, for example, would have been highly, highly unlikely to have encountered it).  I suppose I feel, all the same, as though it's passing as false history: proclaiming the need for a stiff upper lip and cups of tea and "just getting on with it" - which is one of those stereotypes that is more true than not.  I don't think I've quite nailed it, yet.

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