Friday, June 26, 2009

Flags, Smurfs, and Worldy Revelations

“Kukku Sensei, Jaaji wa takusu heben desu ne. Gyunyu oishii!”

For readers who ne parlez pas japonnais, the above roughly translates as “so Mr Cooke, Jersey is a tax haven huh? But the milk’s good!”. This is one of the more obscure cultural observations my colleagues have made. Some revelations regarding foreign culture hit home with great aplomb amongst students and teachers alike, as seemingly the most interesting thing they have ever learnt. Others which I have assumed will promote great interest have been met with zero enthusiasm.

It’s difficult to judge what aspects of my worldly knowledge to impart in order to elicit the best response. Last year I had a friend visit who was hugely into Japanese popular culture; she loved anime and manga, had a huge knowledge of all things “nippon a la mode”, had even organised Japanese cultural expositions in London. She had more in common with my students than I ever will, and yet my typically teenage students were totally unmoved by her tales of cosplay and knowledge of manga, anime and Studio Ghibli films. She showed pictures of herself dressed as various cartoon characters that the students knew, and yet bizarrely this failed to get any reaction. This is something of a stereotype, but Japanese fads or culture being exported abroad and being approved of by a global public is normally something of interest to the Japanese. And yet my students were bored rigid. (No offence Jessie, I found it interesting!)

Today I was teaching “names of countries” to students one year younger than those who had remained so indifferent to my friend’s tales of Japaneseness abroad. I was explaining to the students the definition of “United Kingdom” To aid in this tale I drew the flags of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. I then explained that if you put all these flags together, a union flag appears! What happened next was, if you’ll pardon my french, un petit peu ****ing weird.

As enlightenment spread across their faces, as they realised that the Union flag was three flags in one, their jaws slowly dropped. There were gasps of astonishment, excited yelps and cries of delight, and then a student at the back rose to his feet and began to clap. Soon his friends followed his example, rising to their feet in spontaneous applause, the sheer wonder of three flags combined as one overwhelming them, as within 20 seconds 38 students were on their feet, hands clasping and unclasping rapidly in rapturous applause, some with jaws locked open in awestruck amazement. Twas almost enough to make a bitter expat feel rather patriotic.


Or were they taking the piss? You decide.

Also if those bitter xenophobes in the SNP get their way and Scotland gains complete independence from Westminster, will the blue part of the union jack remain? Colours are a very significant part of the British flag; “there ain’t no black in the union jack” was a famous slogan of the racist national front. Remove the blue in the union jack and we all know what will happen. WON’T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE SMURFS?! It’s up to you Scotland. I’ll be smurfing angry if it happens.


Simon Varwell said...

I hope you were joking, Phil, in calling the SNP bitter xenophobes.

Hating other races, especially immigrants, is xenophobic. Wanting your country to be independent is not.

Most people in the UK believe we should not be in a united country with, for instance, France. Is that belief xenophobic? Of course not.

Independence works - 250 countries can't be wrong. To want Scotland to be in that club is a noble, intellectually sustainable, and entirely unremarkable desire.

Hope all's well.

The Ginger Gaijin said...

It was a bit of a generalisation, and obviously does not apply to all SNP supporters, but I do find that the desire for Scottish independence is often wrapped up in a distasteful anti-English sentiment, textbook xenophobia.

Simon Varwell said...

Ah well that's not my experience. Usually those who enjoy blaming and hating others are the ones who'd be terrified of giving that up infavour of self-responsibility. I've never heard anything other than inclusive, outward-looking tones from SNP leadership.