The easiest way to get locked up in China!

China will soon become the latest country to ban mocking of its national anthem. Well, that’s not entirely true. You will still be free to change the lyrics to make a satirical point, and you’ll also still be free to boo it – you’ll just have to deal with 15 days in prison afterwards!

The country’s politicians are discussing draft legislation to control performances of March of the Volunteers, which includes banning it at funerals. Two years ago, they banned it from weddings. Who on earth would want to play their national anthem at their funeral?

Apparently one lawmaker even wants to ban people putting their hand on their heart when the anthem’s played, as it looks too American.

Is this just a silly news story for everyone to laugh at for a couple of days, then quickly forget? Unfortunately not, as it will have an immediate impact, especially in Hong Kong where football fans have regularly booed the anthem at international matches. Would they dare do that now if they face 15 days in prison?

Changing anthem lyrics is also one of the easiest ways to make a political point – read my book, and you’ll find examples of it done everywhere from South Africa to Uruguay – and I guess that outlet will now disappear in the country. Sometimes a silly news story is actually a lot more important.

March of the Volunteers is, though, still a cracking anthem:

Jehovah Witnesses – your last hope against nationalism?

 

Some Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses – as bad as ISIS! Photo stolen from James Hill of the New York Times

I was reading an article recently about Russia potentially limiting Jehovah’s Witness activities this week. Apparently being a member is equivalent to being a member of ISIS, unless I’ve got this wrong.

One of the apparent reasons they’re disliked is they’re pacifists. Another is they refuse to take part in patriotic festivals. But there’s something else many Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse to do that isn’t mentioned in the piece: sing national anthems.

Everywhere from Tanzania to India, Jehovah’s Witnesses have had to go to court to defend their right not to sing anthems. They see singing as worshipping a country, when you’re only meant to worship God. In 1940s America, members were literally lynched, tarred and feathered, and thrown out of schools, for their opposition to the anthem, flag and pledge of allegiance.

But that opposition has achieved one surprising thing: the passing of laws protecting freedom of speech and thought worldwide.

At this time of growing nationalism, do we actually need Jehovah’s Witnesses more than ever to prevent any pernicious anthem laws being passed? If so, that’s a weird thing to say given that group’s own scandals, which suggest it’s not too keen about freedom of speech in its own organisation. Its lawsuits are also entirely self-interested. They don’t care about anyone else’s right to sing an anthem or not.

We really are in interesting times.

Colin Kaepernick’s standing for his anthem again :(

This is Colin Kaepernick after being tackled, but it sums up how I’m feeling about his decision! Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

American footballer Colin Kaepernick has announced he will stand for the US national anthem next season, ending his months-long protest against the treatment of minorities in the country.

I know it’s because he needs a job – the San Francisco 49ers have decided not to keep him on – but it’s a shame. You could easily argue things have got worse in the US since his protest started and it’s needed more than ever.

Expect fewer protests all round soon: the US soccer association has announced a new policy saying all players have to “stand respectfully” for anthems at international matches. Last year, Megan Rapinoe kneeled for the Star-Spangled Banner before two games – aping Kaepernick. Guess she won’t any more.

Why the Kapernick anthem saga’s become the world’s stupidest protest

It’s not because of what Kaepernick’s doing (kneeling during the US anthem, see above).

Or what any of the other protesters are doing either.

It’s because of the reactions the protestors are receiving. These range from firms ending sponsorship deals with players to schools threatening to discipline any students who dares copy Kaepernick’s example.

One soccer team even played the anthem early – before players took the field – to stop any potential protests. While there is, of course, at least one Congressman giving interviews calling Kaepernick “sympathetic to ISIS“.

You could argue those actions are no more inflammatory than the protests, but surely a real patriot is confident enough in their society to allow room for protest, especially when they’re continually trumpeting the “freedom” that society has?

The only good thing to say about the saga is that politicians haven’t passed any laws forcing people to stand yet, because that has happened before: in Japan, of all places. Japan is home to the world’s longest running anthem protest and if you want to learn about it, read my book, although I’ve just written an article for Foreign Policy magazine about the main protester – a lovely woman called Kimiko Nezu – that updates things and includes her views on Kaepernick. It also includes some quotes from a man who got beaten up for protesting India’s anthem.

Kimiko Nezy (on the right) celebrating in May after Japan's Supreme Court ruled she should not have been suspended from her teaching job for six-months without pay for refusing to stand for the anthem. It only covers a punishment in 2007. She's fighting to have other punishments overturned

Kimiko Nezy (on the right) celebrating in May after Japan’s Supreme Court ruled she shouldn’t have been suspended from her teaching job for six months for refusing to stand for the anthem. The ruling only covers a punishment in 2007, bizarrely, so she has many more cases to fight

Perhaps the only truly good thing to have happened in response to the Kaepernick saga so far is that South Park has satirised it. See below for a clip that includes a stadium announcer saying, “We now ask you all in solidarity to please rise, or sit, or take a knee, to honour America.” Very droll.

The year’s greatest football – and musical – protest

Back in June, Hong Kong football fans started booing – and I mean booing – China’s national anthem as a way of protesting that country’s rule of the province.

FIFA, being FIFA, decided to fine the Hong Kong FA for those boos and demanded they never happened again.

So how did Hong Kong fans react last month? By doing this:

Hong Kong fans 'boo' the Chinese national anthem March of the Volunteers before a football/soccer match

Yes, amazing!

FIFA has unsurprisingly launched an investigation.

Recently, I met a student from Hong Kong at one of my book talks who told me that many people there actually consider their ‘national anthem’ to be a cheesy pop song called Below the Lion Rock (rather than China’s March of the Volunteers).

Performed by Cantopop legend Ramon Tam, it’s the theme tune to a 1970s TV show and it has the sort of appalling lyrics you’d expect of the theme tune to a 1970s TV show (“In life we’re sometimes glad / But we’ll also be sad”) so it’s somewhat surprising it’s become a rallying cry, especially for pro-democracy protesters.

But if you don’t believe me, here’s a video of said monstrosity set to a montage of last year’s Hong Kong student protests. I hope someone re-edits it to cut in those kids holding up the “Boo” signs!

Five ways Jeremy Corbyn could ‘sing’ God Save the Queen this weekend and still wreck his career

Corbyn not singing the national anthem

AKA let’s go Buzzfeed!

1 Miming

Corbyn’s press team have repeatedly said he’ll “take full part” in God Save the Queen on Remembrance Sunday ensuring there’ll be no repeat of the furore caused by his silence at September’s Battle of Britain memorial.

The problem is “take full part” is such a vague wording you have to assume he’s considering miming his way through it.

Don’t, Jeremy! Even Beyonce gets caught when she mimes anthems. And you’re not Beyonce. You’re not even Milli Vanilli!

2 Trying interpretative dance

If miming’s a risk…

3 Singing the second verse

Despite countless anthems being bloodthirsty and anachronistic, a lot of people still take issue with the violence underlying God Save the Queen’s second verse. “O Lord our God arise, scatter her enemies and make them fall,” it goes. “Confound their politics, frustrate their knavish tricks, on thee our hopes we fix, God save us all.”

It was so controversial in Victorian times people held competitions to replace it. Today the royal family pretends it doesn’t exist when handing out lyric sheets.

Jeremy, though, might decide to make a point by singing it; to show everyone just what a horrific anthem Britain has and how outdated the monarchy is too. Don’t, Jezza. No one else will join in. You’d look like an old man haranguing children at a bus stop.

4 Singing the anti-Scots verse

Yes, Jeremy, everyone knows someone once wrote a verse about crushing “rebellious Scots”. But as much as you must hate the SNP right now, don’t sing it!

5 Singing it as it was originally intended

God Save the Queen was written in the 1600s as a galliard, a style of music that requires people to do a little jump in the air once a phrase. People also originally sung it with more trills than Mariah Carey in her prime.

Jeremy, you are not Mariah Carey. And God knows how bad things would get for you if you started doing little jumps into the air. Just do what everyone else does when they have to sing it: have a few drinks, then grin and bear it. It only lasts a minute, after all!

(For more on God Save the Queen’s story without any rubbish Corbyn jokes, read my book!)

Jeremy Corbyn! Bloody hell!

As you’ve probably seen from today’s newspapers, Jeremy Corbyn didn’t sing God Save the Queen yesterday. OMG!

You could argue he should have sung it given his position – the Guardian takes that view today – but personally I think there are many reasons why everyone in the UK should stop singing the song. If you want to learn them, either read this piece I just wrote for the Telegraph or read my book, specifically the chapter picture below, which looks like it’s about Liechtenstein, but isn’t!

For any casual visitor to this site, no, I’m not a republican like Corbyn, my book’s just named after Paraguay’s national anthem! Stop ordering me to emigrate!