LET A THOUSAND FLOWERS BLOOM AND SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT CONTEND
1 July 2010
Before the defeat supporters of the England football team had been flying the England flag; you could see that in Cornwall. Some people here are unhappy at this, seeing the flag and its flying here as an emblem of paramountcy and wrongs; conversely, other people in Cornwall find such views unconvincing and welcome the celebration of the England team and all that. I explored this three years ago and I’m going to repeat, mutatis mutandis, the argument I made then.
All right, nationalists say Cornwall is not part of England; other people in Cornwall say it is. The only reasonable and democratic way to deal with this difference is to live and let live and thrash it out politically in debate and elections, letting all views and their symbols be heard and seen; accepting the democratic legitimacy of all views while not necessarily agreeing with them. I think Britain is a pluralist country and Cornwall and its public institutions and private companies should be pluralist, happily accepting the reality of our diversity.
There should be explicit acceptance by everyone that the two main views of Cornwall – roughly, a separate country or a part of England – are held sincerely and both are legitimate and both sides want what they see as the best for the people of Cornwall. These views can be argued for and against with vigour but no one should be silenced, no one put down as anti-Cornish, no emblems barred.
Objections to the flying of the England flag in Cornwall, for football or for 23 April or at any other time, are out of place set against the argument for pluralism and democracy and free debate. No doubt some are offended by the flag but what has that to do with it? Giving offence and being offended is an unavoidable part of democracy; having other people lawfully express views, and even lawfully do things, one considers obnoxious or abhorrent is trying but part of democracy too. I think everyone has the right to express his views whether I like them or not; I think everyone has the right to wear the t-shirt, drink from the mug, or fly the flag of his choice be it a St George’s one or Piran’s or whatever.
Whatever our views about Cornwall, we should all fully accept the right of people and institutions to fly the England flag in Cornwall at will and without let or hindrance.
Eventually, we shall have to decide what we want Cornwall to be; indeed, what we want England and Britain to be. For the moment we can all celebrate life in Cornwall while arguing as courteously and persuasively as we can. Let a thousand flowers bloom and schools of thought contend.
Let a thousand…Mao 1956/1957. He actually said hundred not thousand, let a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend, but I think the misquotation is better known than the original. Alas, the liberalism, genuine or not, did not last long.