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Using An Example, Explain And Discuss What Michael Billig Means By ‘Banal Nationalism’

1583 words - 7 pages

Banal Nationalism is “introduced to cover the ideological habits which enable the established nations of the West to be reproduced.” Billig argues that banal nationalism is “the endemic condition” rather than extreme variants, which surround the idea of nationalism. Banal Nationalism refers to the everyday representation of a nation which builds an imagined sense of solidarity and belonging amongst the residents of the given nation. The wearing of a remembrance poppy surrounding remembrance Sunday, marking the armistice of World War One, is a national symbol to remember those lost in war and the families of lost soldiers affected by the wars. The example of a remembrance poppy has both ...view middle of the document...

The language which surrounding “our” or “we” indicates the nation’s involvement in the event, it become personal. The obvious thing which arises from war is that the nation is forced to survive regardless of the circumstances. Men are said to have “lost their lives for Britain”, there is a sense of guilt in this wording thus implicating every “British citizen”. By Britain being ‘ours’ then the soldiers we remember by wearing the poppy have lost their lives for “us”, yet still it is hard to define who “we” or “us” are. It brings the deaths of these soldiers closer to home and highlights that people’s lives have being cut short so that society could live the modern and free life it experiences today. By wearing the poppy in a visible place on our clothing this sense of being unable to escape the sacrifices soldiers made during wars, renders not only a sense of guilt but one of remembrance and a reminder to never forget the actions of ‘normal’ men. Renan states national unity “is always effected by means of brutality” this suggests that a sense of lives cut short during war is a more effective method of providing banal nationalism as society is forced together by the loss of lives for the country. By this nationalism being banal it is not recognised as an unusual action or ‘thing’, it fits into day to day society. This supports the idea of a poppy being an example of banal nationalism as the sense of being unable to escape the “message” it provides, yet still society accepts this message or remembrance rather than reading into any other meaning, such as the British support for war, the want for bloodshed. We remember those who died during war, yet equally forget the lives that British troops took during wars. Renan states “remembering is simultaneously a collective forgetting”, this supports my previous point that we remember what seems ‘easier’ to for us rather than remembering the lives the British forces took during war however we only remember the British lives taken rather than other lives such as German or non allied lives. The collective British memory, is shaped not to be thought about but to be a natural and banal, it makes it simpler to not ask questions when buying a poppy but just accept and buy one mindlessly.

Banal Nationalism states the importance of repetition and rendering natural what would otherwise not be. Whether by a poppy being “visually everywhere” at a certain year, does this make a remembrance poppy an “everyday”? A poppy may be a symbol worn by a majority of the British population around the 11th of November and for many it is not even thought about before a person buys or wears a poppy. Yet it is still not worn all year round and therefore cannot be an every day though it could be said it is “embedded in routines of life” at a certain time of year. Billig’s ideas surrounding the everyday and repetitive nature surrounding the examples of banal nationalism contradict my example of a remembrance poppy. Yet if expanded...

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