London, 12th of December 2017
Yet another flag for the Queen
Was it an act of jubilation and celebration of our wonderful Queen? Or an act of subversion and defiance? Did we join the wellwishers, when we displayed the Flag of Compassion during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations for Her Majesty the Queen on the 5th of June 2012 on the Mall in London? Or did we, by holding up our little yellow flag act, surreptitiously protest against entrenched privilege, distance ourselves from whatever elements of jingoism might be detected in the sea of Union flags around us?
Probably it was none of this and to be honest, we were not sure ourselves. Would it be risky? Would we be beaten up by stauncher royalists for displaying this unknown, puzzling flag in such a high-strung moment of national unity? Would we be arrested for treason? All we knew was that it would be much more fun with the Flag of Compassion. The whole show would somehow be more meaningful than just waving a Union Jack or standing by as uninvolved spectators. Opening up some space for lateral thought seemed a good idea. It would introduce an element of doubt, of irritation, a different colour, different solidarities, new meanings, if undefined and uncertain.
In the end, we had quite a job keeping the flag airborne for any length of time. Flagpoles were a no-no. The huge Union flags along the Mall definitely had the advantage over us. Some people looked, smiled and wondered, but hardly anybody asked any questions. Only one man asked: "What flag is this?" and we answered haughtily: "Don’t you know? The Flag of Compassion." We were just a speck in the eye of the crowd, a colourful dot at most.
Waving a flag is not an act of compassion. But it does open that contrarian space, that pause, that suspension of right and wrong, logic and reason, which is a precondition for compassion. Waving the flag, joining the celebrations and at the same time step out of it all and stem the flow of things. And like with a real act of compassion, it felt quite good in that space.
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Matthias Thibaut: Yet another flag for the Queen