Sunday, May 29, 2005

Politically Correct Battle of Trafalgar

Here at Photon Courier is a post about a 200th-anniversary reenactment of the Battle of Trafalgar--complete with 21st-century PC trappings. It's only a couple of paragraphs so read the whole thing, but here's a teaser:

Who could be "embarrassed" about a defeat that occurred 200 years ago? And why is it "bashing" anyone to call things by their proper names?


Anonymous said...

I'm in two minds about this. (btw, I'm the same "Duncan" who posted on a previous thread - I'm a Brit who has been resident in the US for 5 years - I guess I should create an account or something :-).

While, yes, it ought to be the case that nobody should get all offended about discussing a 200-year-old battle - it's kind of awkard for the RN putting on a display such as this, particularly given that they were the victors in that particular battle.

A couple of other examples to illustrate what I mean:

What would be the reaction if the US Army mounted a re-enactment, of, say, the battle of Gettysburg, complete with Yankee/Confederate uniforms, flags etc. Would anybody get upset? True, it's a little more recent, but nonetheless multiple generations ago. I can certainly imagine the US Army feeling at the very least a little awkward about something like this.

Consider also the situation in Northern Ireland: there, you have rival groups mounting, during what is known as the "marching season", marches in regalia (including historically referential banners and so on) recalling a battle which took place between two sectarian groups in *1690*. This has often provoked rioting. One particular group (known as the "Orangemen" - a reference to the victorious William of Orange) is frequently criticised for being "too triumphalist".

I'm not excusing any of the immediately previous dumb-assery - just pointing out that I sympathise with the Royal Navy feeling the need to be cautious about causing offence.


Darren said...

I can't imagine a battle *more* reenacted than Gettysburg! I have a feeling that US soldiers would love to participate in such a thing, and would have no problem being on either side.

Yes, General Lee lost that battle. Doesn't mean people wouldn't want to be on his team! And who would worry that there would be triumphalism on the side of the Union--everyone knows they won the battle!

Duncan, I think some people's panties are in too much of a wad. Why recreate or celebrate Trafalgar at all if we can't celebrate its meaning? May as well take down that post in London, too. Just attracts pigeons who poop on all the French tourists.

Anonymous said...

please don't misunderstand me - I agree that, as you say, some people's panties are in too much of a wad.

However, given that *is* the case, the RN has to figure out what to do about it. I'm actually wondering if this isn't a little bit sly on their part - by obfuscating the names, all they really do is remove any opportunity for the French attendees to make a fuss about the situation - but, since everybody knows perfectly well what it is really all about, it will still piss them off just as much.

It's worth bearing in mind that there is still a good deal of cultural animosity between Brits and French - even if typically reduced to the level of the occasional verbal jibe


PS btw, you mentioned Nelson's column (for the benefit of anybody who didn't get the reference, that would be the post in London - specifically in Trafalgar Square - which is typically the first place visited by French tourists right after they get off the train at *cough* Waterloo Station). Anybody visiting England should also be sure to include in their trip a visit to Portsmouth docks, on the south coast. There you will find Admiral Nelson's flagship, HMS Victory, which is in dry dock - in pristine condition, having been parked there soon after the battle of Trafalgar in 1805. If you liked the movie "master and commander" it's an absolute must see - you won't be sorry.