Flagshagging should, perhaps, have frightened us a little more when it began its rise to prominence. Even now, it still seems a bit ridiculous to many people. Unfortunately, though many of its proponents are indeed mockable, it’s another alarming indicator of how determined the current government is to keep waging its culture wars, and what those wars are really about.
An excellent definition of human beings (which may or may not have been coined by the friend who said it at his father’s funeral): ‘We’re an ape that tells stories’ comes to mind frequently in all sorts of contexts. If you’re a fiction writer or a fiction reader (and if you are neither, you probably aren’t looking at this anyway. Though if you came here hoping for some pictures of bare bottoms, you’re welcome to hang around and read the words – and check out the picture books on sale, too.) then you understand the importance of stories, and the impact of the stories we tell and hear.
You’re probably well aware of the constant battles in author circles regarding representation in fiction, and the fights about ‘own voices’ which often turn utterly poisonous, to the benefit of no one. But it isn’t just a matter of avoiding lazy stereotyping when you are writing about people whose circumstances and experiences are very different from yours. There’s a fascinating article about a big cultural shift that happened, almost without anyone noticing it, here. Which stories are told, whose stories are told, how a writer indicates (sometimes without any self-awareness, sometimes with rather too much) their own worldview in fiction… these things matter.
This very, very definitely isn’t an exhortation to make all your hot protagonists left-leaning and all your villains fascists in future. It’s not even a wag of my finger about the world being a bit tired of ‘only good Nazi’ stories – as ever, write what works for you and say what you want to say. But do remember the power of a good story. If there was no power there, the flagshagging bullyboys wouldn’t be trying to tell stories like this, would they?