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Is patriotism the last refuge of the scoundrel?: Will Self reflects on what really lies behind our sense of patriotism.

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Republican or royalist we all need something or someone in which to invest our loyalty. Will Self reflects on what really lies behind our sense of patriotism. In Britain we invest the idea of sovereignty in an individual, namely the Queen - or rather, it is an idealisation of who she is decoupled for the living reality. The Queen, says Will Self, is unfailingly wise, calm, pacific - a true mother of the nation; and if her Government happens to do things that are at variance with her goodliness, that is only because their power is contingent upon an evanescent electoral mandate, while her shadow-power-play is founded upon time-out-of-mind heredity - and at least residually, upon the Lord's will. Patriotic Britons may be reluctant to admit to all of this, argues Self, preferring to be seen as modern and up-to-date, but if they examine their consciences carefully they're likely to concede that a discrete love-of-country object is required for full patriotic attachment.

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