The Muse

The sheer variety of symbols and artefacts in use across the ages and geographies does not necessarily point to a multitude of assumptions and values from which they spring. The study of mythology and folklore then, is a reverse approach to anthropology. This blog is dedicated to my favourite symbols, tales and artefacts - both ancient and contemporary.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

What's in a flag? - Part II: International Attitudes

Since the data used in my poll or in Quora did not account for international opinion, I ventured to make my own inquiry about the attitudes towards flags and national symbols worldwide.

Among other things that I found there was this survey by the Reputation Institute. Funnily enough, India outranks both China and the USA in terms of national self-image, and the list itself is topped by Australia. Most importantly,  note that none of the counties in that study put themselves below 50, suggesting that even with a perceived negative self-image, on average most people everywhere have a respect for their country.

I further analysed flag culture in two particular countries - the USA and Germany.


The USA is probably the only place in the world where you can find this:
Astounding, isn't it? So I looked in their official flag code, and here are some major differences I found vs. India

  1. Their brand of patriotism is a mixture of fanatic yet extremely informal affection
    The kind of devotion shown to the US flag rivals the respect shown to many religious symbols worldwide. Yet the depiction of the flag is not exactly reverent - you can easily find the flag on a bikini  as over a formal establishment.
    By contrast, Indians treat the Tricolour with far more formality.
  2. The US Flag code does not contain any penalties or enforcement provisions for noncompliance
    You can actually use flags as doormats or even burn them in protests without legal consequence. The concept of social conditioning or legal force does not seem to arise here.


In Germany, we see a different picture. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the present flag was adopted on 3rd October 1990. The colours and associated symbolism however, go back to the Frankfurt Revolution of 1848,  technically making it older than our Tricolour.

And yet, as Wikipedia says, 
In Germany the use of the flag and other national symbols has been relatively low for most of the time since the Second World War—a reaction against the widespread use of flags by the Nazi Party and against the nationalistic furore of the Nazis in general. The flag is used primarily by official authorities on special occasions or by citizens during international sporting events.
Indeed, Germans make a clear distinction between being "happy to be German" and being "proud to be German. As this video (start at 3:52) shows, most Germans take the former stance.

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