Friday, 18 May 2012

Extreme patriotism (but the good kind)

Last Saturday morning, a friend of mine (my future Best Man, in fact) called me because he wanted someone to go suit shopping with. It was all very Sex and the City.

Anyhow, on the way to meet him, I was walking along the Strand when I came across this truly magnificent sight:

Yes. Morris dancers.

For those of you who have not yet had the chance to experience this epically English phenomenon, it is the perfect combination of bells, handkerchiefs and sticks - all meant to be a representative of war. The New Zealanders have the Hakka. We have Morris Dancers. I think we know who wins.

Anyhow, this post isn't a simple 'little Englander', tear in the eye, moment of reminiscence. No, instead, for those of you that know the Strand you'll see that the picture above was taken just outside the Zimbabwean High Commission. If you've ever been past the ZHC, you'll know that every single day you will find a group of 20 to 30 Zimbabweans protesting Mugabe and the horrific acts to which he subjects his people. Indeed, in another picture I took you can see the Morris Dancers are right next to a sign protesting "Murder, Rape and Torture":

And to so the point of my post.

Ladyfemale absolutely loves Morris Dancers. Her parents are both native New Yorkers who moved here about 30 years ago, so despite being born here I think her American blood still finds an otherworldly charm in the jingle-belled-nutters. Her father saw them for the first time in Stratford a couple of years ago and, apparently, laughed for two hours.

So, knowing her attachment to the handkerchief-waving-spry-ankled-real-ale-drinking-folk-dancers, if I see them I always stop to film them in the hope of entertaining her when I get home.

After about 5 minutes, something genuinely amazing started to happen - the Zimbabweans joined in. At the weekends, the protesters always seem to have drums and other instruments with them, and so they added their own sounds to the bells, accordions and stick clashes of the Morris Men. It was brilliantly entertaining. And, honestly, I felt myself well up.

You see, it was the perfect, perfect example of what I love about this country - our age-old traditions merging with new developments from other cultures, resulting in something truly new and exciting. Moreover, it was an excellent metaphor for the tolerance inbuilt in our constitution and traditions which we exemplify when we are at our best.

You might be wondering about the relevance of this post to my quest for pupillage. Well, it's more relevant to the role of barristers in general. As barristers, we're expected to uphold the law, in fact we have an overriding duty to the court. More than that, though, friends of mine at the Bar see their role as upholding not just the law, but its traditions, our constitution and all the conventions and principles that are included therein.

The Morris Dance/Zimbabwean mash up was a perfect example of our tolerance for others, our acceptance of new cultures and the way we actually include those traditions in with our own practices - as I said earlier, a perfect metaphor for what, I believe, makes this nation great.

I can't wait to become a barrister, and become part of the important, constant, struggle against those who would have us abandon our traditions of inclusion and tolerance and respect for the rule of law.

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