The Olympics opening ceremony and the medals that have heroically rolled in have given Brits a lot to feel positive about. Danny Boyle's celebration may have infuriated Aidan Burley, Conservative MP, who would have preferred more Spitfires, but a number of events outside the Olympic arena should give pause to those whose patriotism was stirred by the filmmaker's vision of a social democratic 'isle of wonder'.
In general the mainstream media presents Britain as the world's good guys, but our policies are so often out of sync with the rhetoric that it should not be a surprise that others around the world charge our leaders with hypocrisy.
While the failure of the United Nations to agree an arms trade treaty that would for the first time impose tough rules on the sales of arms was blamed on the United States, Russia and China, Britain in the meantime will continue to sell arms to governments like Syria and Libya who will use them to repress the democratic demands we claim to champion.
During Sierra Leone's civil war of 1991 to 2002 an estimated that 64,000 women, or close to 50 per cent of the entire female population, suffered from sexual violence at gunpoint. Weapon-aided rape has also occurred in the conflicts of the Darfur region, northern Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and the former Yugoslavia.
Until all the countries that benefit from this multi-billion arms trade are prepared to stop selling arms knowing that they are likely to be used to perpetrate sexual violence, women worldwide have little cause to trust leaders from Britain, Europe or the United States who make claims about the importance of women's security.
Iranian women who are enduring hardship because of sanctions imposed by Europe and the United States also have reason to question the West's commitment to women's rights when their calls for talks instead of sanctions fall on deaf ears.
Amid fear that sanctions are being used by the West to de-stabilise their country, a recent report Killing them Softly: The Stark Impact of Sanctions on the
Lives of Ordinary Iranians shows that Iranian women are bearing the brunt of harsh economic sanctions. As repression at the hands of a government able to exploit the resulting state of emergency increases, it's little wonder that a previously pro-Western population, considers the sanctions "immoral" and counterproductive and question the West's commitment to improving women's security worldwide. The same is true of Bahraini human rights activists who have been targeted by advanced surveillance technology sold to their government by a British company.
The opening ceremony of the 2012 Games was an exuberant display of the freedom, liberty and idiosyncratic qualities we celebrate as a nation, but unless our actions towards the rest of the world line up we will be open to frequent charges of hypocrisy. Our history already complicates our standing in the world in ways that we appear to little comprehend.
When Maryam Alkhawaja spoke in London last year she echoed what many women who took part in the Arab Spring have said, that it is harder to push a women's rights agenda because of associations with the West.
When India was named the worst place in the world to be a woman, a Guardian article angered women's rights activists because of its sweeping generalisations based around what was indeed a terrible incident when onlookers filmed a woman as she was being assaulted and no one stepped in to help.
The incident of course angered women in India, but the voices of activists who are are working to bring change in the country are rarely heard in the British media, which seems stuck in a rut of portraying women as helpless victims while expressing horror and outrage at the awful patriarchal cultures they live in.
In the case of Afghanistan we apparently went to war to rescue women from the Taliban, but instead of supporting the vocal and active women who wanted to be involved in forging peace we seem to prefer to wringing our hands in public whenever there is a microphone near, about the terrible state of affairs.
Not only do we alienate the women whose struggles we should be supporting, we also leave ourselves open to criticism that we are not prepared to tackle questions that might tell us less savoury things about ourselves.
When nine men in Rochdale were found guilty of the sexual exploitation of young vulnerable girls there was a great deal of discussion about Asian men and their predatory nature. Yet in recent months seven white men found guilty of similar crimes in Derby, did not provoke widespread discussion about the cultural reasons behind the white men's crime of why it was happening in that area of the country.
Nor did it spark a great deal of discussion about what could perhaps be the most important issue of all - what should be done to protect vulnerable girls.
If we want to continue to celebrate our rich cultural history then we will have to take more notice of what our leaders are doing around the world in our name and insist that policies line up with the values we cherish.
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