Reflections on a royal weekend

Whilst I’m more than happy to accept four days on which no one expects any work from me, the last thing I did over the long jubilee weekend was become involved in any royal celebrations. In fact I found it all rather nauseous. As I’ve said on other occasions, it is completely inappropriate for a modern democracy to have an unelected head of state. In addition to this short-fall in democracy our monarchy simply endorses existing notions of class and privilege. In this day and age it is simply not acceptable for anyone to inherit their place in society according to who gave birth to them.

Nevertheless, there were people who obviously got quite enthusiastic about the royal family. Why? A quick internet search found five reasons why people think them a force for good. The first said that monarchs “serve as figureheads, providing a focus and unifying force, bringing countries together and healing divisions.” Well I see no evidence of this happening. The only way I can imagine this happening is if people accept a strong social hierarchy and their place in it, accept inherited power and privilege, and, as my mother used to say, “don’t get above themselves.”

The second that monarchs “are apolitical and therefore better suited to representing their countries at state occasions such as remembering war dead, or celebrating social causes, than politicians.” This annoys me in the same way that so called independent councillors claim to be above politics, and only fighting for what’s good for their communities. A person’s political perspective shapes the way they interpret social events and social causes, and it helps determine what they consider to be socially good. Whilst I’ll admit that, out of respect for the dead, political statements should be left out of certain state occasions, elected politicians are more than capable of doing this. In fact this is what they do.

The third that a “royal family provides a sense of continuity and stability that ordinary politicians, who come and go, cannot provide.” However, as Karl Marx famously said, “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.” Whether we like it or not, many things in British society need to change, and clinging hold of tradition and our past can blind us to many of them. And before I’m attacked for wanting to destroy our history, that is not what I’m saying. We are more than capable of having a good understanding of our past without constantly reliving it and endorsing it as appropriate now.

The fourth that “national pride and patriotism is focused on a largely ceremonial figure and is therefore harder for political leaders to exploit.” National pride and patriotism requires political scrutiny. Again, it is not apolitical. The main issues affecting our wellbeing, issues such as the climate crisis, food and energy security, international conflict and war, and asylum seekers and economic migration, are global issues – issues that require global solutions and global cooperation. A strong sense of national pride and patriotism quickly leads to a distorted view of ourselves as ‘world leading’ and superior, feelings that get in the way of global cooperation.

And lastly that monarchs “can stay out of the fray of party politics, and are therefore better to provide a role model, or leadership role, in times of national emergency or constitutional crisis.” Really? Has anyone noticed any member of the royal family acting as a role model? Prince Andrew perhaps? Or how about the Queen herself? In what way does she act as a role model? People say that she has shown a sense of duty and commitment, admirable qualities, but what evidence is there that anyone emulates her? According to the Daily Mail (hardly a republican journal) the Queen uses a wheelchair much of the time but cancels engagements because she is ‘proud’ and ‘doesn’t want to be seen struggling’. If she really wanted to be a role model she could swallow her pride and be seen in public in a wheelchair like so many of her subjects. She could even start highlighting the difficulties faced by wheelchair users.

None of the above reasons justify the continuation of an out-of-date and undemocratic anachronism. They don’t even get close to counteracting the endorsement of inherited privilege and a strongly hierarchical social structure. And I haven’t even mentioned the wealth they have acquired over the centuries – wealth that has been taken from other countries and the exploitation of other people. This wealth has certainly not been earned through hard work or merit. And to make matters worse, we, their subjects, continue to give them money through the taxes we pay. No, the royal family need to be given their cards. We need to become a republic with an elected head-of-state.

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