Jubilee and all That 109


Have been lecturing abroad a lot lately and have frequently had to explain that, when I call myself a republican and a liberal, I mean something very close to the opposite of what those terms currently mean in U.S. English.

I have never been a monarchist at any point in the 40 plus years I have had political consciousness. The notion of hereditary rule always struck me as absurd. But I have nothing against the Queen personally, and on meeting her have found her quite likeable, even when conversing on the tricky subject of why I don’t accept “Honours”. As I have said before, if I had been born into a life of such privilege, I would probably be a much more horrible person than she. We are all to a degree intellectually and socially trapped by our circumstance of birth and social milieu. Few break out of it entirely and a minority of those that do are actuated by admirable motives.

Nor am I completely immune from either patriotism or nostalgia, not the respect that attaches to the old, particularly when they are “battling on”. So I have no doubt that I witnessed some of the televised celebrations with more of a lump in my throat than the large majority of readers of this blog.

But an excellent antidote was the BBC’s panning to the VIP box during yesterday’s Jubilee concert, particularly before the Queen was there to distract. I felt completely removed from those people in the VIP box, as though they were an alien race. Always haughty, often bored and disengaged, occasionally condescending to be amused, and from time to time self-consciously “joining in” obviously for the benefit of the cameras rather than personal enjoyment. Myriads of sleek or puffy aristocrats and politicians, they were completely other from the people who in some strange way they are supposed to represent.

From Thatcher through Blair to Cameron, the gap between rich and poor has accelerated in this country as never since the early industrial revolution. Just one indicator – boardroom income increases are outpacing worker income by around 10% every year, consistently.

I do not doubt a majority of the country felt nothing but patriotic pride at the celebrations. Patriotism is the great and indispensable instrument of social control. But as for me, in this small corner of Ramsgate, I was wondering where you buy a decent guillotine.


109 thoughts on “Jubilee and all That

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  • Mary

    You are a man after my own heart Craig. I do not feel so alone in this tide of red, white and blue now that you have said this. During these past four long days, the killings have continued in Afghanistan and Pakistan yet nothing is being said.

    .
    The warmongers are sitting comfortably in St Paul’s Cathedral this morning whilst new wars are being planned.

  • John Goss

    On the last post Mary mentioned an alternative jubilee taking place, which is celebrating peace, unity and so on. To me the pageantry afforded HM means very little. I’ve spent some time involved in theatre and all the credits go to the costume designers, who have tried to add a bit of humour to an otherwise sombre ceremony. It’s like a pantomime without humour, and they all take this tradition so seriously. At least I can say this today without literally losing my head.

  • Giles

    “The gap between rich and poor has accelerated in this country as never since the early industrial revolution. Just one indicator – boardroom income increases are outpacing worker income by around 10% every year, consistently.”

    .
    Well, UK plc is having two days bank holiday for the occasion so not all bad, Craig. And I hear the Archbish has just just used the occasion to make the point that,

    .
    “Moralists, including Archbishops, can thunder away as much as they like; but they’ll make no difference unless and until people see that there is something transforming and exhilarating about the prospect of a whole community rejoicing together – being glad of each other’s happiness and safety.

    This alone is what will save us from the traps of ludicrous financial greed, of environmental recklessness, of collective fear of strangers and collective contempt for the unsuccessful and marginal – and many more things that we see far too much of, around us and within us.”

    I suppose on this drab Tuesday morning we would otherwise be at work or stuck at home with Jeremy Kyle on the box, so again, not all bad.

  • Komodo

    I can identify with much of what you say, Craig. On the one hand, the Queen’s job is something no-one in their eighties should be asked to do and I can’t but feel sorry for someone stuck in that position, no matter how much wealth and privilege attaches to it. It may even be that she is not best pleased by the nest of corruption and greed her* country has become.
    .
    On the other hand, brief anecdotal digression. In the village there is a pub and a sports club. The pub was taken over a couple of years ago by a small chain, refurbished well, and is now a gastropub, in which the locals are tolerated, just, and the beer is £3.40 a pint. In spite of this I went for a pint yesterday; the place was full of bourgeois aspirants,eating, it smelt strongly of the fish dish of the day, and you couldn’t get near the bar for people talking about cars.(I’m a biker). I changed my mind and went to the sports club – only locals, beer £2.50 a pint to members, sly and pithy Norfolk craic. Of the three people standing at the bar, one was out of his skull, one couldn’t wait to get out of Britain because it had gone to the dogs and the third declined to comment on the Jubilee because he was a “conscientious objector”….which, he explained to the pissed guy, was a polite way of saying he was a republican. This is so far from the Sun stereotype of the man in the street I thought it needed sharing.
    .
    There is a groundswell, Craig. There is always hope.
    .
    * ownership not implied

  • Komodo

    Giles – isn’t this a bit of a non sequitur?
    (1) until people see that there is something transforming and exhilarating about the prospect of a whole community rejoicing together – being glad of each other’s happiness and safety.

    (2) This alone is what will save us from the traps of ludicrous financial greed, of environmental recklessness, of collective fear of strangers and collective contempt for the unsuccessful and marginal – and many more things that we see far too much of, around us and within us.”
    .
    Eh? How does (1) lead to (2)? Eliminating the evils of (2) is more likely to lead to (1), I’d say.
    .
    “In this the poor old chap resembles
    Prosperous idealists
    Who talk as if men reached for concord
    With their clenched or grasping fists”.
    .
    Maybe someone can remind me who wrote that – I failed to burn the name on my brain along with the sentiment.

  • Giles

    Komodo,

    .
    Yes, I wondered that myself, until I read it again and gave it a little thought…

  • Mary

    Cameron saw no irony in reading this lesson. Romans. Ch 1 V 1-18
    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+12%3A1-18&version=NIV
    We need no lessons from him, Biblical or otherwise.
    .
    The only Biblical admonition followed by those attending the service seems to be from Genesis 1 ‘”Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” The extended royal family is now enormous, almost of Victorian or Edwardian proportions.

  • Komodo

    Facile, Giles. Thinking about it only makes it worse. By what mechanism precisely does the first condition lead to the second? It doesn’t. They are not contingent. All he is saying is that if everyone were nice to each other, everyone would be nice to each other.
    Think about this:
    “Dusty diamonds don’t need love
    Happy happy happy all the time time time”
    (60’s/70’s song, provenance forgotten)

  • Clark

    “Patriotism is the great and indispensable instrument of social control.”

    This, I think, is central to the monarchist/anti-monarchist argument, but it usually goes unmentioned. For those of us opposed to social control, a natural reaction is the desire to destroy the figurehead, the “idol of a false god” which often seems to stand between people and their conscience. But it’s not that simple. Those who wish to be led would be forced to choose different leaders, because being one’s own leader takes long-term exercise of the conscience to strengthen it.
    .
    (Likewise with the mass news media: it is possible to some extent to explore the Internet to inform one’s own conscience, but it is a great deal of work which constantly generates doubt and confusion due to conflicting reports and opinions.)
    .
    The Archbishop quoted by Giles makes a fair point, but it falls apart when we consider UK foreign policy. Within England, the monarchy is not so bad as a figurehead; rule achieved through heredity is not as bad as rule achieved through pathological competitiveness. But the role of the monarchy in popularising the armed forces and thus Britain’s imperial warmongering makes me feel somewhat sick about the celebrations.

  • Komodo

    And now let’s have the “Royalty brings more wealth to the country than it costs” vs. “Growth figures for this quarter reflect the lost productivity due to four days of celebrating royalty and we are still in recession” debate….

  • tam

    Historically, on the occasion of a Jubilee, prisoners should be set free, debts repaid & justice be done.

  • Mary

    Hilarious – they are already talking about the effect of the extra day’s bank holiday on the economy. I should think the importers of Chinese made tat have done well and also the purveyors of junk food and drink.
    .
    Do bank holidays cost the economy?
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18277486

  • Komodo

    I would like to propose the erection of a 1000-foot high totem pole in Parliament Square, situated for maximum photographability, and tastefully illuminated at night. It would be intricately carved with (the lessy bloody) scenes from our history, an eternal flame could burn at its summit, and it would be illuminated at night by a red white and blue laser display. From time to time it would address the crowds below, using a digitally generated speechmaker, and parades could be held round its base. MP’s and peers would be obliged to don penitential robes and swear to tell the truth while kneeling in front of it, once a year. A small mobile replica could tour the country and open things. It would be a lot less exhausting for all concerned.

  • angrysoba

    Clark: This, I think, is central to the monarchist/anti-monarchist argument, but it usually goes unmentioned. For those of us opposed to social control, a natural reaction is the desire to destroy the figurehead, the “idol of a false god” which often seems to stand between people and their conscience.
    .
    Nah! Sorry, to be contrarian as usual but I think monarchism/anti-monarchism is a red herring when it comes to “social control”. These days nobody is “controlled” by their allegiance or lack of it to the Queen still less all of society. There have been plenty of “anti-monarchist” revolutions which ended in a massive increase of social control by any standard: The Russian Revolution, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia etc… The Queen by now has pretty much no means of control over you, Clark, or anyone else except her Corgis.
    .
    In fact, some would argue the reverse of what you mean by saying that in some ways the Queen blocks further social control by taking up a space that one of our elected representatives might choose to exploit. Just a thought…

  • Mary

    Komodo 🙂

    Off air now, Just popping up to Westminster Hall where HM is sitting down for lunch with the plebs. Looking forward to tucking in.
    .
    Guests will dine on marinated Uist Island salmon with Lyme Bay crab, followed by saddle of Welsh Cambrian Mountain lamb with braised shoulder of lamb, grilled Isle of Wight asparagus, Jersey Royal potatoes and an aptly named Jubilee sauce. The “symphony of dessert” is chocolate delice, bread and butter pudding and berry compote with Sandringham apple sauce. A Ceylon tea will also be served made from a bush planted by the Duke of Edinburgh during a state visit to Sri Lanka in 1954 in the Pedro Tea Plantation in Nuwara Eliya.
    .
    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ukpress/article/ALeqM5ieMeAEYrQGI9sWWE0khX_Tt41eJg?docId=N0088581338875808033A

  • nevermind

    Komodo, great idea, a one hour sabbatical for all MP’s in front of the pole of life, they would have to listen to Brian Haws collective words and or that of Arundhati Roy, or Chico Mendez, may he rest in peace.etc., until they weep.

    As for Craigs cheery request, mooting for downsizing equipment guaranteed to work, albeit purifying whats left over and starting anew, the jubilee taken at its core value, rejuvenation and more Germanic efficiency, workshare for the whole royal list, and more.

    http://www.conjuror.com/magicshop/notices.html

    The ownership of a lot of land, recinding of past enclosures acts, we’ll need more land to grown food and they can stay in their ‘national treasures’, relics at large, the living dead, but they loose the say over National Trust properties and lands.

    Uahhhh, just woken up, what a great dream after yesterdays village outing on the lawn, had to attend, as our event is coming up in three weeks time and the village is small.

  • Clark

    Angrysoba, I never suggested that the monarch controls society, its individual members, or me personally; a figurehead is not the seat of power. If you strip out your assumptions, you’ll find our comments more in agreement than not.

  • mrjohn

    One of the nice things about leaving the UK is you gradually shake yourself free of that particular aspect of indoctrination, which starts with the Princess and the Pea.

    It’s nothing but fluff and delusion.

  • Clark

    And I bet she can’t control her corgis either, but then I don’t suppose they suffer from patriotism.

  • Komodo

    Nevermind – a hint as to your location, via Clark and email if agreeable(?) and I will come and support your event if it is not pissing down…

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