30 April 2011

On Royalty and the Wedding

I got a somewhat negative reaction from a couple of people to my admittedly snarky attitude towards, especially, the media hype surrounding the "Royal Wedding." Of course I have nothing against Mountbatten or Windsor or whatever his name is (they changed it to conceal its German origins)... and Ms. Middleton; I hope they have a very happy life and successfully fulfill the expectations of their adoring public.

But my attitude towards all the media is of two sources, and it is a serious issue, to my mind. First, I'm disturbed that the media... and indeed many people... in America seem to think this social event of the overprivileged is so very important. Where is the wall to wall interest and coverage in the debate over whether we should eviscerate our social systems and continue down the path of our own return to a system of hereditary wealth and privilege controlling all aspects of our society? I am more and more convinced that Chris Hedges, author of Empire of Illusion and other well thought out screeds on the subject of the growing ignorance and distraction of the public as a harbinger of doom for democratic societies... is right.

The other source of my attitude is my deeply ingrained small-r republican philosophy. I've studied history, only a little, but apparently more than most people who call themselves educated. The triumph of the ideas of Locke and Jefferson were never guaranteed. The basic idea of government deriving its sovereignty from the people is a serious principle, that we can't afford to let go of. In a time when our democratic society, to the extent it still exists at all, is threatened by forces of plutonomy and inherited wealth and power, I look upon the institution of monarchy and aristocracy in England as, on the one hand, amusing (I watch Downton Abbey and enjoy it thoroughly), and on the other, rather repulsive. At a time when Britain is being subjected to massive cutbacks and public sector layoffs, it is downright vulgar for a symbol of hereditary privilege and class like the monarchy to throw itself a giant party at public expense. (And please don't say the £20 million was just for security... the entire British Royal Family exists at public expense). It smacks of bread and circuses.

But, that's their country, and they can do what they want. What I find weird, and rather distasteful, is the fawning and frankly excessive interest of so many Americans. OK, I'm taking it too seriously, if you like... but it's unseemly.

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