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PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2012 8:26 am 
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Queen's diamond jubilee: a vapid family and a mirage of nationhood. What's to celebrate? | Polly Toynbee


Illustration by Joe Magee
Read by 3,291 people

Thursday 31 May 2012
If the very idea of monarchy diminishes us, the living reality is much more humiliating and damaging to our country


The mighty royal jubilee bells will toll their way down the Thames on Sunday on a floating belfry leading a thousand boats, echoed by pealing church bells all down the riverside. Who could miss the spectacle of a hundred tall ships serenaded with Handel's Water Music played by a floating orchestra?

The more outrageously glorious the performance, the more preposterous its purpose. There at the heart, in the dead centre of all this pomp and circumstance, is the great emptiness, the nothingness, the Wizard of Oz in emperor's clothes. The louder the bells, the more gaping the grand vacuity. What are we celebrating? A singularly undistinguished family's hold on the nation, a mirage of nationhood, a majestic delusion.

How close to religion it is, with all the same feudal imagery, God as Lord and sovereign, sovereign anointed by God, knelt before in a divine hierarchy of power ordained by laws too ineffable to explain. The tyranny of the monarchy lies not in its residual temporal power but in its spiritual power. It subjugates the national imagination, infantilising us with false imaginings and a bogus heritage of our island story. For as long as they rule over us, we are obedient servants, worshipping an ermine-wrapped fantasy of Englishness. (Despite the kilts, the monarchy was never really British.)

Every country needs its founding myths, its binding identity rooted in a valiant story that rarely stands up to historical scrutiny. What matters is the nature of that story, and ours is as pitiful as our embarrassingly shoddy national anthem: no US "land of the free", just "long to reign over us".

But if the very idea of monarchy diminishes us, the living reality is even more humiliating. What are we doing paying homage to the unimpressive personages invested with this awe? They are the apogee of celebrity culture, because there is nothing there but empty celebrity. Ah, say the royalists, it's their very "ordinariness" that is their mystique. But they are not ordinary like next-door neighbours, only ordinary like all the other dull and talentless plutocrats with nothing remarkable about them but their bank balance. That the very rich are mostly very dull, lacking enterprise, initiative or inspiration is small solace.

The long line of royal nonentity is the ultimate lesson in the damage that inherited money and privilege does, the reason why inheritance tax – which the monarchy doesn't pay – is a way not just to collect funds for the Treasury but to stop the stultifying social effects of inherited wealth. How well the royal family illustrate the aristocratic phenomenon where those who have had the very best education and the greatest opportunity for intellectual enrichment emerge with so little to show for it, generation after generation. Hunting, shooting, horses, nightclubbing, none of the long royal line since time immemorial has exhibited much spark of intellectual curiosity or originality.

It is a joyful confirmation of the wonder of the human gene pool that talent, brains and charm spring up at random. These faculties are no more bred out of a fictional "underclass" than they are bred into a fictional "royal blood", though social circumstance conspires to knock it out of some at a young age, while promoting others with no attributes to heights they would never reach on merit. If royals have any value, they are the living, breathing negation of the myth of genetic superiority.

The most enjoyable reminder was the Queen's diamond jubilee "informal" lunch for 20 crowned heads, when the theatre of majesty descended into farce. If she thought collecting them together would add legitimacy to the bloodline idea, what a mistake. The display of dictatorship and delusion surely must have been devised by some secret palace republican, complete with group photo of the torturers of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Swaziland and Qatar, alongside dethroned fantasists from Romania and Greece, a showcase of royalty from horror to hilarity, from ruthless to Ruritanian.

With its usual thundering ineptitude, the government chose jubilee week to publish a report on Britain's social immobility. Alan Milburn offers a snapshot of a country where birth is destiny more surely than virtually every other OECD nation except the US. With 83% of new jobs in the next eight years in higher management and the professions, on the present trajectory the odds that many more children from blue collar backgrounds will shoot up the ladder to take them are vanishingly remote.

New opportunities, like the last decade's extra university places, are taken by dimmer, better-crammed children of a middle class more adept at cementing their children into the upper echelons than ever. The privileged are not about to let them slip down the ladder to make room for others any time soon, and Michael Gove's selective education policies will help prevent it. Income gaps stretch wider, as the bottom half has stagnated for a decade. Nick Clegg's claim that income difference is unlinked to opportunity defies every international comparison: only more equal countries produce more equal opportunities. But here we are, in a deeper depression than the 1930s, with austerity imposed hardest on the weakest, lavishly celebrating our figurehead of British class rigidity.

The cost of the monarchy, though a hundred times the price of the modestly likeable Irish presidency, is counted not in palaces and royal trains, but in the fantasy of imperial power the crown bestows on British politics. Punching above our weight, we have just ordered a new Trident to cling to an undeserved UN security council seat from which to hector the world about a democratic idea so weakly applied at home.

Meanwhile, defrauding ourselves and the world's treasuries, the sun never sets on the Queen's dominion over more tax havens than any other country, an archipelago of shame from the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, the Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos, Gibraltar, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands – and the City itself. Beneath the splendour, the squalor.

The Republic protest takes place at City Hall at 1.30pm on Sunday


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2012 9:22 am 
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<yawn>

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2012 4:23 pm 
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The monarchy is a living patrimony, and it serves the important function of performing symbolically important ceremonial and public service functions throughout the country, leaving the real government free to screw the British people in pursuit of its own version of the currently ascendent and bogus policy of austerity. It will also be necessary to have a monarch as a symbol of national unity and joy when, as at the end of WW II, the British people need to celebrate as they emerge from the Second Great Depression. I regret that I will not live to see the broadcast of King William V participating in the thanksgiving service at Westminster Abbey.

:mrgreen: :?:

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 02, 2012 3:51 am 
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http://www.smh.com.au/world/pomp-up-the ... 1zn1z.html


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 02, 2012 5:10 am 
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I like the Lego statuette of the Queen, complete with crown. Are they really diamonds?

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 02, 2012 7:38 am 
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Yes, it is very cute. I guess it could be diamonds as the jeweller
is holding it. Imagine the expense!!!!


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 02, 2012 11:29 am 
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A perversity:

Everyone's happy about getting an extra day's bank holiday. Astute businesses
will be selling their exhilarating memborabilia: QEII/jubilee ash-trays, spoons, union flags,
plates, portraits in vacuum-formed plastic frames, etc.

But since it'll most likely be raining people will stay in, uable to switch the telly
to a sensible channel without getting bombarded with diamond jubilee clip stuff.
Then there'll be the equally vacuous celebratory post-mortem.

If you want to break a drought in the UK just set up a bank holiday. Let's hope it
stays dry enough for the kids and their street parties, bless them. :)


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2012 7:38 am 
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What if America had a queen?
By Autumn Brewington,

BUCKLEBURY, England

What if, instead of debating whether partisans will put the country’s interests ahead of their own or find reasons to move beyond the gridlock in which they have mired Congress, Washington surmounted the political system and put someone above it? Someone who, like a living Statue of Liberty, symbolizes the nation and represents not one ideology but the American people.

In other words, what if America had a queen?

As Britain celebrates Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee, it’s also grappling with a host of thorny issues. Consider: The country is in a double-dip recession, with unemployment at 8.2 percent and joblessness among youth around 20 percent. Its continental neighbors — to which it is shackled through the European Union — teeter on the verge of fiscal collapse. Prime Minister David Cameron is dealing with government workers striking over pension cuts — tens of thousands joined protests last month, and more strikes are planned this summer — as Cameron himself seeks to survive a lobbying scandal and to avoid further embarrassment over ties to the phone-hacking inquiry that has rocked Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

Yet there are some things Britons are not arguing about.

You can see a unifying force in the flags, banners and ribbons festooning storefronts, boats and homes from the quiet of the Cotswolds to the tourist-packed streets of London. (The Daily Mail reported Friday that Britons in Randwick set a world record for “the longest line of continuous bunting after stringing up 14,583 triangular flags for four unbroken miles.”) Or in the bottled water advertised as “queentisentially British.” Street parties to celebrate Elizabeth’s 60-year reign are planned across the nation this weekend — which the government has decreed a holiday — along with an official concert, a service of thanksgiving and a thousand-boat flotilla up the Thames. For the concert marking her Golden Jubilee, 10 years ago, Queen guitarist Brian May belted out the national anthem, “God Save the Queen,” from the roof of Buckingham Palace. This time, organizers are rumored to have arranged for a band to perform on top of the monarch’s official residence in London.

“She’s the host with the most,” said Martin Fidler, a 61-year-old butcher in Bucklebury who attended the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton last spring. Fidler’s Bladebone Butchery is up the tree-lined road from the home of Michael and Carole Middleton, parents of the Duchess of Cambridge, as Kate Middleton is now known. “She’s the head of the country.”

Only one current world leader, Thailand’s Bhumibol Adulyadej, has reigned longer than Elizabeth (by about five years). Elizabeth is now Britain’s second-longest-reigning monarch, behind only her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. She was 25 when she ascended the throne and has been served by 12 prime ministers.

Having a head of state who is above politics is key to the British system. It is the queen who opens Parliament with an address — written by elected officials — that outlines the legislative agenda for the year. It is the queen who appears on currency; the military branches are her services; taxes are levied and laws are carried out in her name.

She engages in none of the compromise that is crucial to holding together Cameron’s coalition government, negotiates none of the tightrope-walking that is necessary to maintain Britain’s association with the European Union as citizens question its value.

None of this is to say that Americans should try to import the very institution we rejected centuries ago. It’s not surprising that, at a moment of national celebration, the monarchy would be popular. (That’s why many Brits saw an economic boon in Kate and William’s wedding last April.) But the strength of the royals’ popularity, at a time of fiscal misery and political discontent, is striking. The Guardian newspaper reported last week that 69 percent of Britons say their country would be worse off without the monarchy; only 22 percent said it would be better off. The favorable sentiment persisted regardless of geography, age or political beliefs. Recently, the BBC found that 73 percent of respondents favor Elizabeth remaining the head of the Church of England.

With the exception of the military, there is no U.S. institution that enjoys as much support as Britons have for their monarchy. Not churches or organized religion (in which only 48 percent of Americans have confidence, according to Gallup), not the Supreme Court (37 percent), the presidency (35 percent) or Congress (12 percent).

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the British are happier than we are. A “happiness index” released in April by Columbia University’s Earth Institute found that the United States ranked 11th and Britain 18th. But the British government’s own Well-Being Index reported in December that 76 percent of Brits age 16 and older rated their satisfaction with life at least seven on a scale of 10.

National symbols that rise above politics, such as an Olympic team — and London will host this summer’s Games — contribute to such positive sentiments. Amid the fluttering Union Jacks, there is an appreciation here of the queen as an enduring representative of Britain. This sort of transforming, unifying spirit seems to occur in the United States only after tragedy.

The sun, of course, has set on the British Empire, leaving the monarch with largely ceremonial powers. But the grace with which she has wielded them over the decades has inspired a national pride in her institution. Amid our partisan gridlock, Americans might consider what, if anything, could transcend our politics.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/what-if-america-had-a-queen/2012/06/01/gJQAvo6s7U_story.html

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2012 7:00 pm 
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god that makes me want to puke. Lets grab some worthless German family and anoint them the living symbol of America?


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