Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Queen's Jubilee - Has the Emperor (or Monarch) got no clothes on?

Although I have previously indicated that my blog would be a "Jubilee Free Zone" I could not resist the temptation to say something about it this morning (am I being hypocritical?) following the celebrations over the last few days.

I get the distinct impression that rather than a universal celebration for Her Majesty that has been promised over several weeks, if not months, it has rather turned out to be a bit of a damp squib - and it wasn't just the weather to blame (although it may have contributed).

No doubt hundreds of thousands across the country have been involved in events in one form or another and no doubt there were thousands at the free concert yesterday outside Buck House. But was this really enough?

Given the almost blanket and saturation coverage of the Jubilee by the media - both locally and nationally - the planning and expense over many months (if not years), the universal endorsement of the event by the whole establishment (church and state), and almost no coverage at all of anyone having doubts about it or expressing overt republican sympathies, the eventual celebrations do not appear to me to have lived up to the expectations.

Although this is not a serious experiment, I have observed that out of over 200 houses near where I live only a small handful have displayed any overt support for the occasion by hanging out buntings or flags - despite the fact that they have been widely marketed by every supermarket in the area at ridiculously low prices. It would not have taken much effort for hang up a few flags - but overwhelming this impulse has been resisted by the overwhelming majority.

Travelling round my local areas by car yesterday indicated a similar lack of mass support. Only in a nearby village was there any sign at all that the Jubilee was on - with a local festival at the cricket club attended (I understand from a tweet by the local vicar who organised it) by only "1500" people out of village considerably higher in population than this. But even I, a staunch republican, might well have attended such an event if I lived in the village - less due to enthusiasm for the House of Windsor and its head than the opportunity to share some rare community spirit and out of social pressure not to seem a "grumpy old git" to my local neighbours (food and drink may also have acted as an incentive as well!). There was some bunting about in the village - but it appeared to have been put up in public spaces and on lamp-posts by some enthusiast from the local parish council than a spontaneous display from local people (their houses were conspicuously absent of such things except for the odd one!).

This does not mean, of course, that people do not hold the Queen in some regard. As a person, as opposed to the head of a feudal aristocratic family with roots in slavery, wars against colonial peoples, exploitation of their "subjects", I am sure she a a nice old lady who, within her own terms, has "served her country well" over the years. I am sure she is also a good mother to her children and a "fine brick". But does this mean that the institution of the monarchy in a democratic society is popular? From the weak level of support, compared to the expectations and hype, I am beginning to think that that this may be the case. The contradiction of not wanting to be anti the Queen as a person (and there may even be some affection), but being unsure or actually opposed to the institution itself, means that many people have remained silent or have engaged in passive participation - not wishing to seem nasty and personal to an individual, but nonetheless uneasy. But, hey, a party is a party (or a free pop concert), an extra bank holiday is welcome.... and waving a few cheap and tacky flags (sold by Aldi, Lidl or Sainsburys, or even the Co-op) is a small price to pay.

At the end of the day it seems that indifference and apathy to the whole damn thing may have, overall, won out over the manipulation and commercially manufactured nature of the occasion. Has the Emperor (or Monarch) got no clothes on?


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