The Empire is Dead: The World Doesn’t Await



July 23, 2013 02:31 EDT

Contrary to what the BBC says, the world was not “awaiting” the arrival of the royal baby.

Britain, in the words of a close Danish friend, is a “pre-modern” country. Many years ago, he and I were running in University Parks. We were up at an unearthly hour and jumped over the still locked gates to commence our morning exercise. I was fresh off the boat in Oxford thanks to a scholarship paid for by the British government. I hate to admit it now but I was being seduced by Britain. Oxford’s spires and domes, the port after dinner, the debates at the Union and the beautiful parks made me fall in love with the place. Having left India disillusioned by the entrenched corruption, gut wrenching poverty and inhuman inequity around me, Britain seemed too beautiful to resist. Yet, all was not well even in the early days. A dinner at Christ Church, the place they shot Harry Potter, made me terribly uneasy when they toasted the Queen. Surely, in the 21st century, there was no longer any need for this nonsense.

My Danish friend could see what was going on. He had been in Britain longer and was warning me beforehand. He was beginning to describe all Britain’s pitfalls but I was unable then to recognize them then. Like any young man in thrall to a beautiful woman, I needed to have my heart broken to learn that beauty is more than skin-deep. Seemingly cosmopolitan Britain is insufferably insular, smug and self-absorbed. More importantly, the British now live in a world of gossip, scandal and celebrity. The biggest celebrities are the royal family. They are treated as demigods and are a symbol of the class ridden psychology that plagues the British mindset.

The entire country has been fixated over the birth of the so called “royal baby” and the venerable BBC has been shoving non-stop coverage of this earth shattering event on the world, pushing all other stories to the background. At least its correspondent had a sense of humor to call none of the updates, news. Even now as I write this at midnight in San Francisco, the royal baby is the top headline on the BBC. A wheel fell of a plane in New York, close to 100 people died in two earthquakes in China and a top military officer has outlined US options in Syria. None of this is as important as the birth of the latest member of Britain’s “luckiest sperm club.”

The headlines and slavish celebration that I have seen on the BBC make me realize all that is wrong in Britain and why I had to leave the country. There are three problems with Britain’s hysterical celebration of its royalty.

First, it fosters a slavery of the mind. Thanks to their media, the British buy into the idea that some people are more equal than others. Some babies are “royal” and their birth is more important than the birth or death of the hoi polloi, the sufferings or achievements of anyone else on the planet, and the crises or events that affect the planet. This means that the British internalize the class system. They believe that they have a certain place in society and are fine with it. Anyone who chafes against it and dreams big is bullied into place. Achievement is permitted and it is even rewarded by trinkets like knighthood bestowed of course by the Queen. But at the end of the day, society is still stratified and the political elite is incestuously dominated by folks who went to a single public school, or for my international readers, a single expensive old private high school, named Eton. Incidentally, Prince William and Prince Harry studied there, as did the British prime minister and his chancellor of exchequer, the British equivalent of the treasury secretary of the US.

Second, the foreign interest, real and imagined, in royalty gives Britain the illusion of its continuing global relevance. I call it Britain’s imperial hangover. The BBC’s headline, “World Awaits Arrival of Royal Baby,” so irked me that I could not but help reply to them: “The Empire is dead! The world does not await the arrival of #RoyalBaby. There are more important things in heaven & earth!”

There is a serious point here. Who gives the BBC the right to proclaim to speak for over 7 billion people on the planet? What makes the broadcaster presume that Syrians in the ruins of Aleppo or Indians in the slums of Dharavi or Brazilians protesting on the streets of Rio are all genuflecting in obeisance to the possibility of the future monarch of the universe? Most of the world does not give two hoots about the little baby born with the genes of William and Kate. Within the UK, in fact, at least 760 people have died as a result of the country’s heat wave. Surely, that should be international news and not the arrival of Prince William’s offspring.

By painting an exaggerated picture of the birth’s importance, the BBC is trying reassure its countrymen about the continuing importance of their nation. In a country where everyone sings “God Save the Queen,” international attention to the birth of a future king can be mistaken as deference to Britain itself and continues Britain’s delusions of imperial grandeur.

Finally, Britain is regressing socially and the fixation on monarchy helps the society avoid uncomfortable questions. Gone are the days when “grammar school” girls and boys like Maggie Thatcher and Michael Howard were making their way up the ranks. I have friends like Neill Harvey-Smith and Jeremy Brier, who ought to be in parliament. They are self-made hardworking young fellows who are better placed to make decisions for the country than the professional politicians who are almost invariably born with silver spoons in their mouths.

At a time of historic wealth inequality, social mobility is perilously low. The destruction of “grammar schools,” selective government schools for clever kids, has meant that there are few ways to rise up in an insanely institutionalized society. In the early 20th century, Britain was asking uncomfortable questions of itself on land reform, Irish home rule, suffragettes and the House of Lords. Winston Churchill and Lloyd George among others were battling to push reforms through parliament. Today, Britain genuflects in thrall to its royals, the uber Hollywood of an impoverished nation.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.


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