Old Colony Yells At Clown

Irish Times:

Having a monarchy next door is a little like having a neighbour who's really into clowns and has daubed their house with clown murals, displays clown dolls in each window and has an insatiable desire to hear about and discuss clown-related news stories. More specifically, for the Irish, it's like having a neighbour who's really into clowns and, also, your grandfather was murdered by a clown.

Beyond this, it's the stuff of children's stories. Having a queen as head of state is like having a pirate or a mermaid or Ewok as head of state. What's the logic? Bees have queens, but the queen bee lays all of the eggs in the hive. The queen of the Britons has laid just four British eggs, and one of those is the sweatless creep Prince Andrew, so it's hardly deserving of applause.

The contemporary royals have no real power. They serve entirely to enshrine classism in the British nonconstitution. They live in high luxury and low autonomy, cosplaying as their ancestors, and are the subject of constant psychosocial projection from people mourning the loss of empire. They're basically a Rorschach test that the tabloids hold up in order to gauge what level of hysterical batshittery their readers are capable of at any moment in time.

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19 Responses:

  1. dcapacitor says:

    Is the line that separates real politics from theater, soap operas and reality TV getting blurrier and blurrier every day, or has it always been that way and I'm just starting to notice?..

    • Dude says:

      Always been this way. It might not historically be as obvious as Lincoln getting shot in a theatre, Woodrow Wilson screening birth of a nation, or former B-movie actor Ronald Reagan taking the White House, but politics (particularly since the Romans) has always been a popularity contest first, way to improve life sec- uh... no, it's always been a popularity contest.

      Esquire - "The Inside Story of John F. Kennedy Jr.'s George Magazine"
      Tagline: "In the '90s, John F. Kennedy Jr. founded and edited a revolutionary magazine called George, which covered politics like it was pop culture. Was it folly—or a glimpse of the Trumpian future?"

      Speaking of Ancient Rome, I loved the HBO series Rome when it aired. One of my all-time favourite scenes is when main character Lucius Vorenus - with the full backing of Julius fucking Caesar - campaigns for magistrate of his town. Not only does it show "politics as usual", but the way the Caesar-appointed assistant tugs his ear to signal "deal with the heckler" is as terrifying as it is hilarious:

  2. Dude says:

    And I know this is Scottish, not Irish, but whenever I hear "tear down the monarchy", I think of the "colonised by wankers" monologue.

    Well... that and a few choice songs by Stone Roses, The Smiths, and Sex Pistols.

  3. Jonny says:

    Yeah, I don't get it. Having a bunch of inbreds serve as your head of state, even if just as figureheads, makes no sense to me. Why would one want to honor hereditary rule like that? Like, aren't these people happy about how they ended that crap and don't all live as the property of a person? Isn't it embarrassing to even pretend that one's nation is owned by these people?

    I understand that there is a transition phase between having royals own you like property and stripping power from those inbred assholes. I understand that in that transition phase you might have a period before you entirely trash them where you pretend they still own you, but, uh, its 2021. I think that transition phase should be done by now.

    • jwz says:

      Well, I live in a country that is still re-litigating a treasonous insurrection over people's right to own other people that supposedly ended in 1865, soooooo...

      • Jonny says:

        We take steps forward and backward, but it averages out to going forwardish. Sure, Trump, and especially his post election behavior, is a more mortifying symbol of American doom than my stupid imagination could have come up with and still be believable, but my memory is short and I am happily well on my way to forgetting it, confident in the knowledge it will probably never happen again.

        And hey, when it comes to stupid symbols of the state, we did finally scurbbed the last slaver flag off of our state flags; so that's pretty cool. Yeah, that was maybe a hundred or so years later than I'd like, but we can't be too picky. I think in the battle of stupid symbolic victories against our past, we are totally kicking Britain's ass.

      • Dude says:

        It is hilariously hypocritical to see US right-wingers - who so fetishise stories of US history that they just stormed the Capitol in a bullshit cosplay of the uprising against England - saw a Black woman speaking ill of the monarchy, so they've rushed to defend the crown.

        'Cause, y'know, that's exactly what Washington and Co. would have wanted. Totally.

    • tfb says:

      We don't pretend that the nation is owned by the royal family. Well, yes, we do, but we do so for the tourists, we don't think it, and it's not in fact true. Because that's what the royal family are: a tourist attraction which we sell to, well, tourists.

      The whole current thing isn't about politics: it's about discovering that some of the people who star in the reality show that we sell (and which naïve viewers might believe is politics) might not be quite as nice as we pretended (but never really believed) they were. And again that's slightly wrong: it is about politics, but the politics it's about is the further exposure of the huge levels of racism and other bigotry in various parts of the UK, not least the media, representatives of which have just been lying their heads off in public about it (whenever the anointed representatives of the UK media say there is no bigotry, the answer is 'Katie Hopkins').

      And we did, in fact, try the whole 'not having a monarch' thing a while ago and it didn't work out too well: even though the person who was head of state instead had, I think, mostly good intent at least initially it ended up bad enough that we asked to have the royals back. And then when the group of royals we asked to come back started being all inconvenient and thinking they were in charge we just threw them out and got a completely different set. That act alone should demonstrate where the power actually lies.

      (And, by the way, in the context of the article: that non-royal head of state did some slightly nasty things in Ireland: before him, 70% of Irish land was in Irish, catholic, hands, after him, 10% was. In the four years after he turned up in Ireland one in four Irish people died. He also sold Irish people as slaves, including to slaveholders in what would become but was not yet the US.)

      The above isn't quite true: I think that the monarch probably does have a potential political weapon they can use, but it's pretty much a doomsday device which they can probably use exactly once and which they haven't, yet. I suspect, if it is ever used, it would be far more likely to be used to preserve democracy than overturn it. I did wonder, in 2019, when our glorious clown emperor decided to suspend parliament because it was becoming inconvenient to him, whether that might be the time, but that got, sort-of, sorted out (well, it didn't really, because the clown emperor is still here, but at least the people we vote for get to heckle him).

      Finally, it kind of looks like a system which doesn't have a monarch and the proponents of which crow endlessly about how robust and well-designed it is is actually kind of ropy right now, and has in fact been ropy for, well, has it ever not been ropy? I mean, we have a lot – a lot – of racism and other bigotry but as far as I'm aware we don't have systematic voter suppression (though I would not be surprised if our noble clown emperor is not working on that).

      Please note that none of the above implies I'm some kind of monarchist, because I'm not. I just think that you're misinterpreting what the UK monarchy is.

      • margaret says:

        thanks for the insight. what is this doomsday device you speak of?

        • Michael V. says:

          I believe they are referring to the Queen's "veto" through royal assent: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/feb/08/queen-power-british-law-queens-consent.

          It is thought that if she ever actually uses it, the government will remove it from her powers thereafter.

        • tfb says:

          I am not a constitutional expert so I won't bullshit by pretending to be one.

          But I think the veto mentioned by someone else is one thing: acts of parliament need the monarch's assent and, in principle, they could say 'no'. I also think that, again in principle, the government exists because the monarch says it can, and they could turn around and dissolve it, which would force an election. In both cases there would be an immediate constitutional crisis, the resolution of which would mean they could no longer do the thing they just did.

          My memory may be wrong (I only can remember so much awful politics, it turns out), but I think there was talk (probably not serious talk) of the queen doing the second of these things in 2019 when Johnson 'prorogued' (suspended) parliament because they were making his life difficult. That got resolved in the courts though. I believe he is now busily reducing the power of the courts so that next time he tries it they don't get to stop his tinpot coup.

      • dcapacitor says:

        As far as I can tell, the royal family still holds a great deal of power over people's minds. The queen's symbolic head of state status doesn't just mean that she is useless like a team's mascot, it also means she is the main semi-fictional character in the UK population's collective imagination.

        No matter how silly the idea of having a queen might be to us Americans, we have instead a whole pantheon of celebrities, movie stars, talk show hosts, billionaires and other characters. Some of them might be powerful people in a more traditional sense, some are powerful mostly because of their influence on people's minds.

        I couldn't care less about Gwyneth Paltrow or her vagina, but I do somehow know that the former sells candles that smell like the latter. This useless and trite piece of information was somehow amplified and now resides in my brain.

        The more I think about it, the more parallels I can draw between a modern-day monarch and a celebrity. They make a great couple.

        • tfb says:

          Yes, exactly this: the royal family are hereditary celebrities. And like all celebrities they end up living in a bubble made of acolytes: their bubble is called '1910' (the whole current notion of the British royal family – all the pageantry &c – was only invented in about 1870 or something, by Victoria: it's not ancient). And they're surrounded by a howling mob of the media who really are not OK with some brown, American, divorced person becoming one of the royals for all the awful reasons you'd expect. And because it's 1910 and they're upper-class they've been utterly unable to deal with this person and her husband expressing their unhappiness and desperation and asking for support as a result of this battering: in 1910 upper-class British people did not have emotions and certainly did not ask for support.

          And so they ran away, as any ordinary human would (but as no upper-class English person would in 1910). And then the remaining royals (more likely the acolytes) fucked up again: because it's 1910 and one did not do that sort of thing in 1910 they've essentially cut them out of their will. So they now need money (for security amongst other things), and so they need publicity and so this.

    • Michael says:

      If Canada were to ditch the monarchy, we'd probably elect a head of state. I have no confidence we'd resist our neighbour's (or the French) model of an imperial presidency which would actually empower an elected, popular narcissist. The governor general is refreshingly impotent, and we are left free to despise the PM. The actual royals are beyond irrelevant except as occasional tabloid fodder, and are extremely not my problem.I'd feel very differently if I were a Scot.

      • Kyzer says:

        As a Scot, I'm happy to ignore that the monarchy is the Final Boss of class inequality, in return for tourists coming over for a round of golf at Royal Whereverthefuck. You will get a lot more teeth gnashing in Scotland if you say "Boris" than if you say "Lizzie".

        More concerning to me is that just 400 people, a Danish fashion mogul chief among them, collectively own more than half of Scotland. Debating the monarchy is a diversion; debating land reform is paramount. I have the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 to thank for my freedom to go anywhere in the country (err... once the lockdown is over)

        Generally speaking Scots are 2:1 in favour of keeping the monarchy. An independent Scotland would likely retain a monarch as head of state, although I'd like to see the Kingdom of Scotland return.

        • tfb says:

          I'm not Scottish (but I live with one and lived for 20-something years in Scotland, albeit Edinburgh which is, well, let's not go there (but really I lived in Leith which is very definitely Not Edinburgh)), and this is right: the monarchy is not something seriously at issue in Scotland I think.

          Boris fascist-clown-emperor Johnson on the other hand and his reworking of the tories into a deeply nasty nationalist (but also, you know, a bit socialist: sort of nationalist and socialist, what could go wrong) party ... is why Scotland will be an independent country in 20 years (and is why, although I would have voted no in the independence referendum in 2014 if I'd still lived in Scotland then I'd vote yes now, and why we might well move back there).

          OK, too many comments on this post are mine now.

        • There are plenty of places without monarchies that have booming tourism industries. Sounds like very successful propaganda to me. Scottish tourism probably has more to do with geography, historical landmarks, and being a first-world nation than the continued existence of the monarchy.

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