God Save The Queen?

June 9, 2012 10:23 am

The Royal Family have become a symbol of national identity

Suffice it to say I grew up in a house where the Sex Pistols were played at me loudly from a young age. But I can’t deny that there have been two events in my time in London, where there has been a sense of community: the Royal Wedding and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Of course, as you grow, develop your own ideas and move out of home, your views change. By the time of the Royal Wedding I was fairly indifferent to the monarchy. I mean, they supposedly don’t have any true power and apparently they bring in more money through tourism than they cost (which is how much exactly?) and there was even this programme I saw about how the queen had been against Apartheid in South Africa.

But the wedding reminded me – the Royal Family are not some benign background presence. They’re something a lot of people stand behind. More than that, they become an identity. A national identity.

That’s when I realised I couldn’t take a back seat over the issue. If this is what represents us, then we should take a closer look at the values we’re upholding.

There are some very old arguments that could be made here. For starters, any level of power or involvement in politics through birth rather than election is inherently undemocratic. To actively celebrate this power seems to undermine the values we should be proud of.

What makes it worse is the timing. How anyone can stand and cheer an expensive tax funded boat parade when that money could have been used to keep youth clubs open or provide money for schools is beyond me.

But underneath these arguments is a larger one I think we often forget. The Queen and the monarchy are deeply bound up in the Commonwealth. Let’s look at that phrase for a moment. Remember that if you’re not a member of the nobility or priesthood, you’re a commoner. However, if we take into account the more positive meaning – shared – we see a far bigger problem than class snobbery.

This collection of former colonies by no means have a shared wealth. We shouldn’t for a moment forget how we have, and continue to, exploit these countries. We shouldn’t forget how we have used and deepened religious and racial divides to gain power, and we shouldn’t forget how we (and other European countries) redrew borders to suit our own needs, creating conflicts by placing groups together that didn’t belong together.

So if for you the British flag proudly stands for all of the above, by all means hang it outside your house on the next royal occasion. Just think, while we unite by celebrating our undemocratic monarchy, there are other countries who come together to celebrate republics.

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