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Reject This Game of Thrones
If you’ve tuned in to TV news anytime over the past six days, you’ve been inundated with coverage of the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Indeed, the mostly fawning treatment of the Queen’s passing, her role in history, her record long reign, her succession, the celebrity and death of her firstborn son’s former wife, her other son’s sexual scandals, her grandsons and their personal drama and the sycophantic weeping of her “subjects” in the media has been something of a personal irritant to me.
Yes, I certainly understand the media’s desire to cover every moment of this situation. After all, the media is all about ratings, because ratings equal revenue, and news is a business, and the royals make for big ratings. And as a radical for capitalism, I endorse that.
However, as a man who abhors the notion of monarchy and its roots in such despicable ideas as the “divine right of kings,” I find the pageantry rather loathsome. In fact, I am someone who has a visceral sense of nuisance whenever I see a picture of the royals, and the reason why is because I’m opposed to concepts such as one human having political province over others simply by accident of birth.
Now, I know I am viewing this issue through a decidedly American lens, but I was taught from my earliest reading of government that “all men are created equal.” Yet in monarchies of any kind, even the timid version such as that of Britain, the sovereigns are thought to be created better than their subjects, and therefore they have the right to tell other humans what to do, how to live and who to serve.
Stated in starker terms, in most historical “absolute” monarchies, subjects don’t own their lives, the king or queen does — and that makes people slaves of the state.
Of course, Britain is not an absolute monarchy any longer. The country has long been a “constitutional monarchy,” which is a system of government in which a monarch shares power with a constitutionally organized government — and this is indeed progress.
Yet in the case of Britain, King Charles III now is not only the titular and ceremonial head of state, but he’s also head of the Church of England and the head of the armed forces. Talk about being born with a silver spoon in your mouth.
Now, some writers/intellectuals that I admire, in particular Andrew Sullivan, have written eloquently about Queen Elizabeth II and the virtues she embodied. Here he writes, “With her death, it’s hard not to fear that so much she exemplified — restraint, duty, grace, reticence, persistence — are disappearing from the world.” Fair enough, as I am all for virtues such as grace, reticence and persistence.
But then a few paragraphs later, Sullivan goes on to defend the Crown by enlisting the help of writer C.S. Lewis, who once said: “Where men are forbidden to honor a king, they honor millionaires, athletes, or film stars instead; even famous prostitutes or gangsters. For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison.”
Think about this for a moment. In Lewis’s view, we should honor a king, who ascended to his lot simply by virtue of birth, but we shouldn’t honor millionaires, athletes or film stars — people who have actually put the hard work into it and have done what is required to achieve their status in life?
This is my biggest issue with the notions of royalty of any sort. To be honored and endowed with position, privilege, wealth, admiration, power and respect by accident of your birth, and not because of the hard work it took you to become a millionaire or a standout athlete or a film star, is a perversion of reality that needs to be called out now — especially while the world is mired in an orgy of royal worship.
Yes, as Lewis says, spiritual nature, like bodily nature needs to be served. But I say that bestowing virtues on a person because of their birth, and not because of their actions, is gobbling up the worst kind of servile poison — poison that inevitably leads to subjugation of the ugliest sort. And if you don’t believe me, read up on the violent atrocities of empires throughout history.
At the root, you’ll find the structural servility of men under the authority of monarchs — and to toward that poison, I say reject this game of thrones.
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Of Cameras and Monarchs
“The invention of the camera enabled the reinvention of the British monarchy for the modern era.”
The British historian points out yet another thing that I dislike about that nation’s monarchy, and that is the tabloidesque nature of the royal family and the media that covers them. Perhaps it’s just the ugly American in me, but I can think of no greater inane fetish than an obsession with queens and kings and princes and princesses.
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In the name of the best within us,