Man, the real world has a way of disrupting my plans, don’t it?
For those of you living under a rock, last Thursday, Queen Elizabeth II died peacefully in Balmoral Castle.
For Americans, the Queen was just another celebrity, albeit one with some political heft to her. No actual power, but a lifetime of experience and a certain symbolic status. A mobile portrait, if you will, good for livening up a slow news day.
As a Canadian, my relationship with my queen is very different.
To begin with, for me, she was the queen, as is true of pretty much everybody born after 1952. My dad remembers some coins with King George VI’s portrait on them, but that’s about it. Elizabeth defined the monarchy for, not just Canadians but everybody in the Commonwealth, for seventy years. No other politician has had such a long lasting impact on their country politics and cultural identity (note: dictators don’t count. By it’s very nature, dictatorships are designed to bypass the normal interplay of politics. This is also why they fuck up more often and more concretely than normal politicians. Right, Vlad?)
The key word there is cultural identity. The monarchy is a key part of what defines and separates us from the cultural black hole that is our southern neighbours. The end goal of the United States of America is to transform everyone into carbon copies of them: with the same culture, same political structure, same language, yes even the same spelling. America is the centre of political and cultural gravity in the modern world, whatever the PRC’s pretensions.
And to that end, it is vital we as Canadians, in concert with other nations in the Commonwealth, work to maintain our distinct cultural identity in the face of relentless attacks from the American machine.
The monarchy is a huge part of that. Not just culturally, but politically as well. The Americans are the presidential republic (even though they are kind of unique in that regard; most presidential republics separate the head of government from the head of state. America does not); keeping to a constitutional monarchy immediately identifies you as not American. You aren’t part of their grasping, greedy empire or their cultural machine.
Perhaps, in time, the monarchies will fade from the world, and we will all be poorer for it. The world works better with a rich tapestry of different governments, each tailored to their people’s needs and cultures and not just working out of the American playbook (again, dictatorships don’t count. They aren’t responsive to people’s needs, are invariably corrupt and are only superficially connected to their people’s culture. The world will improve greatly once the likes of Putin and Xi are dead and buried).
And now it falls to King Charles III to continue on this great work. Some nations are thinking of ditching the monarchy altogether; as I’ve made clear in this post I think this is a mistake. America, ever intent on remaking the world in their image, will reach out and attempt to remould these nations until they are little more than mini-Americas, just outlet stores for America’s excesses. On the plus side, they are too far away to be bothered by Russia or China (Australia and New Zealand are the exceptions here; they could very much be bothered by China. However, Australia and New Zealand are also much richer and more powerful than some of the other countries in the Commonwealth; if China gets too uppity she could find herself choking on the world’s smallest continent), and the Commonwealth will protect them somewhat.
Either way, it falls to Charles now to make the case for the monarchy. Part of this will be letting those nations go who want to go gracefully; my opinions on the wisdom of their choices aside, there is nothing that will sink the monarchy faster than the impression that they are still a greedy, grasping empire. In slamming America, we have to admit it suckled imperialism as mother’s milk: the British Empire once ruled one-quarter of the globe. It is time to bury that legacy in the ground where it belongs, and that will mean letting those countries who wish to pursue republicanism do so without complaint.
But it will also mean Charles will have to engage in the politics of the day in a way his mother couldn’t or shouldn’t. Environmentalism, a cause near and dear to Charles’ heart, is becoming a bigger issue every day. We are, if we haven’t reached it yet, damn near the brink here. Without radical change in how we do things, Earth is going to burn. Fortunately, some of this process has already been kickstarted (thanks, Vlad!), but Charles is going to need to be a leader here, conventions be damned. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, and while I’m not advocating Charles take up real political power again (there’s no public appetite for it anyway), he needs to use his moral and celebrity authority to advocate for the environment. Because, man, I don’t want to burn to death in twenty years. Or die choking on smog.
Rising inequality is another area where Charles needs to lead. Fact is, guys, inequality is bad and getting worse. Canada is one of the worst, with income inequality rising faster here. If Charles wants to stay king and pass the throne to his son and grandchildren, he needs to start advocating for the poorest and weakest among us. When the impoverished feel disenfranchised, that’s when the start advocating for radical changes. People who feel like the king (or president, prime minister, whatever. The principle is universal) is working for them, they are much more likely to give him their support. Funny how that works, eh?
Again, I’m not saying Charles should take up real political power again. Far from it. But he does have authority; people listen to him. Sometimes whether they like it or not. And a person with a bully pulpit who does not advocate for the most pressing issues of today, be it the environment or rising inequality or any of a half-dozen other things, is someone who is unfit for that role.
Look, I get it. Charles will have to modify his style somewhat now that he’s king. A king really shouldn’t be micro-managing his ministers, ceremonial position or no. And I sure don’t expect him to give a stump speech outlining the policies of his administration!
No, leave the work a day politics to the work a day politicians. That is literally what we pay them for. But at the same time, neither should the royals be useless celebrities who are only good for tabloid fodder. There are real issues facing us today, issues that require us to come together to face them.
In this respect, Charles model should be the Pope. Pope Francis is an imperfect figure, no question. But he has lent his moral and spiritual authority to the weightiest of topics, trying to lead his people to a better, more peaceful life. I can’t say he’s always succeeded, and has been dead wrong on some accounts (no, it’s not NATO’s fault Russia invaded Ukraine. That particular bit of evil was all on Putin, as are the bloody losses his troops have suffered.), but I think he has threaded the needle of being a ceremonial leader with the need to confront real world issues rather well. The Catholic Church will endure, and that is partially due to Francis’ leadership. Charles would do well to learn from his compatriot.
That’s it for this week. Next week is our regularly scheduled Fandom Heresy, concluding our discussion on Batman’s armour.
See you then! And remember, God Save The King!