By Robin McAlpine
What a wondrous and blessed occasion is the approaching Royal Wedding, with its celebration of young love and a nation in shared joy. Truly, it is an event which can unite us all, young and old, rich and poor. And no-one could possibly object – even those of a republican bent can surely find no reason not to be glad. We can, as one, express our happiness and our Britishness.
Well not me. This is not an occasion built on young love, it is just more political myth making. Once more I feel the oxygen to my brain being cut off by a Union Jack being forcefully applied to my mouth.
There are many kinds of flags. The ‘hurray flag’ held aloft by a medal winner, the ‘oh hell flag’ tied round the waste of a slumped Scottish sports fan after the final whistle, the ‘don’t even think about it’ flag flying over an army barracks, the ‘because we’re better than you flag’ fluttering in the front garden of a mid-West US family. But from nowhere, in Britain we suddenly find ourselves surrounded on all sides by the ‘take one of these flag’. Take one of these, forget about your worries, it’ll be OK.
It’s hard to remember when it started. Certainly the most risible attempt to muffle the sound of discontent in red-white-and-blue fabric was Gordon Brown’s ‘Britain Day’ or whatever it was to be called (though Blair was at it ages before with his ‘Cool Britannia’ rebrand). But it was the military rebrand that really kicked this off. Suddenly everyone was supposed to have nothing but the very deepest admiration for the British Soldier, wrapped in ‘our’ flag. Especially if dead or mutilated. The formulation was simple but clever – ‘you may despise our wars but you have to admire our brave soldiers’. Then there was that stick-in-the-craw Team GB stuff at the Olympics. Again, it’s all of us together, one nation united under the flag. And now we have William and Catherine. How could anyone possibly object to any of this?
Because they are not a new generation of royals, they are just royals like any other royals. Privileged, protected, remote and impervious cyphers for the British State. This is not a cheap dig, this is a cold-headed analysis. Britain is a deeply divided nation. There used to be the Aristocracy and The Commoners. Then there were the Owners and the Working Class. By the 1990s it was even more straightforward – there were the Filthy Rich and the Indebted. Now we might as well be honest, there is the Laughing Class and there is the Supplicants. It’s all economic and we’re not all in it together. There is a distant and hidden class in Britain which only knows there is a economic crisis because it read about it in the Telegraph once.
Let’s just say out loud what is happening. A tiny proportion of society has been doing the most awful, vile and venal things and the vast majority of us (and many around the world) are simply victims of this. The fact that we don’t have a word for them shows how nefarious they are. They are arms manufacturers and dealers, the owners of media empires, the elite bankers, massively corrupt foreigners given a sort of cultural asylum, oil companies, ‘the markets’, the remnants of the old aristocracy and a whole host of people who are simply rich through association with them. They have bombed, maimed, murdered, stolen, impoverished, destroyed, lied, corrupted, tortured. They have propped up dictator after dictator. They have broken entire countries (and not poor, distant countries – Ireland, Iceland, Portugal and Greece). They have taken our security. They have destroyed our environment. They have withheld their taxes. They have plunged us into massive personal and public debt. They have controlled the flow of information to the public. They have bought up our government and twisted our politicians round their fingers. They are in the process of dismantling the welfare state for their personal profit and they have progressively degraded our seats of learning.
They are ‘the establishment’. And their figurehead is the Royal Family. Most crudely there is ‘Prince’ Andrew whose dealings and behaviours are so odious as to be breathtaking. But they are all there to serve the same purpose and that purpose alone – to try and tie together a nation fractured from above. Anyone who thinks the Royal Family is benign isn’t paying attention. Watch what they do. As soon as they have hair on their privates they get a medal pinned on them to legitimise the British Army. If they really must have a fake job, why can’t it be one that does some good in the world – teacher or nurse, say. They are wheeled out as window dressing at arms sales conventions. They persuade us all that some how its great to be British. They are a political institution, not a family. And we are the subjects, not the citizens.
So no, this isn’t benign. And I want to know where is the political balance. Where can those be heard who think this wedding (at the very least in its timing) is a sham? How can I say ‘no, don’t you dare subvert our national anger by throwing a big, gotesque party – which you will let us watch through the window’? Like Team GB or another young corpse in a body bag, it is seen as improper to speak out. But it isn’t. Get these cyphers of greed, corruption and violence off my television. Make them formally declare their class war and let’s get in some UN mediators. Stop telling me it is wrong for me to object, to think for myself or to feel this is wrong. Take your hands off my neck and take back your flag. I will not take one of these and I will not forget what has been done to us all.
We are not all in this together. The British State, the British Establishment, the Elite – call them what you will, they are an ever-present grotesque, insulated but watching. That grotesque with its many hands clutching guns and bombs, its pockets stuffed with money, the stained soles of its feet washed clean of its doings and its sneering, laughing eyes assuming we will fall for it all once again must be stopped. If you really want to bring the country together, let’s have a proper trial for the illegal wars, the illegal arms sales, the corruption of our public life, the financial scandals of the banking system and the market, the permanent distortion of all of the means of communication. Let’s put the grotesque behind the bars where it belongs.
By all means let these young people marry. And by all means be happy for them. Just don’t tell me there is no reason to object. In fact, just stop telling me how to think and feel altogether. This is not harmless. In fact, it isn’t even really a wedding.
Robin McAlpine is Editor of the Scottish Left Review