I received a round-robin email from a school friend, which attacks privilege in regard to the Olympics and I decided to respond.
First, though, here is his email which was headed “The Olympics, a personal opinion”:
“Whilst I am impressed by the success so far of these Olympics, impressed by the success of the competitors and impressed by the enthusiasm of the crowds, my most abiding impression is that societally and socially GB culture has not progressed one single iota in 430 years.
“When you realise that people like Paul McCartney , the poet, and Pippa Middleton, the courtier , and their ilk can pick and choose what venue and when they wish to attend, probably for free, whilst the general public, the peasants, are forced to bid against each other for the paying privilege of a ticket, or sit outside the venue peering at the screens like the animals in Animal Farm peering at the pigs feasting through the window.
“When you see the “Royal” princes and their cohorts popping up at random whenever they feel like it, whilst the peasants queue up to be searched and herded by security you really do realise that nothing really changes.
“Even back to Roman times this split between privilege and peasant existed and it is worse today, for we now have privileged, pop stars, footballers and other useless oxygen wasters at the “top” table and even fewer crumbs spread amongst the peons.
“As soon as our current queen is gone we should get rid of these parasites, starting with Charlie and his horse and make this into a democratic Meritocracy instead of a Monarchistic society based on inherited and financial privilege.
“Long Live the Revolution.
“Free Cornwall from Charlie and his Horse.”
I am not a great believer in privilege, but it has its place, or I should perhaps say that it has its time and place. This is my reply:
I hope my school-friend will not mind me being equally opinionated in playing devil’s advocate in response to his wonderfully opinionated blog.
While I understand his sentiments, removing the royal family will just see a replacement by politicians (I notice he didn’t single them out for mention which is very worrying) or warlords, self important civil servants, their cronies and families, so we must take care what we wish for regarding changing the order. In fact he has very effectively shown that process is guaranteed by the inclusion of Paul McCartney above. Last I heard he was not royalty and the presence of the young royals and people like Paul and other celebrities has given a great boost to the enjoyment and satisfaction of victorious athletes and their families, as well as the watching proletariat. Incidentally Paul was only paid £1 for his performance during the opening ceremony. If we are going to line all celebrities up against the wall with the royals there will be little inspiration to become famous and create music, art, poetry and other works that give others pleasure. Watching Arctic Monkeys perform one of Lennon’s masterpieces brought a tear to the eye. No celebrities, no music, poetry, plays, films and, wait for it, no successful athletes to admire – what a world? And did I read his blog correctly, is he not implying that those victorious athletes and their families should not be treated in a privileged manner either? Libya had a way of dealing with this in football. Commentators only ever mentioned their players by their shirt numbers, except for the leader’s son who was called by name. Jessica Ennis should perhaps only be referred to as number 104f, and the medal ceremony dropped as it has undoubtedly turned her into a celebrity, too, and might mean she gets a privileged seat to watch some other event when my poor school friend will have to queue outside for hours to fail to get a ticket.
As an aside, and owing to the swing from print and post to e-communication in the last decade, I cannot be sure if the following is still true today, but in the nineties the entire royal family including all of the hangers-on and their administrations cost around the same as the total VAT income from postcards sold in London alone, so they and their pomp, ceremony and changing of their guards has been self-financing since the beginning of the modern tourist era and has added mega-millions in addition to the public coffers than their own cost. So while many may disagree with the monarchy, removing it would be like slashing billions from the tourist industry’s budgets, so the country’s economy and the plebs, themselves, would be far worse off than if they’d maintained it in the first place. This is not the nineteenth century monarchy being discussed here. It has evolved, no doubt in the interests of self-preservation.
The monarchy also gives many people incredible enjoyment and pleasure as could be seen from the Jubilee celebrations. Only a vile dictator could see a benefit in making those crowds of people’s lives deliberately less happy and enjoyable. Do we really need that? However much we might dislike the concept, the royal family more than pay their way in this society. No one ever lists the jobs created and income made by businesses indirectly from their existence, we only ever get told of their cost to the public purse. The financial scales are never fairly presented.
So what his argument comes down to is that rather than live in our deluxe animal farm, we would be better living in another Orwellian world, that of 1984. Oppressed, living in squalor, hungry and miserable as hell. In fact we have all witnessed the beginnings, teething troubles and demise of just such a world in the old Soviet Union. We can witness it happening today in North Korea. I know which giant screen I would rather watch with my fellow plebs. We now know that all of those wonderful principles of one for all, equality and sharing resources provided a ruling class who kept the bulk of their wealth and privilege out of the public eye to deliberately conceal it. But the most important point is that not only did it do absolutely nothing for the proletariat, but it made things infinitely worse for them. In these cultures, his blog would have seen him incarcerated for life – if he and his family didn’t completely disappear without trace. No wonder he took exile in France!
His email complains that we are no better off than we were in 1582. Well, today the average Brit can tour the world, works fewer than half their waking hours and lives a life of Tesco luxury. The trouble is that that knowledge casts the most god-damned-awful shadow over everything I have said above because the third world has been paying for my friend’s and my privileged lifestyles. WE are the privileged! The starving of Africa, oppressed of North Korea and dispossessed of the middle east can only look at us and dream and wish they could have afforded to watch the Olympics on personal flat screen tellies, while munching on expensive snacks (which cost a day’s food) and supping the world’s most delicious wines or beers. Now they would be justified in writing his blog, but, of course, we would not welcome giving up over 80% of everything we have to even up the scales of privilege for them, would we? I think not, even if some of us might wish we had the moral courage to do so, when it comes down to it we are the very privileged class to which my friend refers. £3 a month to a charity is all most of us are actually prepared to sacrifice and how many reading this do even that? Not all of us, for sure!
So the hate of privilege is all relative.
As for his call for a free Cornwall, the last I heard he was living in France, as far as us from our school roots in a Celtic Cornwall, but at least up here in Scotland we have Alex Salmond, our latter-day Braveheart, and are making headway to freedom! However, I would like to reassure him that come independence, we will still let the rest of GB borrow our queen for special events. Elizabeth I of Scotland is descended from Robert the Bruce! So we won’t let them miss out on seeing the royals in future years! LOL.