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|Edwin Drood's Column
|12 June 2012
|Gentlemen, the Queen!
|Edwin salutes the Queen on her birthday, or a little after it, with an essay on the nature
and value of this particular monarchy and its significance for a changing world.
|Uneasy lies the head ...
Despite all the failings of the last seventy years, the great injustices still manifest in the world and the rage that bursts through from diverse suppurating wounds that have been neither cleansed nor dressed, I still believe that Princess Elizabeth’s generation has not let us down. While I cannot say that they have truly done their utmost, they have certainly done an extraordinary job with some rather shoddy equipment left to them by previous generations of the real-political “machinocracy”. We have so far avoided a third great conflagration, and even if the so-called war of civilizations is warming up into a real humdinger, a degree of cohesion has been maintained, if at a very high cost.
A key element in the new world that Princess Elizabeth promised us has been the emergence of science and technology as vectors for significant social change. The degree to which our lives, careers and opinions have become dependent on technology, bio-chemistry and the mathematical science of large number statistical modelling is both frightening and reassuring. Frightening, insofar as we have no idea of where it might lead us, and our fears are most often dystopian. Reassuring, insofar as we can genuinely rely on the very serious degree of backup and support that these new ways of learning, working, networking, communicating, healing, building, analysing and prognosticating can give us. Science and progress have become our most powerful allies as well as our most redoubtable enemies, and the bitter-sweet relationship that has been spawned by this rather edgy and nervous reality is one of the key cultural paradoxes currently driving us forward. Part of the Queen’s very difficult and doubtless exhausting job is to provide a distinct theme of positive continuity that can run through all of this epochal upheaval and paradigm change like a bright vein of hope and glory.
On an international level, the fourteen-year-old princess has, at least in person, clearly lived up to the promise she gave us. If the Commonwealth generally functions better and shows more leverage in the countries it represents than the U.N. has ever demonstrated anywhere within its tattered mandate, this is almost entirely the result of Elizabeth’s tireless engagement in the only sphere where she is largely unchallenged. This broad and constructively benign influence has been built step by step through her own very real efforts and tireless engagement with an idea she believes in, rather than one grudgingly bestowed by parliament or circumscribed by the constitution. The Queen has demonstrated consummate leadership and a savvy gift for diplomacy in a domain where the pressure of being the final arbiter, even nominally, has passed to others. Thus she is able to reign without having to rule, a subtle distinction, but significant. Other international bodies could learn a great deal from the consultative and conciliatory policies of the commonwealth. There is precious little carrot and no stick at all, so just how it works must lie in the realm of divine mystery ... but work it certainly does.
|... that wears the crown
Short of having her husband convert to Islam and proclaim himself Caliph, there is not a lot that the Queen, as defender of the Anglican Faith, can do about solving the Commonwealth’s growing cultural conundrum, as the challenge of Islamic extremism affects the entire world, even if it has
found its natural home in the UK. The rising virulence of radicalism within a faith, whose every verse proclaims the compassion of God, is not going to be dampened simply by our leaders reasserting, at every opportunity, the values of democratic liberalism that its unholy warriors claim to despise. The hypocrisy of these brethren knows no bounds. Unlike Luddites, who truly despise all aspects of modernity, and would freely choose agrarian socialism of the Pol Pot model over anything currently on offer, all of these neo-salafists have accounts with Twitter and YouTube, all of them sport the latest in handheld technology and enjoy every comfort of modern transport and infrastructure, none of which could even be conceived of, let alone exist, if the world they claim to champion were the international norm. They and their ilk are just some of the viruses carried by the very bloodstream of exchange and development that the post war generation so energetically crafted to ensure stability and mutual benefit.
I cannot claim to look forward eagerly to the reign of Charles III, but neither do I cringe at the thought, as many do. There remains a comforting degree of inertia in the passage of this particular baton. The crown sits atop a vast and well-founded structure of tradition, values, protocol, privilege and responsibility. It may frequently disappoint, but it cannot be easily dishonoured, disenfranchised or dispossessed. And unless there is a massive and unexpected groundswell of disloyalty at the national level, it is not likely to disappear any time soon.
Vivat Regina !
© Edwin Drood
, June 2012
Queen Elizabeth II's portrait on a Canadian "Big Maple Leaf" million dollar coin,
currently the largest gold coin in the world.
See: "Big money", The Cheshire Cat Blog, May 2011
photo: © David John
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