Thursday, April 28, 2011

Rays of effing sunshine:
Johann Hari podcast and the royals

I don't want to just gripe here all the time. I do after all, quite frequently, encounter things and people that delight me. Hence a new feature: occasional posts labeled "rays of effing sunshine."

The first of these is a shout-out to the guy who gave me the idea: Johann Hari, a pissy, articulate, brilliant and funny leftish columnist for the London Independent. He has turned his thoughts into a podcast and that's the way to enjoy him if at all inclined -- sure you can read him, but listening to the guy himself is worth a visit to iTunes for a download.

Since I don't know how to implant audio here, I thought I'd share part of Hari's commentary on the royal wedding. It's a hoot.

Okay, let's cut a deal here. If Britain can afford to spend tens of millions of pounds on the royal wedding, we have to spend an equal amount distributing anti-nausea pills across the land – to all of us who can't bear to see our country embarrass itself in this way. Don't let the Gawd-bless-you-ever-so-'umbly-yer-Majesty tone of the media coverage fool you. Most British people are benignly indifferent to the wedding of William Windsor and Kate Middleton. The 20 percent of us who are republicans, like me, have it slightly worse. We will suffer that face-flushing, stomach-shriveling embarrassment that strikes when somebody you love – your country – starts to behave in a deeply weird way in a public place. ...

In most countries, parents can tell their kids that if they work hard and do everything right, they could grow up to be the head of state and symbol of their nation. Not us. Our head of state is decided by one factor, and one factor alone: did he pass through the womb of one aristocratic Windsor woman living in a golden palace? The US head of state grew up with a mother on food stamps. The British head of state grew up with a mother on postage stamps. ...

The monarchist spin-machine, the tabloids and the tea-towel industry have created a pair of fictitious characters for us to cheer, while the real people behind them are being tormented by their supposed admirers. Think back to the 1981 royal wedding and you realise how little we know about these people we are supposed to get moist and weepy over. While millions wept at the "fairytale wedding", Diana was ramming her fingers down her throat, Charles was cursing that he didn't love her, and they both stood at the aisle raging against their situation and everyone around them, while the nation cheered.

Similarly, from beneath the spin, the evidence is pretty clear that William and Kate will be smiling at us through gritted teeth. ...

You get the style. By the way, Hari makes it a practice to tell you what he has enjoyed this week at the end of each of his podcast diatribes. That's was my inspiration for "rays of effing sunshine."

In honor of the royal-a-palooza this weekend, I thought I'd share below an artifact of the monarchist tea-towel trade that I inherited from my mother, an inveterate American enthusiast for the Windsor family. (She claimed it derived from listening to 1940 broadcasts on shortwave radio from London under Hitler's blitz.) I don't know if this card was from the current queen's wedding or her coronation, but it is a striking reminder that Elizabeth Windsor was young once.
Elizabeth II001.jpeg

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