The Royal Illusion

Why the hell is there a Queen in a democracy?

Clearly, a lot of people wonder about that too, even more so than the pain in the back of their body parts. I try to avoid opining on topics I barely know about. But the Oprah, Harry, and Meghan interview is juicy drama and there are a couple of interesting societal and psychological concepts here. 

The monarchy has some history to it (duh). I know a bit that I just read on Wikipedia. The very short and probably inaccurate history goes like this. Before the republic, there was a monarchy. The power of monarchy slowly faded, but some king made a deal to keep the titles, palace, and stipend around. A better deal than what the French kings got. It made the entire transition more peaceful and less awkward. 

I think the British Monarchy today is like the steak in the movie Matrix. 

It is elaborate make-believe and a long-running, high production, global reality show. Who doesn't like to be awed by a royal wedding or fawn over a new baby princess? The royal family is the Kim Kardashians of Britain. And like their healthcare, it's publicly funded.  It is good entertainment. a welcome distraction from the tough realities or boredom of day-to-day. 

The monarch is also a brand investment for the British government. It isn't very different from one of those Nike commercials that show famous sportspeople doing sports stuff, but only barely show the shoes. The Royal Family is like Nike's "Just do it" swoosh and America's bald eagle.  It fosters a sense of pride and identity, and love by association, without being all in your face about it. I naively assumed it's an expensive way to keep entertained, but seems like royalty tourism more than covers the costs. Queen Elizabeth runs a cashflow positive institution.  

The allegations of close-mindedness and racism within the institution that surfaced in the Oprah interview are disappointing, but not surprising. The monarchy is a 1000-year-old institution with a history of colonization and which still believes in inherited status - how woke do you expect them to be?! When an organization's main role is preserving a broad public illusion and identity, it is at the mercy of public opinion and historic nonsense rules. Their role is to keep everyone feeling good about themselves and the national identity, not about being a woke social justice warrior who questions or upsets the status quo. They have to take neutral stances, be careful not to ruffle any feathers, and stay conservatively within the Overton window.   If enough people are loudly upset with the organization and continue to be so for a long enough time, then the Overton window shifts and the monarchy follows. That's how change happens. 

I think Harry also raised a fair point that he inherited the risk because of the system and therefore the system should fund his security for the rest of the life. But his statement about how he, his dad, and his brother are "trapped" didn't seem very different from how all of us are trapped into the lives we are born into. It's a different kind of trap and not very foolproof as he seems to have gotten out of it. 

Anyway, that's my tabloid piece for the day.