Monarchs Belong in the Dustbin of History
John Pilger’s recent analysis of government, media, and cultural propaganda – and, more importantly, what it’s trying to hide – inspired my last post, and “Monarchs Belong in the Dustbin of History,” the latest article, posted today, by Chris Hedges on scheerpost.com, is a similar reminder. (We need these reminders to counteract the constant coverup of the truth.)
“The fawning adulation of Queen Elizabeth in the United States, which fought a revolution to get rid of the monarchy, and in Great Britain, is in direct proportion to the fear gripping a discredited, incompetent and corrupt global ruling elite,” Hedges says. “The global oligarchs aren’t sure the next generation of royal sock puppets are up to the job. Let’s hope they’re right.
Monarchy obscures the crimes of empire and wraps them in nostalgia. It exalts white supremacy, racial hierarchy, and class rule. It buttresses an economic and social system that callously discards and often consigns to death those considered as ‘lesser,’ most of whom are people of color.
The cries of the millions of victims of empire” – millions of Irish since the first English invasion in 1169; Indians, whose economy was destroyed by British mercantilism, and where the hasty British withdrawal in 1947 led to the deaths of over a million in Hindu-Muslim violence, a result of British ‘divide and conquer’ policies; “thousands killed, tortured, raped and imprisoned during the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya; the more than 4,100 First Nations children who died or went missing in Canada’s residential schools, government-sponsored institutions established to ‘assimilate’ indigenous children; and the hundreds of thousands killed during the invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan – are drowned out by cheers for royal processions and the sacral aura an obsequious press weaves around the aristocracy. The coverage of the queen’s death is so mind-numbingly vapid — the BBC sent out a news alert on Saturday when Prince Harry and Prince William, accompanied by their wives, surveyed the floral tributes to their grandmother displayed outside Windsor Castle — that the press might as well turn over the coverage to the mythmakers and publicists employed by the royal family.
The royals are oligarchs, guardians of their class. The world’s largest landowners include King Mohammed VI of Morocco with 176 million acres, the Roman Catholic Church with 177 million acres, the heirs of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia with 531 million acres, and now King Charles III with 6.6 billion acres of land. [I can’t verify this figure online. What I did find is that much of the land belonging to the British Crown is held in trust, though the royals derive rents from much of it.] British monarchs are worth almost $28 billion. The British public will provide a $33 million subsidy to the royal family over the next two years, even though the average household in the U.K. is seeing its income fall and 227,000 households experience homelessness in Britain.
Royals, to the ruling class, are worth the expense as effective tools of subjugation. British postal and rail workers canceled planned strikes over pay and working conditions after the queen’s death. The Trade Union Congress (TUC) postponed its congress. Labour Party members poured out heartfelt tributes. Even Extinction Rebellion, which should know better, indefinitely canceled its planned “Festival of Resistance.” The BBC’s Clive Myrie dismissed Britain’s energy crisis — caused by the war in Ukraine — that has thrown millions of people into severe financial distress as ‘insignificant’ compared with concerns over the queen’s health. The climate emergency, the pandemic, the deadly folly of the U.S. and NATO’s proxy war in Ukraine, soaring inflation, the rise of neo-fascist movements, and deepening social inequality will be ignored as the press spews florid encomiums to class rule. There will be 10 days of official mourning.
In 1953, Her Majesty’s Government sent three warships, along with 700 troops, to its colony British Guiana, suspended the constitution and overthrew the democratically elected government of Cheddi Jagan. Her Majesty’s Government helped to build and long supported the apartheid government in South Africa. Her Majesty’s Government savagely crushed the Mau Mau independence movement in Kenya from 1952 to 1960, herding 1.5 million Kenyans into concentration camps where many died and were tortured. Her Majesty’s Government carried out a dirty war to break the Greek Cypriot War of Independence from 1955 to 1959. Torture, extrajudicial assassinations, public hangings, and mass executions by the British were routine. Following a protracted lawsuit, the British government agreed to pay nearly £20 million in damages to over 5,000 victims of British abuse during war in Kenya, and in 2019 another payout was made to survivors of torture from the conflict in Cyprus. [For a complete history of British colonial crimes, which included a similar regime of violence in Palestine and Malaya, see Caroline Elkins’ recently published book, Legacy of Violence: A History of the British Empire.] During her 70-year reign, the queen never offered an apology or called for reparations. [Her excuse would be that she was an ‘apolical’ figurehead, but it was all done in her name and in the name of previous monarchs, including the long-reigning Queen Victoria (1819 to 1901).]
The monarchy is the bedrock of hereditary rule and inherited wealth. This caste system filters down from the Nazi-loving House of Windsor [primarily the Duke of Windsor, King Edward VIII, who abdicated in favor of Queen Elizabeth II’s father, George VI; and her husband, Prince Philip, whose four sisters married pro-Nazi German aristocrats] to the organs of state security and the military. It regiments society and keeps people, especially the poor and the working class, in their place.
The British ruling class clings to the mystique of royalty and fading cultural icons to project a global presence, and there is a pathetic yearning among many in the U.S. and Britain to be linked in some way to royalty. This desire to be part of the club, or validated by the club, is a potent force the ruling class has no intention of giving up, even if hapless King Charles III makes a mess of it.”
Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of show The Chris Hedges Report.