Sunday, 5 December 2021

God Save The What Now? (Politics - Barbados)

This week's post is partly inspired by recent events in Barbados, as encapsulated in this TL/DR video:

Now, this isn't the only bit of media I've seen bewailing the fate of the Monarchy and wondering what will happen when the Queen finally goes to her well-deserved rest. However as someone born in a colony and who's lived in the Commonwealth nearly all of his life, I thought it might be time to lay some myths to rest.

1) Never forget, she is who she is. Nobody swears allegiance to the Monarchy in the abstract. Yes, Queen Elizabeth II is popular but that's because she takes service to the nation seriously and people respect her for it. If she'd been a different kind of monarch we wouldn't be having this discussion and probably there'd be no Commonwealth. There's a reason why PM Owen Arthur (c. 7.54) said he'd struggle to swear allegiance to Harry; this is it.

2) She came here, and we remember. Early in her reign she travelled the Commonwealth and there are plenty of plaques all over the place to mark the spots she's visited, which is another mark in her favor for those who remember the visits. Problem being, the ones who do are in their eighties, so the public memory's fading. The rest of the family don't seem to travel as much; Charles does, but he's no spring chicken. See also: the Pope. There's a reason why His Holiness gets on a plane and jets off to wherever-it-may-be, and it's not because he's racking up frequent flier miles for that dream holiday to Aruba. The personal touch matters. It keeps people engaged.

3) We don't read the Sun. The British have a very different view of the Monarchy than the Commonwealth does, and that's because the average Englishman's concept of the Crown's been shaped by God alone knows how many newspaper articles, paparazzi shots, TV shorts and a thousand other things besides - most of which we never saw. The big change in the Crown's popularity in the UK came in the 1980s and 1990s, when the media became far less deferential and Spitting Image clowned around. As far as the Commonwealth's concerned, none of that ever happened; it wasn't on our TV or in our papers. We don't even get the BBC, for crying out loud, and that seems a missed opportunity. We'd probably pay a license fee for it, if asked. [possible exceptions: Canada and Australia, which both seem to get more UK media than the rest of us.] In fact until the Internet became everyone's media source of choice we only ever got the Crown's highlight reel, and that rarely. Now we get YouTube vids every time Meghan Markle farts. That changes things, but it still means the Commonwealth doesn't share the same perspective the British do.

4) We need a loud voice. The Commonwealth is made up of small nations, for the most part. When small nations try to strike a bargain with larger powers - and everyone's a larger power - we get squeezed. So there's a very useful benefit to being part of a larger Commonwealth of Nations with the Crown at its head, one worth preserving. However, see also Brexit; the less relevant the UK becomes, the less useful our relationship with the Crown. See also see also CARICOM. If the Crown isn't our voice of choice, we'll invent our own. Bermuda's an associate member, and frankly that's only because we're still a dependent territory of the UK which means all our foreign policy is controlled by London. If we ever vote for independence I expect our full membership of CARICOM will follow five minutes after we formally go independent.

5) The prosperous middle classes. Stop me if you've heard these acronyms before: RICS. ICSA (now the CGI). CIOB. CIPD. CIAT. RIBA. RIN (remember, we're surrounded by lots and lots of ocean). And so on ad infinitum. If you're a lawyer, accountant, administrator, architect, engineer and so forth, and you live and work in the Commonwealth, odds are you belong to one of the many Royal or Chartered Institutes, not least because our legal systems are based on the UK's. That means you probably spent several years in the UK or at the very least went there for a crammer course to pass your exams. Your Chartered Body's HQ is almost certainly in London. If you have legal training, odds are good you've eaten at least one dinner at the Inns of Court. The Institutes have done more to keep the Commonwealth a Commonwealth than anything the Queen could manage if she lives to be two hundred, because they provide shared experiences, shared standards, and most importantly drive tens of thousands of students to that sodden, pestilent isle every year.  Even if a Commonwealth nation decides to throw off the yoke and completely reshape the government, the people who do the reshaping will have been trained in the UK to a UK standard - there's no escaping that influence.

And finally:

6) Brexit and Racists. There are plenty of reasons why a Commonwealth made up largely of non-white citizens might not be madly in love with the UK right now, and they have nothing to do with the Queen. Remember earlier when I mentioned the Internet as a news source? Yeah, turns out we know all about Bojo's racism. We notice when former English Defense League head honcho Tommy Robinson gets BBC coverage. When I was a kid having an English passport meant a gateway to a world of possibilities; post-Brexit, an English passport means a narrow lane to a grey failed state where frothing fisherman and mountains of slaughtered pigs are the new symbols of sovereignty. The Queen's death might provide a convenient excuse to cut formal ties, but let's not kid ourselves; those ties have been fraying for a long, long time and most of the reasons why have nothing to do with the Monarchy. 

Anyway, that's it for me. Normal service will resume next week!

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