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The role of tropes and distractions · Global Voices




Procession from Buckingham Palace to the burial of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Hall. Photo by Katie Chan (CC BY-SA 4.0)

As we all watch, ponder and reflect on the death of Elizabeth II after such a long and stabilizing reign, British capitalism is now crumbling over the real shortcomings of Liz Truss and her band of Tory cabinet changelings. The social distraction inherent in such a major, anticipated and even prepared emotional, cultural and political event is manna from heaven for the power-makers and beneficiaries of modern capitalism, whether in Britain or elsewhere.

This could be hazardous to Britain’s social health for many months to come, just as the world expects to begin its recovery from COVID-19 and perhaps even Ukraine as well. Here we are burying our very real problems in notions of family, continuity, faith and the sweetness of the sovereign hierarchy, giving the Tories a free lunch until the next election. Thus, Martin Kettle in The Guardian’s slight left-hander of September 9 wrote “With the death at Balmoral of Queen Elizabeth II, a prepared but nonetheless shocked nation finds itself at such a moment, and it is important that our troubled politics and our injured civil society is facing it as calmly and reasonably as possible because this event will resonate politically and constitutionally for years to come”.

If we as a nation want to be happy and fulfilled, if we want the Commonwealth to truly become a common good, a provider of a greater degree of security and understanding in our complex world, we should do the opposite by allowing our parliamentary leaders to hide under civil trauma, the extent of which will depend on the excesses of the British media.

From the need to properly boost productivity to creating a more independent and enlightened foreign policy, hiding behind the Queen’s highly constructed legacy will lead to a continuity of stasis where the only innovation lies in the character of the tasteless language of personality battles and invective aggravation just as, and because, the two major parties find it increasingly difficult to creatively diverge on major political trajectories.

I suggest that the tropes and motifs of the late reign of Elizabeth II will surely be coined as follows:

The Queen as a symbol and embodiment of “united” in the term United Kingdom. There has rarely been a significant speech from the Palace in the last 70 years that has not repeated the centrality of the British Isles’ ‘four in one’ unity. In the name of the queen’s “apolitical” status, this has been mostly an oblique position, but nonetheless a stable one. Others might agree with me that Scotland has been the favored nation with Elizabeth II, for many reasons, and Balmoral since the days of Victoria has often acted as a retreat for the sovereign and his most dear family. close. But the main trope has been unity within the islands and an undisputed peace with the Republic of Ireland, cemented in the notion of “family” as a kingdom.

The Queen as spirit, presence and head of the British Commonwealth. In the Queen’s words and in her long-repeated actions and behavior, the Commonwealth has extended the notion of “family” from maintaining unity among the four “nations” of the United Kingdom, to sustaining the paraphernalia of the Commonwealth’s 14 “kingdoms”. For the Queen, the heads of the nations of the Commonwealth were “of one mind”, a figure of speech which required a great deal of faith and a demand that history be rewritten in the cause of harmony and stability. It also forced the nation as a whole to ignore the insidious tensions within its own family.

The Queen as a figurehead of faith. Of course, Elizabeth II was the head of the established Church of England and obviously of sincere religious convictions throughout her life. But here I am referring to the notion of the strong but “soft” nature of the social power of faith and belief in general, as a distinction from the harder power gained through general elections or military might. The queen represented the truthfulness of believing in the good, and that it would make the world a better place. Even if a rational intellect could cope with their “Commonweal as family” with the detailed histories of slavery and colonization, the former remained intact as a major trope of British social life, proof that irreconcilables absolutes can be remembered in the minds of millions over the years. What will be of great interest is whether the pinnacle of royal sovereignty in the person of King Charles III will be able to perform an equal function? How many tests of person versus position can we offer?

These rather macro tropes for our times rest on a solid platform of more local notions, just as good macroeconomics depends on micro assumptions about behavior in response to economic stimuli. So:

The philosophy of good social behavior is a highly significant aspect of Queen Elizabeth’s entire reign. However much challenged both by recurring behavioral crises within her own overly visible family and by significant social destabilizers such as COVID-19, of all unmarried members of the British elite, Elizabeth II has demonstrated assured stability. of culture and values ​​over a period of 70 years, a balance that has remained apolitical but has become deeply entrenched in the dampening of the far right and left of British society. The combined images of the Queen and her family, the many royal assets from Buckingham Palace to Balmoral, the plain and simple actions and assumptions of royalty have remained minimally altered despite the ‘annus horribilis’, the heady marketing of the life of his key family. members, conflicts of COVID-19 and all those things beyond his control. Buckingham Palace’s power as a pictorial trope will remain for many years to come, but was assured from the early years of its reign when electronic media entered straight into British homes. At 3:00 p.m., the Christmas Message could be imbibed alongside the Christmas turkey.

Initially, I suggested that such tropes and confections are more than just By the way. Rather than incidental, the way significant events are trope massaged, let alone the effectiveness of these, is perhaps the most singular feature of the globe in the early 20e century. The insidiousness of entertainment capitalism, and the way it has become embedded in all of our discourse, is almost certainly the result of both demand-side and supply-side forces. Surely on the latter at the top of the list is the ease and chaos of social media, where almost anything imaginable can go viral from dropping a puppy in a swimming pool. And among the absurdities is the growing frequency and dominance of distractions away from thoughtful analyzes of political, social and economic events and processes.

But it’s good to remember the demand side. Ineffective governance, encompassing both government and opposition parties, requires distractions that are inherently benign, inclusive, relatively simple or immediate, and of sufficient strength and reliability to mask economic and social realities underlying. In this situation, we should not be surprised if the many tropes associated with the reign of Elizabeth II will not be encouraged and used as reformulated elements of conformity and acceptance.

So, there are serious things to be said about Queen Elizabeth II and her passing, but most of these things will not be said or easily debated in the routine cultures of civil society.

My argument is that these theoretically benign tropes easily turn into useful distractions within the culture of democratic capitalism. In the UK, there is no doubt that the next few months and beyond will be a time of extreme hardship, which may lead to a period of serious conflict on the one hand and much more thoughtful criticism of the inefficiencies of UK governance. on the other hand. Resting on the laurels of the very first years of the reign of Elizabeth II, the nation remains very high in the ranking of world economies and foreign investors, probably the second or third military power and in close alliance with the United States as de far the most powerful of all systems, and a very great center of diplomacy, financial probity and cultural production. The first task of today’s British style of governance is to identify with these long-term assets of the Queen’s long reign, wasted as they are now, and to attach to current national emotions the tropes ci above, all of which serve the unchallenged pursuit of distraction dominance. The failure of civil society to take over governance for its failure to at least retain, if not develop, the means by which the nation could improve its economic and social health at a time when the character of the impending global recovery is n is not yet disclosed, will continue as well.