One of the things I particularly admire about the UK is how good it is at being a republic. For a country apparently run by a monarchical dictator, it does a remarkably good job of ignoring this and getting on with the business of democracy.
There are probably many reasons for this, but I’ve pinpointed two that I think are especially important. The first is surely obvious: we are far too lazy to get rid of the Queen simply for some upstart republicans, and she doesn’t really make enough of a difference that we are forced to. Ultimately, this is the laziness option, and it’s something we have done well at for a long time now. While it does mean a gentle loosening of certain ideals, it does mean we have less of those horrendous civil wars.
The second reason is slightly less obvious, because it tends to get bogged down in numbers and meaningless statistics. It is the fact that the Queen is actually beneficial to the United Kingdom.
Let me explain. Take the Jubilee we’ve just had. What a party, eh? Ignore the fact that it cost so-and-so much to the economy in lost revenue for the businesses that would normally be running on that day, and remember the faces of the people who were part of each of the individual celebrations. The crowds at the concert, the millions watching the boat pageant, and the face of my friend who stared blankly at the camera waiting for an interview, and then was cut due to a lack of time. Even the most reluctant of enthusiasts must admit that it was an impressive logistical achievement. And all these people were happy. They had a celebration, a day of rest, a good night out bonding with the rest of the workforce.
But does this matter? Well it has been said that a happy workforce is a more productive workforce, and you’ve probably all experienced this for yourselves. This is the reasoning behind many public holidays and events. No-one is a machine, and we all need the break. To quote another overused, pithy saying, a change is as good as a rest.
The effect is visible around the world. America celebrates Independence Day, Australia celebrates Australia Day, and France celebrates violently killing their leaders, their leaders’ friends, their leaders’ friends’ pets, and anyone else who had the nerve to politely disagree with the concept of killing anyone who politely disagreed with anything. These events create a national identity, a sense of common existence. It allows members from all walks of life to mingle in a metaphorical way, if not in actuality.
But then every once in a while, this mere yearly celebration becomes just another thing. Bank holidays can be fun, but they can also be that time every year where you queue for hours on the motorway in order to queue for hours in some tourist trap on the coast. This is even more evident in times of recession, where people simply don’t have the money to go anywhere nice, and so end up queuing for hours to go somewhere that they won’t be able to do anything at for fear of money. The solution comes in the form of these extraordinary bank holidays (where extraordinary simply means more than ordinary, although you wouldn’t think it).
Does the monarchy really do anything for us? You could ask the manufacturers of bunting. You could ask the Queen’s fans throughout the commonwealth and the wider world. You could ask those for whom the Queen is a vital diplomatic tool. Or you could simply ask the people of the country that she rules, who would tell you that she doesn’t really do much harm.
Yes! Johz is back, after many, many exams. This blog will hopefully be moving to a new address (got any ideas? Comment below) and there will almost certainly be slightly more activity happening. However, I thought, as a self-righteous British person, I should try for once to celebrate the fact that America has done some good stuff for us. As luck would have it, it’s the Fourth of July next week. So from Wednesday, for the next seven days, I’m going to be posting a short essay on one of the greatest achievements of the United States of America. And there may even be a guest blog, so you don’t have to listen to me constantly…