Paradkar: No, I do not mourn the Queen

Wonder how common this sentiment is among immigrants and their descendants from former colonies or other countries that suffered under British rule or influence. The November 2021 Angus-Reid survey showed relatively minor differences between visible and not visible minorities, but there is likely considerable variation among groups:

No, I don’t mourn the Queen. Like hundreds of millions of people around the world, I see no reason to.

But you’d hardly know from the hagiographical public discourse in Canada that the world is far from unified in grief over the death of a person under whose title a nation unleashed unspeakable violence, the wounds of which remain fresh. There is little room for the views of millions who vociferously reject Britain’s self-proclaimed greatness, and its royal family.

Condolences to those personally near and dear to Elizabeth. Sorry for their loss, human to human. By all accounts, she sounds like a person of dignity who took her duties seriously and untiringly.

The British monarch’s duties have been referred to as a service to the nation. But what were these duties? Were they merely innocuous ribbon-cutting ceremonies and charming royal walkabouts? Were those weekly meetings with the prime minister idle chit chats? What were these formalities servicing? A symbol, perhaps, but of what?

To many, the Crown is a symbol of economic and racial power and its consolidation in one family, in one institution, in one nation — and its offshoots. It’s the power to assent to laws, whatever their intent or consequence. The power to reside above the most powerful. The power to be unaccountable.

You won’t see a British ruler or a parliamentary leader hauled up before the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity — neither in Kenya, nor in the Middle East neither India nor Argentina neither Ireland nor in the Caribbean or, heaven forbid, Canada. 

Through all this pillaging and bloodshed, leaders marauded under the royal banner while the monarch was positioned as an apolitical figurehead, made mystical by remoteness. It’s an ingenious sleight of hand. 

Still, if one accepts that the queen was merely a figurehead, free from any responsibility for what she symbolized, then exactly what are we mourning? That this figureheaded-ness was handled with grace? 

A range of justifications for the monarchy — divine ordination, tradition, continuity — have been used to keep the plebs from questioning the grandiosity of royalty too closely, with royals entitled to the thousands of gaudy, glittering baubles. Perhaps it still serves to keep us from questioning why Charles, the new King, can legally avoid paying estate tax, something even other obscenely rich people cannot, on inheriting parts of estate estimated at $500 million US from his mother.

The position of Queen afforded Elizabeth significant immunity from criticism. But when the title was criticized, the person was protected. 

She is eulogized as a paragon of progressive ideals. She was anti-apartheid! Nelson Mandela was her buddy! This, even though hundreds of thousands of Kenyans, Iraqis, Yemenis, Koreans, Malayans were displaced and massacred during her reign.

It appears we must endlessly laud royals of great power and wealth, particularly this family, who took and took but contributed nothing to humanity. At least celebrities — actors, musicians, singers, artists, athletes, heck, even TikTok and Insta influencers — possess skills that entertain us, move us and enrich our understanding of the mysteries of life.

But hush. This is not the right time to criticize the Queen, we’re told. It’s insensitive. It’s impolite.

Polite, is it, to ask those who lost life and limb, land and wealth, ancestors and children, and even their own histories to mourn the very symbol of their suffering?

Sensitive, is it, to live in Canada and suggest the tyranny of British colonialism is a thing of the past, even while the Indian Act of 1876 in its various iterations and colonial philosophies continues to tragically upend Indigenous lives, an example of which played out as the James Smith Cree Nation torn apart just this month? I wonder how many of these mourners will show up as “allies” in orange shirts on National Truth and Reconciliation Day without recognizing their inconsistency.

How can British colonialism be a thing of the past when there never has been reconciliation with it? When the paternalistic attitudes (quite apart from greed and extraction in the name of exploration) that drove it still thrive? When, as the author John Newsinger wrote, the blood never dried?

If Tucker Carlson, that depthless denialist with a megaphone on Fox TV, is to be believed, we — the people of colonized lands — ought to be grateful to the colonizers.

“When the British pulled out of India they left behind an entire civilization, a language, a legal system, schools, churches and public buildings, all of which are still in use today,” he said this week, extolling British benignity. As if all of those things did not exist before the British set foot on the land. Yes, churches, too. Christianity has existed in India since 52 AD, as a one-second Google search shows. 

Carlson’s disinformation is low-hanging fruit for the bashing, but it is worth noting because many so-called centrists, the supposed not-crazies, believe colonialism at least modernized, if not civilized already ancient and sophisticated civilizations. Indeed, many among the colonized themselves affect a fondness for what was essentially an era of looting. After all, colonization could not have been carried out without the help of insiders. The colonizer-colonized relationship is neither linear nor a love/hate binary.

But there seems little space for nuance or critique around the death of this symbol of coloniality. Not only is it impolite to criticize the revisionist propaganda around the Queen, it’s now apparently dangerous to question the automatic ascension of Charles as king.

In recent days, U.K. police arrested at least four people for protesting the monarchy. One woman was charged for “breach of the peace” because she held a sign saying: “Abolish monarchy.” One was led away by police for holding a sign saying, “Not My King.”

Meanwhile, Charles himself appears set on defying the blatant efforts to rehabilitate his terrible image. Deliciously insightful videos of him with distinct “let them eat cake” vibes are circulating online. In one, he’s displaying his foul temper with an outburst at a leaky ink pen. In another, he appears to peremptorily and dismissively wave at stationary to be taken off his desk, rather than, you know, moving it himself. 

Here’s to Charles then, the crusty king of England, who might yet be our best bet for stirring revolt and revolution.

Source: No, I do not mourn the Queen

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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