Sunday, 31 July 2011

Should the British Aristocracy be Abolished?

I recently saw a debate on Facebook about how Prince Charles supports homeopathy. He was referred to by the rather unflattering term 'snake oil salesman', and this was followed by a mostly American series of comments about how the aristocracy should be abolished, and thanks being given to God for having freed America from them.

I found this perfectly ironic. Let's draw some comparisons, shall we?
FeatureBritish AristocracyHollywood CelebritiesMythical/Historical Heroes
Irrational public interest in their lives Y Y Y
Are a source of entertainment, plays, movies, etc. Y Y Y
Draw tourists to locations associated with them Y Y Y
Serve as exemplars - or at least, in their own minds! Y Y Y
Have, did or do express opinions publicly... Y Y Y
... often on matters in which they are not qualified, such as health and politics, and global warming. Y Y Y
Are praised and adulated for mediocre achievements (Oh look! They're going shopping! They bought Gucci!) Y Y Y
Are very widely admired and emulated. N Y Y
Bring money into the country, more than they ultimately extract in their fees. Y Y Y
Are an elite group, difficult to penetrate. Y Y Y
Are overpaid. Y Y N
Can wield political power. Y Y - Reagan, Schwarzenegger Y

The chief difference between the aristocracy and Hollywood stars, then, is that celebrities are somehow not laughed at when they support homeopathy and other eccentric fads. Nor are they booed of the stage when they wax lyrical about global warming, as if they had a PhD in meteorology. So why should the aristocracy be ridiculed? They're probably more qualified than celebrities are, to make pronouncements on random topics, because unlike celebrities, they're required to be educated at the best schools in the UK. So why are they not emulated or admired for their eccentricities? Well, because, apparently, in this day, it's not "cool" to admire a well-educated prince, but it is cool to admire people such as illiterate former gangsters that talk in poorly-written rhymes, or smug actors with an acting degree, at best. I think it is quite ironic that in Ancient Rome, actors were viewed as one step above prostitutes. Yet now they're royalty. How the world has changed!

From this I must conclude that Americans, and our ancestors with their forms of hero worship, are no different to the British in their rather crass obsession with the personal lives and goings on of the aristocracy. I must also conclude that the aristocracy are largely beneficial, as without it, Britain would lack a good portion of their tourism industry, just as America accrues a lot of wealth via movie sales. They do have political power, but it is on paper, only. I do not foresee any of the royals attempting to make any significant political moves or decisions. Could you imagine the outcry if the royals overtly came out in support of some strong political position? It's unthinkable in modern Britain, just as Britain is unthinkable without its strong historical links. That is what the aristocracy provide; a link to the past, that gives Britain its unique character. Without them, it would just be another modern European state; a place with some old buildings, but otherwise, nothing interesting to write home about. The fact that some of the ceremonies - not to mention the bloodlines - are about 1000 years old, is what draws the hordes of tourists, coming to touch the past, and where, in many of their cases, their ancestors came from. Britain, ultimately, is the motherland of the English-speaking world, whether the Americans admit it or not.

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