On average, about 2,000 people die in the UK every day. Yesterday, the Queen was one of them. Of course, when someone who has been at the centre of public consciousness for over 70 years dies, there will be collective national grief. But we would do well to remember the national context. There will no national mourning for those other 1,999 people, no change in the programming of TV and radio stations, no huge crowds gathering outside their many houses and leaving flowers, no state funerals for them. Nor for those who have already died today (and I have just been told of the death of someone I was acquainted with). There is an injustice in that, an injustice in the wildly differing circumstances of all these deaths, from opulent wealth and comfort to excruciating and mutilating poverty.
Some commentators say this will be a difficult time for the UK because the Queen was not only the one thread of continuity since World War II, but that she was the one person who stopped UK society from becoming divided. But I’m afraid the second point is absolutely untrue. The UK has always been a hugely divided society, with an ancient class system in place which encourages (if not forces) the nation to prostrate itself before the Establishment, the head of which the monarch always was, a nation divided simply into haves and have-nots, a nation even more deeply divided since campaigning for the EU referendum started, the outcome of which was partly a protest against the austerity imposed Cameron and Osborne, and partly a craving to get back to the days when Britannia ruled the waves, and the Queen was ostensibly the head of an Empire. The head of a constitutional monarchy with an unwritten constitution. Which proved to be worth exactly what something that’s not written down is worth – nothing. No recourse for politicians lying about constitutional matters, no recourse on corrupt politicians, no power to do anything at all, in fact.
Now is not the time to stick with antiquated, entrenched, and discredited traditions and institutions. Now is the time to give the UK a written constitution which is enforceable by law, to give the UK an elected head of state, to move towards a fairer electoral system of true Proportional Representation, to reduce the Establishment to a small part of society from being the part of society that rules, that syphons off the public’s money and gives it to friends, family, and big industry on top of their already immense profits and wealth. Now is not the time to say things must just go on as before just with another wealthy unelected monarch who will be as powerless, isolated, and caged as his predecessor, albeit in a golden cage where the suffering of his people will seem a long way away, a suffering that is being deliberately made worse by the government of the day.
Whichever way you look at it, to celebrate the Queen’s life by tearing down all the artificial edifices of the monarchy and creating a new state would actually be to celebrate her as a catalyst of change rather than just as another one in a long succession of irrelevant figureheads. If we wish to pay tribute to her, this would be the best and most lasting.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 205
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