Sunday, May 8, 2011

Four Weddings and a Funeral

I said I had something to say about last weekend's events, and at the time those thoughts were prompted by the "Royal Wedding", the you-might-not-have-heard-about-it-if-you-had-been-held-captive-by-Amazonian-tribesmen-since-2008 nuptials of William Windsor and Catherine "Don't-call-me-Kate" Middleton.

But in my usual fashion of late I failed to write anything at the time and as even those hostage in a Brazilian rainforest have heard since then late Sunday night came the news that dominated the past week, the fatal houseparty hosted by the bin Ladens in their suburban pied-a-terre in the somewhat ridiculously-named Pakistani garrison town of Abbotabad, a reminder that one didn't have to be particularly gifted, cunning, or dynamic to get ahead in the old colonial empires; being white and being there was pretty much enough.The course of the subsequent news arc, though, has got me thinking of them as curiously linked, a topic on which I beg your indulgence to expound.

The Weddings: And I use the plural deliberately, since I can't really see this in the singular. Ever since the end of genuine British economic, political, and military might some time in the Forties these intermittent royal raree shows seem to function in place of how the British used to get into the news cycle, by showing up on your doorstep with a flotilla and a small but enthusiastic expeditionary force of homicidal gutter-sweepings led by equally bloodthirsty aristos to take everything you had and leave you lying lifeless in your own gutters, turn your sons into a labor force and conscript soldiery and your daughters (those not winsome enough to find work as sleeping-dictionaries) into washwomen and drudges.

These overdone broom-jumping affairs seem harmless enough, give the remaining haberdashers of Britain an excuse to sell their otherwise terrifying creations, and seem to provide great entertainment for a certain type of person in both Britain and the United States.

And yet, they don't seem to work out all that well for the couple at the center of them, going all the way back to the original "fairy-tale" British royal wedding of the current monarch and her consort in 1947.

Whilst they seem to have managed to rub along well enough, Mr. Queen, Philip Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg seems to be something of a sour old stick, and certainly their kids seem to have been anything but fairy-tale material. Charles, the oldest, had another one of those famous fairy-tale weddings, perhaps the most fairy-taily of them all, to a young woman who turned out to be, in her own words, "thick as a brick", facile, and profoundly self-absorbed.

The fact that she became, both in her lifetime as well as since her profoundly silly death, some sort of popular culture goddess says as much about the state of public taste as it does about the attraction of the cute and nubile to the attribution of unlikely virtues.

The second son, Andrew, married a goofy party girl who, shockingly, turned out to be a goofy party girl.

At least she seemed like she could laugh at herself.

In the beginning, anyway. But the beginnings are always easy; it's the "happily-ever-after" part of the fairytale that just never seems to work out for the people.

So for all the excitement about Pippa's arsethe dresses, the idiotic hatsthe uniforms and the military pomp
(and can I say for the record that in my opinion the profusion of uniforms on the Windsor men is really just sad, the saddest bit of the whole sad act. British royalty hasn't led British troops into battle since Dettingen; the last genuinely decent commander with royal connections was probably Louis Mountbatten, and his vita is marred by Dieppe as well as his enormous, consuming vanity.
The notion of Charles Windsor wearing the uniform of an admiral in the Royal Navy is just sad, seeing that the man left the service twenty years ago as a junior officer and hasn't messed around with boats since unless you count pushing the loofah around Camilla's bottom in the Jacuzzi. It's like seeing some old soldier still dressed up in his uniform unwilling to accept that he's past it. Just sort of pathetic and irritating)
these whole "fairy-tale" royal weddings just seem like a bad idea, and especially bad news for the people at the center of them.

Instead of amused, or entertained, or charmed, all the occasion makes me think is that Bill and Kate (who seem like nice, clean, well-bred white kids) would have been better off popping 'round to the registrar on a quiet Wednesday, a deli buffet at the local fire hall afterwards, and then off to a fortnight of wandering the Greek islands barefoot before settling in to work at some solid engineering firm in Leeds.As for Britain, the expense and the excess might have been appropriate when the word of a Saxe-Coburg-Gotha swayed half the wide earth.

But now?It's like one of those old cartoons of the African headhunters with spear and loincloth wearing a celluloid shirtfront with silk top hat on. It's vaguely embarrassing, and clearly inappropriate to the actual condition of the wearer.

And why this is fascinating to anyone even distantly associated with the United States, whose entire premise is directly aimed at the fatuous notion that fitness to rule others is directly related to whose vagina you emerged from, I have no idea. Watching elephants urinate is probably quite spectacular, but I can't imagine why I'd bother to take time out to see it unless it was happening outside my window.

In fact, it seems to me that the entire notion of British royalty seems founded on a combination of romantic silliness and illogical atavism; some sort of - to me - bizarre human need to make other people into some sort of icon, to attribute to them powers of leadership and supremacy that seem completely at odds with the actual abilities and accomplishments of the persons so deified.

The Funeral:

Which brings us to Saudi Arabia's contribution to the pelagic food-chain of (one presumes) the Indian Ocean, the late Osama bin Laden.

I spent considerable ink on this mook over at MilPub which I won't repeat, only noting that;

1. He's dead, and well deserved, that.
2. Mind you, killing him in 2011 is sort of like finding and shooting down Isoroku Yamamoto in a Piper Cub over Brisbane in 1951. Ummm, okay.
3. And to my mind the huge alteration in global business that makes this all the more, well, sort of an asterisk, is the revolutions in the Islamic world going collectively by the term "Arab Spring"

Because, remember, the really scary part of bin Laden wasn't that he hated and attacked the United States. Other people - Hitler, George III, Tojo - didn't much like us, attacked us AND had massive armies and fleets. You know, the sorts of things that can reaaaalllly fuck your day up, instead of a bunch of ignorant back-desert fuckwards with boxcutters and a complete disregard for mortality.

No, the scary part was that he was going to transform the Middle East into this Islamofascist Caliphate; his boys were going to run amok through the "Arab street" with their patented brand of Islamic NutsoTM that would turn the downtrodden Arab masses against our expensive dictators and general-autocrat-for-lifes. Remember?Well, by the time the man came down with a 5.56mm headache, those dictators were falling like ripe dates. And were they falling to the new Islamic jihad? Was Osama any closer to the spiritual leadership of the Islamic Caliph?No damn closer than Elizabeth Windsor is to the autocratic powers of her royal predecessors.

So the last weekend of April, 2011, seems to have featured the most recent wedding and the funeral of a couple of expensive has-beens, of one group that continues to attract attention from those who rather mindlessly revere the past while failing to see how useless they are at present, while the other individual seems to have drawn the affection of those who mindlessly dream of a ridiculous future while failing to see how useless the present has made them.

And...the banality of them all!

The British royals seem to have survived when the vast bulk of their colleagues on continental Europe have been violently tossed into the dustbin of history by becoming the most sterile of suburban bourgeousie. In their attempt to become good British gentlefolk the Windsors have lost whatever manic flamboyance playing at kings and queens once gave them. And so far as I can tell, the actual effect of the "royals" on Britain's public life today is about half of that of a well-dressed empty suit on a wealthy borough council.

For my money, if I must have a "royal family", I want the most out-there version of the breed. Mad kings, wanton queens, imperious princesses, rapacious princes...if someone is officially designated my overlord I want them to live that license to the full. Be mad, bad, and dangerous to know! What good are these bland, decent, sober-living, upper-middle-class "royals"? Even their "excesses" are tawdry, ordinary ones; the product of clitoral itch and penile prurience, of common greed and stupidity. Bah.

And I like my mad religious visionaries, well...mad! Rampaging out of the desert on a camel, writhing in ecstatic revelation, producing golden tablets and flaming swords. Not hiding in some dingy compound in the suburbs of Karachi with the phones and the Internet off and their little minions scurrying off doing dirty business dirt cheap. Living the dream of conquest and conversion, not shuttered in with the domestic staff while history passes them by.No, for all the noisy news coverage, the blood, and ink, spilled over the wedding and the seems to me that they say something very sad, and simple about us as people; that a hell of a lot of us like the fantasy over the reality, are still convinced by the image rather than skeptical of the illusion, and care more about, are more interested in, the empty dress than the woman inside of it, and the sinking coffin than the man within.

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