Monday, August 13, 2012

The Monarchy and the Olympics

Apologies for the recent lack of blog entries (I hope this blog is still getting visitors--it has not been abandoned and hopefully never will be!).  Since returning from the monarchist conference in Chicago I have been busy with musical activities on opposite ends of the North American continent, first the International Baroque Institute at Longy (July 20-28) in Cambridge, Massachusetts (during which I also had time to explore for my first time some of Boston's historic landmarks including the unique Anglican-Unitarian King's Chapel established by James II in 1686 whose loyalist rector the Rev. Henry Caner was forced out in 1776), and currently the Britt Festival (July 31-August 19) in Jacksonville, Oregon.  However I would like to take a moment to share some thoughts on my mixed feelings about the recently concluded London 2012 Olympics as it pertains to the British Monarchy.

Many, though not all, of my British royalist friends (I don't really have any British republican friends!) have reacted positively to the Olympic Games and the hype surrounding them, particularly the highly visible involvement of the royal family, from the Queen's acting debut with James Bond (Daniel Craig) to the frequent enthusiastic and prominent presence of the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry at many events.  While I cannot claim to have followed the Olympics closely, I am pleased that my British friends are pleased, and I admire the genuinely remarkable achievements of British athletes such as Tom Daley.

Yet I can't help feeling that for serious monarchists whose monarchism goes beyond liking and admiring the Queen and Royal Family as individuals, something just might be amiss.  My impression from all the commentary (positive and negative) on the London 2012 Olympics I've read, though I don't have time to assemble a comprehensive collection of links, is that there seems to be a growing consensus that this undeniably remarkable Jubilee/Olympic year of 2012 has seen the birth of a new sort of "centrist" (but actually leftist) British Patriotism, one in which the Monarchy and the Union appear popular and victorious (and thus a defeat for republicans and separatists on the Left) but only to the extent that they have been redefined and co-opted so as not to interfere with a broadly leftist and thoroughly modernist concept of what Britain is (and thus also a defeat for cultural traditionalists and critics of immigration and multiculturalism on the Right).  While I'm glad to see anti-monarchists and Scottish 'nationalists' perceived as having been rejected by the overwhelming majority of the British public in favour of the preservation of the United Kingdom, I cannot claim to be entirely comfortable with this New Britishness, especially in light of the way that Britain's distinguished classical and choral music traditions have been almost entirely marginalised in favour of what a traditionalist correspondent of mine acidly but aptly described as "the dreary din of 'Britpop'."

While some right-wing critics of the Olympics may be guilty of hyperbole, it is hard to totally dismiss the sense that we have witnessed a celebration of a sort of vaguely pagan national cult, ceaselessly accompanied by the pounding sounds of pop music, from which Christianity and virtually everything recognisably British that pre-dates the 1960s has been excised--with the notable and arguably curious exception of the Monarchy itself, which the New Britishness suddenly embraces with an enthusiasm that would have surprised the BBC and leftists in general ten years ago.  Is this really something to celebrate?  And given that part of the Queen's strength as a public figure has always been the fact that she is not a "Performer" (when she doesn't feel like smiling, she doesn't, with the result that her consistently genuine smile is all the more captivating when given), is there not a certain risk in turning Her Majesty into an actress as in the now-famous James Bond clip, no matter how brief and enjoyable?  I'm not sure.  I know that the Royal Family have to adapt--they always have.  But how much of this adaptation can those of us who value the monarchy partly because of its resonance with traditional values embrace?


carmeljamaica said...

Theodore! Don't worry, you're still getting visitors! I am one of them. I read your entries from time to time, though I don't think I've ever made a comment.

I will make one now.

I'm just going to comment on the Olympics part of it, and you said, "Is this really something to celebrate? But how much of this adaptation can those of us who value the monarchy partly because of its resonance with traditional values embrace?"

I honestly haven't been following the Olympics since the last one in Beijing, and I haven't been following the one held in London. Blame it for my sore lack of enthusiasm for watching TV, but things seemed hectic and I have too much on my plate as it is. Anyway, I make it a point of watching the opening, where the different representatives of countries walk and wave to the crowd. Despite my disdain for my own country's democratic government, I still cheer for whoever they send to participate in the games.

The 2012 Olympics was, so far, disappointing. Not only did my country not win anything, but I feel like the whole celebration was too pompous, in the liberal sense. Like you, I thought it had too much of pop culture, and I did not like the way some people were making jokes on how the Queen didn't smile, and appeared to be bored. I don't think anyone, especially the general public should make such comments, particularly since the Queen is rather old, and though she may smile and wave to everyone, as such is her role, she shouldn't be blamed for not being overly enthusiastic. She might be tired, and yes, bored, and probably would have liked to be elsewhere.

When it comes to events like these, a nation should promote on what they stood for, and not promote all the pop and modern music just because it's the "in" thing these days. They should have more of the British culture, more traditional music, more tours on Britain and its history, etc. That is what should have been celebrated. I honestly didn't like all the stage effects they had on the closing, etc.

I hope more would come to value and embrace the tradition and culture of a nation, rather than spend time feeding the people the filth of modernism.

Theodore Harvey said...

Thanks Carmel! Agreed on all points.