This AFP story in The Australian was talking about how proud Britain felt during the royal nuptials, st least as reflected in the editorials of most of it’s newspapers.
I’m a British ex-pat, for those who are not aware, and when I visited London again recently, I was really struck by the despair and hopelessness that the country seems to be going through.
Britain has not had much occasion to be proud these last few years. Aside from the post-colonial guilt that seems to be pervading British thinking these days, the country has fallen as a political and military power, national unity is at an all time low, everyone is complaining about too many immigrants and the football team can’t even make it past the first round of the World Cup. More to the point, the entire economy has collapsed, there is horrible unemployment and the country has come to the realisation that whilst it has an over-inflated financial sector, the country doesn’t do anything anymore.
So what did the wedding have to do with this? Well, despite all this, Britain can still put on a damn good show. They can have pomp and formality, they can pack hundreds of thousands of adoring fans outside a majestic cathedral, they can have a choir singing rousing patriotic songs about how awesome Britain is and they can entice millions upon millions of people to tune-in and watch it all take place, even if they spend the whole time complaining about it on Facebook/Twitter.
Britain can come together and be proud of something, celebrate itself as a nation, celebrate its history and its contribution to the world.
That’s why the end of that article irked me a little:
The proudly republican Guardian laid down arms for a day, but urged Britons not to get carried away with royal hype in the light of the nation’s economic troubles.
“These are tough times for millions of British people. This is not a day for demented princess worship,” it said in an editorial. “It is a day for a smile and a toast, not a day for standing to attention and tugging of forelocks. Tomorrow, and on every other day of the year, we will have to re-enter the world of reality.”
Why does the grim reality of an economic, political and cultural crisis mean that people shouldn’t get carried-away in the festivities? I would argue that they should get carried away because life is so bad. If you spend all year feeling ashamed, depressed and inadequate, what’s wrong with taking one day out to feel pride, stand to attention and tug on those forelocks as if Britain were still number 1?
It’ll take more than spending cuts to get Britain back on its feet. What I saw yesterday was one day where Britain held its head up high and was British again, and I don’t see why that’s in any way bad. I think The Guardian needs to show some more spirit.