Monday, October 11, 2004

Cabbages and Kings

Being an ardent anti-royalist the idea I had this morning was pretty surprising. My normal stance on the royals could be summed up as "Turn them into meat pies, feed them to the nations homeless. Then divide their assets equally anongst the bottom 25% ( by wealth ) of the general populace." So actually discovering a reason why having a royal family is a good thing was a shock to say the least.
Ms Morpheus and I were talking about the way the americans treat their politicians so deferentially that they never get asked any difficult questions by the news media. Investigative journalism in the US can only be described as gentle by UK standards. This deification of people in the public eye, actors, musicians and of course polititians and presidents severely hampers journalists from putting them on the spot. It's as if americans are searching for a figurehead, a psuedo royal family. The Kennedy dynasty is a prime example. JFK's death was mourned nationally, and as deeply, as when Queen Victoria died in th UK. Jackie O was held in much the same regard in america as Diana Spencer in the UK. Ronald Reagan's death, although he was despised by a huge part of the US whilst in office, was remembered and honoured as a passing hero. All his problems, mistakes and wrongdoing whilst in office wiped from the collective memory. It's as if the US is looking for a national figurehead and they're looking to many areas of society for one to appear.
But it's the elevation of polititians to the psuedo-royal status that causes the greatest problems. Take the president. An elected, supposedly accountable career polititian suddenly protected by a huge barrier of deference. "Yes Mr President, No Mr President". Journalists inteviewing the president stumble and never call him to account properly. This deference percolates down through the levels of power. Giving polititians in the US a status that protects them from proper investigation.
Here in the UK it feels very different. We have a royal family. Now powerless tucked away in a palace somewhere, bought out for the odd opening of a bridge or sent abroad for a bit of PR work. All the deference due a countries figurehead can be safely beamed their way and it seems to fill a need in many. But the result of this is interesting. Polititians are here seen as what they are. Elected, accountable representatives of the people that vote them in. The prime minister is often questioned hard, interupted during trite contrived answers and often embarrased by a good journalist doing his job as he should. The relationship between the people and their polititians here is much more healthy. Much more distrustful. They don't get such an easy ride.

Well, I did it. Found a reason to keep the royals. I'm still getting used to it, it's an odd feeling. But every time i see how the americans treat their polititians, and especially their president, I'm sure it's a good thing. All that sickly sweet drivel that some ameriacans spout when the president appears really looks very strange from over here. I still can't understand what happens to a polititian, in an americans eyes, when he gets elected president. It's the deification of a career polititian. These are people that have lied, schemed and stuck on a false smile for years to get that office. They should be questioned, held to account and mistrusted more than anyone else.

Deference is their cloak behind which they hide. I'm sure UK prime ministers would love to get the respect that their american counterparts recieve. But I, for one, am bloody glad they don't.


Anonymous said...

Why do you think the Australians voted to keep the monarchy? They could see that they would be replacing a distant figurtehead with an overweaning politician! Australian culture is based on lack of deference. No wonder when they have an absentee head of state!

Cheers, Alastair McDonald.

Morpheus said...

Good point! It's the first time i have ever had a thought about the monarchy being a "good thing". The Australian decision puzzled me alot at the time. The result fits our views but do you think the people who voted had this idea in mind? Even so, it's frightening to think what your PM or Blair here in the UK would turn into if they were shown the deference the POTUS has. Here's to keeping the head of state in a box ( or overseas ) and lets get on with a healthy mistrust and loathing of career polititians.