Pageantry in the Face of Austerity

The Diamond Jubilee in commemoration of the 60-year reign of Queen Elizabeth II has been a pretty spectacular affair.  Especially so in light of the economic news we’ve become more used to hearing out of Europe. In fact, last week Mario Draghi, the head of the European Central Bank warned that the current structure of the European Union and its problematical currency, the Euro, was unsustainable. One can’t help feeling that a cash injection of, say, £1.3 billion in private and public funds might have gone some way towards easing the situation. But instead of committing these funds and pouring the huge wave of public emotion and support into strengthening economic ties with the rest of the continent, instead of reducing the severity of austerity measures, England, and her children, are watching the Jubilee. And having a pretty good time.

Royalists around the world love their Queen, and an event of this size is an opportunity for them to show their support, and to get caught up in the revelry. Countries like Australia and Canada have also been swept up in the celebrations: the fiscally conservative Conservative Party of Canada has committed $7.5 million to commemorating the once-in-a-lifetime event, this on the heels of a photo opportunity of a visit by Prince Charles, in which he paraded around in military garb before being granted a medal by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee is an excuse for pageantry like no other, and who couldn’t get excited over a concert in which Elton John, Sir Pay McCartney, and Stevie Wonder didn’t even feature as headliners? But boy, is this ever a tough pill to swallow for all of us who just don’t get it. To some, the very notion of royalty is an affront, a relic of a caste system which presumes royals were appointed by God to reign over us commoners. That tax dollars should be spent (tens of millions in the UK, when all the spending by regional councils, not to mention the enormous cost of policing the event, are included) on this kind of event, while social programs are cut, and youth unemployment rises, is hard to fathom.  In Canada, taxpayers are asked to tighten their belts, those without full employment are finding Employment Insurance more restrictive and harder to rely on, and millions of dollars are being spent re-painting military equipment to include the word ‘Royal’.

One hopes for the health of the hospitalized Prince Phillip, Elizabeth’s husband of 64 years, and values the constancy of a woman who has served as head of state for 6 decades. But it’s hard not to take this kind of extravagance as a slap in the face.