Thursday, 31 May 2012

Why David Flint doesn't get it

There is much that is troubling about the Queen’s imminent Diamond Jubilee, especially if you happen to live in the UK where an unknown but doubtlessly colossal sum of tax payers’ money is being used to fund ‘celebrations.’ Even more money, perhaps as much as three and a half billion pounds, will be lost due to the extra public holiday. Reports in Australia, such as this one, suggest that the mood of the British public is upbeat, even festive about all this, but anecdotal accounts of the atmosphere on the ground there tell a different story. Here are some responses from UK Facebook users to the story linked to above:

·         ‘[Can] assure you celebrations are not at fever pitch in Scotland – not being mentioned at all.’

·         ‘Despite brainwashing of schoolchildren [...] it is very low key in the Duchy of Cornwall.’

·         ‘Has the journalist actually been to Britain? Aside from media coverage there is no fever pitch here.’

There is, of course, no easier way for a journalist to concoct a story than to create a false dichotomy, in this case between a nation of ebullient pro-monarchist Britons dancing in the streets to the strains of Land of Hope and Glory, and our own nation in which, essentially, nobody gives a stuff. It is not difficult to demonstrate the bogusness of the first half of the dichotomy; we know the second is equally fallacious, because David Flint exists (and, no, it would not be necessary to invent him if he did not).

            Flint is Australia’s foremost constitutional monarchist, a legal academic and unreconstructed toady. He is of the bizarre opinion, shared by fellow members of the International Monarchist League, that constitutional monarchy with a hereditary king is the ideal form of government for all the nations of the world. Oh yes, Flint gives a stuff. He thinks all Australians should, and frequently chastises us for our lack of respect and admiration for Queen Liz. ‘Outrageous,’ he says it is, that the ABC plans to show the classic 1970s film ‘Shampoo’ instead of the Thames pageant. It is apparently not, in his view, outrageous that the Gillard government has decided to contribute five million dollars to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Trust.

            So why, according to Flint, should Aussies be putting up the bunting come Jubilee time? Because, he tells us, her Maj has ‘performed impeccably for this nation.’ In the first instance, this fatuous claim demands the response that the Queen does not perform for Australia, she performs for Britain. Australia is, as far as the Palace is concerned, part of ‘the realms’, distantly second to the home counties and, indeed, to the monarchy’s innate duty to propagate itself above its domains. It is also worth pointing out that the Queen gets paid an awful lot of money for doing what she does; you or I would most likely be performing impeccably too if we were as absurdly privileged and pampered as she is.

            We hear a lot about how Queen Elizabeth II is a lovely old duck. Flint tells us this as often as he can find new words to express the same facile idea, and we see the same message repeated endlessly and uncritically within the pages of the gossip magazines and on breakfast TV. We are led to believe (and for all I know it is true) that Queen Liz is a warm, affable and gracious woman. That this fact has absolutely no bearing on the merits of her continuing to be Australia’s head of state seems to escape these media elements and hence wildly skew debate. Gillard has thrown her not inconsiderable weight behind the notion that Australians will never support a republic whilst Elizabeth II is on the throne (but might if Charles gets there. The Prince may be an ignoramus but this seems a tad unfair, as well as mightily irrelevant). What we think of the Queen as a person – and speculating on this seems as ludicrous as speculating on what Angelina Jolie is like as a person – should have no place in the debate this country should be having, namely whether or not we think an Australian should be able to be this country’s head of state.

            As an addendum to this point, we might like to consider for a moment who this dear old lady chooses to mix with. At a recent Windsor Castle lunch held in honour of the Diamond Jubilee, the Queen rubbed shoulders with some of the most despicable despots in the world, including Bahrain’s Hamad Al Khalifa whose regime brutally cracked down on demonstrations inspired by the Arab Spring. The Foreign Policy regards him as ‘one of the bad guys the US still supports,’ but this hasn’t stopped the British furnishing his vile regime with arms. As human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has said: ‘Inviting blood-stained despots is a kick in the teeth to pro-democracy campaigners and political prisoners in these totalitarian regimes.’

            There is a letter in today’s Australian from one Professor David Flint of Bondi Beach, NSW. In it, we are implored to ‘sit back and rejoice in the Diamond Jubilee and the fundamental stability of our constitutional system.’ I’m far more heartened by Len Liddelow’s letter in today’s West Australian deploring the decision to name the new waterfront development in Perth Elizabeth Quay. (‘What a slap in the face,’ Liddelow writes, ‘to all those indigenous descendents who [...] had their land stolen by King George the third and his British government.’)

            What is it Flint would have us all sit back and rejoice in? I presume it’s not the persistent and freewheeling ripping off of the taxpayer in the UK, in Australia, in Canada and elsewhere. I presume it’s not the monarchy’s close relations with murderous tyrants. I presume it can’t be the fact that no Australian is permitted to be their own country’s head of state because they didn’t happen to be born into the approved deformed family. What then? If it is, after all, simply that she is not Prince Charles, then Flint should, with the small amount of dignity and integrity remaining available to him, retract his fawning support for a corrupt and outmoded system of statehood which most Australians either do not care about, or actively disapprove of.                                          

1 comment:

  1. For love of God is that much to ask and that much non patriotic to have somebody from (This) country to be in charge of our country.

    And a lot of people want to live in their life times in Australia that were fully in charge of, who comes first the people of this country or the Queen?