The Judge RANTS!
WARNING! Very long piece follows! tl;dr version: "Has the world gone fucking mad?"
I've waited a week or more before making any comment on The Big Story of the Century. This isn't because of any sense of decorum; in matters monarchical, I don't have one. So, like with the deaths of certain more overtly political figures, de mortuis nil nisi bonum can kiss my groundling republican arse.
Rather, I have been waiting for the evidence of dottiness, mass psychosis and rigidly-enforced tyrannical group-think to reach a sufficient head of steam to overcome my preferred desire not to waste my (and, by extension, your) limited time and energy on having to respond to what is being played out (and 'played' is possibly the mot juste here) before our eyes, ears and frazzled nerves.
Despite my pausing to this point to collect my thoughts, I still can't claim that what follows has any sense of coherence; it is merely a sequence of TINPO (Thoughts In No Particular Order). So, here goes:
That something was about to happen was clear early on Thursday afternoon when it was announced that Madge Mountbatten was undergoing what was described as 'close medical supervision'. Those of us with long memories immediately recalled how the imminent departure of Soviet leaders was trailed in much the same manner (although usually for much longer; I seem to remember Brezhnev's 'heavy cold' lasting for some months, for example). And when we were told with a studied breathlessness that the members of the Windsor crime syndicate were all flying at full chat up to Balmoral, then it was obvious that it was only a matter of time before the skies would darken, those fires, floods and tidal waves which could not be accounted for by climatic instability would be unleashed upon the Earth, and that television and radio schedulers up and down the Realm would be shitting sticks.
I was surprised that the actual announcement was held back for so long, though; I would have thought that - the need for the timing to be exquisitely correct for such an event - some statement prior to the six o'clock news would have been more likely (remembering the story of how George the Fifth was ushered into oblivion a few hours early by his personal physician so that the announcement of his extinction could be made in the Times rather than in one of those terribly uncouth and common evening rags). Perhaps it was felt that to make the declaration any earlier would have hit that ultra-privileged sector of society commonly termed 'the business community' by impinging upon working hours, or that the timing needed to catch the largest proportion of the plebs at a time when most of them would be slumped in front of their over-large television screens after a long day of toil; whatever, once 1830hrs arrived, we were plunged - will we, nill we - into a Stunde Null, from which time on, so we were assured, Nothing Would Ever Be The Same Again.
That the BBC would be first to attempt to drape a gigantic cloth of Stygian black over the whole universe was, of course, to be expected; it is, after all, the State Broadcaster and has to fulfil a near-sacramental remit in which Cardinal Huw Edwards (who I thought looked rather dapper, all in black but with just enough of a crumpled look to plant into the minds of the susceptible the impression that he hadn't been expecting it) administered Extreme Unction to the New Elizabethan Age.
And so it began. Slowly, lovingly, the giant vat of sickly-saccharine black treacle - which has always been kept simmering round the back of every hackery in the Sacred Realm for such occasions - was poured out to smother the land and, with it, all possibility of meaningful communication. The skies may not have gone black, but all the screens most certainly did; nothing less would be deemed sufficient or fitting to mark The End Of All Things.
For everything, but everything was to be subjugated to the telling of The One True Tale. Having, it seems, learned little or nothing from its mis-step when Philippos von Battenberg booked his own spot in the Chapel last year, the State Broadcaster did not merely make the demise of his wife the sole story on its 'news' website, but it repeated the over-the-top-itude of the earlier occasion by turning all of its television and nearly all of its radio channels into one giantic Reichssender; no-one was to see or hear anything else other than that one Official Voice (this extended to, amongst other things, the complete removal of the Corpse-oration's online and broadcast services in Gaelic, a trick they seemed not to have repeated here in England's First Colony for some reason).
The hack-rags - having similarly been tipped off about the impending cataclysm - simultaneously followed suit, with the whole range of organs possessed by corporate ownership reaching full tumescence as they devoted similar square yardage of pixels to that Big One that they had been eagerly, droolingly awaiting for years; no actual war, no fact-free frothing at pushy minorities, no pooh-pooing about the state of the rivers and beaches of England could be allowed to get in the way of the full, enthusiastic use of their mighty, thrusting weapons of ever-fecund fatuity.
And the Great British Public™, having been subject (and that is emphatically the word here) their entire lifetimes to being fed with hagiographical bubble and sycophantic squeak? Well, they (we) were deemed to be not merely of one mind but of one emotion; they (we) were all cast into mourning. Indeed, The Nation [undefined] Was Shrouded In Sadness.
Gloom had been divinely ordained, so gloom we must have, must show. Except...
I went to my supermarket of choice early on Saturday morning - after the populace had endured a full thirty-six hours or so of this barrage of Balmoralising bollocks - and I could detect no sign of gloom, no sense of shock, no exhibitions of grief other than the downcast expressions engendered in people by looking at the prices of the goods on display. There were not - even on those buildings which had displayed the Butcher's Apron with such enthusiasm only a matter of weeks before - any black ribbons, any gammon-fisted portaits of Maj, any indication that anything was amiss. No-one - on either the bus or in Sainsbury's - was even talking about The End Of The World As We Know It, even in the most hushed tones.
So who were these 'all' who had been cast into despair? What was this 'nation' which had been hurled into the deepest cauldron of roiling grief? Nobody I have met and nowhere I have been, that's for sure.
For this was the projected 'all', the idealised 'nation', the Potemkin Village illusion of 'national unity' which is only ever disseminated at those times when the occupants of positions of power and influence want to cast a spell over the under-informed and deliberately mal-informed masses so that they can get away with further crimes and misdemeanours against those same masses. In other words, it's a con trick.
A very successful one. It always has been, which is why they keep using the tactic. It projects the message of 'what everyone thinks' which, in a society such as ours where the curtains twitch so frequently that one could power half a city with the wind generated from them, is a powerful stimulus to groupthink and herd behaviour. No-one (except the comparatively few of us who are born heretics and don't care who knows it) wants to be different, wants to risk the opprobrium of our fellow subject-consumers. It is what everyone else is doing, so We Must Do It As Well. "Conform or be cast out", as the late Neil Peart wrote.
That this leads to an almost beguiling daffiness in some individual subjects is a source both of amusement and of despair. Whether it's someone pinning a hundred and fifty Butcher's Aprons on the external walls of their house (this was in Chelmsford, so it was merely an overt expression of what usually goes on in the internal monologues of the denizens of Essex); or standing outside the fence at Buck Hice in a mock Guards' uniform, saluting (with the wrong hand) and waveringly singing God Save The [delete as appropriate] in three different keys over its seven lines; or boasting to a vox-pop-seeking television hack that they had filed past Betty's Box no fewer than seven times, as if it were a ride at a theme park; all these things may be taken merely as expressions of individual quirkiness or eccentricity, along with unutterable silliness such as the swooning which took place when a rainbow appeared over the Palace as the announcement of EIIR's demise was being made (a potentially ambiguous portent in any case; did that mean than Madge was a closet transie called Gerald all along?); or a similar entrancement at the sight of a cloud formation which was claimed to look like Her head in profile (to me, it just looked like a bogroll which some mischievous toddler had dropped down the lav, then fished out and sat on; not exactly the best example of pareidolia ever encountered). But, taken as a general phenomenon (because there have been too many examples far beyond the few I have described), they are indicative of a form of mass psychosis.
For it is not merely individual humans who are affected. The suffocating conformity which has been enforced upon society at this moment has manifested itself in the corporate sphere as well. It may have displayed itself in the form of signs which managed to express sorrow at the same time as advertising whichever business is trying to hitch a ride on the back of events (including the bizarre one in a branch of the land's main chain of dives stating that the condom machines would not be dispensing anything until Tuesday, presumably as an attempted strike back against the Great Replacement), or doing something truly potty, like the supermarket chain which has turned down (or turned off; I've seen variants of the story) the 'beep' on their checkouts. Or our local buses hereabouts, whose displays alternate between telling you where the bloody thing is going and advising - or ordering, given that English is so grammatically ramshackle as to spell the subjunctive and imperative forms the same - EIIR to 'rest in peace'. And of course everything and everywhere will be shut on Monday. If you visit a scenic lake park in Staffordshire, for example, there will be nowhere for you to have a shit; if your car breaks down, your breakdown service provider will leave you stranded halfway up the Woodhead Pass until Tuesday; and - most shocking of all - Guinea Pig Awareness Week has been cancelled. All this and more as, of course, 'a mark of respect'. There have been more sinister announcements, such as a chain of adventure holiday venues saying firstly that their residents would have to clear out for twenty-four hours (before being forced by public derision to backtrack and say that their customers can stay after all, but everything will be shut and so they'll have to remain locked in their yurts for the day); or of the body known as British Cycling which strongly advised its fellow frame-thrashers not to go out on their Raleigh Choppers while the funeral is in progress - another case where widespread obloquy caused a sudden change of gear - and you won't be able to park your bike in Norwich anyway because they've closed the cycle racks.
More rebarbative still is the cancellation of people's hospital appointments (when many of those in need of them have probably already waited three years for one) and - in at least one supposedly affluent part of south London - the complete closure of the local foodbank on Monday; presumably the destitute of Wimbledon will be expected to stay alive by sucking on black crêpe for a day.
A general psychological disturbance has taken root which is, as I have already said, immensely useful to those who hold power and who wish to continue to wield it. Distract the plebs long enough, deeply enough and thoroughly enough, and you too can get away with issuing fracking licences to your chums, removing the cap on bonuses for more of your cronies, and hanging small businesses out to dry by not helping them with their escalating fuel costs. And it is too much to hope that any real journalists in Grub Street - assuming there are any remaining who haven't been detailed off to write sub-Sylvie Krin-type romantic fiction - have been keeping an eye on what else may be sneaked out from various departments of state under cover of the current blancmange of blather, it being a very good two weeks to bury bad news along with Lizzie 2.
All this is even before we get on to the subject of The Queue gawdblessit, a phenomenon which has been described - with a customary sense of national self-regard which is almost American in depth and breadth - as 'the most British thing imaginable'. Well yes, it is; it is demonstrably of a piece with the socio-economic-cultural history of this island that the plebs shuffle along in line for hours on end to partake of something of no actual value at all; after all, that's how Alton Towers has operated very successfully for years. And it also reminds Brits of Der Wo-Wah, the fons et origo of the matrix of national self-delusion which is the only thing which has kept this failed state in operation for over seventy years. No doubt The Queue will in due course take its place in the Great British Mythos alongside Isandlwana or the retreat from Dunkirk, and with much the same degree of embellishment in the telling, especially by those who weren't There.
Now, it's all very well to be satirical about all this - it's so easy that even I can do it - but there are serious matters lurking beneath all of this flummery and flannel. And not always lurking, either; for the actions of corporations, public bodies and individual consumer-serfs which I described a few paragraphs ago are those engendered by the terror of being singled out as being 'disrespectful' or 'unpatriotic', and therefore at risk of being monstered by the scummiest press in the so-called Free World, or by ambitious politicians on the make (if there any of any prominence in UKania who are not), or by 'concerned citizens' who feel they have been given licence to act as arbiters of permitted response.
The assumption by state and corporate media that 'we' are all of one mind, and the blanket promotion - overtly or otherwise - of that concept, means not only that no-one may step out of line, but that no-one who wilfully does so despite may even be seen or heard (unless their words or deeds can be presented as those of cranks or dangerous subversives - and probably in the pay of the Foreign Enemy du jour at that) and this has led to a free-for-all in the suppression of dissent. Whether it is the fact that no countervailing narrative - however mildly expressed - has been allowed any direct contribution to the broadcast media channels or to the official corporate press; or that footage is re-framed or re-cut to make it look like tens of thousands of loyal subjects were present at an event attended by a few hundred (a lot of this has been seen in coverage from England's adjacent colonies; and it also fails to countenance the unavoidable fact that what the media take as a display of avid monarchism may in the vast majority of cases be merely the same curiosity which leads people to stare at the aftermath of a road accident); or that what dissent cannot be blotted out completely can be dismissed by an impudent comment from the studio.
(Someone creatively took this tendency to its obvious conclusion by re-dubbing footage from the Elizabethan obsequies with the arch voiceover of a BBC reporter covering the death of Kim Jong-Il. From where I sit, I can see little difference in either substance or degree between the two sets of reportage. Indeed, the current spectacle is the more emetic; the North Koreans were after all acting out of a genuine fear of death if they did not express the depths of grief ordained by the State; what excuse do cantankerous, independent-minded Brits have for volunteering to do the same without any overt compulsion other than their own strangeness or the fear of being shunned at the village fête next year?)
There Can Only Be One Message.
And so all-pervasive is that Message that it has become a golemic shem for much of the population, and those who are determined - either out of principle or from that cussedness which is otherwise usually celebrated as a British trait - to write the other way when given lined paper (to quote William Carlos Williams) have faced something rather more than just sour looks, synchronised tutting or the occasional hissed "Shut up!". The right peacefully to protest has been largely removed (and history tells us quite starkly that, when such rights are suppressed during a specific period and for a superficially limited set of reasons, that suppression has had a nasty tendency to become the default setting thereafter), and so we have the sight of people being arrested or threatened with same for, for example; calling out, "Who elected him?", at an accession proclamation in Oxford; calling out Nonce Andrew as a "sick old man" as he paraded past (and the members of the mob who assaulted that courageous young man were not even spoken to by the police who arrested him); two (male) coppers following a lone woman through the streets demanding her name and address for holding up a blank sheet of paper (these last two events in Scotland; ScotPlod are fast gaining on the Met as the repository of arrogant overreach, although they haven't found any unarmed black men to gun down yet); a barrister being interrogated in the street for holding his own blank sheet of paper upon which the Met (yes, it was them this time) were fearful he might write something, anything which might offend a Daily Mail reader.
Apart from the fact that all police forces seem to be unaware at all times of the limits of their powers in the area of peaceful protest, and that it should never be the job of the Plod in a free or free-ish society to make judgements of taste anyway, none of these incidents would have been possible without the overarching atmosphere of intimidation which has been deliberately engendered as a tool of control and of manufactured uniformity. This is now so obvious that even Pollyanna Toynbee has spotted it, although her complaint in the Guardian the other day tries to pin the blame on today's forces of hard-right authoritarianism when the anti-liberty rot set in at least thirty-five years ago and was avidly augmented by successive Labour régimes. Indeed, there has been very little complaint about these obvious infringements of fundamental rights from the Continuity Blairites who have regained control of the Labour Party of late; quite the reverse, in fact. Remarkably, it has been conservative and monarchist figures in the mainstream such as David Davis, Peter Hitchens and Iain Dale who have spoken up most strongly against repressive behaviour of the sort which now seems to be routine, although one has to suspect that their motives for doing so may just involve the fear that the game is being given away by such overt imposition of what they might otherwise seek to justify when applied less directly.
As for what happens next...ah, but I think I'd better leave that for another screed; I have imposed upon you long enough, dear reader. Do enjoy Monday, won't you, whether you are among that mass of 'right-thinking' people who will be watching avidly, or one of that (larger) section of society which will be observing simply out of curiosity or out of wanting something to tell their grandchildren; or if you are a member of the Awkward Squad who will be doing anything possible to avoid contact with the contagion of officially-endorsed serfhood?