How royals can change the world

No doubt, while traveling through Australia (and New Zealand) Kate and William have drawn enormous media attention. And they seem to have enchanted millions of people around the world. What their followers don’t know is that they could do even more than that. 

Not that I have ever been interested in royal families, their lives or even their names. Appreciating the luxury of being born in a time and society that enabled me to think freely, I never followed the life of any human being, be it the pope, Michael Jackson or Angelina Jolie. To be frank, I don’t see any benefit in doing so. However, the exaggerated[1] media response the royals’ down-under tour has caused, made me think twice. Why on Earth are millions of people – the majority of them voters and hence representatives of a democracy – interested in a couple that represents aristocrats?

Well, the obvious reason is probably that such disrupters are a good excuse to distract from the real challenges we face, be it climate change, social injustice or the state of society as a whole. As others have claimed, (normal) people like to see that apparently privileged members of society are just as human as they themselves: they walk, they talk and they dress. Or as we say in Switzerland: “even royals smell when they shit.” Not that I’ve been sitting next to some monarch while they were doing their business but I assume the saying brings it to the point.

When we see that monarchs do things we do, then we feel safe; convinced to be doing the right thing. And this is good, because we know that we do a lot of things that are wrong. However, that doesn’t make us different from royals either: even if Kate and William are a couple that makes it easy for us to like them, they contribute fairly little to for example fighting climate change. In fact, wearing a new dress every single day is not a model for sustainability and it’s almost as decadent as the behaviour of some French monarchs before they were ousted in a historic revolution back in the 18th century. A pity Kate and William didn’t do more, because what makes royals different is that they could actually change things. That is, if they had the means to doing so.

It has been argued by many that an eco-dictatorship is what might eventually save the planet from the consequences of too much freedom for selfish individuals. People often assume that democracy guarantees the best outcome for society. This is not necessarily true in economic terms or as regards maximization of social benefits. What theoretical models suggest, can easily be observed in reality. One only needs to consider how little we have achieved to solve pressing problems while speding billions of tax-payer money on non-sense.

What’s more, in many democracies worldwide election campaigns have become totally ridiculous in recent times. Many governments are more concerned with being re- elected than with delivering benefits for all. And, apart from spending their resources mainly on election campaigns, they have a big temptation to pursue short-term populist policies in exchange for votes.
By contrast, authoritarian regimes do not need to worry about elections. They only need to keep the population satisfied enough to prevent general uprising, while using their resources to pursue long-term and potentially even unpopular policies. This in turn leaves enough room for doing the right thing. China makes a good example on how things can change for good and fast if a government takes the steps in the right direction without having to consult the whole citizenry first.

To conclude, maybe we need royals even in the 21st century. I, however, would rather support some monarchs that had the power and the brains to pursue an eco-dictatorship rather than such that change their clothes on a daily basis just to impress the crowds, as their ancestors have done since the Middle Ages.

 

[1] While I understand that some Australian newspaper of the Daily Mirror might cover such events, the fact that even a Swiss newspaper was dedicating significant resources to the Royal tour, made me raise both eyebrows. It wasn’t just some newspaper but the NZZ (Neue Zürcher Zeitung), until recently avoided even by intellectuals due to its apparent “excessive coverage of business and economic issues”.

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About blaubear

Born in 1973 in a small village in rural Switzerland and into a society largely dominated by cows (not only was the human population of one-hundred-and-forty outnumbered by them, but politics driven by unreasonable subsidies for diary products) I was connected with nature from early age on. Observing nature on one hand and the deficiencies of a dysfunctional Swiss agricultural policy with farmers that had lost connection to the land that provided their income on the other, I soon started to question society and the meaning of life. Suffering also under a farcical public education I developed curiosity to discover on my own. That was how I soon learned that little of what I had been taught was true. Skepticism and interaction with people from for me new cultures fostered my interest for the world and eagerness to leave a life shaped by federalistic layman-ship. At the age of twenty-three I hit the road for the first time, an event that later translated into passion. Traveling between cultures has since become part of my life. At the age of thirty-three I finally realized my dream and did a degree in Environmental Engineering from which I graduated in 2009, only to leave Switzerland once more for my "real home" Spain. Unfortunately, the stay was a short one: a couple of months later I was offered a job in Southeast Asia, where I worked and also lived (with some interruptions, e.g. I live in Melbourne since late 2012) ever since. Having worked for a Japanese company earlier in my life, I soon felt captured again by Asian culture and thinking which makes a lovely contrast to my European heritage. My journey through different countries and cultures has taught me that regardless of how different our thinking and values are, no matter what approaches we take, we all can learn from each other. And if we are open enough to see the common instead of pointing out the differences, then we have a chance to live in harmony and peace: Life is all about integration, not exclusion! It's an old wisdom that "knowledge is power", as such I never get tired of being around new people, having interesting talks, and reading lots of good books. I hope that my blog can contribute to the conversation.
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5 Responses to How royals can change the world

  1. que161 says:

    When aristocrats use their influence for a good purpose thats the only time I pay attention to them

  2. marekzyskowski says:

    Wow, dictatorship is never the answer. The eco movement has many good points but I would not advocate a dictator to implement them. This would really fail the greater good.
    As for our beloved prince and princess unlike elected officials who receive their political office base on political issues of the day. The members of the monarchy are permanently in place and have the responsibility to represent everyone. So as governments change direction they are still there representing all the people and working with all the different groups that may have suddenly become less fashionable to the current government. So they do have a political power to shape public opinion.

  3. Patrick S says:

    Hi Urs, as previous commenter implied – while democracy may have its problems, there are a lot of other good things about the western liberal state (I mean that in the classic liberal political sense, not the US defn. of ‘liberal’ or the Liberal party in AU) one would throw away by moving to a dictatorship, eco or otherwise. (Relative) freedom of the press, relative freedom of speech – including to criticise the govt – ability to use civil society to pressure govt and apply accountability to bad officials, and of course remove poor governments via peaceful ballots rather than violent revolution. China may be moving in the right direction now, but consider they have the worst air pollution in the world in many of their cities as a result of forced rapid mega-industrialisation over last half century.

    Further, democracies can actually move pretty quickly in a widely-agreed crisis, for good or ill. See recent responses to GFC to bail out banks, and historically, the UK’s Norway Debate early in WWII (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norway_debate) that led to a new national alliance govt under Winston Churchill to fight the Axis with renewed focus.

    I fully agree democracy in its current form is facing pretty serious struggles all round the world currently, not just re dealing with long-term problems like climate change but also what seems to be like struggling with major economic inequality and disruption which seems to be both eroding traditional limits on capital such as the power of the labour movement, and opening the way for more extremist movements and even fascism in some parts of the world. I agree especially the problem of inequality and corresponding control of concentrated wealth over politics, as is getting a renewed focus thru debate around Thomas Piketty’s new book (http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/why-capitalism-doesnt-work-thomas-pikettys-landmark-book/2014/04/26), poses very serious problems for democracy. One interesting radical reform proposal to liberal democracy I’ve heard of is the idea of a return of the Roman institution of Tribunes, citizens elected from the non-elite by lot with certain veto powers etc (http://www.opendemocracy.net/ahmed-r-teleb/campaign-finance-reform-would-be-wasted-effort).

    I’ve been thinking about problem of environmental issues in a democracy too lately and was reading some of Daniel Kahan’s work about this last nite – http://www.culturalcognition.net/ – but might write more about this another time.

    And lastly re the Royals- I have traditionally been a republican, but I do have some admiration for both current UK Queen and Prince Charles actually – the latter has at least made efforts to raise problems of conservation and urban sprawl in the public debates in the UK and supported some charity groups on these issues.

  4. blaubear says:

    Thanks for the comments and thoughts! I agree with Patrick about Prince Charles – he has been one of the few within the elites who have done good for the public in general and the environment in particular.

    Even if I’m the first to defend individual freedom it is all too often forgotten that in a democracy, not everyone has the same freedom. And topics such as ever increasing inequality as mentioned by Partrick and environmental degradation make things worse and worse. Democracy as we have it today is the freedom and power of a few with the “apparent” support of the majority. Is it OK, that I try to mitigate environmental pollution by riding my bicycle and while doing so, am being run over by a drunk driver who doesn’t even get punished (or judged in the first hand)? https://globalvisionremixed.wordpress.com/2013/09/02/what-is-a-cyclists-life-worth-in-australia/
    Is it OK that millions of people loose their homes, future and/or their lives because of our freedom to drive cars and over-consume in general?

    Democracy might have many good aspects but it’s unfortunately not economic efficient. And while democratic negotiations are getting dumber in recent times, we loose a lot of social benefits, not least the environment we depend on.

  5. fireflycyy says:

    One main problem about dictatorship, despite the argument of being efficient and etc. is that the whole system relies on one person’s merit, vision and wisdom. If the leader/dictator concerns about environment, yes, changes can happen pretty fast. But what if you have kim Jongyiu? Democratic societies may be pretty inefficient in policy-making, and true that politicians will make promises for vote. But vote itself can be a driving force isn’t it?

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