Freeze Peach | Surreal and sinister: The Queen's Platinum Jubilee exposes the visual illusions of a sacred monarchy (I)
What was that a hologram? As the tsunami of media celebrations surrounding Queen Elizabeth II washed over me like dystopian Songkran water, I cartooned my eyes (rubbed them disbelievingly) to a Twitter clip from Barry Malone.
(Watch it here: https://twitter.com/malonebarry/status/1533451042070876161)
How extraordinary. A hologram of Queen Elizabeth II was horse driven through London in a sparkling gold carriage celebrating 70 years of rule for something called a Platinum Jubilee. But most remarkable was the flag-waving, swarming, throbbing crowds drunk on patriotism waving back at it.
They waved back at a simulacrum of a human being who occupies the top position of monarch within a society hellbent on preserving the very archaic rules and customs that obfuscate its deep-rooted connections to global corporate power.
Yet here they were cheering on the image of a symbol of authoritarianism and inequality, perhaps reflecting a paralysis at the heart of Britain's so-called political culture of that sacred thing called democracy. A paralysis of a political culture mired in a crisis of capitalism that seems at odds with the opulence of celebrating a privileged taxpayer-funded deity.
Partly surreal, partly an amusing lack of logic, no more than ever, the British monarchy spells a broader problem of the idea of a royal family at the apex of an outdated class structure that not only reinforces but defines the unfairness of a society that loves to consider itself more equal than it really is.
Or, to put it another way, the British monarchy is a prominent sign and visual illusion of a society that is anything but the egalitarian meritocracy it pretends to be. Like a scene from some dystopian Hunger Games sequel, the Queen's hologram was, in a sense, a hyperreal simulacrum of what Baudrillard calls the copy of a copy — the copy of something that is not itself an original but is its utterly degraded form.
If it wasn't apparent to those in the crowd cheering on the copy of a monarch in a gold carriage they and their ancestors had paid for, it was painfully evident to others that the Platinum Jubilee was a hyperreal variation on the Emperor's New Clothes fallacy and of a nation supremely ill at ease with itself. Still, shining a hologram is much better than propping up a limp corpse because who honestly would wave at that?
But what does it all mean symbolically? What does it say about us as a species that we willingly pedestalize a fellow human being who, every day, just like us, defecates in the celebration of the pure nonsense of earthly existence.
Part of the hunger to venerate the Queen comes from the social conditioning we accept, especially us Brits, from birth. As with our parents, who we never chose to be the result of their lovemaking, we have been conditioned to accept the Queen — and to a lesser extent, the entire royal family — as a symbol that is just there in our lives from the start. If we don't know someone who loves the Queen, they will know someone who adores the Queen. This pattern of enthusiasm or indifference zigzags across class and political spectrums into those who are staunch monarchists and those who are in favor of an out-and-out republic.
As he would refer himself, J.B. Browne is a half "foreign devil" living with anxiety relieved by purchase. HK-born Writer/Musician/Tinkerer.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of DotDotNews.
Read more articles by J.B.Browne: