Opinion | Britain's unconvincing new era
By Tom Fowdy
On Saturday Charles III and his Consort, Camilla, were officially crowned as King and Queen of the United Kingdom in a splendour display at Westminster Abbey. The event was arguably a historic moment as it was the first of its kind in Britain to take place in the 21st century and in a modern context, and the first of course in 70 years following the reign of Elizabeth II. The broadcast was watched by a peak of 20 million people in the UK, just under a third of the population, but nonetheless less that of Elizabeth's funeral last year.
Yet amongst it all, was an audience that seemed at best indifferent and somewhat apathetic. While it goes without saying that Charles does not enjoy the same public popularity or stature as his mother did, social media was nonetheless awash with anti-monarchist sentiment, which came in the form of either Republicanism from some groups, or just outright negativity and cynicism towards the subject of Monarchy in general from others. Outside of Britain itself, observable responses I seen from Australia, Canada and New Zealand seemed to reflect almost total disdain.
Irrespectively, the less than total display of public enthusiasm for the event gave the impression that Britain's famous love in for its monarchy was in fact wavering, leading to a ceremony that whilst hypothetically was "glorious" seemed to lack appreciation, with the growing perception that it was not a great national tradition, but something unnecessarily extravagant, silly, and unjustified. This got me thinking more than ever as to where exactly Britain's future is heading. If Charles's coronation is meant to mark the start of a new era, let's be honest it is a wholly pessimistic one where things have never looked bleaker for the country.
It is well established at this point that Britain has been facing an internal struggle for its own identity, not just in recent years, but as a long-term historical process. The event of Brexit was in fact the seven decades long aggregation of a country that had built its identity upon the mantle of empire, only for that Empire to vanish and leave it without an "identity" in the world. Unable to discard the fabric of Anglophone exceptionalism, and unable to accept a pragmatic existence as part of Europe, Britain's domestic and foreign politics veered towards a manifestation of ultra-nationalism based on the nostalgia of great power politics.
But this only tells us part of the story, these political outbursts have also been triggered to domestic uncertainty over social change, including Britain becoming a more multicultural country, and younger generations being more liberal and individualistic than their predecessors, leading to the country being torn in a generational, ideological, and identity-based conflict. Yet, not only that, the aggravating causes are also economic, with Britain having also so readily upheaved itself in the name of Neoliberal capitalism, exacerbating regional inequalities and destroying the foundations of its industrial society recklessly in the 1980s and 1990s, as well as the austerity regime imposed in the 2010s.
All of this, including the British government's disastrous response to covid, and its reckless pursuit of escalation in Ukraine, have undermined the foundations of British prosperity on a historical trajectory and created a nation which is in economic stagnation. GDP growth is close to zero, people's incomes are shrinking amidst surging inflation, and as a Bank of England economist infamously quoted the other week, "we are getting poorer." In fact, this development is so damning it is forecasted that by the next decade, Poland will have a higher GDP per capita than the UK! Britain seems to be the first western superpower to face a downward trajectory, and the reasons for it are multifaceted.
So is it any wonder, when viewed in context, that people are falling out of love with monarchy and the upper classes? The UK is a nation increasingly beset by cynicism and negativity, sort of like in America, but in a far less dramatic sense. It is little wonder contemplating my own background, from Sunderland, that I grew up facing such great disillusionment with the world around me, and rightfully noted that something was wrong with my country and society. While this lead me towards courting populist and right-leaning views in my early 20s, including UKIP, even when having gained a more broader and cultural perspective, my fundamental conviction that things are truly optimistic for Britain has not changed, that's because those governing it have not sought to address the fundamental socio-economic contradictions and fractures at the heart of British society, but have only worsened them, and in such a modern world it is therefore wishful thinking that those being so disadvantaged by such a system, ought to buy continually into its legacies and traditions in the form of King Charles III's coronation. The problem is of course, I will conclude is that Britain isn't buying into something different instead, it is buying into nothing, it's a nation beset by cynicism, indifference and a crisis of its own identity.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of DotDotNews.
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