There are many issues arising from the death of Elizabeth of the House of Windsor, Queen of the United Kingdom and 16 Commonwealth countries, including St Vincent and the Grenadines, formal approval of which was given in our infamous constitutional referendum of 2009.
But there is a local saying that goes “Parson say, christen me pickney fus”, so before I deal with some of the issues concerning the passing of the British monarch and its relevance to us, permit me a few comments on matters more immediately pressing.
First, let me join members of the footballing fraternity in extending my condolences on the passing of local football legend, Rudy Boucher, who made an incalculable contribution to local football before departing these shores for the USA. Rudy was right at the pinnacle of local and regional football and his loss can be considered a loss of football royalty, such was his pedigree.
I must, in the same context of excellence, offer my profound apologies to the ABC of calypso, Alston Becket Cyrus, for my belated congratulations on the occasion of the award of an Honorary Degree from the UWI for his musical and cultural accomplishments. He too is royalty, deservedly so, not inherited. More on these on a later occasion.
Can Monarchy be saved?
The British authorities are sparing no effort to shore up the failing institution since the death of their monarch last week. The media are “laying it on thick”, overwhelming us with 24-hour coverage of every detail, enveloping us with all the trappings and as our old people used to say, the”simi-dimi” of funeral arrangements and salutes to the late British queen.
Even when she is buried the story won’t end there for it will be the turn of Charles, how good a monarch he can be and so on and so forth. ‘God save the King!’ is what we are encouraged to say, indicating continuity of the monarchy. Unfortunately, the times are a-changing and it is not that easy to get adulation for either the House of Windsor or the monarchy as an institution.
It is important that we keep our heads in terms of our responses. What are our strategic interests and how best can we advance them by the opportunity offered? Charles is a new monarch, not even crowned as yet and therefore does not have whatever goodwill that his mother accumulated over the years. If we wish to see the end of monarchical influence over us, it is
important that we do not get sucked into the emotionalism being whipped up and we must respond sensibly.
Already there are, all over the Commonwealth, no shortage of those hurling condemnations left, right and centre. The British monarchy and British colonialism certainly deserve these and they will have to carry their own baggage for a change. But we must be collected and measured, not emotional in our own responses.
It does not advance our cause to hurl diatribes at the dead monarch, her heirs and successors. We are not into any personal battle with them. It must be remembered – ‘The Queen is dead! Long live the King!’ That is their mantra and we cannot waste time over the Windsors, their racism and family shenanigans. Infantile reactions, trying to prove how “conscious” and how “big and bad” we are will not advance our cause at this stage. Listening to some of my committed brothers and sisters make me wonder if we have not advanced beyond the 70s.
Yes, we must let those of our people not fully aware of the evils of slavery, genocide and colonial plunder know about them. Yes we must let them know that the “kindly” British monarchs, who have headed the Anglican Church as well as being the fountainhead of colonialism, not only patronized the process, but directly participated and benefitted from this injustice.
Yet, shameful as the role of the monarchy is, it must in no way blind us to the real kings of capital, the captains of imperialism who are continuing to tighten the screws on all of us. We do not see these “invisible hands”, rather it is the “royal family” and the civil servants and lower-level officials sent out to the colonies as Governors and Administrators, cork hat and plume and horseback-bound at that, who were most visible. Our own local replacements even used to adorn themselves with these trappings.
However that is only the surface and no amount of vitriol will change it. Our just demand is for reparations but it is a process which demands calculated response, strategic planning and tactical nous if we are to succeed. Above all it calls for maximum unity among the victims of these heinous crimes. Not persons seeking attention, seeking to vilify others for supposed transgressions which do not fundamentally harm the cause.
We will continue next week.
Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.