The whole country, that’s an interesting concept isn’t it?
Particularly when it comes to what the media call ‘a national event’
You hear the phrase “the whole country” in a number of scenarios. Take the energy crisis. Broadcasters always state that the crisis will affect the whole country. Perhaps that’s true, but it will obviously affect the whole country in different ways and to different degrees according to your circumstances. I’m fairly certain that a pensioner living on their own in Leith will find it far more difficult to cope with the eye-watering increases to energy bills than a family of four living in a multi-million pound property in the Grange will. It certainly won’t be keeping the CEOs of British energy companies awake at night as they have to clamber over billions of pounds of profit to switch their lights on.
But the phrase is designed to try and make the situation more palatable by assuring everyone that the whole country is going to suffer to a certain extent. It’s similar to George Osborne’s mantra when he set about decimating the country with his “we’re all in it together” horse shit. He wasn’t in it and neither were all of his cronies who sailed through the austerity years without so much as a scratch on their stocks and shares.
Now, as you all know, a 96 year old woman recently died of natural causes in one of her luxury properties in Scotland. Being a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, this was obviously a sad day for her family. But no, apparently, it was something which had affected “the whole country” which had fallen into a desperate state of emotional incontinence and hand-wringing grief. No, it didn’t.
Now, as a lifelong socialist and republican, I’m perhaps not the best person to comment on the death of someone that I regard as an anachronism and a drain on the country’s finances. But there’s something incredibly frightening about the events of the last few days which require to be discussed.
Every single broadcaster immediately fell back on “the whole country” narrative. The whole country was in mourning. No, it wasn’t. The whole country was devastated. No, it wasn’t. The whole country shared a profound sense of loss. No, it didn’t. There was not a single attempt to find a dissenting voice about the very concept of the monarchy or to address the very real issue of having an unelected head of state whose job it is to reign over us. Why didn’t the BBC ask for an opinion from outside the iron curtain of establishmentarians to provide some balance? Well, the answer’s pretty simple. The state will simply not entertain any dissent, particularly when it comes to a family whose history is peppered with murder, conquest, imperialism, and paying off victims of sexual crimes.
How soon we forget when it suits the state narrative of unquestioning deference and subjugation.
It’s only a matter of a couple of months ago that the newly proclaimed head of state was accepting carrier bags full of cash from a senior Qatari politician as donations to his charities. It’s only a few months ago that the grand old Duke of Yuk paid an out of court settlement to a young woman who had alleged that he had raped her when she was a minor. But here they are, showing us in all their pomp that they are still in charge and that we should be bowing and scraping before them in their moment of grief. Not me. I’m a citizen not a subject, and while their own personal grief may be heartfelt, the whole country is not sharing or wallowing in it. Far from it.
So why is any of this frightening you may be asking. Well, what about those people who did turn up to protest peacefully and to make sure that their voices were heard above the silence of subjugation? A young man who voiced his disgust at Prince Andrew’s presence in his home town was unceremoniously dragged away and arrested for breach of the peace. A young woman in Edinburgh who silently held up a placard with “F**k Imperialism: Abolish the Monarchy” was also arrested for breach of the peace. Similar arrests were carried out across the whole country.
That’s what is frightening. If we are now subjects in a state where any form of dissent is immediately put down and met with arrests and police charges being issued, we’re not far away from being a police state. The UK Government is already trying to force legislation through the House of Commons to outlaw any form of protest and to impose a legal ban on unions taking industrial action. And these won’t be the only human rights disappearing from the landscape under Liz Truss.
And when they do, I wonder what the whole country will do to mark the occasion? ■