With the coronation of Charles III, colonialism comes home

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By Webdesk

For fans of Netflix’s The Crown and other dramas of the era, the coronation of King Charles III will have it all: ermine and tiaras, horses and livery, kneels and bows, expensively refurbished gold carriages, and choral music soaring in vaulted ceilings.

A sufficient number of kings, queens and aristocrats will testify to pomp and circumstance internationally, as the BBC repeats in a self-indulgent loop that “none boast like us Britons.”

Like the British Raj’s legendary 1911 Durbar in Delhi, also held to celebrate a coronation, that of George V, Charles’s coronation will aim to demonstrate British preeminence to the apparent admiration of the world, an imperial power move actually taken, like many others, from the Mughals of India. About 6,000 troops will march in full uniform in the largest military ceremony in 70 years. However, even the Mughals did not propose that the entire population should sing in unison in allegiance to the new monarch, as the British are urged to do.

Unlike George V’s Delhi Durbar, which shone with the imperial might of a nation that controlled vast swathes of the globe, behind the velvet curtains of Charles III’s extravaganza lies a greatly diminished entity in which a majority of the population is not much interested .

More than 70 percent of Britons under 50 are indifferent to the coronation, according to a recent poll. Yet as much as £250 million ($315 million) of trumped-up taxpayers’ money will be spent on this one day, while thousands of nurses, doctors, teachers and other key public workers have been told for months that there is no money in the Treasury to give them a meaningful pay rise.

They, like other Britons, are teetering under an awe-inspiring rise in the cost of living as inflation hits 11 per cent, the highest rate in 40 years. As waves of strikes continue across the country, leading economists have, with breath-taking arrogance, instructed the British not to ask for a pay rise and simply accept that they are worse off.

The use of charity food banks by working people has soared in the past year with more than 750,000 first-time users and 3 million emergency food packages distributed. An estimated 20 percent of the nation was living in poverty by 2021, and living standards have fallen even further since then.

Yet all this is happening in what is still one of the richest countries in the world. The number of billionaires in the country has risen by a fifth since the pandemic, their total wealth is estimated to exceed £653 billion ($823 billion) by 2022.

Charles, whose private wealth is estimated at just under £2 billion ($2.5 billion) while the monarchy’s is around £28 billion ($35 billion), will not be spending his own money on the coronation, just as he deprived the state treasury of inheritance tax on the vast fortune Queen Elizabeth II left him.

How does the existence of such extraordinary prosperity relate to the increasingly bleak reality faced by a population when not long ago a retiree died of hypothermia because she was worried about the truly astronomical utility bills faced by all households? Meanwhile, energy companies have seen their profits increase by several billion. Multiple calls to reduce inequality by raising taxes on the extremely wealthy have gone unheeded, even as the burden on the rest of the taxpayers has increased.

The glittering durbar this Saturday will try to remind the world of a Britannia government at its benign best in a strikingly inclusive pageant with black peers carrying ceremonial items and religious leaders of great faith traditions offering blessings.

But after the trumpets die down and the last antique carriage clatters back onto the cobblestones of the palace, raw daylight will reveal a Britain with a shrinking economy, 3 million hungry children, a reduced life expectancy and pensioners choosing between a meal or warming themselves to hold. The once leading National Health Service, the real jewel in this country’s crown, is spiraling into underfunded willful destruction, resulting in chronic staff shortages and more than 7 million people on waiting lists at last count.

Far from being abnormal, the extravagance of this unnecessary coronation represents and even glorifies this morally unsustainable social order in which being rich has the right to rule and become richer.

Not only are “subjects” getting poorer by the day, but they are also required to joyfully pay homage to the system that has made them so poor. As Labor MP Clive Lewis, one of the few politicians to risk criticizing the coronation, has noted in a recent videoFar from being the social glue it’s touted, monarchy is the “gilded veneer that makes grotesque inequalities of wealth and power seem normal.” In this sense, the British monarchy is not an anachronism except in style. Behind the inlaid gowns and feathered helmets lies a perfectly modern set of inequalities spearheaded by a billionaire king and his “firm.”

While the coronation has reignited discussions about the British Empire and monarchy, the focus is on the Koh-i-Noor diamond and other shiny foreign loot in royal hands.

But perhaps there is another way colonialism is evoked by this coronation – as an economic and political order of extreme inequality that has now come home to Britain itself.

It is a fate, “the doom we inflicted on others”, that many British critics of Empire such as Wilfrid Blunt, whom I wrote about in my book, Insurgent Empire, warned against. They argued that the heart of colonialism – the extraction of wealth from the working many, corporate profit-seeking, and authoritarian state repression – would eventually expose itself at home while a corrupt and corruptible ruling class enriched itself. A doggerel I recently saw on social media summed up this state of affairs succinctly: “Now we have no foreign natives to subdue, so will have to make do with homegrown animals.”

While exploitation was never absent, for some time Britain was able to build a welfare state and enjoy greater prosperity as a result of the wealth the British Empire brought home.

Britain today resembles one of its former colonies: an increasingly impoverished population reeling from regular depredations by multinational corporations and ruled by the iron hands of the wealthy descendants of its imperial ruling classes who, like their ancestors, fear resistance.

Concerned about the possibility of a small protest at the coronation, London’s Metropolitan Police, itself under fire over several instances of alleged sexual and racial misconduct, has just announced, amazingly, that it will “take firm action against anyone who violates this celebration.” wants to undermine”. .

Volker Türk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has criticized Britain’s recently enacted draconian Public Order Act as inconsistent with Britain’s international human rights obligations. All par for the course under the heels of the British Empire.

On Saturday, the British people will be called upon to communicate with each other through shared elation over a new monarch. Many already know that this unity is false, for no real community can prevail within such a deeply unequal order.

As patriotic hymns rise in the abbey, the British may remember the question posed by the great English poet William Blake, often misrepresented as a purveyor of traditional English:

Is this a holy thing to see

In a rich and fertile land

Babes reduced to misery?

The 17th century reformer and activist Gerrard Winstanley rejected the “the iron box of accursed greed” that underpinned the “dark kingly power”, and had called for a robust defense of the Commons – shared land and resources as a common” storehouse of sustenance for all”. ”. It may be time for Britain to finally heed that call.

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the editorial view of Al Jazeera.

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