Posted by: Martin Scherer | 23/02/2011

Royal weddings and revolutions


The prince and the revolution. 

I am not referring to the pop group Prince and the Revolution, but it serves my purpose especially in the line ‘when doves cry’.

Doves are traditionally let free at weddings. The wedding guest list for the British Crown Prince has been announced. Many will cringe at the inclusion of the soccer ‘royalty’ David Beckham and his wife, the former Spice Girl, Victoria Beckham. Now there will be a tabloid be a frenzy of what she will wear. Not the princess –  the pop queen Victoria.  No doubt, her own mind is in a turmoil. How much leg, how much breast is appropriate at a Royal Wedding? A turkey shoot. Prince William gave his mother, Diana’s, engagement ring to his future wife. That touches the most cynical heart. Elton John sung Candle in the Wind, and that song became one of the fastest selling single of all times. Expect sarcastic jokes about the tuneless Victoria Beckham singing at the wedding, “What do we want, what we really, really want?”  She’s got it  – An invitation to the wedding of the decade.

The inclusion of Beckham and his wife is a very, very, clever diplomatic move. The Royals are Royals, very much in the critical eye this week in other parts of the world. Royals have been siege since a French Queen lost her head for saying “Let them eat cake.” Apparently she never said it. Royals stick together, be they in Europe or Arab lands, so the dignitaries invited to the wedding are representatives of several Royal families. The inclusion of the Beckhams will ensure the working people feel they are included, which is important in a period of austerity when a lavish upper class wedding may seem to be rubbing peoples faces in cake they cannot eat. The speculation of Victoria’s dress will divert attention from the Royal couple. Something they want.    

There appears one major omission from the wedding invite list. President Obama. An omission already commented upon by the British media. Tongues will start wagging. Why wasn’t Obama invited? Was it his anti-colonial, anti-British stance over Churchill’s bust and British Petroleum? No doubt the anti-Obama talk-radio will claim it was.

Without a separate Head of State, American presidents often gain the status of ‘Royalty’. Look at the Kennedys or for that matter the Bushes and Clintons, and the acceptance by many that the sons of Presidents, or other family members, should be privileged to follow in their footsteps. On election, Obama gained the status of a new royalty in the eyes of many. Being God’s chosen leader, Obama was expected to create all kinds of miracles both at home and abroad. Emotionally, many will feel snubbed by Obama’s omission.      

Whilst the wedding will have all the trappings of a state occasion, will cost the taxpayer a small fortune, and the Prince is a future Head of State, the wedding is not an official state event. Consequently, no heads of state are invited. The majority of the guests, over 1,000, are the couple’s relatives and friends. How anyone can claim to have 1,000 or more friends is beyond comprehension, but this is the Face-Book generation.

Which brings us to the Revolution. As I write I sit on this side of the pond, our news is dominated by events in Arab lands. Starting in Tunisia, a Mediterranean country of North Africa, turmoil has spread to Egypt, Jordan, The Yemen, Libya, now Morocco, there is peculation the unrest will spread to Syria and Saudi-Arabia and people worry about the impact on Israel. TV news teams camp out in various squares of various capitals around Arab states. So much does it dominate our TV News and media, there have been complaints. However, sitting in Sarasota, Pam tells me very little of this momentous movement is reported on US TV. Why?

These are oil states. The unrest has forced up oil prices and will force increase in food prices, building costs, inflation and interest rates, threatening to spiral the world economy back into recession as it did in previous oil crises. Today, with lower oil reserves, the west is more vulnerable. Most oil reserves lie in countries with unstable regimes that are opposed to the west. All are repressive states, often lead by Royal families. These states have large armies they can use to suppress the people. Dictators may be tempted to use the South American tactic when facing civil war – unit the people by attacking a neighbour. Will Israel become the scapegoat, dragging the west into a regional conflict? Some are atomic states or have atomic ambitions. In the cry for freedom, will the doves cry?     

Face with an oil crises and weapons of mass destruction, what will the west do? Risk a popular uprising against repressive regimes but turning stable countries into terrorist religious states as happened in Iran and before that Egypt and Libya? Or will the west march in decisively with shock and awe? Many call this a Facebook revolution, but in reality these repressive state have shut down the internet and with it the social networks of Facebook and twitter. Whilst each Arab state is different, and each face internal religious strife, this is a generation revolution, as exciting and positive as the 1960’s when the pop music of love and peace were the Facebook and Twitter of today.     

Invited to a get-together dinner of Democrats, I was asked what I thought of Obama’s election. Whilst a guest, it is not my position to comment on the internal politics of my host country. I limited my comment to “I could not see how America could do any other than elect Obama.” Politically it was time for a change and the outgoing President was deeply unpopular. Worse, not electing Obama would reinforce the belief America is still racially divided. Privately, I worried that at the time when the free world needed a change in direction by an effective leader, Obama would be a lame duck president. Obama gained his legacy in the moment of election – first black president. Would he stand back and do nothing to avoid any damage that legacy. Unlike the first catholic president, Obama has no moon to conquer. Instead, he has inherited a financial black hole and he presides at a time when America is loosing its financial might. But this has happened before. In what seems like a century ago, the economies of the west were crumbling. Two leaders rose and were much hated for their austerity measures. They faced increasingly repressive regimes that starved their people in cultural revolutions. The media feared atomic war. Populations froze watching drama documentaries like the BBC’s Threads. However Armageddon did not come. Economies recovered. Repressive regimes crumbled across eastern Europe and eastern Asia. Not a shot was fired. In the place of repression and guns, Western leaders used rhetoric and diplomacy.

Obama’s election gave repressed people hope and the confidence to rise up for their freedom. Behind the scenes, America told the Egyptian military, you can have guns but not if you point them at your own people, and it is the army’s job to hold the peace through political change. Obama, who promised to be a great orator, is dithering and largely silent. An America that does not elect its first black president to a second term, is an America that will send a dismaying message to its people, but to be re-elected Obama must step up to the rostrum. Sixty years ago, an American president said “I am a Berliner.’ Thirty years ago another American president said “Mr Gorbahev, tear down this wall.” It is time Obama found his voice “The younger generation are not your enemy, they are your future.”   

The British have told Arab Royal families, you can have Formula 1 racing, you might get invited to a Royal wedding, but not whilst you repress your people. If there is one thing the British Royal family has learnt, one reason for its surprising enduring popularity, is that it invites its people to the celebration. The most significant invitation to the royal wedding is that of an average soccer player and his mediocre pop-singer wife.


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