Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II’s death has sparked an ambivalent response from the masses, with an overwhelming outpour of affection toward the monarchy competing with discontent among former Commonwealth realms. As the United Kingdom and the rest of the Commonwealth look ahead at the future under the reign of King Charles III, uncomfortable discourse about the preservation of the monarchy will be raised. Some may argue against it, while many may maintain the view that it should remain intact. However, the reality – especially for South Africans – is not merely black-and-white.
A prominent argument among proponents of abolition is that that royalty simply makes no sense. Some may argue that there exists no room for the reverence of a single family in a progressive society. There is no divinity that commands the unquestioned rule of one family over an entire population. Thus is the first case for the abolition of the monarchy. The counterargument among royalists, however, is that the British Royal Family in particular attracts nearly two-billion Pounds per year in tourism revenue.
Meanwhile, billions across the globe continue to live under the shadow of the far-reaching consequences of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. For South Africans, a direct consequence of her reign was the Apartheid regime. For Kenyans, it was the tragic loss of more than 10 000 lives in the Mau Mau rebellion. For India, much like all other colonies, it is the unprecedented looting that mainly benefited the Establishment. To have a single family rake in the fortunes of the masses is blatantly unfair and disgraceful. It is a shame. A couple charities here and there for the sake of PR will not do if any real change is to be achieved.
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For South Africans, discussion on the abolition of the monarchy ought to touch a sensitive nerve when brought home. This is where it becomes complicated. Since 2010, South Africa recognises seven royal families, each representing championed traditional values and separate national identities many are proud of. Discuss the abolition of these families, some of which have been complicit in violently absorbing entire clans and kingdoms centuries ago albeit to a smaller extent, and suddenly the preservation of tradition is thrust to the fore. The argument for the abolition of the British monarchy cannot be reconciled with the appreciation of our own, thus laying bare double standards among South Africans.
Notwithstanding such, it should also be understood that society will interminably comprise three groups: the High, the Middle and the Low; as explained in George Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty Four. Thus, should any monarchy be abolished, the old Middle will become the new High. The Low will remain down-trodden as always. It is the unassailable nature of the way things work.
Therefore, a valid argument for the abolition of the British monarchy can only be held with truthful introspection. Conversely, appreciation for the monarchy can only be held through the recognition of the direct and indirect consequences of colonialism. The High, be it in the form of royalty or a state government, should therefore be allowed to exist solely for the benefit of the masses.