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Friday, March 12, 2010

Royals: a uniquely precious breed 

This New York Times story inadvertently highlights a great deal of what's wrong with monarchies.

The essence of the story, you'll see, is that an eight-year-old girl (let's call her Aiko) claims to have been bullied at an upper-class school, which she is now hesitant to attend. A fairly run-of-the-mill situation, but one that is also unacceptable, and needs to be addressed by school authorities, and possibly parents and other government authorities where necessary.

As one pursues the story further, it is suggested that the "bullying" may be little more than a school "allow[ing] students to run, yell in class and tussle on the playground", or perhaps even that Aiko "was scared after two boys nearly collided with her by accident as they rushed down the hallway to get lunch."

In any case something happened, and it's somewhere in between moderate bullying, and 'slightly-overwrought daughter of slightly-overwrought mother got scared by running boys'.

And it happened in Japan.

Not, you'd suspect, something that needs to be picked up by the NYT half a world away.

But because the eight-year-old in question is "Her Highness Princess Aiko" the rules are different. Why? Well, because, um, she's the daughter of a guy who will probably inherit "the Chrysanthemum Throne" from his father at some point. Not that Aiko herself can, of course, what with being female and all.

Objectively, she's no more nor less interesting than any other eight-year-old Japanese kid. She hasn't saved the whales, or rescued puppies from a burning petrol tanker. She appears to have done nothing remarkable, and neither has her father.

She's newsworthy because she happened to be born into an aristocratic family that used to wield political power, but are now figureheads. In other words, she's not newsworthy at all. She's a kid. Experiencing normal kid problems.

Closer to home, Will Wales-Windsor is a late-20s trainee helicopter pilot from London. If not for an accident of birth, he'd be paying for his own flights to New Zealand, carrying his possessions in his own backpack, and buying his own beers (not nicking John Key's).

The core problem with the monarchy is it makes otherwise normal, reasonably intelligent people turn into fawning idiots, who see the unremarkable offspring of aristocrats as some uniquely precious breed of human, who must be spared life's normal annoyances at all costs, and merit obsequious, scraping behaviour from all who meet them, even those with a democratic mandate to lead, and/or a personal history of actual achievements.

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