Today’s £125m fancy dress party both amused and bemused me.
Vast inherited wealth and privilege sits uncomfortably beside a world engulfed in the flames of war and beset by poverty, want and savage cruelty.
Life is still nasty and brutish and in all probability many only wish it had remained short.
The King himself is reputed to have inherited £1.8bn and the day found him dressed in mediaeval garb surrounded by the flummery of crowds who could surely have found better use of their day. But of course the great and the good love to see and be seen.
Religion could have made itself a force for good but to this day panders to the powerful and wealthy rather than remaining true to its humble and sincere origins.
We understand from the Christian gospels that Jesus of Nazareth lived a lowly communal existence while he continued his short ministry. He famously declared that the meek shall inherit the earth and the New Testament quotes Jesus as saying in Luke 18:25 that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Jesus and the rich young man).
And yet today the church establishment continues a centuries old tradition of gratifying the fripperies and conceits of the rich and the famous, where once their founder sought to heal the sick and feed the poor and the hungry.
The British Prime Minister ( a man of enormous reputed wealth, and, paradoxically a Hindu) read from St Paul’s epistle to the Colossians.
“Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry.”
Wise words indeed from Verse 5, and much the same sentiments are to be found in all spiritual doctrines including the beautiful sacred texts of the Hindus.
Whether Prime Minister Sunak is a supporter of such sentiments I would not know. But he would presumably have difficulty passing through the eye of a needle.
What a great pity that as a species we have always been unable or unwilling to practice what the original holy men so rightly taught.
I have no doubt that some of today’s “holy men” will wish to defend the institution of the monarchy and would be little wont to cast off their own regal garb and prominent position in the great Cathedrals and Abbeys. And yet one has a suspicion that Jesus of Nazareth would encourage such prelates to pull down the vast edifice they have built and to slum it with the masses.
That may be true, but I think we need to respond to King Charles IIIs coronation by comparison with his mother’s coronation 70 years previously. Rather than comment in absolute terms, it is perhaps more realistic to comment on what has changed in the intervening decades:
At Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation the audience were predominantly in ermine robes, ‘the great and the good’. Today the audience were predominantly ordinary people, charity workers.
At the 1950s coronation all of the key players were white males. Today there were a high proportion of women, a fair few blacks and indeed people from other faiths.
The key theme that came over to me at Westminster Abbey for King Charles III was that of serving rather than of being served.
Together, these and other changes represent perhaps small but nonetheless significant shifts in the understanding of our sovereign towards the priorities in today’s world.
I feel that Charles has learnt a lesson that I am still struggling with. That is, that even though you can see that big changes are needed, the only way to take people with you is to make a few small steps at any one time.
Today’s coronation made me both proud to be British and in resonance with much of what our new king has in mind for us.
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I have recently been studying Gilbert and George with much fascination and a great deal of interest. One of the advantages of living in this country, as they point out, is the ability to say exactly what one chooses without fear if censorship or retribution. Within certain bounds. I have absolutley no doubt that many will share your views. Including Gilbert and George who profess themselves ardent Royalists!
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Well, when I did go to Bible Study groups years ago, I would only focus on the red parts that are supposedly what Jesus actually said…I found it much more comforting and faith-inspiring the rest…not so sure…
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Quite! The sermon on the mount is all one really needs. Not that most of humanity has ever paid much attention to it. A worldly church we don’t really need, and presumably our Jewish friend from Palestine would have been unimpressed by what followed upon his simple life. Greed, violence, child abuse and much else. Of course there have also been many wonderful clerics who clung true to the original aims of the great man himself. Dietrich Bonhoeffer stands out for instance. But there is so much that is damaging about the Church as an institution, East and West. I recently read a biography of Rowan Williams (probably a good and decent man) and was horrified to discover the vitriol he faced when, as Archbishop of Canterbury, he tried to mediate on difficult issues such as gay and women priests. Such is humanity.
George Bernard Shaw once wrote:
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
While it seems to me that your point of view on this subject is reasonable, given the circumstances in the world-at-large, there does seem to be at least some basic appreciation for the traditional rituals on display today for many folks in your neck of the woods, and perhaps, in the spirit of Gilbert and George, the pageantry and cost of security necessary for the events of the day might qualify as reasonable as an observance of that tradition. However one might view these circumstances, it does seem somewhat excessive on its face.
In the USA, we also have the same feelings about the insanity of the Inauguration of our President, and the ridiculous security measures necessary to employ every time they have to go anywhere. We even have to spend millions of dollars to protect the billionaires and millionaires who USED to be president, and most of us have a dim view of the endless spectacles of the American Roman Circus as well.
Thomas Jefferson famously said that nothing is troublesome that we do willingly. We may just have to choose more carefully what we are willing to do as a people.
We may indeed have to choose very much more carefully what sort of society we want. And what we intend to do about it. I am sure that King Charles III is probably a decent and well meaning man, however dysfunctional he and his family have sometimes appeared. And yet it is very hard indeed for many of us to feel right in our hearts about vast inherited privilege and wealth. Or indeed vast wealth in the hands of the few, whether inherited or not. In my own view it can not be right that the likes of your Mr. Gates is the biggest owner of farmland in the US for instance. And we have vast swathes of this country in the hands of a relatively small clique of fortuitous inheritors.
We all have to live on one small planet and it seems very odd indeed that we have allowed vast chunks of what we all need to survive to be cornered by a small minority.
I do not consider myself a political animal and would myself no doubt be considered well off by comparison with much of the rest of the impoverished world.
And yet, unbeliever that I am, I look at the words of such as the Jewish carpenter, or the little Indian guy in the loincloth from Bihar and I wonder why we have ignored them for so long.
You nailed it. I’m disgusted and ashamed to be British. I had a stupid fantasy that Charles might shake things up, but any changes to this sick pageant have been window-dressing and perhaps even more disturbing than just leaving it as the ridiculous anachronism it was. Inviting everyone in the country, rather than just the nobs, to pledge allegiance, for instance, had to be back-pedalled from by repeating the weak distinction between requiring and inviting, like when a police officer says, “Could you step out of the vehicle, please, Sir?” or the invitation of representatives of other faiths to come bearing gifts for the King, one of whom actually – apparently without a hint of perspective – compared his role with that of the Magi bringing gifts to the Infant Jesus. Inclusivity, apparently, means letting those with different cultures bow to the Anointed Head of the One True Faith (thanks to Henry VIII’s divorce from the Vatican).
I despair when I see the bumbling peasants waving their stupid blood-soaked flags in the middle of a cost of living crisis that has gone on since the great austerity, in which tax-payers picked up the bill for the greed of the bankers. The whole thing is a cauldron of corruption, with the City of London and the Crown deep in the central pit of it. The papers were full of it when statues of slave owners were vandalized, but we rarely hear about the vast wealth the Royal Family gained from investment in slavery. Victoria was up to her tits in black blood.
As for land ownership, I’m horrified to re-learn that our progressive Royal Family is the biggest globally. It owns 6.7 billion acres of the world out of, at a generous estimate, a mere 16 billion acres of habitable land. That’s 41%. The next land-rich entity, the Catholic Church, poor church mice that they are, own just 0.18 billion acres. https://www.farmlandriches.com/largest-landowners-world/
Of course, Charles is famously interested in green issues, so no doubt all will be well when he turns his half of the planet to renewable energy production and organic farming.
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Juvenal must be turning in his grave. Generation after generation, the turkey has celebrated Christmas. It is hard to feel much optimism in the light of yesterday’s pageant. In many ways, the hereditary monarchy is an even worse affront than the tech moguls. At least they had to make an effort to swindle their way to vast wealth.
I can see little immediate cause for hope. The human world has long been dominated by the strong who disenfranchise the weak. It is a mercy that long distance space travel eludes us at present. The thought of the human virous spreading out into the galaxy and beyond is not a comforting one.
Much fear is currently centered on Artificial Intelligence. And rightly so – any benefits are likely to accrue to the few at the expense of the many. Some fear the death of humanity at the hands of its creation.
I am not so sure such an event should be seen as a tragedy.
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Never under estimate the depth and profundity of the long term and continuing grip of spirituality on Charles. His coronation was very thoughtful. He is torn between his essence and the calls of human duty.
Consequently, I believe The Coronation was more spiritual seed, some of which will fall on the prepared whether they know it ot not, whether they like it or not. The spiritual yeast is also working in some, as it always will. We can’t reach, preach, share, evangelise, or organise the mystical experience of Reality. It doesn’t work. Only Reality endows revelation of Itself, and always on individuals, not the opinionated, or religions, ideologies, cultures and nations.
So if the Pareto Principle is right, 80% of the human race is incapable, unprepared to receive the revelation of the Reality that rules everything known and as yet unknown. Reality has its own timeline …
Consequentially, I fervently wish Charles well.
Best, as always,