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Why I didn’t watch the royal wedding

Thankfully, it’s over.

I refer, of course, to the royal wedding held in the United Kingdom on Friday. Since two billion people around the planet were supposed to watch it, the chances are pretty good that many of the readers of this column were also glued to their screens.

Could we stop and ask ourselves, please, what the fuss was all about?

The British royal family is famous around the world. It is part of Brand Britain, and supposedly pulls in millions of tourists to that country every year. The monarchy is apparently a unique symbol of family and benevolent authority for its subjects. So what objection could I possibly have towards it?

First and foremost, the idea that someone should be born to rule over others offends the intellect. The idea of hereditary privilege died out a long time ago, and is an anachronism in the 21st century. Skill, merit, aptitude and hard work are what should matter in modern times – not accidents of birth. Why should an entire citizenry pay handsomely to let one family dress up in palaces?

Tony Benn, the notable fly in the royal jelly from yesteryear, put it best: would you board a plane flown by a man who is not a trained pilot, but who assures you that his father was one?

And bizarrely, the royal family still practices gender discrimination: only male progeny can inherit the throne. A practice that has been abandoned as ridiculous in pretty much every facet of modern life still survives untouched in the British monarchy.

As for the argument that the royal family acts as a wonderful symbol for all the good old forgotten values – ahem! The most casual scrutiny of the family in question explodes that idea. This is a clan, after all, that in recent times has demonstrated, through its motley crew of members: a string of extra-marital affairs and broken marriages; racist and uncultured remarks; offers to exchange influence for money; alcoholism; and intimate friendship with many of the world’s vilest dictators. Symbols? Of what, exactly?

That brings me to the latest wedding in the family. I have nothing against the Prince and Princess, and wish them a happy life together. What is offensive is the desire of two billion people to immerse themselves in the ins and outs of this wedding. What is wrong with the world, that it should want to expend that much energy and attention on the nuptials of some faraway couple? Why are so many of us so interested in the wedding dress, the flower arrangements, the processions and the finery and frippery, when in this part of the world most people don’t know where their next meal is coming from?

This phenomenon is not the royal family’s fault. After all this macabre interest in the lives of celebrities extends to the wives of footballers and the pets of pop stars. It reflects hollow lives and bored minds; the loss of higher purpose and the death of critical thinking. The world media machine has also reduced itself to an unquestioning entertainment machine. The BBC, an institution I have always cherished, has allowed this irrelevant event to turn it into something I can no longer recognise.

Just how superficial do we intend to become as a race? Modern life is lived mainly in the shallows. The lives of celebrities dominate newspapers and TV screens and the world of social media. You only have to be good-looking, controversial or even plain idiotic in order to be adored and applauded these days.

Well, if you want to waste your short life peering into the living rooms and bedrooms of celebrities to see what they’ve done with their hair and what their dogs are wearing, go ahead. Just don’t ever discuss it with me.

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