The Diamond Jubilee: The Spectacle of Jubilant Denial


After viewing perhaps 20 minutes of analgesic coverage of the queen's Diamond Jubilee I'm sick of it all. Not so much the Royal Family themselves, but rather every single satellite entity that swarms and orbits around them. I'm sick of the sycophantic (sick-o-phagic, parasitic) media and public most of all. I'm nauseated by the endless sideways glances, the anxious earpiece tapping, the hysterical treading of airtime to a cacophony of vacuous comments, stale hyperbole and predictable praising. I'm repulsed by the desperate maintenance of a false excitement. It's all glassy eyes and gritted bleached teeth twitching desperately around for camera 1, or giving a last effort of faux elation before the edit cut off. It's like a cruel post reality televisual experiment into anthropoid learned helplessness with the edit as electrocution- the charming smiles turn to strained grimaces, the pearly sclera signifying fear rather than excitement.

I wonder where such frenzied energies emerged from. I wonder when such unhealthy momentum began to gather. Blind patriotism used to be reserved for the working class and established upper classes (the latter's nepotism and clinging on to privilege being construed as patriotism and or royalism). When did the middle class become such union jack wielding lemmings? When did such a potent symbol of Britain, that was previously reserved for deluded working class patriots, punks and military enthusiasts, turn into something that could adorn the interiors of John Lewis and Waitrose like a highly infectious capitalist architectural aesthetic - a new but softly nostalgic strain of cultural impetigo exacerbated by marketing and media. A more contagious strain now impervious to the middle left.

Here begins my slow clap for Laura Ashley, Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, Boden and Emma Bridgewater. Well done for peddling such gaudy furnishings to the middle classes, bravo for understanding that something so politically loaded is now a logo, a recognisable void as non-descript as the Nike tick. Is this the same icon that was previously so politicised? Can it really be the same design that was so potent and class sensitive that it would crop up only in the politically motivated contextualisations of the likes Mods or Punks? This is where the story starts, this is where fashion and then sheer capitalism aestheticised a loaded politico-historical icon into a de-politcized facia. Sometime after the Mods and Punks, after Malcom McClaren's Vivienne Westwood clad Sex Pistols nailed their publicity stunts, the icon was de-politicised, this once raging chimera of St George, St Patrick and St Andrew became neutered by it's own aesthetic under capitalisms appetite for an easy selling facade. By 1997 when Vivienne Westwood launched her Anglomania label and Geri Halliwell tottered around the Brits in the iconic Union Jack Dress the union jack had become an icon for it's own aesthetic rather than designating anything political, historical or social. Some fifteen years later and it is now something that is  more or less an alternative free logo marketing teams can fall back on in the summer. For anything thing vaguely 'British', from Ascot to Wimbledon the taxidermized vexillum gets wheeled out onto the shop floor- the Chimera of St George, St Patrick and St Andrew gets another flogging despite already being flogged to death by the 90's.


With this acceptance of the the Union Jack's remission into its own aesthetic, away from its history and potency we can wonder who would become giddy at such a ubiquitous non-sense? Who would buy a contemporary thing whose signification corresponds to nothing other than it's summery, vaguely British connotations for the high street behemoths? Shoppers, aimless shoppers.

When I scanned through the photographs of people my age enjoying the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, or spotted facebook updates of past acquaintances indulging in quaintly british Union Jack emblazoned activities, I wondered why. Their activities left me perplexed. I asked myself why these people of my age and often similar social background would feel that The Monarchy is something to celebrate, let alone feel any emotion approaching patriotic or proud. When I think about my demographic, my friends or colleagues I struggle to conjure a single positive aspect of being british or caring for your country. The chasm between Private and Captain does not cater for the glut of soft new labour graduates whose journey of vocational progress effectively stalled at GCSE before a series of questionably over priced specialist subjects, arts and humanities or soft science degrees (most with little or no career guarantees). If one was to cherry-pick from my generations demographics for the one to respond well to the 'galvanising' and 'uniting' power of patriotic nostalgia and rose-tinted anglophilism it certainly wouldn't be the bunch who, after three or four years of partying with little academic pressure, mostly ended up in Thailand or working in english pubs if not post-graduate education. So where does this contagion lie?

The contagion is not patriotism or royalism, it cannot have anything to do with caring about the fellow people of the country, or even more cynically the international reputation of our tourism industry. It's shopping, it's a shallow, one weekend only flash sale of something vague and (now) meaningless - this must be the sentiment behind the fever, because if people truly cared they would surely make a song and dance about the things that really matter for this island - keep a few libraries open for the kids and think twice before selling all the utilities to china - but no, that's far too political, and takes a bit longer than a weekend- and certainly doesn't induce such giddy 'consumer patriotism', no.

The thirst of consumer patriotism and the rabid, compulsive revelry in a political void may signal a greater problem: not that there is no patriotism or any political care, but actually that the majority of islanders cannot confront these emotions or ideas. The massively overblown expressions of adoration for Britain's ultimate celebrity, Lizzy Windsor (and previously Diana Spencer), divulge an illness of freudian cliche; that for the endlessly empty, emotionally and politically hungry consumers of this Isle a capitalism compatible neurosis has blossomed. An obsessive compulsive disorder has emerged as the crutch to lean on rather than confront our reality of history and our reality of contemporary socio-politcal context. The overblown public adoration of the Diamond Jubilee is akin to a father buying a new bike for his tragically paralysed son, and whilst this may be understandable at first if times are grave and emotions are particularly difficult to accept and digest, it must not get out of hand and continue for too long- for everyones sake. This spectacle of denial is uncalled for, unhealthy and irrational - a sharp slap or a dowsing with iced water is urgently needed.