If you really think street parties and bunting are a source of despair then perhaps you need to get out more, says Colin Brazier

I’m afraid dear George Monbiot is another one of those posh boys who can’t understand why the plebs hang onto outdated ideas like patriotism

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The exciting environmentalist George Monbiot offered his take on the Queen’s jubilee today.

He told his half million twitter followers: “I have nothing against the Queen. I think she’s quite impressive, keeping her cool amid so many maelstroms. But (there’s always a but, isn’t there?) I despair of the fuss we make of her. Pomp and pageantry are the enemies of reason. They impede progress towards a fairer society.”

Where to begin. Let’s start with the language. Do you despair of the fuss we make about our Queen? Despair’s quite a strong word isn’t it?

The dictionary defines it as the complete loss of hope. A Ukrainian in The Donbas might feel despair right now – but not a man who’s life can hardly be described as a struggle.

Colin Brazier
Colin Brazier

Oh yes, I’m afraid dear George is another one of those posh boys who can’t understand why the plebs hang onto outdated ideas like patriotism.

He talks about a fairer society. Always easier for folk like George - who went to one of the best boarding schools in the country, followed by a degree at Brasenose College, Oxford, and a job at the BBC - to talk of a fairer society.

I think what they really mean by a fairer society is one where people like them get to decide what should and shouldn’t be venerated.

So George says he hates “pomp and pageantry”, because they’re the “enemies of reason”. What he’s really saying, but he’s too well brought-up to admit to, is that he finds it all a bit embarrassing.

But what he fails to understand – for all his expensive education – is this. Pomp and pageantry, far from being the enemies of reason or a fairer society, are part of the glue which holds that society together.

Those people George Monbiot indirectly mocks for making a fuss…. think about who they are for a second. Who are the people, when push comes to shove, we entrust to keep our families safe? Soldiers and police officers don’t take a sacred oath to protect George Monbiot’s abstract vision of a fairer society. They swear to serve the Queen.

And this is the bit that George – in his gilded world - can’t understand. Generally speaking, people aren’t prepared to lay down their lives for an idea. Yes, freedom or democracy, or a fairer society are worth struggling for.

But most of us, particularly those willing to fight and die on your behalf George, need an ideal to take physical form. Which is why people like George are baffled, genuinely baffled, by what they see as an irrational attachment to meaningless symbols; an anthem, a flag, a crown.

But George misses something else. That ‘pomp and pageantry’ he dismisses. They tell a story of our history. Think of the biggest act of British pageantry of all.

Think of that picture of the most recent Coronation, with the Queen wearing a crown and holding a golden sceptre and orb. For George they’re just pointless trinkets, so much superstitious mumbo-jumbo to keep the proletarians in awe. But for a people who value and treasure their island story; there’s more to it.

For instance, the golden orb the Queen holds in that picture symbolises the whole world. It has a cross on top of it, reminding us that – like it or not George – Britain has been a Christian country for fifteen hundred years.

It’s worth remembering, as ceremonial objects are meant to, that the orb tells another story too. It was created on the orders of Charles the Second. He was the monarch restored to the throne after our bloody flirtation with Republicanism in the mid-1600s. Cromwell’s Commonwealth, like George Monbiot’s fairer society, was meant to create a Britain with more reason and less fuss. It ended up – things like the banning of Christmas - until people rose up and said they wanted the royals back.

Nobody is insisting that you have to be part of what you call the fuss George. But really, if you think that street parties and bunting are a source of despair, then perhaps you need to get out more.