Your Head of State (US) Grew Up On Foodstamps, My Head of State (UK) Grew Up On The Postage Stamps

The header taken from a line of Johann Hari, a columnist at The Independent of London, where he talks to Amy Goodman about the politics of the Royal Wedding, Britain's Imperial past and its associated human rights abuses, and much more.


Johann Hari: Frenzy around Britain’s Royal Wedding "Should Embarrass Us All"
April 29, 2011

Up to two billion people around the world tuned in to watch the British royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, a story which has dominated TV news for weeks. The wedding buzz offers a chance to look at the monarchy, Britain’s domestic policy, and how its colonial legacy around the world affects foreign affairs today. While all eyes were on the wedding procession and the first kiss, Democracy Now! spoke with Johann Hari, a columnist at The Independent of London, who says the royal wedding frenzy should be an embarrassment to us all.


AMY GOODMAN: Controversy has also arisen this week over the royal wedding guest list. Syrian ambassador Sami Khiyami was disinvited amidst reports of Syria’s brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters. But the former head of Bahrain’s National Security Agency is in attendance despite allegations he oversaw the torturing of prisoners with electric shocks. Sheikh Khalifa Bin Ali al-Khalifa is the current Bahraini ambassador to Britain. Human rights groups have also criticized the royal family for inviting representatives from Saudi Arabia, Belarus, Burma, Morocco, Equatorial Guinea, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

Joining us here in New York is a British journalist who has openly criticized the wedding hoopla. Johann Hari is a columnist at The Independent of London. One of his most recent columns is titled "This Royal Frenzy Should Embarrass Us All." He’s also the presenter of the Johann Hari podcast.

Johann, welcome to Democracy Now!

JOHANN HARI: It’s great to be with you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, talk about your country. Talk about this royal wedding, all the attention. And most importantly, let’s discuss empire.

JOHANN HARI: Well, I’m here as a refugee from the royal wedding, in New York, so—although it seems you can’t escape it anywhere. But, you know, nobody objects to two people who love each other getting married. You know, that’s a nice thing. It’s nice for anyone to see it. You know, got no problem with that.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, depending on their sexual orientation, some countries do.

JOHANN HARI: Well, that’s a good point, but the—indeed, Elton John was there, and he wouldn’t be allowed to get married. He’s not allowed to get married in Britain.

But the thing we really object to is the institution of monarchy in the family. This has turned into the celebration of the idea that my country’s head of state is selected not by voting but by squelching out of a particular aristocratic womb in a particular golden palace, which doesn’t seem to me to be a very sensible way to select these things. And it causes very serious problems. For all the other flaws of the American political system, your head of state grew up on food stamps. My head of state grew up on the postage stamps. You know, you can tell your kids in most democracies, "If you work really hard, if you appeal to enough people, you can grow up to be the symbol of our country." The fact that the symbol of our country is selected solely through the most snobbish criteria of all, bloodlines, who their parent was, has a disfiguring effect on the whole of British society. It creates a kind of snobbery that emanates out and emanates down. When you’re a British kid, you grow up seeing that people instinctively bow and grovel before someone, just because they happen to have been born in a palace. And I think that does have a deforming effect. More and twenty minute video.

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