Death on August 30 Mikhail Gorbachevthe man who set in motion the series of events that culminated in the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the virtual elimination of communism as an electorally viable political alternative, in addition to ending the “cold War”, making possible the peaceful reunification of Germany and the liberation of more than half a dozen European countries that the Russians had occupied for decades, caused a lot of interest in the rest of the world as a figure of undeniable historical importance.
Even so, compared to the repercussions that the death, a week later, of the Queen isabel II at the age of 96, those caused by Gorbachev’s were barely audible. Not just in the UK and the members of the Commonwealth but also in many other countries, beginning with the United States, the main newspapers filled their front pages with portraits of the deceased and devoted page after page of nostalgic recollections and respectful commentary, with many allusions to the virtues that of the deceased. common agreement had embodied. Television channels and streaming companies also took advantage of the opportunity, which, of course, already had a large amount of detailed material, both documentary and fictional, about the public and private life of the deceased.
Well, what does the really extraordinary reaction of so many people scattered around the world tell us about the death of an old woman whose prominence was due less to her own qualitiesadmirable as these were, than to an accident of birth? Among other things, he tells us that, despite everything that has happened in recent decades, the monarchy, especially the British, has retained a power of attraction greater than that of any political party. A cult of personality of planetary dimensions was built around Queen Elizabeth without the protagonist of such a feat having to do much more than smile and say a few kind words. Although many have alluded to his wisdom, they do not attribute anything more memorable to him than expressing some surprise at the inability of economists to forecast the 2008 financial crisis. Be that as it may, there is no doubt that, during the long reign of Elizabeth , the British monarchy was a highly effective instrument of what scholars call soft power based on cultural factors. For a politician from another part of the world, even for a president of the United States, to attend a banquet in the Buckingham Palace, remains a coveted honor,
Although today almost everyone claims to be egalitarian and protests against those who believe they are privileged, many, perhaps the majority, feel that the old hierarchies are more natural than those that in one way or another are replacing them and instinctively allow themselves to be impressed by them. the claims of those who represent them. Those who would like to rationalize absolutely everything feel outraged by the persistence of attitudes that in their opinion would be appropriate for feudal times but, despite them, they have not been able to overcome the resistance of those determined to defend the traditional modalities.
Nobody ignores that the monarchical system is more cumbersome than the republican. As unfortunate as it may seem to those used to measuring everything in economic terms and complaining about the cost to taxpayers of maintaining a royal house that they describe as parasitic, the pomp and circumstance that is characteristic of the monarchy makes it seem more accessible to ordinary people. than other institutions. He finds her more human; after all. everywhere it is taken for granted that a normal girl will dream of being a princess, not a president, prime minister or foreign secretary. It will be for this reason that the rulers of countries like France and the United States feel tempted to behave as representatives of the order that their predecessors had repudiated with revolutionary violence, hence the “Jupiterian” style favored by Emmanuel Macron.
It is his way of acknowledging that, to function well, a political order needs to have the emotional adherence of a multitude of people who will never pay attention to merely rational propositions because what they want is to maintain an imaginary personal relationship with the rulers. By the way, it was not surprising that in the years that followed the fall of monarchies such as those of Russia, Germany and Austria-Hungary, a swarm of authoritarian demagogues tried to fill the void, more spiritual than constitutional, that they had left. Needless to say, something similar happened in much of Latin America after the collapse of the power of the Spanish crown.
Since the monarchy is incompatible in principle with the democratic values that, in Western countries at least, almost all claim, it would be assumed that it would survive only in some reactionary strongholds of rudimentary culture, but it turns out that this is far from being the case. Besides of UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, that share the same head of state, are monarchies Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Japan. They all have their problems, but no sensible person would consider them more backward than countries like Argentina, which could make up a comparable selection of republics. If it were possible to organize a competition to see which of the two so-called groups is the more progressive, the monarchist team would win by a good measure because, at present, the countries in which a crowned head is the titular leader tend to be less monarchical, in the literal sense of the word, than the Republicans.
Today, King Carlos III, Emperor Naruhito or Queen Margarita II they cannot even intervene directly in the internal affairs of the humblest municipality in their respective domains without running the risk of unleashing a scandal of proportions. As constitutional monarchs, it is mandatory for them to stay above political disputes, as Elizabeth did throughout her seventy-year reign. At best, they can afford a smile of approval or a brief sneer, but it would be dangerous for them to take an explicit stance. Carlos III, who, when he was heir to the throne, gave his opinion with conspicuous forcefulness on environmental issues, it will not be easy for him to hide his feelings, but unless he manages to do so, he will soon find himself in difficulties.
The fact that a modern king – that is, a constitutional one – necessarily has to stay above partisan competition is what allows him to serve as a pledge of unity. This is a role that many politicians aspire to play, but because theirs is an activity that is inherently divisive, attempts to do so often fail or, worse, threaten to lead to a tyranny in which dissent is seen as Synonym of betrayal Instead, a monarch, whose role is more priestly than political, can focus on what is theoretically common to those who make up the community of which he is the symbolic chief. This is what Elizabeth II did so successfully, but many Britons fear that in the coming months, when social tensions are expected to worsen as a result of a ferocious energy crisis combined with an inflation rate that is alarming according to local guidelines, Charles III turns out to be unable to emulate his mother.
In the United Kingdom and other countries with similar traditions, all politicians and officials are forced to treat the monarch with enormous respect, paying homage to him in rites that were formalized in a dim past. Although they know they are more powerful and, often, much more important than their interlocutor, the ceremonial meetings that take place serve to remind them that the royal house represents something that is less temporary than the political situation at hand. The result is that, in constitutional monarchies, politicians tend to be more humble and more aware of their own limitations, which makes them less likely to indulge in self-centered fantasies than their counterparts in supposedly more democratic societies.
In addition to forcing politicians to moderate their ambitions or, at least, to think more about how to solve the specific problems that have arisen than about creating myths or “stories” in which they will play a starring role, by its existence a monarchy underlines that a national or, in the case of the British, a multinational community, is a collective project that began long ago and, it is hoped, will continue into the future. In a period that is as forgetful as the one we are living through, one in which, for many, what happened just fifty years ago, let alone previous times, lacks any meaning, recovering the historical sense is urgent. It is especially so in the United States, where groups of “progressive” fanatics are proliferating who have managed to convince themselves that almost everything done so far must be repudiated, because it was the work of white racists, and start again.