Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Dita De Boni: Rah rah royals in la la land

Pit stop in ruined Honiara would have added meaning to trivial schedule.

Illustration / Anna Crichton
Illustration / Anna Crichton

"We don't believe in leprechauns, so why should we believe in the Queen?" wondered Steven Patrick Morrissey, then indie superstar and lead singer of The Smiths, at the height of his commercial power in the mid-1980s.

The Smiths subsequently broke up and Morrissey now lives a comfortable life in LA - when he's not staging hugely successful solo tours for still-besotted fans in South America - but his loathing of the royal family has not abated. The Pope of Mope, as he's sometimes known, has accused the Queen of having a lot in common with Libya's late dictator Muammar Gaddafi and called the entire royal family "benefit scroungers" and "royal boils".

Extreme as some of his outbursts are, he is right in the main, that "the full meaning of the monarchy is, like the Queen herself, a complete mystery to most people. It is protected from any investigations by trivia and wedding dresses and on-again-off-again soap-drama romances." Even Kiwis who line streets waving British flags and hoping for a glimpse of baby George don't seem able to articulate quite why they feel such depths of devotion.

Once upon a time it seemed passé and weird to be too much of a royalist, in the same way that you would never have admitted you were right wing while in university. These days, students allow their beaming mugs to be seen in the vicinity of every National politician known to mankind - especially if said politician is planking, derping, or lighting cigars with $100 bills for a giggle.

Similarly, we're buying up the backpack that was bestowed on little George, we're slurping tea from Wills & Kate teacups and praising the royal pair for their arduous trips to Mustique, where they get their much-needed "me time".

Serious question: has the world gone mad? Even if many New Zealanders can accept that republicanism is coming "at some point" - even the royal family is resigned to it, at least as far as New Zealand goes - we lazily pass it off as something that will eventually happen without the slightest effort on our behalf, and only as long as there are absolutely no hard feelings, and Kate still wears Kiwi designers when she's down this way.

I find it hard to begrudge those who take pleasure in seeing the royals, even while feeling that the toxic legacy of all they represent bears little relation to today's New Zealand - and even less to some of the other nations over which they still bear nominal dominion.

Take Solomon Islands; in the past few weeks Honiara, the capital of this tiny constitutional monarchy, has been devastated by flash floods. The flooding has killed 23 people, more are missing, and as many as 50,000 were displaced - a huge proportion of the total population of half a million, in a country where just 60 per cent of children go to school and the average life expectancy is barely over 65.

What can the royals possibly mean to an impoverished Solomon Islander? And yet, had they diverted to stop in at Honiara and lend moral support, how fantastic would that have been? But no, they prefer the pre-ordained safety of the old empire, with a pair of Maori buttocks the only slightly confronting note in a schedule jam-packed with meaningless rah-rah.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

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Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Dita De Boni is a columnist, commentator and TV producer/journalist. She first wrote columns for the NZ Herald in 1995, moving to daily business news in 1999 for four years, and then to TVNZ in Business, News and Current Affairs. After tiring of the parenting/blogging beat for the Herald Online she moved back to her first love, business (with a politics chaser), writing a column for Friday Business since 2012.

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