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What is This We Feel?

Written By: - Date published: 6:58 am, September 15th, 2022 - 52 comments
Categories: Deep stuff, International, uk politics - Tags:

It will be the last time we say goodbye to her. More than her.

We say goodbye to the royalty of love. Of love married and dutiful for over 60 years. Of children who were disappointments and did their own damage, as in many respects we all do, and we can but bury our own disappointment with her. But like most mothers, whether we disappoint or not, she showed nothing but care and calm. Queen Elizabeth through piety and devotion turned her love into that of a quiet, beneficent god. We have now few marriages, fewer that last, and indeed are defined less by marriage than by Hinge, Bumble, Cupid and Grindr. That’s how far we are now. Queen Elizabeth contained for us ideals about love and certainty and emotional resilience that we perhaps have never known. That era is dead now and we are the poorer. We can only be comforted by endless re-runs of Bridgerton, Downton Abbey and The Crown for just a sweet sighing simulacra of such certainty.

If the burial of every mother were more like this, the world would stand upright.

We say goodbye to a last living link to World War 2; the rage of the twentieth century and our active organised resistance to fascism. She represented our common fight in which everyone did service in their own way. Every ANZAC Day now stands a little emptier, its grief a measured distance further with her gone.

We say goodbye to a scale of ceremony that we used to know and love. We are unlikely to see its kind again. New Zealand used to do ceremony with the visit of the Earl Mountbatten, of the QE2 led by the Naval Reserve Otago up Otago Harbour, the royal tours we would pack the streets in serried ranks for a glimpse in our hundred thousand. Arches were carved in stone, foundations laid, streets and towns and all manner of things brought to a higher standard just so she could pass by. All the jewels we will see in the next days, sceptres, plumed hats and gold embroidered jackets will soon be put away. Each jewel a history, every silver rod a purpose. This monarchy now shrinks into something less regal. In millennia ahead when an archaeologist opens England’s entombed treasures, they will struggle to recover this great high dam of meaning which is all contained in the one moment we have now.

We say goodbye to England. Most of us come from the UK, nearly all Maori have UK family affiliations. It’s being waved goodbye. Covid accelerated our emotional removal from this Old World. Europe says goodbye to the UK itself. This is the only moment we have to recapture and revive history of this kind, then box it with a ribbon of grief, and start to learn our own in earnest. Whatever bind together the Queen sustained, it too is being buried. Finally the editions of Town and Country and Tatler on the stands contain no signals of desire, only pictorials as unnamably odd and cold as sets out of The Remains of the Day.

We say goodbye to  honour, duty, and altruistic service when we say goodbye to this Queen. These are stoic virtues often required of mothers, of military officers, and of public servants. The Queen was of a time where the Queen was able to remain elevated as a beneficent conferral of blessing upon a binding social contract between state and citizen defined precisely by honour, duty and altruistic service. Will ever such nobility of service remain? Yes, in birthday honours, thankfully, and in volunteer service otherwise unrecognised by the million. But no such social contract remains now. Few mothers can afford such stoicism and duty now. Military service is just another career and people move as they do elsewhere. Public sector life is frankly chaotic and unstable and near identical to commercial life. Deserving or otherwise, the Queen was a statue devoted to the worship of the noble and the good. It’s gone.

So on that day of remembrance as they lower her down, bury deep inside yourself all that same nobility, stoicism, and endurance.

Wonder at our loss.

52 comments on “What is This We Feel? ”

  1. Hanswurst 1

    As a millenial, I feel I don't speak, or even really recognise, the language of this article.

  2. RedLogix 2

    Monarchy as separation of powers:

    • Muttonbird 2.1

      I watched to about half way and that waster said absolutely nothing. Rambled on about Trump at the races. Gave up.

      His delivery/performance was school student level and most 15 year olds I know would be embarrassed by it.

      I assume captured people actually pay to listen to that shit. Incredible.

      • swordfish 2.1.1


        By an incredible coincidence, you would appear to be a 15 year old yourself … and a particularly petty, sneering & resentful one at that. Raging hormones, I guess.

        Let me anticipate your reply … Urghhh, I never asked to be born !You're not the boss of me ! … Ohhh Whateveeer ! Speak to the hand coz the face ain't listening !

        • Hanswurst

          Ironically, you seem to be the first person on this thread to exhibit the traits you criticise with such exaggerated zeal.

          • RedLogix

            Given that your first comment on this thread was an open admission that you didn't understand the OP – I'm not sure why you think you have anything useful to add here.

            • Hanswurst

              Given that you misunderstood my first comment, I wonder what use there is in yours.

              • RedLogix

                Go back over the three comments you have made on this post and then compare to contributions from say, Lynn, Stuart, Sanctuary, roblogic or AB.

                Or you might even engage with the point JP makes around the separation of powers and why unconstrained republican presidency is prone to degenerating into despotism.

                • Hanswurst

                  No. Can't be bothered, frankly. My own view comes closest to that of Lprent, in that I have no particular interest in replacing the monarchy, and think that the current constitutional arrangement works perfectly well, but find the attribution of all sorts of personal or historical ideals to the late queen rather baffling; having said that, I think my (fairly narrow) point was perfectly clear without needing an essay, even if it injures your sense of pride in the monarchy.

    • adam 2.2

      Your now spruiking for a con artist – classy redlogix classy.

      You want lobster with that??!?

      • Ad 2.2.1

        "It is the customary fate of new truths to begin as heresies and end up as superstitions." That's Huxley, and I'm pretty sure Jordan Petersen would see where his kind of dialogue is going.

  3. kejo 3

    Hanswurst. Great comment from a young person. That is because no one under the age of about 50 remembers how government [mostly] took its responsibility to those governed more seriously. How socialism was mixed successfully with the buisness community. and people lived successfully without great wealth. All swept away and buried under the neoliberal 'reforms' of Rodger Douglas and other pirates. cheers Keith

    • Hanswurst 3.1

      No, it's more because I don't really see how the late Queen has much of relevance to do with that.

      • kejo 3.1.1

        Im not a great monarchist but the Queen had far more relevance before that political coup since called neoliberalism. Demonstrated by the huge crowds that attended her public appearances. As Jordan Peterson says, 70 years without a scandal [unlike her family] is a remarkable achievement. Not to have experienced it or understand it is not your fault. Times have moved on, but some of the morality that the queen [at least outwardly] displayed would be welcome amongst people with power these days. That relevance is one of the things that was swept away in the modern pursuit of profit

        • Andy

          @kejo agreed, and I would also add the modern pursuit of narcissism, as exemplified by Meghan

        • lprent

          I was born in 1959 in Auckland to joint families who’d been here since at least the 1860s. For me whilst growing up the monarchy had very little relevance. Because I went to school next to Eden park (Edendale primary and Balmoral intermediate), we'd get dragged off to wave flags. Even as a kid that was an imposition. I'd have preferred bull-rush.

          By secondary school, and outside of my general obsession with history, I had zero interest in the monarchy, commonwealth, and empire. That was so 19th century. I had the same attitudes as Hanswurst expressed in #1. I was living in the 20th century.

          This post just reminds me of my grandparents and parents generations. They were born either in the colonial era or the space between world wars. They'd been indoctrinated into empire. Even when I was a kid that showed and felt kind of odd.

          That said, the monarchy as legal construct is useful in NZ. That I realised after reading some law at university. Just so long as the actual monarchy and their main country of residence stays away from real power, it is a legal fiction that is immensely useful to us.

          Incidentally this Politik article gives a better perspective on the monarchy looking forward. It is paywalled, but I think that you can read it as a taster.

          • Ad

            I am not surprised by the reaction to the deliberate language I deployed.

            But I would encourage you to reflect on your unwitting representation of those same virtues I outline.

            You are a Labour supporter and have been for multiple decades. There's perhaps now no more than a few hundred of those. Almost untranslatable loyalty.

            You served in the military voluntarily. From what I can see you have been proud of that service. Few younger than you would have any understanding of it.

            You set up a website devoted to left-leaning political engagement and have dedicated several decades to that, voluntarily. Not only is sustained political engagement rare, decade-long service to a volunteer and independent and non-commercial political engagement is particularly rare.

            You have a quiet pride in your education and its achievements. Almost stoic in your determination to improve.

            You engage in work which is quite deliberately and over multiple decades low-carbon, low-travel, low-mass and high value. That too is a specific kind of dedication that has been poorly supported in this country but for which you have been quite resolute.

            You may or may not reign over all you survey, and you may well abhor the archaic language I used, but you share many of the Queen's royal attributes.

            • RedLogix

              And I recognised much of this in Lynn right from the beginning – not eloquently expressed as you have – but in dim outline if nothing else. That some here express bafflement at these values of loyalty and honour is perhaps not surprising – but disturbing to see it in the open all the same.

              • Incognito

                It’s too easy to conflate people and positions and people do it all the time. Famous (popular) actors know this too well and they and/or their managers avoid certain roles to prevent damage to ‘the brand’, which is why many are type-cast, which is a variation of stereo-typing.

                People who rail against Elizabeth really rail against the symbol of a monarch and against the institution of a monarchy. In their bias (and sometimes hatred) they completely overlook the person and their personal qualities & values. This ‘pop’ analysis can easily be extended to politicians and political parties wink

                • RedLogix

                  Yes – that is a good way to look at it. Separation of institutional power and personal power is a subtle but vital point.

                  In the video I linked to above JP speaks to how Trump was the exact opposite – his institutional role and personal fame becoming inextricably entangled – which is an exceedingly dangerous state to fall into. Xi and Putin being two very proximate and threatening examples.

                  • Incognito

                    Yes, I was talking about how others perceive (or rather, miss) the person behind the professional persona (mask), but you made the very salient point which is when one perceives oneself in that way and loses oneself to feelings of grandeur or similar. This often manifests in bullying behaviour and/or worse …

                    • RedLogix

                      Agreed – and while deeply psychological these themes have critical relevance to our political institutions yes

                • Hanswurst

                  I think it cuts both ways. People who conflate the late queen with values of service, self-sacrifice and dedication seem to ascribe some mystical significance to her, without explaining how it is any different to other instances where those values can be observed, and to lump in a whole lot of irrelevant ritual and uniform-shining that really has nothing to do with such values at all. She’s not a shining symbol of the era of chivalry, she’s a woman who did a job for seventy years. Good on her, but let’s not get carried away.

        • Anne

          Times have moved on, but some of the morality that the queen [at least outwardly] displayed would be welcome amongst people with power these days. That relevance is one of the things that was swept away in the modern pursuit of profit.

          Yes. It has been said that some of the more comical characters she met during her reign were a chance for her to display her considerable mimicry talents in the privacy of her home but it was never in malice. I admired her, and for the reasons given by kejo I believe we will be the poorer now she has passed.

      • roblogic 3.1.2

        As part of the Rogernomics revolution, our leaders rejected much of our cultural legacy, and destroyed the social contract established by decades of hard fought union agreements, and backbreaking labour to establish a 20th Century nation, with all of the things we take for granted (power, roads, health, education…).

        It was a time of rejecting the past and selective amnesia, because the legacy of Muldoon had been so traumatic for NZ. So we were suckered into a neoliberal fantasy of paper wealth, and embracing open slather capitalism and throwing numerous Kiwi workers on the scrap heap

        We became enamoured by corporate marketing and slick bankers selling us a dream of avarice and consumer goods – a cultural turn away from building our nation, our communities, and looking out for each other. We pivoted away from stodgy British oriented bureaucracy and big government, and turned towards nimble American style capitalism

        And now the Kardashians loom larger in the Millennial mind than the historical import of the Monarchy.

      • Stuart Munro 3.1.3

        If you read Montesquieu or de Tocqueville, monarchists both, they argue that monarchies are driven by honour, which is meted out largely by the sovereign. Thus a prime minister in principle strives to serve their people well in hope of being recognized and honoured.

        I had an interesting conversation with an Indian prof. about British colonialism. He said that though no-one wants them back, they achieved a great deal, lots of public works and institutions, and the best of them was the uncorrupted civil service. But since they left, the civil service is no longer clean. India of course had no monarchy any more.

        Mind, honour doesn't get you far when there's a Murdoched press, that destroys reputations for shits and giggles.

  4. As a child of the 1970s, WW2 was in close memory, only ending 25 years before I was born. As Dave Dobbyn sang, the Empire was fading, but the cultural legacy was strong, and nobody embodied these values more than Queen Elizabeth.

    It is instructive to focus on the positives of her reign, which were many. When British culture was ascendant, spreading its trade and language and Pax Britannia around the world, there was a cultural confidence and vision and a sense of higher purpose which is lacking today.

    Do we even believe in nationbuilding, in family, faith or tradition any more? There is a reason these things succeeded for so long.

  5. AB 5

    I have been vaguely sad at times since the Queen died. But I know it is not about her, or the imagined loss of any values of stoicism and faith she might have displayed. Those values are never lost – they are part of the human organism and they recede or stand out in different places and times.

    I was sad for my parents generation, all gone now, who did care about the Queen. It was that generation who took me as a 6 year old in 1963 to sit in the long summer grass above McLeod's Bay on the Whangarei Harbour, watching Britannia come in to anchor overnight on the way to or from Waitangi. A couple of Harbour Board tugboats doing the work. And in the end such sadness is mostly about the growing awareness of one's own mortality.

    I don't think we are witnessing history – more a moment that is entirely out of history. When this fades the world will just resume where it left off. The event will have had minimal effect. Indeed, so much of the ceremony we see on the telly is an affirmation that nothing will change, the queen dies the king takes over. For a few weeks people will have expressed something that they located in this woman, but does not wholly originate from her.

  6. Sanctuary 6

    The Queen's casket went past the statue of Winston Churchill, who was born in 1874 and was her first prime minister. Her first big trip as heir apparent was to South Africa aboard a British battleship. Nothing more uderlines how archaic the country she was born into and was crowned to rule in 1952 now is as we approach the second quarter of the 21st century than these two facts.

    When she was in South Africa she declared:

    "…before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong…"

    She has received lavish praise for this speech, on which she made good. But at the same time in South Africa Malan and Verwoerd were openly planning a racist state about which she commented not a jot. The great imperial family she was thinking of was, and always has been, distinctly white as a project. Just ask Meagan. That alone flaws her legacy badly.

    During her long, long reign no reforms or constitutional changes to the reality that the tritles and pomp of the British monarchy are now as hollow as the Imperial titles of the last Byzantine emperors were ever seriously suggested. Now the monarchy has become trapped within it's stale and suffocating protocols and arcane, increasingly ridiculous rituals and this carapace of morbidity has infected the entire, increasingly démodé, British establishment. The UK is a country of moribund instutions desperately in need of reform from top to bottom. It is barely a democracy anymore, with a yellow press ensuring 12 years of Tory rule, a PM appointed by the votes of .02% of the British public and a head of state selected when a 96 year old woman from a distant past age died and was succeeded by a hereditary geriatric 73 year old who can't deal with the stress of a leaky fountain pen.

    The Queen's big problem is she died at least 15 years past her use by date. The reaction to her death is strangely muted IMHO. A 96 year old dying is natural and to be expected. We all knew it was coming, and it came two decades too late for her distant subjects to care much anymore. The spectacle of hereditary gerentocracy get’s no ones pulse racing.

    If the monarchy wishes to survive, it needs at very least to recognise that in 2022 people with the best healthcare money can buy and pampered lives can easily live to a very great age. A the very minimum, the monarchy needs to adopt age related abdication as the rule – retire at 80, that is ancient enough for God's sake – and let's have kings and Queens who are least middle aged and a bit more aware of the century they are living in.

  7. barry 7

    "If the burial of every mother were more like this, the world would stand upright." Instead the world would grind to a halt. Millions of mothers die worldwide every day. We can't have millions queued up to visit each of them.

    I don't have anything against her personally, but I loathe everything she ever stood for. She was the embodiment of privilege. She is praised for "service" but I never saw pictures of her cleaning up rubbish or handing out food at a soup kitchen.

    It is all a con job. By pandering to this nonsense about how she is a saint, we don't stop her and her likes from picking our pockets. Her wealth and the pageantry that allows it is built on misery all over the former empire.

    The sooner the monarchy and peerage are consigned to history (with records of all the brutality associated with it) the better.

    • pat 7.1

      Harsh call…she spent seventy years in the public eye (how many could sustain that?)..she was working 2 days before her death at 96…again how many could say that?

      As an individual she was exceptional, as an exemplar of a system?…she was probably as good as it gets….the difference between a flawed system functioning or not.

      Give her her due.

  8. Muttonbird 8

    What is This We Feel?

    Nausea, after reading that sentimental Trifle.

  9. Visubversa 9

    My first political activity was to refuse to stand for "God Save the Queen" at the movies. It was our "National Anthem" at the time and was played before the movies started. You were expected to stand. From about 16 years of age, I refused to do it.

  10. swordfish 10


    She stood out in such sharp relief because the background of our culture and society has become so clearly marked by the opposite qualities. Exhibitionism. Emotional incontinence. The elevation of outward appearances and tacky self-promotion over substance, character and service. Flakiness, fragility and self-pity. We have become a society of precious, whining narcissists talking at and past each other, all whilst congratulating ourselves on our “openness” and being so pleased at how “modern” we are …

    It seems to me to be more than a coincidence that this cultural shift, which was so sharply symbolised by the reactions to the death of Diana, came at a time of accelerating globalisation and the consolidation of an intensified, deregulated form of capitalism. The guiding principle of that new economic settlement was that anything and anyone can be commodified, ranging from individuals’ appearance and sexuality to a country’s history and aesthetics: think of “cool Britannia” and the emergence of Britain as a sort of marketing brand in the eyes of Blair and his successors. Emotional “openness”, self-obsession and vanity, perpetual and self-conscious public assertions of one’s fragility, vulnerability and need for the appropriate forms of therapy in response, the temper tantrums and grievances of self-righteous progressive identity politics: all are new cultural fissures that can be mined for profit.

    'Capel Lofft' argues the Queen embodied counter-cultural values.

    The Queen contra modernity | Capel Lofft | The Critic Magazine

    • Hanswurst 10.1

      Sounds more like an argument that she embodied a stiff upper lip. All the stuff about the commodification of all aspects of life, whether public or private, I can easily subscribe to. I'm still of the opinion that it has bugger all of relevance to do with the late queen.

    • Ad 10.2

      Yes the Queen's virtues are not only old Stoic virtues but they are also of a life that refuses to be exposed: she never not even once gave an interview.

      There is a loyalty to oneself in inscrutibility. Hard not to respect that degree of self protection in her position over 7 decades.

    • roblogic 10.3

      Agree, the Queen represents a counter to the postmodernist whinging with its urge to deconstruct all hierarchies and dismantle narratives of power. But the alternative offered is, a new power hierarchy with the mandarins of wokeness at the top.

      • Hanswurst 10.3.1

        What a crock. What you term wokeness existed perfectly happily while the late queen was alive. It's not an alternative, just something else that happened.

        • roblogic

          There is plenty to criticise in the old aristocracy, but the new theatrical performative government in Britain is nothing like democracy and the neoliberal lip service to trendy rights issues obscures the fundamental disconnects of one of the most unequal societies on Earth.

    • SPC 10.4

      The worthy close to God and the unwashed masses of democracy.

      Those of substance/high office and the common folk.

      The values of an age when only those of moral probity/unimpugned reputation could aspire to, or remain in, public office (pre Trump). This spoke of restraint and distant reserve.

      The people as loyal subjects at allowed crowd events but not heard otherwise.

      Of course the practice of democracy by organised political parties eventually results in challenge to establishment and then change.

      And then onto the idea that the people are sovereign and they can have a voice/media presence.

      Sacrilege sacre blue to those fearful of a new dawn

  11. Powerman 11

    A fabulously rich idle family composed of Greek, German and a smattering of English genes and with no connection to the real world. Still, they keep the women's magazines in business and are a diversion to the real world. They have a history of reprehensible behaviour–Andrew is a good example and also changed their name during wars.

  12. SPC 12

    Short version. There was the imperial Victorian monarchy of the 19th C and then there was the Elizabethan transformation to the Commonwealth monarchy of the 20th C (when everyone could vote). It's more likely William, rather than Charles (very much of the former century) and William will determine what a 21st C monarchy will look like – in terms of leadership values and role in/of public service.

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