It has been a week of ceremonial events.
In three of the world's archetypal capitals, symbolic events played out, each against a backdrop of much fanfare, enthusiasm and fanaticism. And each event has led to a similar net result.
The weekend was ushered in in London, with the first high profile British Royal Wedding in recent memory. The brouhaha that surrounded the Royal Weddings of the 1980s, most markedly those doomed unions made between Prince Charles and Diana Spencer and later, Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, made a return on Friday, as much of the UK and the former British Empire stopped to take in the grandeur, pomp and ceremony of the matrimony. In fact, someone took the trouble to publish the figures which may or may not be of interest to you.
No expense seemed to be spared, and the media coverage; unequally part fawning and part cynical, depending on the sources, was an electronic reheat and revamp of the insatiable press coverage that the Royals once commanded when those star recruits, Diana and Sarah added some spark to an otherwise flailing cast.
The superficial comparisons between Kate and Lady Di ('is Kate more beautiful?'), the unending scrutiny of the couple's last official days of singledom ('the hotel where Kate will stay') and the Olympic style ratings of the fashions reflected the vaccuous kind of escapism that we globally, never seem to tire of. Where Diana and Sarah once commanded the public's attention, imagination and contempt, their children have now been thrust into the spotlight; but its a muted light, that seeks out recognition in the way that digital devices recognise faces but say nothing of the subjects they label.
William and Henry, continue the largely fawning tradition that seasawed in their mother's glory days of the 1980s, that same efusive adoration that eluded her during those murky days when she seemed capable of singlehandedly bringing down the family, and then tellingly seemed to settle once again on the world's media in the aftermath of her tragic death, and the profound world reaction to her passing.
The demonization that mostly continues to dog Sarah, looks to be in the process of the baton change; the mantle ready to be handed to her daughters, who were on the receiving end of some of the most savage editorial coverage.
So, no sainthood for the girls, but no matter...the steps are already being undertaken here in Rome, where Pope John Paul II was beatified on the Sunday.
Again, this was a ceremonial event, one in which the Vatican flexes its still considerable prowess over what should be by definition an EU state. This event, being outside the constraints of normal politics was one where wanted politicos could come and go freely of their own accord, because of the involvement of the Vatican, which seems to remain outside of the laws of physics and relevance, and yet continues its strong hold on the political and social make up of the country.
The city was abuzz for weeks with talk that three million people would descend upon the capital. In the end, reports numbered the visitors to half that number, but the media coverage was just as feverish, and often, pointless. But that is what ceremony is all about. That, and 4.6 million euro that will be paid by the government in furnishing the event, in a country where essential services and education are being slashed to the point where they are almost non existent. The problem, which the current Pope seized upon immediately after the death of his Polish predecessor, is that PJPII was immensely popular. Even today at street stalls all around the centre of Rome, you can be assured of finding a calendar full of full color photos of PJP, whilst his successor...well, lets just say people don't seem to have warmed to him yet.
The jury is still out as to how history will see PJP. He had a likeable face, popular appeal, but, his design and endorsement of papal policies did much in the 1980s and 1990s to keep marginalised social groups (and whole continents) marginalised. In fact, that soft, smiling exterior hid what was a razor sharp intellect, and ability in diplomacy and politics which couldn't be underestimated.
The intricacies of current day international diplomacy, politics, and as always, intelligence also came to a front with the assassination of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. Although the events unfolded in Washington and Abbottabad, this was an event which was resoundingly connected with New York and New Yorkers. Whilst much of the rest of the western world is cautiously heaving a sigh of relief, Americans were outwardly rejoicing. Already the cover star of no less than five issues of Time Magazine, his sixth was a not so subtle affair. Cynics will say that the news was timed to give Obama a boost at the polls, and reports have suggested that the killing of bin Laden will make for an easier exit strategy in Afghanistan (even if it opens up a new and volatile chapter of relations with Pakistan). Outside of the US, and particularly here in Europe, the sanctioning of his death has been tempered by the popularly held idea that 'America got its man', 'America did it their way', and that, at the end of the day, this was another example of law enforcement in the traditional American style, harking back to the wild days of west. The Time magazine cover probably strengthens the argument that retribution once again is intrinsic to the law and ideals of that help define the American perspectives, whether its true or not. It's a commonly held belief outside the US, but as someone who comes from a land originally colonised/invaded by the British and populated by convicts, I don't feel I have the history to back me up on it.
When wrong things are done for the right reason, not everyone can remain happy and content. And if the world's most wanted terrorist, whose actions have changed the way of our modern lives, has been killed, and this brings solace to those who suffered at his hand, then so be it.
On a larger scale, what's more important to note, is that although the players are different, and occasionally the pockets of the world where events unfold change, the old guard and the same ideas and interpretations, have once again prevailed, reinforcing not only the paradigm that we live within, but also, reminding each and every one of us as to where we slot into the world heirarchy.
Dave Di Vito
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Dave Di Vito is a writer, teacher and former curator.He's also the author of the Vinyl Tiger series and Replace The Sky.
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