As Prince Harry and his wife, the Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle, make plans to move to Justin Trudeau’s woke paradise, Afua Hirsch is bitter. The author of “Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging” (yes, it reads exactly as it sounds) writes in The New York Times to claim it was racism that drove Harry and Meghan out of the United Kingdom.
If the media paid more attention to Britain’s communities of color, perhaps it would find the announcement far less surprising. With a new prime minister whose track record includes overtly racist statements, some of which would make even Donald Trump blush, a Brexit project linked to native nationalism and a desire to rid Britain of large numbers of immigrants, and an ever thickening loom of imperial nostalgia, many of us are also thinking about moving.
Hirsch is a proud member of a long lineage of “writers” whose entire worldview and existence is colored by race, like a mirror image of Richard Spencer. She is the Ta-Nehisi Coates of Britain. Celebrated by the same literary critics who are products of the education system that has corrupted academia since the early 1990s, she isn’t the only one.
There are a bunch of such people on both sides of the pond, including Hirsch, Coates, Pankaj Mishra, Suketu Mehta, Elie Mystal, and Yasmin Alibhai Brown, who claim to speak for every nonwhite person (including the millions of conservative Britons and Americans). They often threaten to quit Britain or America, but almost never leave.
I call it Maitra’s law: when hatred for the West and Western values and envy for Western achievement is proportional to the desire to live in the West with a Western lifestyle and enjoy the benefits and luxuries that Western society offers. The more you seem to hate London, for example, the more you wouldn’t want to leave it, because where else will you enjoy the luxury of spouting racial nonsense and being revered for it? One is tired of the word Orwellian, but if there’s a place for it, it is here.
That brings us back to Harry and Meghan. As a man born in the former British-Indian capital who currently resides, researches, and works in the United Kingdom, I am agnostic about the royals. That is to say, I don’t care who lives and who quits. But that is also beyond the point.
The constitutional and parliamentary monarchy is an institution in United Kingdom’s DNA, a balance of power historically developed since the Magna Carta to the industrial revolution, and it gives back a lot more to the state than it takes. It provides a balance between the lower and upper house of the Parliament. It brings massive revenues from tourism.
It is also a statistically proven well-modelled system. Research has consistently highlighted, for example, that constitutional parliamentary monarchies provide better protection for individual property rights than do other forms of government. The sovereign is purely apolitical and symbolic, like the Great Seal of the United States, and remains extremely popular in Britain. And royal family members must serve in the frontline of the armed forces, a better day’s work than can be said of our nouveau riche celebrities and politicians on both sides of the Atlantic.
You don’t need genius to know that Hirsch is therefore utterly deluded in her assertions or, worse, deliberately race-baiting. Millions welcomed the new couple when they married, and lined up on the streets to celebrate. Britain remains one of the safest countries in Europe, and its overt structural racism is minimal compared to the rest of the continent. British society, other than some specific communities in a handful of cities, is overall extremely well integrated socially and economically, and significantly happy.
These communities are also a significant social-conservative force and backers of Brexit. High-ranking members of the current Conservative government, including Sajid Javid and Priti Patel, are from a minority British background.
The reason for Harry and Meghan’s departure is pure liberal-individualist narcissism. And both are equally responsible for that. Due to its symbolic and apolitical nature, British aristocracy are not supposed to publicly espouse political opinions, much less actively lecture people about mental health, toxic masculinity, or climate change. They are supposed to go to war, open hospitals, and silently take part in charitable causes. Duty, stoicism, propriety, and patriotism are supposed to be the four cornerstones of nobility.
Unfortunately, Harry has too much of Princess Diana in him, from compulsively breaking orthodoxy and tradition, to extreme and fatalistic narcissism. As Emma Freire recently wrote, with him it is all noblesse, with zero oblige. Meghan can be forgiven, as she’s American, and not used to royal protocols. But Harry was born and brought up in that discipline. There’s no excuse.
For a literal prince with a personal fortune of around $40 million to complain about mental hardship is frankly idiotic. A British prince is not supposed to be a fragile flower, capable of being wounded at the first hint of adversity, throw a hissy fit, or behave like Lena Dunham. For nobility to fly around lecturing plebs about climate change invites media scrutiny about hypocrisy.
You can either be a Hollywood hypocrite, or an aloof, true-blue aristocrat above daily politics. You cannot simultaneously enjoy the perks of both. One cannot be a royal and sell toiletries. Aristocratic life brings its own burden, of class, polish, fortitude, and propriety. Not every Tom, Dick, or Harry can chin up, keep calm, and carry on. If you behave like a petulant celebrity, you’ll be treated with as much respect as a petulant celebrity deserves.
During the Second World War, when the Luftwaffe was flattening London, the queen mother, mother of the current Queen Elizabeth, was asked to leave Britain and move to Canada with her two young daughters. The queen replied, without thinking twice, “The children will not leave unless I do. I shall not leave unless their father does, and the king will not leave the country in any circumstances, whatever.”
Her daughter, the current Queen Elizabeth, subsequently took part in the war effort as a mechanic, and her husband was in the Navy, a martial tradition carried forward ever since, in the Falklands war as well as in both Afghanistan and Iraq. It appears that was a different age, slowly passing away.
One wishes Harry and Meghan all the best in their new lives, but that is where the sympathy must end. This has nothing to do with racism, no matter how many columns you see in the Guardian and New York Times reinforcing that trope. If anything, this incident reinforces that composure and class, stoic fortitude, and a sense of duty and propriety are not due to either bloodline or money. Some people possess them, and most do not.