Is there room for a Monarchy in a democracy?

Last week, the media was flooded with the news of Queen Elizabeth’s ninetieth birthday and the extensive celebrations which the royal family and the public had planned for the occasion. Whilst ninety years is an admirable age to reach by anybody’s standards, the excitement which surrounded the Queens birthday raised some questions for me about if the position of a Monarchy in a democratic society.

In the UK, as we live in a democracy, we vote for our representatives (MP’s, counsellors) based on who we feel represents us. We vote in referendums like we will soon do for Britain to stay in or opt out of the EU, and like we did in Scotland for independence. This is a generally democratic means of representation which proposes the first problem with a monarchical reign – the head of State is unelected. I can’t claim to speak on behalf of everyone, but I can confidently say that I don’t feel like the Queen reflects me or my lifestyle. I don’t feel like she proportionally reflects the general lifestyle lead by the people of the countries in the UK. She has not been elected by the people of the UK which leads to questions surrounding the suitability of such an individual in a democracy.

Furthermore, the funding of a monarchy costs the UK taxpayer around £40m yearly. It is difficult to comprehend how this can be funded without question, whereas when we need to dig deeper for further education investment, international aid or the recent refugee crisis that our economy is strained and we ‘don’t have the money.’ It is difficult to justify how we can’t find the money to lift a great deal of our nation out of poverty but we can fund the lifestyle of a monarchy, their expensive possessions and exquisite (numerous) properties. The juxtaposition between an individual who is recognised primarily as the face of the UK is so far from the reality that so many of its people contend with everyday. People see the Queen and her family as a well-off, fortunate and glamorous family. What is often forgotten is that behind the Palace and the grand public outings and the diamonds is that over Christmas, 7,000 families had to rely upon foodbanks whilst the glamourisation of the monarchy  leads a perhaps global misconception that the nations citizens live in admiration of the figures that encourage the social and financial inequality in our otherwise hierarchical society.

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How Sociable is ‘Social’ Media?

I am under no illusion that I am the first person to evaluate the impact of social media upon this generation but whilst social medias impact on human contact and co-operation is talked about often, nobody really listens and that is the exact point. Often older family relatives will write on things like Facebook (ironic) that “basic manners and the art of conversation have been replaced with social media” and “we didn’t have this in my day” etc. Whilst this might be the case, I think we need to embrace generational change as with every new decade comes new trends and discoveries, and that is something we are fortunate to experience.

I was about 11 when I was first truly exposed to the internet and even then, it wasn’t social media but games and video websites that were for sheer entertainment purposes. I experienced most of my childhood without the internet and then all of my teenage years with it so I have seen both sides, and I think that social media is a massive benefit to not just our generation but the generations before. It offers people a platform to share their creations, thoughts and opinions and I think that’s democratically and creatively brilliant.

However, whilst the internet and social media can be advantageous, a growing concern of mine is that its making us lose sight of the things that might seem simple but is important. We all seem to depend on our phones and laptops, not just as an escape for some, but as a safety blanket. When was the last time you walked into a room without your phone in your hand or in your pocket? It is the norm to get on public transport, walk up the street and even enter new company whilst utterly engrossed in our phones and surely there’s more to life than that. How can we truly see who is in our company, what our surroundings are like when we’re keeping ourselves distracted by things and people contained behind a screen? I think its scary that on the train everybody’s too distracted by what’s on their phone to even look at the window or even at each other. It’s as if its impossible to sit in a room without lifting your phone once a conversation ends, or when you’re left on your own in a busy place. Whilst social media is such a brilliant tool, it seems to become an ironically dangerous safety blanket which is stopping us from discovering new things in front of us because we’re too busy reverting back to the security that’s found on social media.

Social Media offers a sense of community to people who might feel somewhat alone, and can help people meet others who think similarly to them and has created so many opportunities for so many. I use social media daily and absolutely advocate its use, but when was the last time you sat in a room and looked out the window? Or sat with your own thoughts without your phone vibrating? I think it’s scary how we are so engrossed with the concept of social media and how we appear on such websites and how good our night out looked and how funny that tweet was that we’re so focused on our online selves that we’re forgetting to check in with our actual selves and see what we need as humans. Social Media has educated people on things they would have previously known nothing about and has a lot to answer for in terms of political movements and self-empowerment, but I think its easy to forget that days are going past without us taking a minute to even look at the sky, look at what buildings pass on the way to work or university and even check in with your own sense of self and happiness. I’m not preaching that anybody starts meditating or throws their phone away, but taking two minutes to check into reality might just grant you the opportunity to live some memories rather than just simply documenting them.