Thursday, January 9, 2020

Two royals decline to obstinately infest the stage



     "Even the most pleasurable of imaginable occupations," the great James Thurber once wrote, "that of batting baseballs through the windows of the R.C.A. Building, would pall a little as the days ran on."
      A truth worth bearing in mind whenever someone steps down from what seems, at a distance, an enviable job, whether a professional athlete retiring early, a movie star giving up career for home life or, as happened midweek, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry announcing they will "step back" from their duties as key members of the British Royal Family, and begin spending part of the year in North America, probably Canada.
     In case, like me, you don't follow the royals assiduously, Harry is Prince William's younger brother, the two making up the sons of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Queen Elizabeth II is Harry's grandmother.
      The 18 months since Harry's much ballyhooed marriage to NU grad Markle, apparently, have not been pleasant ones, the happy couple squirming under the microscopic gaze of the racist British tabloid media which, remember, is blamed for hounding Harry's mother to her death in Paris.
     It makes sense. There is something of the superfluous to their position already: Harry probably will never end up with his face on currency; he's just hanging around, in case he is ever needed.
     I can't gauge the reaction in England. But here the immediate social media reaction seemed to be general sympathy that each of us has only the one life, and spending it cutting ribbons and sitting on daises might become unbearable, no matter how fancy the car you drove up in. 
    There must be some pushback, from disappointed Brits who expect the royal family to be a perpetual circus conducted for their amusement, and it will not do for the acrobatic dogs and performing ponies to complain, never mind shirk their duties.  
     And I suppose there will be smirking that this is perhaps the ultimate example of Gen Y—Prince Harry was born in 1984—recoiling from the world of work, no matter how plush. Though the couple insist they are going to use their time to become "financially independent." The plan seems to be they will be working in some fashion, except for themselves rather than for the House of Windsor.
     A promising sign, perhaps. The entire democratic push against royalty over the past 300 years was predicated on the notion that we are not trapped by the conditions of our birth, but can build independent lives of our own choosing and, should we please, even change those lives at any point.  The implication was always that the pre0rdained roles being escaped were humble ones, but I suppose it should work similarly for the high born. The bottom line is, we can forge our own selves.
      Some of us can, or hope we can. It's difficult. We all have complicated relationships with work. Work is something we have to do, most of us, for the money. But it's also something we love, often, if we're lucky. For a lot of people, it's clock punching and grinding routine. Hard for me to imagine; since I'm blessed with a job I really love, while being at an age where the snug harbor is, if not looming before me, at least is a spot on the horizon. While I'm in no rush to get there, I do not dread it either. These past 10 days, recovering from surgery, have been useful in that regard. To my surprise, I haven't felt that desperate, if-you're-not-in-the-paper-you-might-as-well-be-dead feeling I typically get when stepping back from the column. Maybe because I'm too worked over, too tired, too focused on healing, on walking properly, and don't have have the energy or focus to write a decent column, this present bit of piffle notwithstanding.
     So when should I make the deep bow and exit? I figure I'll know the time when it comes; maybe a decade away, I hope. When I find myself facing fatigue that  a few weeks at home won't fix. Then a graceful exit will be something of a duty.
     As always, the Great Cham of Literature, Samuel Johnson, put it best.
     "He that is himself weary will soon weary the public," he wrote , when he brought his twice-weekly series of essays, The Rambler, to a close after two exhausting years.  "Let him therefore lay down his employment, whatever it be, who can no longer exert his former activity or attention. Let him not endeavor to struggle with censure, or obstinately infest the stage till a general hiss commands him to depart."
     That sounds like a plan, fit for commoners and royals alike.

       

11 comments:

  1. The latest New Yorker has a story featuring Roy Disney's granddaughter, who has a somewhat similar problem.

    john

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    1. I have not finished reading the article yet. However she has been speaking out about this for a while now. However I don't think she is involved in any day to day activities in Disney. She might be on the board of directors but I am not sure. I also don't know how much stock she still owns in Disney. I am sure with her name she can talk to the top people in the company. I wonder what she would be saying if her family still owned the company. Walt was not known for his generosity when it came to his workers before he built Disney world. I know the cartoonists went out on strike and he did not take too kindly to that.

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    2. Have you gotten to the point in the article where Disney's CEO gives her the brushoff?

      And yes, Walt Disney and his brother Roy (the article subject's grandfather) took that strike personally. Just like these bastards always do, while telling the people they fire or screw over that it's not personal, it's just business.

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  2. This is making me think of the two greatest comics in the history of newspapers, "Calvin and Hobbes" and "The Far Side." They both ceased abruptly because their brilliant creators, Bill Watterson and Gary Larson respectively, felt they were running out of ideas and didn't wish to impose mediocre, repetitive work on readers.

    This especially stands out, for me anyway, because newspaper comics are a prime breeding ground for mediocre, repetitive work. The comics page is infested with strips that have been doing the same half-dozen or so gags for decades, often with a second or third generation of cartoonists -- literally, in some cases. I have long favored a law that when comic strip creators die, their strips die with them, and their heirs have to find honest work.

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    1. Bitter, Pogo, Walt Kelly’s masterpiece, belongs on that list as well. Coincidentally, he started out in animation at Disney.
      Bob Yandel

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  3. "There must be some pushback, from disappointed Brits who expect the royal family to be a perpetual circus conducted for their amusement, and it will not do for the acrobatic dogs and performing ponies to complain, never mind shirk their duties." Nicely played, I think that is exactly how most Brits view the royal circus.
    BTW, as a now nearly 10 year retiree, I find it much more enjoyable than the jobs that I had, all of which (well, most, anyway)I liked. Happy healing...

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  4. Watching the third season of "The Crown" (esp. the one about Charles' investiture as Prince of Wales and the one in which Harold Wilson tells the Queen that he has to resign for health reason) confirmed to me that the only way to survive in the job is to suppress every natural human emotion. More power to these two in their desire to live as normal a life as possible given their situation.

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  5. I worked with a gentleman from England when Diana died. It was a pretty big deal to him. I came to understand that me being from the United States just really don't get. But there are things like baseball that he just didn't get. I find the differences in people and cultures quite interesting.

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    1. I always thought Diana was a Kardashian with a longer pedigree.

      john

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    2. I happened to be in London when the morning news announced Dianna's death. It was quite a week, and there was no question she was a beloved, if controversial, figure. In retrospect, I think she would be pleased at how her sons turned out.

      About retirement, it took me about 20 minutes to get used to not going in to an office every but one did miss being part of a grand enterprise. My 20 years of somewhat unique experience was valued for a time and I was called on to consult, but as time passed truth of the old adage "used to be is like never was" became evident, and my phone stopped ringing. Something of a relief actually. Time to read EGGD and linger over essential books one was always ashamed to admit never having read. In that regard, I'm now in Imperial Russia: chapter 15 of "War and Peace."

      Tom

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  6. This sort of thing has happened among the British royals before. Harry's great-grand-uncle (do I have that right?), the former Prince of Wales, gave up the crown after only a year as Edward VIII, in order to marry a twice-divorced American socialite who could never be his Queen in those benighted times (1936).
    Had they not been forced into exile in France, history would have been a whole lot different, as Edward was a Hitler groupie. No Churchill, no Battle of Britain, no Blitz, and the Germans could have rowed across the Channel to England. The Nazis even wanted to re-install Edward on the throne, as a puppet sovereign, had their invasion plans succeeded. Nope, not tonight, Adolf.

    I applaud this Millenial couple's desire to get out of Dodge, stop spending Grandma's moolah, and get lives, instead of coasting through the rest of those lives and having to endure not-so-thinly-veiled racism while shooing away the paparazzi. If they remained in England, they'd probably have to build little Archie a bunker.

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