Haven’t we had enough of empire-glorification? I say it’s long past time we got rid of the ridiculous institution of the British Crown.
Because today is Victoria Day, I got paid time and a half to cook for people who are more well-employed than I am, people who were enjoying a beautiful sunny day of leisure, dedicated to the memory of a long-dead Queen of the long-dead British Empire.
Today is not actually the anniversary of Victoria’s birth, but it was legislated that we shall celebrate that anniversary on the first Monday immediately preceding the actual anniversary, and so that’s what we do.
As she reigned during the heyday of the Empire, there are quite a lot of places named after ol’ Queen Vicky – in Toronto alone, we’ve got Queen Street, Queen’s Park, Victoria Avenue, and Victoria Park Avenue, as well as Queen’s Park and Victoria Park subway stations.
The main intersection in Regina (the Queen City, after guess who?) is the corner of Albert and Victoria, and their provincial legislature (surely among the prettiest in Canada) is, like Ontario’s, in a park named for Queen Vic.
The prettiest city I’ve had the privilege of living in, out in BC, was named after the Queen.
The tallest waterfall in the world bears her name. A whole state in Australia, Queensland, was dedicated to her, and another, well…
Universities, hospitals, cities, lakes, places galore, all bear the name of this long-dead Empress.
When I was younger, I lived in Ghana, a former British colony, for a year, and spent a few months living in a village of about five hundred people in the far north of the country. There were only a handful of people in the village who were fluent in English, and as you can imagine, I got to know them all pretty well. One was a young woman named Adwoa, but she insisted that I call her by her “English” name, which was – you guessed it – Victoria. A more ill-suiting name you could not imagine.
Once you start looking for these royal tributes, it turns out they’re everywhere. I live not five minutes’ walk from King Street, and fifteen minutes away from the Queensway. Just a few hours down the 401 (the King’s Highway, officially), is Kingston, or Kings-town; a few hours in the other direction is Windsor, named for the Royal House which currently reigns over us all.
Hell, the whole province of Alberta is named for Victoria’s daughter.
We’ve got a British Columbia, though it’s located in neither Britain nor Columbia.
Halifax was named for an old Earl who was President (I shit you not) of the British Board of Trade.
All of this raises an interesting question.
What in the world are we going to rename all of these places after the revolution?
I’ve long said that a city as beautiful as Victoria, British Columbia – or a woman as kind as Adwoa, for that matter – deserves to be named after something better than a long-dead Empress of the largest Empire the world had ever known, a woman who reigned over a quarter of the world’s inhabitants as though she deserved to – as though anyone deserved to.
To be named for the emblem of an Empire of misery, and slavery, and theft, and murder, an Empire founded upon racism and exploitation and extraction of wealth and resources, the Empire which bequeathed to us a capitalized, divided world – what an indignity that is! What a shame!
That we continue to commemorate such a hideous Empire makes us complicit in its shame. Of all the awful things to be inflicted upon the nineteenth century, surely the British Empire was the worst. And yet every year, we celebrate her birthday with fireworks and beer.
It’s long past time that we as a nation got over our ridiculously romanticized fascination with the British crown. Monarchy is a parasite upon the human race, a disease that I hope to see eradicated in my lifetime.
That a far-away Queen still has even theoretical authority over me is a disgrace and a joke.
That her face still besmirches our coins and bills is an annoyance, for now, but once she’s dead and Charlie’s on the twenties? Hoo boy, that’ll be a real pain in the ass – a regular reminder that we can’t get our shit together enough to overthrow this leech of a royal house and move on with our lives.
You can argue all you like about how the monarchy is irrelevant, and has no influence on our lives, how they’re a symbol of national unity and nothing more.
This is an institution which is literally founded on the notion that God ordained some people to rule over others.
When that notion became passé, the institution carried on, because at that point it was tradition, and you don’t mess with tradition, do you?
And that is the essence of the defence of monarchism – well, we’ve been doing it all these years, ain’t we? And besides, young William, bless ‘is ‘eart, ‘e’ll be a good King, you just wait ‘n see.
In the “off with their heads” ledger, on the other hand, we have some actually rational arguments.
Like, what do they actually add to our lives? What purpose do they actually serve in our government? How do they make our lives better?
The answers are, nothing, none, and they don’t.
They help perpetuate the notion that inequality is an inherent feature of the world, that some folks are born to rule and some are born to be ruled.
They help perpetuate the notion that unearned privilege is OK, and that kneeling down before unearned privilege is OK.
It’s not OK.
It’s an anachronistic pageant, and we’re a credulous audience. We paid too much for our tickets and we feel too awkward to walk out mid-performance.
We should get over ourselves, and get over the monarchy, and move on with our lives.
Let’s keep the holiday – a May long weekend is pretty nice – but could we please not name it after an imperialist racist symbol of hegemony and empire?