Blasphemy for the Day: God Save the Queen

A new feature in response to the BBC’s Thought for the Day, for that blessed day of rest, Sunday. You don’t have to be a believer to enjoy a day of rest.

In honour of Her Maj’s Diamond Jubilee, the anthem in question has to be the Sex Pistol’s version, first released in 1977 for the Silver Jubilee. Banned for a long time, the song has now been re-released, but is unlikely to have anything like the shock value it had then. Society has moved on, we’re much more explicitly critical of established authority, and yet how much of that is the plebs being allowed to let off steam and think they’re free?

In fact, we’re no better off, just as subjugated to entrenched wealth and power as ingenuously symbolized by a seemingly benign monarchy. Even John Lydon, Johnny Rotten in a former incarnation, has come out against re-releasing the song. Youthful rebels become old, reactionary farts, as you can also see from what happened to William Wordsworth. He went from supporting the Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite of the French Revolution to becoming a Tory.

In an age of austerity for ordinary people and increasing wealth for the rich, I’d argue that the song tells the truth about how we live now. But we’re too tranquilized by the Olympics and the current royal circus – bread, unfortunately, is very definitely off the menu. What a bargain!

If this comes over as too curmudgeonly, let me say that if the UK was a proper social democracy, I’d be rather more sanguine about the Jubilee. After all, Elizabeth Windsor is a fairly inoffensive monarch. The existence of Charles, tapping his foot with impatience in the wings, is an excellent argument for wishing her a really, really long life.

But in the present circumstances, as the lyrics say, “England’s dreaming.”

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