Deference

I probably seemed a bit curmudgeonly in my disdain for the royal wedding yesterday but I wasn’t negative about the pleasure other people found in watching it. I am not even against the odd bit of pomp and circumstance. In fact I even watched some edited highlights and these included Parry’s wonderful anthem I Was Glad which brought back memories of the many times I sang it as part of St. Salvator’s Chapel choir in St. Andrews. I remembered taking part in the many formal occasions that the royal couple must similarly been involved in while they were there.

So what’s been bugging me. I think it centres around a couple of words used by the BBC anchor man for the day. I was out of the room at the time but overheard him commenting on the size and enthusiasm of the crowd and contrasting this with our “cynical society” and “lack of deference”. At this point I yelled “Oh fuck off” from the kitchen much to my wife’s annoyance!

Both of his assumptions bugged me. I don’t think we are a cynical society. I think people are generally healthier, happier and in a better state than they have ever been and I marvel at the many ways they show energy and enthusiasm for all sorts of things. I also appreciate the best in people and even reckon the Queen does a good job in a tough role.

But the other word is the one that really gets me – deferential. Dictionary definition “humble submission and respect”. Why should I be deferential simply because of the position someone holds? Why should I accord the decidedly weird group of people who have become our royal family through some pretty dodgy dealings throughout history “humble submission and respect”? There have been enough occasions when people in positions of authority have shown that they don’t deserve my deference to make insisting on it a form of madness.

Respect – fine. Acknowledgment of authority – fine. But deference – oh fuck off.

11 thoughts on “Deference

  1. I think the bit you're referring to was Simon Schama, who was talking about the wedding from a historical perspective. I don't remember the bit about deference, but I did catch his comment about cynicism, which is where I have to disagree with you. Maybe I follow a few more republicans than you do, but the cynicism in my Twitter stream and in other online venues I frequent was depressing. So was the anger and bitterness. Whatever one happens to think of the royals, yesterday was someone's wedding day, a day when two young people stood in front of the world, quite literally, and declared their love for one another. That's the important bit, that's what we were celebrating. Watching people be cynical about that, simply because they don't like the couple's background, not only dented my enjoyment of the day but it also made me sad that people could be so judgemental of someone because an accident of birth. It may be hard not to judge those richer than ourselves based on their money and status instead of who they are, but it's just as wrong as judging those poorer than we are because of their lack of money and lack of status.

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  2. It was Huw in his intro to that piece and his reference was to a cynical society rather than cynicism about the wedding per se.

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  3. Ah right. Schama mentioned cynicism too, and I think he had a fair point. Actually, I tweeted part of what he said (though I typoed it badly!): "There is a sort of wisdom when you suspend cynicism."I think there is, in general, too much cynicism in this country, and certainly far, far too much in the media. In some quarters, I think people mistake cynicism for sophistication, thinking that if they speak cynically others will think them so knowledgeable and clever. But to me, cynicism is one of the biggest unaddressed corrosive forces in society, because expecting the worst of people far away from you easily translates into expecting the worst of people nearby.

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  4. I would agree that much of the cynicism comes from the media which was why his unctuousness irritated me so much. For many our sense of society also comes from the media. Having isolated myself as much as possible from the activities of the media my sense of society may be different from most and all I can say is the one I live in isn't cynical.I was as ever aware of a degree of projection in my irritation and spookily immediately after writing my post I read the following paragraph:Both pointing out shortcomings and responding to them should be done mindfully. If someone becomes unmindful in indicating faults and uses unkind and harsh language, he might do more harm than good to himself as well as to the person whose shortcomings he points out. One who speaks with resentment cannot be mindful and is unable to express himself clearly. One who feels hurt while listening to harsh language may lose his mindfulness and not hear what the other person is really saying. We should speak mindfully and listen mindfully to be benefitted by talking and listening. When we listen and talk mindfully, our minds are free from greed, selfishness, hatred and delusion.

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  5. When I went to a meeting with a long-standing client, among his introductory remarks to a new team, he said 'show him respect'. I wasn't the only one in the room that thought "why?"I believe respect is something you earn, not an entitlement.(I hope that 'respect' is close enough to 'deference' to make this comment relevant.)

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  6. Your comments are interesting but I am wondering if they are directing at the BBC or just out-of-touch (and often patronising) reporting. I count myself lucky in that we don't watch TV in our family home. I often wonder how viewing figures of TV will continue. (TV kinda reminds me of the olde Music Halls.)Also I can't help but think that this 'deference' issue is as much against the workplace than the royal family 😉

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  7. Hi Joe,Being somewhat curmudgeonly myself I was faintly irritated by several aspects of the Royal Wedding – but the most irritating by far was Huw Edwards talking bollocks most of the time.Cynicism is indeed corrosive and unenlightening – in part because it is the opposite unthinking extreme from the infantile deferential fascination on display – but this shows the fallacy of Schama's comment – suspending cynicism doesn't lead to wisdom just another mode of unthinking. Scepticism on the other hand… …which provides the link to the other political theme: social mobility and meritocracy.I couldn't help but think "bread and circuses". What we saw was a glimpse of the future "Theme Park Britain". Dream or nightmare?

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  8. If you heard that at the BBC then watch Spanish TV and you really will be pissed. Cynicism is what Spain is all about after "brick paella" now that so many apartments cvannot be sold.

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