Worlds & Time

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Royal Blood

Two things that I've read recently coalesced in my head, and I'd like to talk about them for a moment.

More than a year ago I had a post called Divine Right of Kings about the term African-American, and how I use the term "black" instead because I think that former term "others" the person and also about the way that our plural culture gives me a plural background. The content of that post doesn't have much to do with what I was thinking about, but the title does.

While reading a thread on Whateveresque about the Iraq war, someone mentioned the massive amount of wealth that has poured into the middle east due to their oil reserves. He pointed out that people there should be living in relative ease, but they aren't. Only a few, the richest of the rich, the Sultans and Emirs, are living in palaces and driving Lamborghinis and Ferraris. They are essentially dictators that have made themselves immensely wealthy while holding their people in poverty.

He went on to say that this presents a problem for the dictators: If people are allowed to draw those conclusions about their poverty and oppression, they might be overthrown. Thus, they look for suitable targets for popular hatred. Currently, the target of much of that popular hate is the U.S., and this is encouraged by the dictators because it allows them to continue their super-rich lifestyles without interruption.

My mind began to wander, and I thought of something that many children dream of: discovering that they are really a prince or a princess and getting swept off to a castle to live in absolute luxury for the rest of their lives. That's the lifestyle that these sheiks are living, the dream of growing up in a palace with servants.

I don't believe that the blood of the Windsors in different than mine in any way. In point of fact, it's their name that makes them special. True, name and blood usually correlates, but it isn't an absolute correlation.

As books like S.M. Stirling's Dies the Fire series have pointed out royal lines are usually based on an ancestor that does something heroic or takes charge and then the line is passed down from there.

Now, granted, I have a crush on William Windsor, but it's not because he's a prince. It's because he's wealthy, cultured, blond, tall, and fairly attractive. And British accents are sexy.

Those despots in the Mideast are no different than their subjects. They have no blood right to rule; no one does.

This sort of spoils the whole long lost prince/princess fairy tale which is so common. I understand why such a romantic notion is attractive to people, but to me it's worse than silly. It's propagating the idea that certain bloodlines have an inherent authority. The Divine Right of Kings, as it were.

I was just thinking to myself that I'd like to see a subversion of this popular fairytale, but the truth is that there already two examples out there. The first is Mark Twain's The Prince and Pauper, although at the end the prince resumes his rightful role and becomes the King of England. The second example is Tatja Grimm's World by Vernor Vinge, which I dislike for reasons other than Tatja's eventual rise to royal status.

Since Twain eventually plays the Trope straight and Tatja's rise is not at all fairytale-like, I'd still like to see a more conventional subversion where the glass shoe actually checks to make sure that the person is a competent leader before it allows them to slip their foot in.

After all, one of the things about America is that we're supposed to be about the best person to do a job (discounting the two recent disastrous presidencies of the cowboy-in-chief). From the European fairy tales what could be a more American adaptation than removing the necessity of blood from rule?

I might try to write such a subversion myself, but I suspect that I'm simply too dark of a writer to do a good job. I never feel happy at the end of my own stories, and I haven't figured out how to change that yet.

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