Can an old punk rocker change his safety pin piercings?
It may appear the infamous Johnny Rotten (a.k.a. John Lydon) has done just that.
In a recent interview with Piers Morgan, the former Sex Pistols frontman, who ranted against the English monarchy in the 1977 song “God Save the Queen,” saluted Elizabeth R. saying he was “really, really proud of the queen for surviving and doing so well.”
According to Lydon, this apparent contradiction is nothing of the sort.
“I’ve got to tell the world this,” he told Morgan on U.K. Talk TV’s Piers Morgan Uncensored. “Everyone presumes that I’m against the royal family as human beings, I’m not.”
We can all be forgiven our presumption since the lyric actually goes, “God save the Queen; She ain’t no human being.”
But let’s take him at his word that the intention of the song was never to slag the queen as a person.
In the interview, the legendary punker summed up the intent of the song as “anti-royalist” not “anti-human.”
As an anti-royalist myself, I relate to this dichotomy. A rephrasing might take the form of hate the sin, not the sinner.
I quite like Elizabeth despite the fact she represents a class system that has no place in the modern world. As a person, she is, after all, a product of her own upbringing.
I recently started re-watching Downton Abbey. If you’re not familiar with this British drama, it depicts the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants during the early 20th century, a time of upheaval for the British social hierarchy.
Early in Season 1, a former associate of the family’s butler (Mr. Carson) turns up with blackmail on his mind. Lord Grantham, the family patriarch, catches wind of the situation and dismisses the blackmailer with 20 pounds and a threat that if he ever turns up again, he will be incarcerated for a lengthy period.
“You think you’re such a big man, don’t you?” the man challenges. “Just because you’re a lord, you think you can do what you like with me.”
“I think it because it is true,” Grantham responds.
In retrospect, notwithstanding the fact the man was a blackmailer, the privilege afforded to the aristocracy was simply wrong. But given the times the character lived in, it is understandable how he would see it as right.
Lydon is correct that Queen Elizabeth is a survivor. The past century has seen the unravelling of the English aristocracy and many monarchies around the world. And yet, the British Royal Family hangs on, albeit by a thread.
Once the queen is gone, as Lydon predicted later in the interview, it seems unlikely that her potential heirs will be able to hold it together.
And that is as it should be. The era of people wielding enormous wealth and power solely on the basis of their bloodline needs to come to an end once and for all.
We now face a similar point in history. The hereditary class system may be on life support, but there is a new form of aristocracy in the former of the business oligarchs.
Too much wealth and power in the hands of too few people is not a sustainable structure for society and that too needs to crumble.