At Slate, Christopher Hitchens sums up the royal wedding of Kate Middleton to Prince William perfectly. He sees it as a form of sadomasochistic theatre in which a human victim, in this case Prince William’s bride, has been added to an altar of sacrifice:
Some British people claim actually to “love” their rather dumpy Hanoverian ruling house. This love takes the macabre form of demanding a regular human sacrifice whereby unexceptional people are condemned to lead wholly artificial and strained existences, and then punished or humiliated when they crack up.
I’m sorry, but that’s just brilliant.
And here’s Hitchens’s advice to Kate Middleton:
If you really love him, honey, get him out of there, and yourself, too. Many of us don’t want or need another sacrificial lamb to water the dried bones and veins of a dessicated system.
On this matter of walking away from royal tenure, I assume she’ll be listening to old Mephistopheles rather than old Hitchens.
But there really is a sublimated Iphigenia story in all of this: who gets stuck holding the bag at the end of a chain of outlandish and unjust events (which is what the pre-Enlightenment royalist period of human history was)? How does one ever really satisfy the Furies or Erinyes—and their preposterous and farcical contemporary manifestations (such as the grocery line tabloids)?
Inquiring minds want to know.
Abraham and Isaac. Agamemnon and Iphigenia. Prince William and Kate Middleton?
Iphigenia image source: Wikipedia Commons.
In the matter of the royal wedding, I would add that Christopher Hitchens, in observing its fishbowl quality, may be doing a bit of sublimating himself. It can’t be easy to be a public atheist, especially when you’re struggling with illness and the responsibility you might feel to get your death-bed scene, when it arrives, right. An atheist death-bed scene is like a royal wedding. It’s a spectacle. People are noticing. And David Hume’s famous equanimity in the face of his own death set the bar very, very high for subsequent public atheists. A last-minute religious conversion, or even a loss of humor, might appear to constitute a betrayal of the doubting community itself, and of its proud and brave contrarian tradition. Richard Dawkins seems to obsess about his own death-bed scene. I wonder if Hitchens thinks about his as well. I wonder if the strain of its invariably public nature makes him sometimes feel as if he might crack up.