Opinion Editorial January, 2024: The King's Speech

opinion editorial
Any opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the policies of The Peoples of the World Foundation. Unless otherwise noted, the author and photographer is Dr. Ray Waddington.

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In 2010, I enjoyed watching The King's Speech. I think most people who saw it also enjoyed it. It is a historical drama film about King George VI and the theraphy he underwent to overcome his speech impediment.

Fast forward to last month, and I also enjoyed the king's speech. King Charles III addressed the Commonwealth of Nations for the second time in his annual Christmas message. Reportedly, he wrote the speech himself. If so, he confirmed that he should have passed the throne directly to his son, William, and started his career in stand-up comedy. I enjoyed his speech because all five minutes were a comedy masterclass.

He started by mentioning that festivals of "great religions" involve food. This led him to the non sequiturs of the deceased, the caring professions and the fable of Jesus' birth in a cattle stable. I doubt he considers animism among "great" religions. Yet, indigenous societies made food a part of their rituals tens of thousands of years before Christianity. During that same time they have venerated, even worshipped, deceased ancestors. Caring for others has always been a matter of simple survival: It is even observed among chimpanzees.

This first minute was intended (but failed) to foreshadow Charles' allusion to "the imaginitive ways in which people are caring for one another ... simply because they know it is the right thing to do." I doubt he had Putin in mind when he wrote that. To be fair, though, Putin found imaginitive ways to take care of Alexei Navalny and Yekatrina Duntsova last month. For dictators, this is exactly the right thing to do.

He then demonstrated that he must have been unconscious at his coronation. He referred to the guests as a "selfless army of ... volunteers who serve their communities." Absent from the guest list was, of course, his daughter-in-law, the Duchess of Sussex. Nor, apparently, is Charles himself a volunteer. If he were, he would have volunteered to return the Cullinan diamond to South Africa instead of using it in his coronation.

He then got confused about multiple, unrelated topics, which he ended by highlighting the importance of helping the less fortunate. I found that particularly ironic at a time when his country wants to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.

I wondered what kind of ending could possibly top this straight-faced performance. Charles did not disappoint. He tenuously wove the New Testament birth myth into a claim that angels predicted climate change two thousand years ago by first announcing the birth to shepherds. Finally, he drew on what he acknowledged to be a "universal" social principle (do unto others...) to justify the correctness of the Abrahamic religions in general and Christianity specifically. He appeared to suggest that a global, mass conversion to Christianity would put an end to war.

There is a lesson for Charles if he ever wants to be taken seriously: He must stop writing his own speeches, or, at least, employ a competent editor.

I took this month's photo at the conclusion of an ancient dance ritual performed by indigenous Dogon people in Mali, West Africa. It holds a lesson for all of us. The man in the photo is like a king, but he did not give a speech. Instead, he presided over the conclusion, which paid hommage to him. Such elders in indigenous societies earn their people's respect through wisdom and actions; speeches are not needed.

Learn more about the Dogon people.

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