The news in the US is all about Queen Elizabeth’s death last week. I have many feelings all at the same time:
- Glad that I know because I like to know about world events.
- Sympathy and empathy for her children and grandchildren. Very few deaths are easy or good for the remaining family.
- Empathy with the people in the UK who mourn her as the loss of a head of state.
- Discomfort with the whole idea of a monarchy and how royalty puts people in various boxes (including the royal family).
That discomfort is why I’m trying to find a Transforming Idea so I can be congruent in my responses.
Of course, my history and philosophy color my responses.
As a US citizen, all the news coverage surprises me, because we fought a war to end the monarchy rule. Why do the royals enthrall us so much? I don’t understand that part. (I’m also aware that we tend to treat too many of our politicians like royalty. I guess it’s a human need to elevate some people above others.)
With that, I have relatives and many friends and colleagues who live in the UK. I want to honor their loss. When a head of state dies, we feel an abrupt change across the world. While I’m not sure there is ever a “good” time to die, this particular time feels as if it’s planting the roots for significant change.
I’m exploring how I feel and how I might change to offer more empathy with the people in the UK. That starts with clarifying how I want to treat people.
Clarify What I Mean by Philosophy and Respect
I have many strongly-held opinions about how we should treat each other in the world. In general, I want to treat all people with respect—not just some of them. The US is not a meritocracy—privilege still holds fast and prevents some people from rising to where they could go.
Yet, the whole idea of a monarchy rankles me.
Royalty creates an “us vs. them,” an othering approach to society. Aside from our natural proclivities to create insiders and outsiders, family-based monarchies create” othering” on purpose. I worry that when we “other” people, we set them up for persecution.
Yes, I am fully aware of the irony that as I write this, we have politicians in the US who would love nothing more than to “other” several segments of our society.
So, I still want to start with respect for people. Especially my respect for the woman who took her responsibilities seriously and executed them her entire life. Also, respect for her family and society, especially as they navigate change now that she is gone.
I need to balance that respect with my concern for othering people. Niemoller’s words said it best for me, “First they came for…”
My feelings haven’t yet changed. And, as someone who has fought through othering throughout her career, I worry about creating a society that deliberately creates differences.
Because I don’t have a solution, I’m a little stuck looking for a transforming idea. That’s why this is a question of philosophy for me.
That’s the question this week: How can we reconcile a difference of philosophy with respect for people?