Royalty. A bit of an odd thing, really. On the surface of it, no-one really seems to be sure why it’s still around (unless you’re in the Middle East, in which case the answer is ‘oil’). Most of the world’s countries don’t have a king or queen anymore. The very concept of power being transferred through a dynasty is carefully hidden by democracy and the mathematics of wealth.
And yet Thailand has a king (and a much-loved one at that). Spain has a king. Denmark went from an elective monarchy to a hereditary one. And, for some arcane reason, everyone in the world is obsessed with Britain’s Royal Family.
(I don’t understand why. Financially, Britain’s Royal Family makes little sense. The family as a whole is buoyed by money brought in by large amounts of real estate. Not only does some of the expenses directly cost the public money, it also prevents all that real estate income from flowing into what could have been the British Treasury. Britain, in short, is losing vast amounts of income to support the monarchy. They spent $10 million last year on travel alone. My word, what a pudding. )
Now don’t mistake this for a critique of the British monarchy: it’s not that (or at least, that is not its primary purpose). Thailand, where I was in recently, has a Royal Family. And following the Thai Royal Family is a personality cult just as strong as the one around the Brits. Despite a shift to democracy, the king, touted by Forbes as the richest royal in the world ($30 billion in wealth; that’s a lot of money) is very active in the running of the country. And they are genuinely loved for it. Photos of the King and the Queen adorn almost every building – universities, shopping malls, you name it.
Spain, too, had a king who was very much loved before a series of scandals a couple of years ago: his successor has yet to get things under way, but public rating is on the rise.
In Sri Lanka we’ve had some pretty fine kings and the occasional queen. By and large, they’ve done a fine job of creating something that turned out to be a really fine set of UNESCO heritage sites a few centuries down the line. Now the question is: what if we still had a monarch?
Now for a monarch to be loved and respected, they must embody the best of that country’s majority’s culture – all of the good mixed with some of the quirks and a budget large enough to make eyes bleed.. Actual power is optional (refer to the British).
So, our monarchs would:
- Be Sinhala Buddhist. That first is obvious.
- Redefine “swag”.
Yes, American hip-hop artists may think they have swag, but we came up with that shit a thousand years ago. Been there, done that, got the T-shirts, got the gold chains, got everything. Believe it.
- Build and maintain temples. Lots of them. If there’s a sure-fire way to #SriLankanKing immortality, it’s breaking the records currently set in the Mahavamsa. Since the world frowns on going to war with India, fratricide, taking over Burma and the like, what’s left is to spam that build button.
- Declare the Maliban / Munchee Cream Crackers as National Treasures. They’ll end up being called Royal Cream Crackers or something.
- Build really twisted, convoluted roads to Kotte, simply to live up to the old adage “Parangiya Kotte giya wagey“.
- Call Yamu.lk and threaten them with capital punishment over their review of his / her one favorite hangout spot
Because face it, we’ve all thought of doing that.
- Give his/her sons/daughters the run of the city because rules are for peasants, minion.
- Ban selfie raps. Upon pain of…pain.
- Occasionally move the capital around. I think the old kings were onto something when they kept shifting the capital. Not only did it shake up the geo-political power structure a bit, it also meant that development would follow the ruler into whatever wilderness he choose to inhabit.
- Ban teledrama actresses and Buddhist priests from politics because the last thing Sri Lanka needs is a bunch of racists and women with delusions of being galloping horses.
- Attempt to impose educational requirements, personality tests and background checks for ministers and resign themselves to the realization that the idiots and crooks are going to get through regardless.
- Drink tea. Lots of it. Yes, it’s a British thing, but what the heck. So are those rather stiff-necked parades we hold. As long as the Queen likes us…