Royal wedding makes fools of subjects

The global fascination with the recent royal engagement is a symptom of our culture’s fixation on unimportant things

Jordan Ray, ArtSci ’12
Jordan Ray, ArtSci ’12
Prince William and Kate Middleton announced their engagement on November 16.
Prince William and Kate Middleton announced their engagement on November 16.
Credit: 
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Jordan Ray, ArtSci ’12

Perhaps you’ve heard that Prince William of the United Kingdom recently announced his engagement to Kate Middleton for sometime next year.

The charming rags to riches story of true love has received thousands of lines of coverage in foreign and domestic publications as the world becomes increasingly besotted with the two 28-year olds.

For me though, it highlights the troubling fascination that the world has with stuff that, frankly, we should care less about.

I’d like to take a moment to declare my bias. I have this silly, naive idea that people should pay attention to politics and current events.

I believe that people should read books and see movies (fiction or non-fiction) that make them pause and think about something bigger than who the Leafs are playing tonight or comparing the hotness of two young men/women in one’s tutorial group.

I’m a huge fan of three hour long philosophical debates over the importance of freedom versus security, especially when I get to listen to what others have to say.

Don’t get me wrong, I love hockey and girls. But there are other things besides them, aren’t there? These days, it seems like there aren’t. And it troubles me.

When we become more concerned with how Brangelina will patch things up this time or, “Just how many women did Tiger have affairs with anyway?” we develop the habit of being easily distracted.

Our generation is always becoming preoccupied with something else.

We bounce from school to work to friends to parties to shopping to sports to whatever, and our minds don’t have the time to reflect on anything. We just do.

It’s the “Ooooh, shiny!” syndrome, that increasingly ubiquitous condition whereby people display an alarming tendency towards a clinical diagnosis of ADHD.

As much as we might joke about it, this isn’t really a good thing, as it takes away from our ability and motivation to pay attention to things that would be considered by many to be more important.

We take a look at our political candidates and judge them on factors that shouldn’t even be in the realm of criteria for selecting our leaders.

We ask questions like, “I wonder how good he would be at flip cup?” and draw conclusions like, “She really should have gone with the Prada instead of the Armani, she clearly has poor judgment.” Granted, these are by no means the only set of factors that determine elections.

But isn’t that only because most of the people who vote are older than we are, and generally have slightly longer attention spans?

It’s a known fact that the 65 and over demographic is among the most likely to vote.

What happens when our generation, having formed our habits of continuous distraction, starts to get older? I dearly hope that we stop making decisions based on, “Hot or not?”

We are the generation of the internet, cell phones and iPods.

Many use these technologies as tools to educate themselves about current events like the earthquake in Haiti or the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to a man in China jailed for political dissent.

But many more use these technologies as fillers for the times in their life when they’re bored and have nothing to do.

Someone once told me that boredom was good for you because it forces you to think creatively.

But there’s always something to do these days, whether it’s playing Super Mario or checking the news feed on Facebook for status updates and photos, we hardly even have the time to think, period!

I’m not saying that these things are bad. Everyone needs to escape from reality once and a while.

What I’m saying is that moderation is a virtue. We’ve all had that moment when the light from the laptop screen is the only light reflected in our eyes, we’re on the eighth episode of Lost or Gossip Girl, we look at the clock and slowly realize that we’re never going to get that four and a half hours of our life back.

This is the problem I have with the intense global fascination with Prince William and Kate Middleton’s impending nuptials. There are quite frankly, things we should care more about.

For example, did you know that the debate over Canada’s role in Afghanistan has been reignited?

The outcome of this discussion will determine whether this country spends $500 million plus casualties per year on trying to help a country that really needs our assistance.

Did you also know that His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI recently began to reverse the Catholic Church’s position on using condoms to fight HIV?

The impact of this for Africa and on the war against HIV and AIDS cannot be understated in any way, given the widespread influence and affluence of the global Catholic community.

The impact of Prince Williams announced engagement to Kate? The debate about members of various European royal families to persons of “common” heritage has been becoming less and less controversial since the successive marriages of the Prince of Norway, the Princess of Sweden, and the Prince of Denmark to persons of “common” birth.

Perhaps adding fuel to the debate on the future of the monarchy? The only way that would happen would be if Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II became seriously ill in the near future.

No. The impact of this marriage is quite simply that people will be paying attention to it instead of other, more important things.

We should give the two love birds a break from the spotlight and do something else, l=ike read a book or watch a movie.

And no, not Twlight or Harry Potter. I’m talking Atlas Shrugged or An Inconvenient Truth.

We have the potential to be the most intelligent and engaged generation that ever walked this planet.

So please, the next time you get the urge to check your Facebook news feed, read a newspaper instead.

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