Edited by Tommy Craggs
Anywhere you turn today, especially in the English-speaking world, you’ll be bombarded by coverage of the death of Queen Elizabeth II. It makes a kind of sense: she was the longest-reigning monarch of what, when she ascended the throne in 1952, was still the world’s biggest, if rapidly diminishing, empire. Still, I can’t help but compare the public obsession over the death of — if we can be honest — a rich old figurehead, to the relative lack of interest in what is happening in the lands her family once lay claim to, in many cases within her lifetime.
Take Pakistan. The conquest of South Asia was started by the British East India Company under Elizabeth’s fifth-great-grandfather, George II, in 1757. The subcontinent was ultimately ruled in whole or part by her family for 190 years, until Pakistan split off from the newly independent India in a bloody partition when Elizabeth was 21 years old. Thanks to massive flooding, a third of that country is currently underwater, a crisis affecting over 33 million people and resulting in the damage to or destruction of at least 1.5 million homes.
The floods have been caused by record-breaking monsoon rains caused by record-breaking heat, and worsened by the melting of the numerous glaciers in northern Pakistan. All of that is thanks of course to climate change, which in turn has been maximized by the extraction and wastes of global capitalism, whose historic roots also lay in the British Empire. Perhaps by comparing the number of seconds of international news coverage each of those 33 million people have gotten — not to mention the over 1.7 billion similarly at risk across the South Asian subcontinent — to the hours of coverage of the death of a single 96-year-old German-British woman, we could ascertain their relative value in the eyes of those with power in the world.
That is not to say that the unfolding catastrophe on the subcontinent is Liz’s fault exactly. If the memorial coverage by the BBC and those following its example is to be believed, she was most notable for staying “above politics” and remaining “strictly neutral” — in other words spending 70 years effectively doing nothing in fancy hats. Toward the end of her life, she admonished other world leaders to solve climate
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