So, they’ve finally done it! Twitter is abuzz with the news, as is most of the civilised world, that the Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant. My first response was to not care; then I decided to be filled with righteous fury, and finally to have sympathy for the poor girl. I hope to be able to explain them all now:
Apathy: I felt this because of the crushing mundanity of the matter; people do get pregnant, you know. It’s not as if the concept of sexual intercourse for reproductive purposes was invented by the Royals just a few weeks ago, what happened here is pure biology: a sperm from the male met the ovum from the female in a fallopian tube; then the newly fertilised zygote implanted in the uterus of the female, where it will continue to grow, nourished by the sharing of her resources through the placenta until it fully develops at around nine months, she will then go into labour, and it will be born.
Dull? It should be. Reproduction is so natural and obvious that it has faded into the background of our collective lives, with only the most shameful magazines, so glossy you can barely see the pages under a reflection of your own face which seem to care, and only then because some moronic semi-notable has been knocked-up by someone just as inconspicuous.
However, this time the people involved are not so inconspicuous. They are the Cambridges for God’s sake! This means that the world will be treated with not just the photos of whichever Eastenders actress has a bun in the oven this week, but that of a bona fide person, with a life, of all things. So no, we cannot expect a 17 page spread in Hello! but we can expect all manner of nauseating columns in the Mail with the same people who derided the Duchess as ‘Waity Katie’ two years ago either forgetting they ever said such things, or brushing them aside with the usual: ‘what a great mother she’ll be’ drivel.
Then there will be the inevitable Diana parallels, with people already saying how this is the most anticipated pregnancy since that of William himself; where the modern princess will be held up to the impossible standards of the late (sainted) mother-in-law. And it is not just the rose tinted spectacles Amanda Platell will dig out of the dusty drawer, it will also be the endless photos of her bump, getting bigger and bigger (‘doesn’t she carry it with such grace’) and the vomit worthy descriptions of her ‘bravery’ or how ‘devoted’ her husband is. The media seem to notice the value of feeding the public cheap sentiment, and they don’t want to recognise the existence of tightly manipulated public images surrounding all of the younger Royals (after all, it would be bad business for consumers to know that their idols were fallible).
This is why it is so sickeningly saccharine, with the irritating competitions; pick a baby name etc. when we (as well as the parents) don’t even know the sex of the child. This is ludicrously pre-emptive, and it will all become dull a long time before the baby is even born.
Anger: the boredom soon wore off, however, and the sheer perversity of the situation struck me, and hard. ‘Why,’ I muttered to myself, ‘do we care so much about such a so far unimportant event?’ Is it our breathtaking desire to be spirited away from the problems in the world, to be removed from the perils and unhappiness of our own parochial lives? If so, then our escapist tendencies are not innocent, they are in fact removing us not only from our small worries, but also those of the world at large.
After all, in Mali, right now, the forces of fascism and terror have seized control of half of the country and are embarking on a brutal ‘cultural revolution'; destroying all pre-Muslim artwork, iconography and records: plunging the region into a historical dark ages of their own design. In Afghanistan, bombs are going off near the bases of those determined to protect the citizens of the nation from exactly this kind of thing occurring again. The Syrian people are continually being shelled by their own military, bombed by planes driven by their own countrymen, in their brave fight against the forces of an autocratic minority who see themselves as born to rule.
All of these things are still going on, and yet the world is concentrated on a microscopic ball of cells inside someone who until recently was plastered all over the internet in long lens photographs, which the men of Britain dutifully leered at.
People may accuse me of having my grudge with the media system as it currently exists, putting all of my frustrations into one issue, and oozing vitriol. This is undeniably partially true. It is also true that the media in its current form has proven itself better than this, with twitter and other social networking sites playing a vital and commendable role in deposing other Middle Eastern tyrants.
So why do we not use these things in this way now? Why do we turn a blind eye to the suffering of others, which is just as bad as it was when we did so much more to combat it? Even the pathetic excuse for internet time that was KONY 2012 tried to get something done in a genuinely negative situation, and without this sort of altruism we cannot continue to lie to ourselves that we care about others.
Pity: this will almost certainly not go as well as these fairytale tabloid pull-outs may well eventually have you believe, because despite the worldwide adoration and obsession with the Duchess, she is after all only human. Pregnancy is not a walk in the park, even if you have a willing collective of taxpayers footing the bill. She will, at least for a while, have to keep up with an increasingly public role which the couple indicated they’d undertake after being married. Her husband still does a relatively dangerous job, and there will still be all of the normal hurdles to her fully enjoying her life again.
She will feel ill, more and more regularly, childbirth itself is not without its pains and hardships, it will still not be too easy, and despite what the world seems to think, collectively willing her on is not a practical form of pain relief, nor is it substitute for the sense of duty which this act must have been laced with, after all, providing an heir for the throne used to be considered a full time job in times with a higher infant mortality rates.
My pity does not only extend to the mother, but also to the as-yet unborn child (although it is quite nice to see something which crosses all aspects of life being so uniformly positive towards a 10-week foetus). It is quite possible that with new social media outlets making news worldwide and instant, its birth will be one of the most viral events in history.
Waking a baby up with a dawn chorus of flashbulbs is not one for potentially inflamed egos, and since no royal of the internet generation has managed to be ‘normal’ (and the weirdness extends further than that, look at Prince Charles) this is a dangerous route to take, the sensitivity of the subject is strong, but the thirst for even the most inane details of the pregnancy, the delivery and the raising of the child will be scrutinised by people across the world, and (unless the media retains it’s unusual deference to major Royals) the next up to ten years of all the lives of those involved will become even more intruded upon by the world.
But overall this is still a marked degradation for our future Queen. If the next twenty years of her life are to be taken over by waving to dull crowds, touring dismal places and trying to look interested, looking nice in photographs (but only certain types of photographs), and occasionally squeezing out babies; then her life’s semi-servitude was not worth the proposal, no matter however gilded the hand that offered it.
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