The Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations are thankfully behind us, but in their wake they have left a mark of shame at the sheer amount of public money involved not only in paying for this event, but in propping up the Monarchy year after year, an institution as ludicrous as it is pernicious in the 21st century.
The pomp, pageantry and sycophancy on display over the Jubilee weekend was truly sickening to behold - not only in its hypocrisy but also in its disconnect from reality. For at a time when the vast experiment in human despair which the government has the cheek to describe as an economic policy is doling out misery to millions across the country, here we were being served up a festival of unearned privilege, obscene wealth, and servile obeisance to a relic of feudalism that no amount of clapped-out pop stars, tired celebrities, and assorted establishment stooges could even hope to mitigate.
But just when you thought things could not get worse than being forced to sit through hours of blanket media coverage of the event came the revelation that thirty unemployed jobseekers were press ganged into working as stewards without pay for the private security contractor hired to provide security at the Jubilee, along with another fifty who were on apprentice wages of £2.80 per hour, and were made to sleep overnight in tents under London Bridge. The kind of society in which such blatant disregard for human dignity and the poor can be deemed acceptable is one that Charles Dickens would recognise.
Indeed, such naked hatred of the poor and unemployed is now endemic in today's Britain, a result of a class war unleashed by the Tories and their Lib Dem cohorts in order to shift the blame for the ongoing recession from the rich who caused it to the poor and ordinary working people who did not. It also reminds us why the trade union movement exists and why it is imperative that working people do not allow themselves to be divided between public and private sector and employed and unemployed, exactly as this government with the help of its supporters in the media have exerted itself in trying to do since coming to power.
We are fast approaching the stage where the lack of sympathy for the plight of the poor in today's Britain is redolent of Tsarist Russia in the early 20th century. Then, as now, you had a hopelessly detached and unsympathetic tiny elite living lives of decadent luxury even as increasing numbers of their fellow citizens found themselves mired in crippling poverty and despair. But the key lesson from Tsarist Russia is that the poor will only take so much before they decide to rise up and do something about it, as they did in 1917 when the Russian Revolution exploded in the faces of the Russian aristocracy. It is a lesson which the elite of any era in any country ignores at its peril.
The spectre of 1917 hasn't gone away. If anything it slowly but surely looms larger across Europe as social and economic injustice becomes increasingly entrenched.