When some future historian, or perhaps some honest parodist of our modern mores, seeks an event that captures the inversion at the core of our continuing cultural revolution, he should examine closely the television spectacle that aired on CBS Sunday evening.
There they were, assembled dreamily in the verdant grounds of a California mansion, poster victims of our irredeemably unjust system: the sixth in line to the throne of the United Kingdom, his wife, a so-so actress who nonetheless enjoyed considerable fortune before she married into the highest levels of the English aristocracy, alongside one of the most successful television celebrities on the planet, bemoaning the injustices that have befallen them in a systemically cruel society.
You’d struggle to find a better metaphor for one of the dominant narratives of our age: our elites parading their grievances and preoccupations for the masses, demanding sympathy, issuing a call for the ordinary people to do better to acknowledge their own sinfulness.
Economic inequality is greater than it has been in decades, and widening still further after a great recession and a global pandemic. The poorest neighborhoods in this country, many of them dominated by ethnic minorities, are beset by levels of violent crime and disorder not seen in a generation. Educational opportunities for those most blighted are drowning in a sea of neglect, ideological rectitude and acquiescence to the demands of teachers unions. All the while, we are forced to listen as chief executives, tenured academics, Hollywood celebrities and now a prince and his wife lecture us about what are supposed to be the real systemic flaws in our society: the terrible legacy of American history; sexism, racism and “transphobia”; the endless stream of microaggressions caused by an errant word, a contentious writer or the illustrations in the Dr. Seuss books.
None of this is to deny that our three figures, up there on their little Californian Calvary on Sunday, have, like all of us, had to bear their crosses.
Oprah Winfrey was there as the facilitator. She is a woman of exceptional talent and character who overcame crushing hardship in early life to achieve deserved success. When she speaks—or in this case facilitates a discussion—about hardship, we are well-advised to listen.
The duke of Sussex—the name provides a clue—had no such misfortune of birth, though he did suffer the unspeakable grief of losing his mother at a young age in violent and public circumstances, an event that surely left the deepest of psychic scars.
Even the duchess, the squeakiest of the wheels, commands some sympathy. The costs of marrying a royal are sometimes overlooked. Whatever their virtues, the Windsors will never be known for an openness of manner or spirit. They seem to have combined in their personalities in fact the relaxed informality of their German heritage and the sunny warmth of their adopted English homeland, so, we can assume Meghan’s distinctly New World style probably went over like supermarket kibble in the corgis’ breakfast bowl. And while claims about a yearning for privacy can be taken with a pinch of salt coming from an actress with a penchant for self-publicity that was notable even by the standards of her profession, it’s also true that the British press can be aggressively intrusive in ways anyone would find painful.
But the personal struggles, real as they are, aren’t the subject matter of the lesson we are enjoined to learn from them. The ex-royal couple have enough wit to understand that their own hardships don’t occasion many tears outside their lachrymose celebrity friends.
Instead they frame themselves as victims of much larger societal evils.
Harry and Meghan have seized the moment to sign on fully to the woke creed, ascribing their trials to that original sin of racism, not just from the royal family itself, but from the British press, feeding the ugly prejudices of the masses. They conveniently forget that the arrival of Meghan was greeted by the same press—and the same masses—with joyous acclaim, that she was portrayed as somewhere between Grace Kelly and Diana Ross.
But that’s the beauty of the new dispensation: You can always blame systemic injustice. Meghan may be pointing the finger at unnamed royals for her victim status, but we know that’s just a proxy for the wider evil that, improbable as it seems, makes her the victim. Even as you sit there in your alabaster palaces, your Silicon Valley boardrooms or your elegantly appointed dressing rooms, you can point to the real cause of society’s inequity: the Trump- and Brexit-voting hordes with their unenlightened views on immigration, crime, the climate, Western history.
And it’s one of the ironies of our leading social-justice revolutionaries, fighting to overturn the social order. When you have on your side the people who control most of the nation’s corporations, newsrooms, universities, celebrities, the federal government—along with a duke and a duchess—can you really be that oppressed?