King Abdullah’s death deeply saddened the heads of both our state and government.
Dave and the Queen manufactured sadness for public consumption with enviable skill, finding some balance between diplomatic protocol and hamming it up.
They then agreed that flags should be flown at half mast over Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.
This last one is particularly baffling, considering that the Abbey is still a residually Christian place of worship. That’s what we get for having an established church, I suppose.
If our church answered only to Our Lord Jesus Christ, I doubt it would be overly distressed over the demise of a monarch in whose kingdom there is not a single church, conversion to Christianity is punishable by death and even possession of a bible is a crime.
But being a state church, the C of E has to do as the government does. And the government does whatever it takes to keep the Saudis sweet. After all, 6,000 British companies are doing billions’ worth of trade with Saudi Arabia, and that sort of thing outweighs any possible moral considerations.
The Queen can’t speak in her own voice either, only in that of her ventriloquist, who at present is named Dave. Otherwise one doubts that Her Majesty would be even as upset as her condolences suggest, which isn’t very.
But Tony Blair, now Tony is different. He really spoke from what passes for his heart: “He was loved by his people and will be deeply missed.”
Now I don’t think I’ve ever in my life had the pleasure of speaking to a single Saudi, much less covering a representative sample. But on general principle, one has to think that the love Tony mentioned wasn’t evenly spread among Abdullah’s subjects.
For example one doubts that many Saudi women loved the monarch who didn’t let them drive, vote or leave the house without a male chaperone.
(You realise, I hope, that I’m talking about their emotions, not my own. Personally, much as I deplore the last measure, I can see the merit in the other two, considering that most British women tend to vote Labour, and one of them tries to drive into me every time I take my car out.)
Nor do I think there is much weeping in the families of those women who have been stoned to death for a little hanky-panky out of wedlock.
The families of victims executed for blasphemy probably aren’t shedding tears either, especially since blasphemy is interpreted rather broadly by Saudi kangaroo… sorry, I meant Sharia courts.
Nor are the 1.2 million banned Saudi Christians lighting too many candles. One reason is that they can only do so in their home churches, but even that is all their lives are worth.
Such churches and private prayer meetings are regularly raided by police, with every participant flogged, imprisoned or simply ‘disappeared’, not practices that could have endeared the late king to the victims too much.
One hates to mention petty criminals in the same breath, but the kind of thief who in the UK would get a suspended sentence in Saudi Arabia gets his right hand cut off. I doubt such reluctant southpaws are rolling on the floor in an agony of grief even as we speak.
So who outside the King’s (very) extended family and their oil traders does Tony think loved the late chap?
Such questions are often tactless and always pointless. For Tony doesn’t think the way we do.
Tony himself was a tyrant, because that’s what every ‘leader’ of our putative democracies is. Admittedly he didn’t have as much power as Abdullah, but his power far exceeded that of the ‘absolute’ monarchs of Christendom, whom our populace is brainwashed to regard as tyrannical.
And tyrants tend – nay, need – to believe that they and their ilk are the objects of wide adulation.
Sometimes such beliefs aren’t unfounded. In some less civilised (if not necessarily less cultured) countries, the more a tyrant oppresses the people, the more they love him. This sort of collective masochism is amply covered in both sociological and psychiatric literature.
In our sham democracies, on the other hand, people usually vote a tyrant in not because they love him, but because they dislike him less than the other chap.
That is certainly the case in Britain, and subconsciously – at least I hope this feeling isn’t conscious – our spivocrats must envy those seas of people, all screaming their love for the leader in the places where such love is mandatory.
Hence Tony’s choice of words.
For his panegyric for Abdullah sounds suspiciously like the one a past tyrant delivered for his counterpart in another country.
On 23 August, 1939, representatives of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union met in the Kremlin to sign the pact that pushed the button for the Second World War.
But that was still a week away. Meanwhile, that momentous event was lavishly celebrated at a banquet given by Stalin in honour of the Nazi signatory, Foreign Minister Ribbentrop.
There the international socialist butcher proposed a toast to the national socialist one: “I know how much the German nation loves its Führer,” said Stalin. “I should therefore like to drink to his health.”
I wonder if echoes of those words were ringing in the back of what passes for Tony’s mind when he wrote his lament on Abdullah’s death.
Possibly. Then again, possibly not. But the similarity of words surely reflects the similarity of sentiment. Tyrants do tend to identify with other tyrants more than with their own people.