I am sick as a dog, still having chills shaking me like a leaf. But I made a promise, and I intend to keep it. Sorry if this is silly.
Ever since its inception, radio and television broadcasting in Switzerland has been supported by a tax on receivers, paid by every household, regardless of whether they actually watch or listen to the broadcasts and how much they consume. Over time, the funds collected through this fee, now billed through a semi-private company called Billag AG, have been used to subsidise private broadcasters, at the discretion of the federal authorities. These fees are substantial: the household fee for television and radio reception is currently CHF 451.10 (US$ 481.87 at today’s exchange rate).
In an environment where there are myriad sources of entertainment, none supported by these tax revenues, this has generated a push-back. Since Swiss radio and television consists largely of content from broadcasts from other countries a year or more after it is available on popular streaming services and local public affairs programming with a hard collectivist tilt from the studios in Zürich and Geneva, more and more people are asking, “Why am I paying more for this stuff that I never watch or listen to than a fancy flat-screen TV costs these days?”.
This being Switzerland, they can do more than mutter beneath their breath. It only takes 100,000 signatures in this country of around 8.5 million people to put a federal initiative on the ballot, and those initiatives, with few limits, can make fundamental changes to the federal constitution. On March 4th, 2018, Swiss citizens will vote on the No Billag initiative, which would, if adopted, abolish the tax on radio and television reception and the subsidies to broadcasters. (The Web site is available only in French, German, and Italian: click at the top right to select the language you best understand.) Here is the text of the initiative.
This has whacked the hornets’ nest of the media-ruling class complex close to where they live. The local throw-away newspaper ran a lurid front page illustration about how this would extinguish diversity in political discourse and other things so important to tax eaters. Just imagine if those rubes could listen and watch whatever they wanted without paying for the trash spewed by those paid by money taken from them without their consent. End of the world—I’m telling you!
I won’t get to vote on this one. It’s a federal initiative, and as a permanent resident of Switzerland but not a citizen, I can vote only in elections at the canton and commune level. All of the mainstream parties and media are united in defeating this initiative. They are using their taxpayer-funded channels to inveigh against it at every opportunity. We shall see what happens.
Far nearer my end than my beginning, I am shorn of hope. This is belied somewhat by my physical appearance. Occasionally, when my head is seen for the first time sans operating room coif by someone with whom I have worked for ten years or so, I hear, “Oh… you have such a nice head of curly hair.” I thought you were bald.” My usual reply is, “My hair is the only thing left that actually works.” Alternately, I have been heard to say, “Yes. While I am not kinky, I am definitely a bit curly.” Taken by hearers as mere humor, both statements are, for better or worse, generally accurate.
It is the goings-on a centimeter or so beneath the hair in question I wish to describe and, if that activity has any influence on the fecundity of the intervening scalp, it portends frequent haircuts – provided my overall health persists and the rest of the growing apparatus continues to provide the necessaries. Focus on one’s inner processes are, perhaps, generational – a sign of the times. While my entire generation cannot be condemned as narcissistic, it is surely self-referential and that is not always a bad thing. Critical self-examination – one aspect of self-reference – first recorded if not invented by the ancient Greeks, after all, has had some salutary effects on both individual and social self-governance.
Recently, several childhood friends have died. They were people I remember as youths – vibrant, enthusiastic, hopeful. A woman my age, after whom I lusted for most of my teens, contacted me after many years telling me she had lung cancer and – knowing I am an anesthesiologist – asked me to teach her how she could end her life with medication at a time of her own choosing. With difficulty (only out of cowardice as to the consequences of being found out – since I believe we own our own bodies), I declined to do so myself, but suggested some websites and even a place in Zurich called Dignitas. This, in turn, led me to think of my parents and grandparents – all gone – and realize that I am the last repository of their life stories, although not in nearly as great a detail as I now wish, from beginning to end; their lives seem to have been cruelly short when encapsulated in this way. I can imagine them as infants, their youthful hopes and dreams, the much harder world they grew up in, their loves, their work, difficulties, final illnesses and deaths. It all leaves me with a sense of sadness, mystery and longing; with knowledge of my own pending end; that the world will continue, unchanged by my absence. Most human lives are forgotten after two or three generations. Even the most famous – those too – will one day be forgotten. Even their grave stones will turn to dust and scatter. This inclines me toward other musings as to meanings. Maybe I am a “meanings” junkie.
I have been thinking of other weighty things, as well. Literally. I was trying out an analogy between weight and consciousness. It goes like this: weight is a derivative consequence of gravity, with mass as the absolute property from which it derives. I was wondering if consciousness could be similarly a derivative of existence with complexity as the intermediate, analogous to mass.
A rigorous analysis of this gets very complicated, if it makes any sense at all. The collapse of the wave function implies conscious observation actually changes the nature of reality. In addition, recent theories posit that the fundamental attributes we have traditionally ascribed to mass, like momentum, may instead inhere in the zero-point field. This is really a fascinating line of thought with some astounding implications (see “The God Theory” by Bernard Haisch). However, as I am merely offering context to the musings I really want to set forth here, I will completely set aside this matter for future machinations, if I can ever rev up the intellectual horsepower. Happily, these hefty matters have been overtaken by more pedestrian ones, like the nature of the British monarchy.
In the background as I write, you see, “Netflix’ “The Crown” is playing in reprise on our excellent, though overworked LG 4K HDR TV which shows Netflix via Roku (a different kind of complexity – or is it?). “The Crown” was sufficiently engaging and thought-provoking after one viewing that my wife and I decided it required a rerun. In this regard, much of British drama for the screen (and this series blurs and perhaps obliterates the distinction between the TV and the movie screens) is worthy of repetition. The Brits have raised drama to a high level, indeed, and this production is exemplary.
I can only imagine the volume of writing extant as to nature of monarchy generally and the British Crown in particular. The only pertinent thing I have read is Herman Hoppe’s assertion (“Democracy – the God that Failed”) that monarchy is superior to democracy for long term governance, since a monarch has an incentive to leave a healthy, functional realm to his/her heirs. We all know the incentive of our rulers in our so-called democracy. I will undoubtedly offer some superficialities and simultaneously omit substantial matters worthy of book length treatment. Nonetheless, this production, “The Crown,” is visually stunning, thought-provoking and eminently entertaining, with dialogue and characters only the British could create and bring to the screen. I will share only some of my impressions.
In contemplating the role that the British Monarchy has played – at least since the beginning of the 20th century – I think it can be said to function in a manner akin to what today’s reality TV offers the viewing public: it magnifies and publicizes most every act of often plebeian royal individuals as they find themselves in both ordinary and extraordinary situations. As when watching reality TV, we the audience/public get to observe, judge, comment and emote however we see fit. Only immediacy is lost when watching the monarchy. In what may be merely a distraction or catharsis from their own drab, wretched lives, the subjects can briefly, intermittently and vicariously inhabit a fairy tale (remind you of watching “The Bachelor?” – ok, I left out nausea as a possible response).
The Queen portrayed in this series begins as a young woman of obviously modest abilities with a shockingly limited education. Often, in a subdued though affected, aristocratic manner she simply states the obvious, whilst those present mime awe or reply with inanities laced with superlatives. Her role in most everything is laid out for her by equerries and secretaries such as Tommy Lascelles. This man, at least as ably and somewhat chillingly portrayed, is an eminence grise, a judge of every royal tic, a dour wet blanket, whose sole raison d’être is scripting and choreography of every utterances and act, to assure it conforms to traditions and expectations of the Crown. Much of this is done in an attempt to preserve the Crown’s shrinking prerogatives. The words “torches,” “pitchforks” and “heads on spikes” are heard more than once in royal deliberations. As well, many decisions of personal or family import are overridden by way of various subterfuges and coercions – by these same “servants.” The torpedoing of Princess Margaret’s early desire to marry Tony Snowden is prominently played out, by way of example.
A number of large ideas and themes are examined and most recur as undercurrents in numerous episodes. Although the subject is worth fuller treatment, I have run out of steam and time. Since nobody is breathing down my neck (or offering to pay me for my literary efforts) and since Ratburgers are (I dare to presume) forgiving of those who tease without delivering the entire goods, I will finish by merely listing some of these themes, though each is worthy of treatment at some length. If you watch the series, I have no doubt these will be apparent:
Fact v. narrative
Truth v. myth
Office v. occupant
Personality v. role
Aristocrat v. commoner
Crown (dignitary) v. government (efficient) – this is stressed in Elizabeth’s tutelage by the Dean of Eton College – the only education she received beyond that from governesses. She never attended any school, took any tests nor earned any degrees.
Queen v. wife
Modernity v. tradition – does monarchy comport with the current Western ethos?
The last of these I found to be the overriding question raised by the series, albeit mainly implicitly. From my understanding of present Western ethos – with a kind of radical egalitarianism ascendant (see Robert Bork’s “Slouching Towards Gomorrah”) I believe the monarchy’s days are numbered. British subjects verbalize affection for the Queen; HRH Charles, Prince of Wales – not so much. Some of modernity’s technological wonders, after all, led to his being caught on tape murmuring to Camilla Parker-Bowles his wish that he be transformed into – not a frog – but her tampon.
The depth of affection for royalty in general is open to question. For instance, when Windsor Castle was fire-damaged to the tune of $40 million, the public strongly resented payment with public funds. That same public, however, was also almost entirely ignorant of the fact that the state and not the monarch, actually owns the castle.
I recommend the series. A month’s subscription to Netflix is well worth the price (about USD 15 for the 4K option) of admission. Though I predict you will be tempted to binge, you can spread the 20 episodes of about 45 minutes each over 30 days. A nice thing about Netflix: cancel any time. YMMV.
Here’s an interesting interview with a prominent British preacher (who was an MD before he became a minister). Joan Bakewell said that ministers would come on her program and assure here that she was a Christian when she knew she was not. MLJ was the one person who leveled with her.
A televised bipartisan meeting, brought to you by MAGA Productions. Making the Democrats go on record in a public session with their demands.
Welcome to POTUS scripting a reality show for his adversaries.
Once again, the entire process has been reframed to the advantage of POTUS.
I am so enjoying this.
Someone tell me again that this man is an idiot?