Prince Philip in the context of climate and social inequality.

We are allowed to be critical when a person of power and influence dies. We CAN critique the climate of someone’s life and death and it not be disrespectful, because it’s important to understand the context within which someone’s life had an impact.

First, we must stop thinking in binary terms of “good” and “bad” people, because everyone is on the spectrum of both. Then, we must remember Philip held power and wealth (a disproportionate amount) that gave him influence. Throughout life and in death, the public gets to critique an influential figure’s contribution to each house of good, bad, and everything in-between. We are allowed to question what a person did with their power and wealth, and ask… how much of this person’s influence benefitted us, and how much did it harm us?

In the case of Prince Philip, he did cause harm. Even if he also did good, we have to normalize the continuation of speaking about harm, instead of allowing harm a free pass at death and neglecting the nuance of non-binary thinking and non-binary personalities. The neglect of nuance only further perpetuates the binary thinking of people as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but not both simultaneously.

Philip spouted racial slurs and sentiments (none of which will be repeated here), he upheld patriarchy, capitalism, and white supremacy — none of which should be surprising to us because, as the husband of a queen, he was literally the male figurehead of the British empire… If we only think of Philip as good, we basically erase all the harm he perpetuated, allowing the structures of oppression that gave him influence to be maintained.

And how does the media respond to Philip’s death? Most channels and streams shuttered every scheduled broadcast and replaced it with videos of mourning. Right now, the UK is seeing a dictatorial amount of monarchy coverage, so much so that the public are submitting formal complaints. It’s not surprising that this mainstream media has either not mentioned Philips’ bigotry and harmful traits, or in the case of the BBC and The Guardian, has tempered them down to a ‘man of his time’ mentality… I honestly don’t know what’s worse, the lack of recognition of his bigotry or the gold-plated plaster that covers it.

In a shocking turn of events (I jest), right-wing media are using Philips’s death as an opportunity to, yet again, blast Jeremy Corbyn because, instead of only talking about the monarchy, he tweeted about an international issue that actually matters: ‘’The people of Bolivia have chosen a path of social change, which puts people and planet before private private. Join me, @BoliviaFriends and Bolivian speakers on April 19th to show our solidarity.’ In what world is Jeremy Corbyn, an elected socialist MP who has worked for years to build equality and justice, the bad guy, but Prince Philip, an unelected diplomat who repeatedly made racist, classist and sexist comments while undertaking diplomatic missions, a national treasure? Oh yeah… it’s the world where his wife is an unelected, colonising, figurehead of the UK, and most elected officials and journalists are upper and upper-middle-class university graduates, with inherited wealth, who have never known what it’s like to be without basic necessities.

The media are just one side of the sword that upholds the status quo, because once again we see the hypocrisy of the police, who incited violence at a vigil for a woman killed by one of their own, under the guise of covid safety, but allow crowds to gather outside Buckingham Palace to lay flowers in Philip’s memory. But of course, the police are all about upholding power for the powerful. What is more power disrupting than group of women standing in solidarity to say NO MORE? And what is more power maintaining than allowing the general public to mourn a man that upheld racism, misogyny, wealth inequality?

Death is an opportunity to reflect on what the future holds, for those living right now and the generations yet to be born. In the context of the pandemic, over 100,000 in the UK alone have died. Hundreds of thousands of people have heartbreakingly been barred from saying goodbye to loved ones in their final moments and at funerals. We are well within our rights to ask if the royal family gets special treatment; were the royal family, especially extended members, able to visit and say goodbye to Philip on his deathbed? Were they able to travel across the country and enter another household (or more appropriately castle, palace or country mansion)? How will a state funeral, as is tradition for the death of a royal, be organized? Who can attend and how many? How much will this cost the tax-payer? It’s pretty crass considering the continuing restrictions on funerals for everyone else and the ‘rising cost’ of the pandemic, under which the Tory Government won’t even shell out a proper pay-rise for nurses and other NHS staff. Here, have our claps though…

More importantly, the way Boris Johnson and his Tory government has mismanaged this pandemic has led to many preventable deaths, a mere echo of what we can expect from continued climate disruption. The future that was built during Philips’s lifetime… we are living in it now; we are living with the consequences of the hard push for capitalism, and it is sickly. Our society is oppressive, extractive, and un-nurturing. If we continue with the systems that were hailed and fine-tuned during Philip’s lifetime, in the next 99 years (the length of Philips life) we will have decimated the planet beyond repair and will have more inequality than currently exists.

For the UK, this means flooding, more regularly and more severely. It means changing weather patterns that could disrupt home-grown crops — leaving us more reliant on imports from a food supply dwindling because of global climate disaster. It means the richest among us getting the resources; the medicine, the clean water, the nutrient rich food, the safe housing.

So yes, now is absolutely an appropriate time to look at our political leaders and ask what the heck are they doing as OUR representatives to end these disparities. Both Labour and the SNP put out statements noting they had suspended campaigning for local elections. A climate event, the Climate Hot Seat, a panel event where youth from the climate movement in Scotland can ask key Scottish MPs about climate, has been postponed. Tell me what good comes of any of this? We need politicians to stop pandering to royalist patriot propaganda and work ALL OUT to get elected so they can help protect future and current generations across the world, not just in the UK, from the disparities of capitalism, colonialism, and the ruins of climate change. These issues are not ending just because the life of someone with power has.

Back to Philip himself, some have been quick to identify Philips’s remedying quality as his environmentalism, being the first president of the World Wildlife Fund and But tell me… how many environmentalists do you know that would shoot a tiger for fun? Because that’s absolutely something Philip did in India in 1961. Philip also defended grouse shooting, saying, “If you have a game species, you want it to survive because you want to have some next year — exactly like a farmer. You want to crop it; you don’t want to exterminate it.” It all has the icky feel of supremacy, domination, and control over nature, rather than the sentiment of stewardship that many environmentalists embody today and that indigenous folks on the frontlines of the environmental movement have been practicing since time immemorial.

Historically, many environmentalists with a disproportionate amount of privilege are eugenicists who see overpopulation as the key environmental issue and aspire to control population growth. Philip is no exception to this perpetuation of the overpopulation myth, going so far as wishing to be reincarnated as a literal pandemic without any thought of the harm it would cause to those who would not be shielded from it. It’s literally possible to taste the privilege in his words.

Reminder:

The problem isn’t overpopulation, the problem is capitalism, the problem is fossil fuel reliant industrial systems, the problem is wealth disparities and wealth hoarding.

Photo by Kristina G. on Unsplash

To the stout patriots and royalists that would shoot down this post as unpatriotic… Remember, we live in a Christian institution whose holy book teaches that all people are equal, so why is it that such wealth, health, education, and safety disparities are supported to exist in one of the richest countries in the world? Why is it some groups of people get better access to these necessities? Why is that what country you are born in, the location in t
hat country, who your parents are and where they are from, all contribute to if you live a long, relatively healthy, and comfortable life? Is that equal? Is that the world we want?

We do not have to accept ‘one rule for the rich, another for the poor.’ We do not have to mourn a symbol of oppression, colonisation, and harm. We do not have to follow respectability politics that panders to patriotism by prioritising patriotic mourning above the issues that systemically plague the poor and marginalised. We should not have to stop, pause, or delay conversations on climate and social justice because of a death in a money and power hoarding institution.

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Activist and organizer with Greenpeace Vancouver. Writes about climate and social justice, fossil fuel fuckery, feminism and greenwashing.

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