Royal couple experiences the problems of entitlement
fter seeing Oprah Winfrey’s interview of Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, I want to reiterate my welcome to them to Montecito (printed in the News-Press two months ago). I also want to apologize to Oprah for not formally welcoming her when she moved to Montecito several years ago.
If you haven’t seen the interview, go to CBS and look at it. It is extraordinary, and it seems to match the conclusions of the Netflix series “The Crown.”
The benefits of privilege also bring some terrible liabilities as well. It took great courage for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to break away from both.
Breaking away is remarkable because they are shedding a tradition that probably goes back to William the Conqueror in 1066.
My memory of English history is rusty, but there are too many lines of ancestry to follow up on in Google. But here’s what I believe is so: All claims of kings to kingdoms today go back to some recent or ancient conquering of somebody else.
The world is still dealing with land-grabs. Russia is trying to take a piece of the Ukraine; China is trying to take over Tibet; the Israelis are taking over disputed Palestinian lands little by little.
Even the British still have their hand in it. I remember when Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had U.K. citizens spend 1 billion or 2 billion pounds for the military to protect some prime pasture land known as the Falkland Islands.
Conquest was how the United States was founded. Europeans brought over guns and smallpox to conquer native Americans.
Prince Harry and Meghan talked about how detrimental royal customs were to them.
In fact, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s story is about the ugliness of having royal privilege — how it creates captivity, loneliness, separation, fear and bondage rather than joy and freedom.
Harry and Meghan described their heritage as “the firm.” It is composed not only of the royal family but also of the people who run the palace and grounds, collect the royal rents, manage royal holdings and royal investments — all those who depend upon keeping the royal status quo.
I understand that the royal family owns property across the U.K. valued at an estimated $18 billion. What is remarkable is that Harry and Megan were willing to simply (actually, not so simply) walk away from the privileges and responsibilities of “the firm” — at some danger to themselves.
The point is, bluntly, there is something wrong with the accumulation of vast amounts of money and passing it on to descendants. Perhaps it’s the concept of “entitlement.”
Two months ago, I published an article about the studies of Prof. Piff, showing that the accumulation of wealth, at all levels of society, gives people a sense of entitlement, a sense that they are better, more worthy, than those who have accumulated less. Putting entitlement on a human level, $1 million can buy you a half million loaves of bread (pricing it at $2 a loaf). Am I entitled to a half million loaves of bread? Maybe if I lived for half a million days.
We need new rules to disentangle ourselves from entitlement:
— Nobody has a right to inordinate wealth because their ancestors killed the inhabitants of the land and took it over.
— Nobody has a right to inordinate wealth because they or their parents invented the computer, or something else, and got rich.
— Nobody has a right to have the genetic materials they received at birth.
— Nobody has a right to be here on the planet, period. It is a gift bestowed on all of us.
— The earth, the sun, our solar system and the whole universe don’t have the right to be here. They just are, and we are not entitled to them.
The only thing we are entitled to do as humankind is to promote human kindness to our kin, to our family of eight billion relatives. It seems clear that Harry and Meghan know this, and it’s nice to have them as neighbors.
The author lives in Santa Barbara.