What Commonwealth? What Celebrations?
Well, this event seems to have gone mostly unnoticed. However, the Queen celebrated it by attending a Commonwealth Day Observance Ceremony at Westminster Abbey. There were also several members of the Commonwealth nations in attendance: Hugh Masekela, a South Africa musician, performed at this particular gathering of global peoples.
This moveable feast, is celebrated annually on the second Monday in March, and this year the theme was Connecting Cultures. The service in Westminster Abbey was to ‘explore the golden threads that tie together people from every continent, faith and ethnicity.’ This was achieved through a mix of world music, dance and personal testimonies to around 1,000 selected heads of states, official dignitaries, faith leaders and school children.
In the past there were national exhibitions and parties to celebrate this connection within Commonwealth countries, now there is a whisper in the British media to mark its occurrence. I wonder if the origins and links of the Commonwealth have, at last, become an embarrassment to the British monarchy and nation.
The Commonwealth (aka the colonial British Commonwealth) was first set up in 1949 with eight member countries. As of today, 12th March 2012 - Commonwealth Day, there were 54countries that were members of the Commonwealth. It is now referred to as the modern Commonwealth because it is now an association of free and equal member from independent countries who are linked by shared values, goals and equal votes in all matters.
Queen Elizabeth II, marking 60 years as head of theCommonwealth, said: “This year, our Commonwealth focus seeks to explore how we can share and strengthen the bond of Commonwealth citizenship we already enjoy by using our cultural connections to help bring us even closer together, as family and friends across the globe."
My question is, ‘What does the Commonwealth mean to you?’ To me it does not mean anything sweet or pleasant. The bitterness of colonialism still resonates in daily life – especially in the failure to give a rounded historical account of the colonial times in British schools. This leads to ‘unconscious bias’appearing in the everyday life of people whose only real experience of African, Caribbean or Indian life comes from the Eurocentric education or the occasional story of forced economic migration heard from a grand-parent.
I don’t think that the Commonwealth ever had any respectability, I would further suggest that it has now lost all veneer of respectability. This muted celebration confirms my views.
R.I.P. Commonwealth of Nations. The wealth of nations is anything but common.