The following article appeared in the Socialist Standard ten years ago, in the aftermath of the death of Princess Diana. It is reproduced here from the pamphlet, 'A Socialist Life - a collection of articles from the Socialist Standard 1995-2000' by Heather Ball.
Do I care that Diana Spencer was killed in a car crash in Paris? I do, but not to order and never in the way I am expected to care. In almost all cases we humans are saddened by death. We know that without any doubt we must all come to an end and to know how this will take place or where or when is probably at the back of most of our minds. But I find it incomprehensible that I should be expected to grieve to distraction over a woman I have never met, was never likely to meet and had no desire to meet. Not only that but I now find that an assumption is made that I will automatically become involved in some of the sickening hypocrisy that we have all witnessed in the wake of her death, and I must say I find this deeply insulting to my intelligence.
If Diana preached that we should not discriminate against people with AIDS, so what? If she told us that land mines should not be used to kill civilians, so what? Is there something intrinsically clever or wise about this? So many of us have said the same. But Diana was listened to and admired because like everything else under capitalism she had been "packaged", her money and her position entitling her to be "right" in the eyes of those people who are impressed by such things.
She was a princess and princesses, unlike other people, apparently, KNOW these things. Wealth had made her attractive and interesting, ensuring therefore, that when she spoke about AIDS victims, the homeless children, then she would be taken much more seriously than when we lesser mortals give voice on similar subjects.
So only the successful and the wealthy have that priority of wisdom, while the rest of us are seldom consulted except for one day every five years when we have the dubious honour of being invited to put a cross against the name of some remote person who knows and understands less than we do.
So what is it about human beings that they often cannot differentiate between what is real and matters and what is cosmetic, contrived and overly sentimental? Centuries of conditioning must be one of the reasons why the human race resorts to adulation of the rich and the powerful, the sages, the clever ones, those who know what is best for us, whom we allow to enslave us, resulting in an almost innate inferiority. The media and the system under which we all live encourage this. It is to their advantage.
Many of us will have worked all our lives to change this system of society, while others believe that belonging to a trade union or joining the Labour Party will increase the chances of a better life for the working class, believing that reform will bring about change and benefit us all. Socialists know that only by eradicating capitalism can we begin to redress injustice and poverty and look towards a sensible and rational life for us and our children and their children.
Meanwhile, my heart aches for those who do not dare to trust their own judgement, who fawn on the shallow figures in our society and make gods and goddesses of them because they have never considered that the power to change what is sick in this world lies in their own hands.