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A French Lesson For Britain’s Royals

Editorial: Don’t be fooled by all the popular craze around this week’s royal wedding, says Le Monde. The British monarchy desperately needs to remake itself for the modern, multicultural world.

Queen Elizabeth II and Princes Philip, Charles, William (Rob Moment)
Queen Elizabeth II and Princes Philip, Charles, William (Rob Moment)

When Prince William marries Catherine Middleton on April 29 at Westminster Abbey, the British monarchy will have refreshed itself by welcoming a commoner within its ranks. This new member, it is hoped, will boost British interest in the Crown. But beyond the jolly atmosphere surrounding this royal fairytale, a pressing question remains: should Great Britain maintain its antiquated monarchic system, and under what conditions?

Surveys show that 70 percent of the British public say that they have no interest in the wedding. Where does this indifference come from, given that Queen Elizabeth II has never been so popular and that the republican movement has reached a nadir?

Efforts to modernize the institution, which were launched in the aftermath of Princess Diana's tragic death on August 31 1997, have only partially borne fruit. Ethnic minorities and most young people do not recognize themselves in this monarchy, even if it is more "middle class' than noble. People find its lack of interest in meritocracy shocking. The institutions associated with it – aristocracy, the army, the Anglican Church, central power – have far less influence than they once did. The media have efficiently killed most of the deference the monarchy once commanded.

Her Majesty's subjects are now British and European Union citizens. The Commonwealth – the former overseas family – has become nothing but a relic of the past, under the stronger appeal of the United States, European Union or developing countries.

Her "kingdom" has undergone an incredible transformation since Queen Elizabeth II rose to the throne in 1952, but the monarchy she heads today still embodies a white, Protestant, and imperial United Kingdom. Whereas the country is increasingly multicultural and each day less Christian, Britain's dynastic system continues to represent an England of the past, an England deeply attached to its conservative values, hierarchy, the division of the classes (or even castes, one might say), and to the privileges enjoyed by the aristocracy.

Thanks to the Windsor family's incredible capacity to adapt to internal and external changes, their power has been left largely unscathed by the blows dealt during the Thatcher and Blair eras. But, as the Queen's husband, Prince Philip himself once said, the survival of the monarchy still depends on the approval of its subjects. During the 20th and 21st centuries, a number of royal dynasties have disappeared without a trace (the only restoration was in Spain). The royal race is not eternal.

The institution must today reinvent itself – the fact that the kingdom has had its fair share of drunken, debauched or deranged monarchs without the survival of the system being seriously compromised means nothing today. This is what distinguishes the monarchy system from the republican one.

This is why this transformation needs a deep reform of the country's institutions, one that brings about greater democracy: a written Constitution, full separation of Church and the State, the abolition of the remnant prohibitions affecting the Catholic minority and direct elections of the members of the House of Lords.

Read the original article in French

photo - (Rob Moment)

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A Refuge From China's Rat Race: The Young People Flocking To Buddhist Monasteries

Unemployment, stress in the workplace, economic difficulties: more and more young Chinese graduates are flocking to monasteries to find "another school of life."

Photograph of a girl praying at a temple during Chinese Lunar New Year. She is burning incense.

Feb 20, 2015 - Huaibei, China - Chinese worshippers pray at a temple during the Lunar New Yeat

Frédéric Schaeffer

JIAXING — It's already dawn at Xianghai Temple when Lin, 26, goes to the Hall of 10,000 Buddhas for the 5:30 a.m. prayer.

Still half-asleep, the young woman joins the monks in chanting mantras and reciting sacred texts for an hour. Kneeling, she bows three times to Vairocana, also known as the Great Sun Buddha, who dominates the 42-meter-high hall representing the cosmos.

Before grabbing a vegetarian breakfast in the adjacent refectory, monks and devotees chant around the hall to the sound of drums and gongs.

"I resigned last October from the e-commerce company where I had been working for the past two years in Nanjing, and joined the temple in January, where I am now a volunteer in residence," explains the young woman, soberly dressed in black pants and a cream linen jacket.

Located in the city of Jiaxing, over a hundred kilometers from Shanghai, in eastern China, the Xianghai temple is home to some 20 permanent volunteers.

Unlike Lin, most of them only stay for a couple days or a few weeks. But for Lin, who spends most of her free time studying Buddhist texts in the temple library, the change in her life has been radical. "I used to do the same job every day, sometimes until very late at night, writing all kinds of reports for my boss. I was exhausted physically and mentally. I felt my life had no meaning," she says.

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