More Than An Icon: How Elizabeth II Carved A Permanent Place In Posterity
- Ukraine war spilling into 2023
- Turkey’s silence on Uyghurs
- French soccer star laughs off climate change
- … and much more.
More Than An Icon: How Elizabeth II Carved A Permanent Place In Posterity
High on the list of words young people overuse — to the point of gutting its true meaning — is “iconic.” It’s not just second-rate actors and reality TV stars, but apparently your high school pal qualifies for iconic status just by showing up to a party in a cool new jacket.
Gen Z’ers are no doubt joining with their grandparents (and great-grandparents?) in paying their respects to the bonafide international icon that was Queen Elizabeth II.
Yet amid all the hagiography and highlight reels of the past two days since Elizabeth’s death at 96, another word comes to mind: monumental. With its solidity and permanence, the term is effectively one clear step up from iconic: both larger than life, and real in a way the make-believe of Hollywood or Instagram can never be.
The longest-serving British monarch ever built that status through thick and thin, feather-plumed hats and stiff upper lips: At a mere 5ft 3 inches (1.63m) of keeping-calm-and-carrying-on, she was a modern monument.
And yet the Queen’s passing, and the simultaneous outpouring of esteem from around the world, comes at a time when monuments are not particularly appreciated. In Eastern Europe, former Soviet monuments are being toppled in an effort to condemn the past and defend the future in the face of a newly aggressive Kremlin. As the Black Lives Matter movement spread around the U.S. and then the world two years ago, one key demand was the removal of statues of historical figures with racist, sexist and other malign marks on their marbled images.
There are of course many monuments that should rightfully be taken down. Yet the eagerness to so quickly eliminate physical representations of the past dovetails with the non-stop virtual takedowns of our digital age: Nobody is safe, nothing is sacred, nothing is permanent.
Until Thursday, the Queen defied all of that, seemingly destined to remain a part of our lives forever. Having ruled over seven decades, she possessed a singular formula for maintaining public favor and relevance across tumult in her nation and defunct empire, not to mention her own family. Part of it was quite plainly on the surface: the expertly executed waves to the crowd with her handbag looped just above her wrist, a perched posture of serenity in a velvet sitting room, standing for photo ops face-to-face with world leaders.
Her greatest feat, perhaps, is having managed to claim outsized stakes in both political and cultural significance — even if she exercised no real political power and the institution she represented was everything modern culture wasn’t supposed to be.
Elizabeth was in her role, yet somehow recognizable, eternally decent if always a tad distant. If you squint hard enough, you might see in her the model for a firm but patient CEO or prime minister, a firm but patient mother and matriarch.
Her ability to somehow defy categories and evade nearly all criticism can be seen in the reaction Thursday to the news from Sandrine Rousseau, a leftist French politician: “Elizabeth II left her mark on our age. She was a female figure who was part of the most momentous events of the second half of the 20th century until today. I’m not a monarchist, but I respect talent and those with political instincts. She had plenty.”
The end of Elizabeth’s reign brought me back to a chilly afternoon a few years ago when I’d brought my Gen Z kids and nieces to Madame Tussauds Wax Museum In London. There were lines to step up to take selfies alongside the wax likenesses of a wide range of celebrities and, yes, iconic figures, past and present. Still, we all agreed that the Queen had stolen the show.
The world is just getting used to the real Elizabeth being gone. Her likeness will soon start popping up in marble, and carved in stone, in England and beyond. It’s hard to imagine how she could ever be torn down.
— Jeff Israely
🎲 OUR WEEKLY NEWS QUIZ
What do you remember from the news this week?
1. Queen Elizabeth II, who died Thursday at 96, rose to the throne in what year?
2. North Korea has officially declared the country: COVID-free / a nuclear weapons state / the Greatest Land on Earth?
3. New UK Prime Minister Liz Truss unveiled the composition of her cabinet. What’s so special about it?
4. What new heroic fantasy series became Amazon’s streaming service Prime Video’s biggest premiere?
[Answers at the bottom of this newsletter]
French soccer star Kylian Mbappé has been under fire on social media this week after the Paris Saint-Germain striker and his coach burst out laughing when a journalist asked about the team’s decision to travel by private jet to the western city of Nantes (just 380 kilometers from the capital city) instead of taking the train. The pair’s reaction was met with backlash, as the choice of traveling via private jets has come increasingly under scrutiny over energy shortages and environmental concerns.
🎭 5 CULTURE THINGS TO KNOW
• Russia bans Sean Penn and Ben Stiller: U.S. actors Ben Stiller and Sean Penn have joined a list of more than 900 U.S. citizens permanently banned from entering Russia over their vocal criticism of the war in Ukraine.
• Items hidden in Vermeer’s “Milkmaid”: Thanks to a new technique called “short wavelength,” experts have discovered hidden details in Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer’s iconic painting The Milkmaid. Vermeer initially painted a jug holder and a basket in the background before covering them with the white wall in front of which the milkmaid stands.
• Naked Nevermind baby loses Nirvana lawsuit: Spencer Elden, the now 31-year-old former naked baby on Nirvana’s 1991 Nevermind album cover, lost his lawsuit against the grunge rock band over “commercial child sexual exploitation.” The judge dismissed the lawsuit arguing that the 10-year statute of limitations had expired before Elden filed his complaint.
• Close call for Uganda’s Nyege Nyege festival: On Tuesday, Uganda’s Parliament announced it would ban the popular dance music festival Nyege Nyege on the grounds that it encouraged sexual immorality and “promoted gays” in the country. The decision was reversed just 24 hours later, with officials saying they still wanted tourists to come to Uganda as the country recovers from COVID-19. The festival will be held from Sept 15-18 in capital city Kampala.
• NYC gives back stolen Italian works: The city of New York has returned $19 million worth of stolen artifacts to Italy, including a marble head of the goddess Athena. The artworks were looted from churches and museums starting in the 1960s by smugglers who then crossed the Atlantic and sold them to museums (including the Metropolitan Museum of Art) and private collectors.
🇷🇺🕝 With Ukraine Still Short On Weapons, Putin’s Plan To Drag War Out
Russia's progress on the frontline in Ukraine has stalled. But the West's indecisiveness in sending long-range artillery risks the war being dragged out until next year — which is exactly what Vladimir Putin wants. Volodymyr Horbulin and Valentin Badra, writing in Kyiv-based outlet Livy Bereg, note that Putin needs time to restore the Russian army’s ability to fight and try to provoke an energy crisis in Europe..
Read the full story: Russia's Next New Strategy: Try To Stall Until 2023
🇹🇷 The Silence Of Islamic Turkey On The Uyghurs
The situation for the Uyghur minority living in Turkey today is tense. They have support from the nationalist “Iyi Parti” (“The Good Party”) and their leader Meral Aksener. But the ruling party, the AKP, does not want to risk relations with its strategic partner China. In 2016, Ankara extradited the Uyghur activist Abdulkadir Yapcan to Beijing. In 2017, Turkey and China signed a readmission agreement, although it has not yet been ratified by the Turkish parliament.
Philipp Mattheis, in an analysis for German daily Die Welt, writes that as Turkey’s economy grows increasingly dependent on Beijing, Erdogan is holding his tongue about human rights abuses — and he is not alone.
Read the full story: On China's Leash: Why Erdogan Stays Silent On Muslim Uyghurs
🇨🇳🤰 “Three-Child Policy” And The Troubling Question Of Teenage Abortion
In an attempt to counter an aging population, China announced its "three-child policy" last year. It has also cracked down on sex education and contraception. The move has meant that abortion is often the only option for Chinese girls and women in the post-family planning era.
As Qiliu Zhao writes for Mandarin-language The Initium, there is no credible figure for the abortion rates for China's teenage population. In Mainland China, the term generally refers to the age range of 15 to 24 years old. The number of teenage abortions is approaching four million each year, accounting for 40% of all abortions.
But in public discourse, girls who have had multiple abortions are portrayed as being very unconcerned or careless about sexuality and pregnancy. "It doesn't matter how old they are, they face the same difficulties and stigma of 'having promiscuous sex without being married, being indiscreet, and even getting themselves pregnant'."
Read the full story: How China's Race To Boost Low Birth Rates Is Backfiring With Teenage Pregnancy
🐁🧪 BRIGHT IDEA
British scientists developed the first synthetic mouse embryothat formed organs without sperm or egg. Lead study author Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz said, “Our mouse embryo model not only develops a brain, but also a beating heart, all the components that go on to make up the body”; this discovery could be used in the future to develop infertility drugs.
🥤🥤 SMILE OF THE WEEK
What do you get when you put American football fans in an Irish stadium? Well, this group of spectators showed off their cup-stacking skills during the Nebraska-Northwestern American football game in Dublin, as vendors could not process credit card payments. The free drinks attracted thousands of fans and resulted in an impressive cup tower connecting two bleachers. Cheers!
⏩ LOOKING AHEAD
• Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin are scheduled to meet in person on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Uzbekistan, which starts next Friday. This will mark the first time the two leaders are first face-to-face since the war in Ukraine began.
• Bilateral talks between senior government officials from the U.S. and Mexico are slated for next week, but the U.S. dispute with Mexico over its energy policies is reportedly not on the agenda.
• Kenya’s William Ruto will be sworn in as the country’s new president on Tuesday, ensuring a stable transition after weeks of political uncertainty.
• The U.S. Open finals are drawing to a close this weekend. Attendance records are likely to soar.
News quiz answers:
1. Eventually becoming the United Kingdom’s longest-serving monarch with 70 years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in 1952 in what became one of the first televised global events of the 20th century. See how the world’s newspapers marked her passing.
2. According to state media, North Korea has passed a law declaring its status as a nuclear weapons state and allowing the country’s right to carry out preventive nuclear strikes if threatened. North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un said such status is now “irreversible.”
3. New UK Prime Minister Liz Truss appointed her cabinet and for the first time, there will not be a white man in one of the country’s top ministerial positions. Truss selected Kwasi Kwarteng and James Cleverly as first Black Finance Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister while Suella Braverman became the second ethnic minority Home Secretary.
4. U.S. giant Amazon announced that its first episode of Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power series, based on J.R.R Tolkien’s works, was watched around the world by more than 25 million viewers in 24 hours, marking Prime Video’s biggest premiere.
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