A unusual factor has occurred since final week, when I wrote about how myself and different social psychologists have been finding out the crowds of individuals queuing to look at the ceremonials following the dying of Queen Elizabeth – discovering out the various causes and motivations for collaborating on this mass occasion. It appears the Queue itself – and what it supposedly tells us in regards to the state of our nation – has develop into as large a narrative because the ceremonies. We stopped watching the pageantry and began watching ourselves watching the pageants.
This was simply the beginning of a collection of outstanding transformations. The scale and behavior of the crowds didn’t merely mirror the pre-existing state of the nation. Reasonably, by way of these crowds we noticed a change in our want to take part within the occasions, a change of relations between these within the crowd, and transformations of their relationship to the monarch, the monarchy and the state. Every week is a very long time, it appears, and never solely in politics.
Two issues instantly gripped the general public creativeness. The primary was the sheer dimension of the queuing crowds. Some speculated it was the most important funeral crowd ever. Such a daring declare is tough to evaluate, however the reply is it in all probability wasn’t. 4 million watched Pope John Paul II being laid to relaxation, 5 million watched Nasser’s funeral, as much as 10 million the Ayatollah Khomeini’s. And 16 million have been there for CN Annadurai, the chief minister of Madras, after he died in 1969. Furthermore, in 1980 the queue to pay respects to the Russian singer Vladimir Vysotsky stretched totally 10km, from the Taganka theatre in Moscow to the cemetery the place he was buried. However such particulars are irrelevant. Just by asking whether or not that is the most important queue ever, a way of exceptionalism is invoked.
The second issue can be about exceptionalism. Repeatedly, queues, and this one particularly, have been described as quintessentially and uniquely British: well mannered, restrained and orderly, reflecting the timeless traits of our nationwide id. Like most supposedly “timeless” nationwide phenomena, this isn’t truly correct. The thought of the British as a nation of queuers dates again to the second world battle. The federal government feared that meals shortages, rationing and lengthy queues would result in social dysfunction – so there was a concerted propaganda drive to make orderly queuing right into a nationwide obligation and an emblem of being British. Managed crowds weren’t a mirrored image of “Britishness”. Reasonably “Britishness” was a tool invoked to manage the crowds.
Simply because the funeral and different ceremonies individuals have been ready to witness are sometimes described as “going again to time immemorial” however have been truly invented within the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the notion that the civility of British crowds attending these ceremonies likewise stretches again by way of the mists of time is a robust piece of myth-making.
However the relentless deal with the Queue as a historic occasion in and of itself made the mere act of queuing appear ever extra important. Increasingly individuals needed to hitch merely to be a part of it. Day-to-day, as we talked to individuals, this turned extra distinguished as a motive for attendance. Many who had been sitting at dwelling with no considered becoming a member of in, started to concern lacking out on a little bit little bit of immortality. So the gang grew ever larger, turning into ever extra important and thus attracting but extra individuals. The snowball rolled and grew sooner and sooner.
As soon as drawn to the gang, one other transformation occurred. The shared expertise and customary targets of these ready collectively over lengthy hours led to an emergent sense of shared id. And that shared id turned the idea for the emergence of group. Strangers turned mates. Individuals started to speak, to share tales, to share sandwiches, even to develop intimacies. Such solidarity sustained individuals by way of the lengthy march. Regardless of the motive individuals joined the queue, the enjoyment of human connection turned a motive to remain within the crowd.
As the gang progressed, as individuals drew near Westminster Corridor, after which, as they got here into the presence of the coffin and crown, but yet another transformation occurred. The joyous and even raucous relationship of queuers to one another gave option to the connection of every particular person to royalty. Within the hush of the corridor, every particular person stood alone within the presence of the Queen’s coffin and the meticulously choreographed precision of her attendants. Those that have been there informed our analysis crew how their senses have been remodeled, their feelings heightened. Majesty – hitherto an summary idea – has been made manifest. Such experiences mirror a previous identification with the monarchy. However collective experiences additionally create and intensify identification
Many of the dialogue of the response to the Queen’s dying has targeted merely on what it tells us about ourselves as a society. However that’s to overlook the significance of how these occasions actively change individuals. We don’t come out of the final 10 days as we went in. However that’s the entire level of such ceremonials. They’re applied sciences for engineering souls. And by investigating them, we acquire essential insights into how that course of works.