In his 1999 book, The Abolition of Britain, Peter Hitchens brilliantly documented the cultural rot that had set into England by contrasting two enormously attended British funerals. Hitchens looked at first, the sober postwar British who mourned the passing of 90-year old Winston Churchill in 1965, who had merely saved England and western Europe from totalitarianism two decades prior. And then for comparison, cataloged the excesses of the then-recent Beatlemania-esque 1997 funeral of Princess Diana. The latter, killed at the all-too-young-age of 36, was an upper class teacher’s assistant who married and divorced Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, and was in the process of seemingly transforming herself into the sixth Spice Girl.
At least two of the real Spice Girls and Prince Charles himself make their own cameo appearances at the start of Mark Steyn’s latest column on this week’s death of a man known on the world stage, whose badly bungled funeral is yet another mile marker on the cultural road to perdition:
I don’t want to be emotional but this is one of the greatest moments of my life,” declared Nelson Mandela upon meeting the Spice Girls in 1997. So I like to think he would have appreciated the livelier aspects of his funeral observances. The Prince of Wales, who was also present on that occasion in Johannesburg, agreed with Mandela on the significance of their summit with the girls: “It is the second-greatest moment in my life,” he said. “The greatest was when I met them the first time.” His Royal Highness and at least two Spice Girls (reports are unclear) attended this week’s service in Soweto, and I’m sure it was at least the third-greatest moment in all of their lives. Don’t ask me where the other Spice Girls were. It is a melancholy reflection that the Spice Girls’ delegation was half the size of Canada’s, which flew in no fewer than four Canadian prime ministers, which is rather more Canadian prime ministers than one normally needs to make the party go with a swing.
But the star of the show was undoubtedly Thamsanqa Jantjie, the sign-language interpreter who stood alongside the world’s leaders and translated their eulogies for the deaf. Unfortunately, he translated them into total gibberish, reduced by the time of President Obama’s appearance to making random hand gestures, as who has not felt the urge to do during the great man’s speeches. Mr. Jantjie has now pleaded in mitigation that he was having a sudden hallucination because he is a violent schizophrenic. It has not been established whether he is, in fact, a violent schizophrenic, or, as with his claim to be a sign-language interpreter, merely purporting to be one. Asked how often he has been violent, he replied, somewhat cryptically, “A lot.”
Still, South African officials are furiously pointing fingers (appropriately enough) to account for how he wound up onstage.
The Air Force One-sized egos, and equally large space between the solemnity in which our would-be leaders wish to be observed versus their actual fumbling reality are too huge a target to ignore, and Mark is in rare form here. You owe it to yourself to let your fingers do the walking to the rest of the article, and read the whole thing.
Earlier: “Behold, I Show You The Last Man.”
Related: “There was an incoherent fraud onstage during Obama’s eulogy for Nelson Mandela,” Jim Treacher warns. “Also, that sign-language guy was a fake.”