Big problem with Prince Harry's speech

Newspaper Published Source
The New Zealand Herald 2020-12-05 Link

The Duke of Sussex gave an impassioned speech, but a huge hypocrisy has been pointed out. Video / WaterBear COMMENT: "Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me," F. Scott Fitzgerald once said and there is no more perfect illustration of how true his words still are than to take a quick squiz at what the 1 per cent think passes as "normal". From the streets of London's Mayfair to New York's Upper East Side to Paris' Avenue Montaigne, when it comes to the homes of the uber wealthy, inclusions such as wellness studios, meditation rooms and vast home multimedia spaces have become bog standard. Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, joined this elite cadre in July this year when it was confirmed they had bought their first home (in fact, the first home that either of them has ever owned) in the upscale neighbourhood of Montecito in Santa Barbara, replete with two saunas, a cinema, games room, 13 bathrooms and a Japanese-style tea house. They are, after all, rich and can easily afford such a pricey joint given their recent rumoured $130 million Netflix deal. But Harry and Meghan are not just wealthy; they are wealthy people building their post-royal brand as changemakers and thought leaders and this is why, for the Duke especially, the Sussexes' choice of first home is deeply problematic. The thing is, there is a vast, Grand Canyon-sized chasm between what the Prince proselytises about as he forges a career as a climate change campaigner and how he lives his life. This week, Harry took to the family's now-famous beige couch for another video interview, this time to help launch Water Bear, a new documentary streaming service. Speaking in his capacity as the head of Africa Parks, the royal called for action over words, saying: "For me it's about putting the dos behind the says … There's a lot of people that say, but this is about action." In recent years tackling climate change and addressing looming environmental catastrophe has become a bigger and bigger focus of the royals and for which the 36-year-old should be thoroughly commended. Given his position, turbulent personal history and the fact he has already served two terms on the frontline of a war, if the man wanted to lie down on one of his pricey sofas working his way through the oeuvre of Dan Brown and drinking milkshakes forever more, it would be justly deserved. And yet, instead, he has again and again spoken about the global threat of climate change and last year teamed up with, Skyscanner and Visa to launch Travleyst, an eco-tourism initiative. All of which is to his eternal credit. However, the huge, unresolved sticking point here is the inconsistency between his words and choices. In March 2019, he took a $10,000 private helicopter trip to attend an official engagement in Birmingham only two days before delivering a climate speech. Months later, Harry travelled by both private jet and a helicopter to attend the annual ultra-exclusive Google climate change summit in Sardinia, per the Daily Mail. Then, already facing flak in the media over his Google jaunt, he, Meghan and Archie then proceeded to take four private jet flights in the space of 11 days as they flitted about Europe soaking up the sunshine in Ibiza and the south of France. (In July this year, former UK MP and current Privy Council member Norman Baker claimed that per his calculations in the 12 months to January 2020, the Sussexes' carbon footprint could be up to 26 times that of the average Brit thanks to them taking 53 international flights including 18 by private jet.) In March this year, the audio of a phone call between Harry and Russian pranksters posing as climate activist Greta Thunberg was released which revealed the intensity of his personal feeling and sense of urgency: "I think the mere fact that Donald Trump is pushing the coal industry so big in America, he has blood on his hands." Weeks later, he and Meghan are reported to have flown from their Vancouver Island hideaway to LA in Tyler Perry's $200 million private jet that can reportedly carry up to 124 people before moving into his Beverly Hills faux-Tuscan mansion set on a 14-acre estate. In June, Prince Harry said: "We are currently living through an extinction crisis" and then the following month the Sussexes were photographed leaving a LA dentist's office and getting into a gas-guzzling six-litre Cadillac Escalade SUV with the security team. The issue here is the profound disconnect between Harry's professional stance and the decisions he makes in his personal life. This incongruity extends beyond all things eco. Take his increasing vocalism on racism in recent months. In July, he said the Commonwealth needed to confront its history in the fight against racism while in October, he said during an interview that it had taken him "many, many years" to realise that unconscious racial bias exists in society. Yet he has never publicly addressed the fact in 2005 he dressed up as a Nazi for a fancy dress party or was caught on a video released in 2009 which caught him calling a fellow Sandhurst cadet "our little P*ki friend" and joking that another looked like a "raghead". (Harry apologised on both occasions.) The problem here isn't his youthful transgressions or his previous mistakes but the fact that now as an informed, impassioned adult who is clearly committed to making a difference, he has failed again and again to acknowledge his missteps. Similarly, being wealthy and being able to afford loos by the dozen should not mean a person is automatically disqualified from caring about the planet or trying to do something about the threat of global warming. However, nor is the public willing to wholesale swallow the racial justice and environmental lines Harry is pushing while blithely ignoring his own complicated past when it comes to these areas. (It is perhaps not surprising then that a survey released in July this year found that 66 per cent of British adults thought the Sussexes were "hypocritical on air travel".) What makes Harry's blind spot on all of this so disappointing is that we can all relate to this particular tension between wanting the comforts of modern life – we all want Wi-Fi, air conditioning and lots of international flights – while simultaneously wanting to try and prevent environmental Armageddon. His is just a more extreme, pronounced version. Let's be realistic: No one is expecting Harry and Meghan to move into a solar-powered yurt, recycle their grey water and only kit Archie out in recycled hemp. The issue here is that Harry has not, as far as I'm aware, ever truly acknowledged the contradiction between his own lifestyle and his work. However, to truly become a leader demands trust and trust demands honesty. I know, I know, that sounds like something sprouted by some sort of dime store Brene Brown but that doesn't change the fact that for Harry to truly make his mark in his post-royal activist career he needs to make peace with his past and with contradictions of his California existence. I'm not talking about some sort of exercise in self flagellation – this is not about punishment. It's that if he wants to truly take charge and assume a position of authority he can no longer keep putting his head in the sand. None of these issues are going away and if the world starts to open up in 2021 and we return to our old habits in terms of international travel, this will only become more of a thorn in Harry's side. What is so disappointing about all of this is that there has never been a member of the royal family, aside from perhaps his mother Diana, Princess of Wales, with such potential to have a profound impact globally as Harry. William might one day be king but outside of Britain, does he actually hold any real sway or is widely viewed as a leader? My point exactly. Harry does. But he will never fully achieve what he is capable of while his detractors can so readily point out the glaring cognitive dissonance between his words and actions. So I hope next time Harry is sitting in his Japanese-style tea house pondering life, he decides it's time to front up. Not just for his sake but because right now, the world needs him. • Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with more than 15 years' experience working with a number of Australia's leading media titles.