Now this is rich. Prince Charles has cleared his lengthy throat and announced to the world (or at any rate, to the BBC) that the thing he most cares about, the thing that "really worries" him, is climate change. What a fine fellow, to have such high-minded concerns. And here we thought he was nothing more than an insufferable and terminably inconsequential playboy. But why has he suddenly decided to speak out? Because, he told the BBC, "he did not want his future grandchildren to ask why he had not acted over the issue."
I know the Prince will forgive me for saying so, but aren’t there other things his grandchildren may want to ask him about? Why, they may well ask, did he do so much to undermine the institutions of family and marriage in his society, and the fundamental decencies attached to those institutions, by humiliating those children’s paternal grandmother before the world, and carrying on openly with another woman not his wife? Why, they may wonder, did he put the needs of his gonads before the needs of his wife, his children, his family, and the nation? We were just wondering, grandfather….And they may also wonder–just what gives him the right to lecture the world about anything at all?
I’m sure there is a sociologist more clever than I who has come up with a better term for the technique the Prince is employing here. I merely call it the art of "rehabilitation through moral up-trading." This is the classic strategem by which the morally stigmatized think to redeem themselves on the cheap. Instead of repenting for their sins and living a more humble and chastened life, they seek to subsume their sins under the rubric of some infinitely vaster, more idealistic, more abstract, and more impressive cause. Far from being an act of self-mortification, it is a sign of pride, merely the continuation of self-aggrandizement by other means. To say so is to say nothing about the substantive merits of the Prince’s cause. But it does say something about whether he brings credit to the cause–or whether instead the cause is meant to bring credit to him.