Today's a one-off national public holiday to mourn Queen Elizabeth II. Since I'm no longer on Twitter I feel a bit insulated from the usual wave of discourse which events like this set off: the nearest I've come to it is seeing someone pose in a bandana on Facebook with the caption "monarchists wear bandanas too".
(I just imagined putting a hyperlink on "Facebook", which would be quite a strange piece of internet behaviour, as if it was some website you might want to check out casually once you'd finished reading this.)
I expected there to be a bunch of people wondering if this would lead to Australia becoming a republic, but I haven't read any of these articles because Australian republicanism's problem is that it's dull. Getting rid of a monarchy should be exciting and invigorating: arguing that we should have a different head of state because it really doesn't matter invites its own refutation. If it really doesn't matter, then why bother?
And choosing the mourning period for an extraordinarily long-reigning and well-regarded monarch seems completely clueless, as if republicans are blind to the psychological reasons we're attached to the monarchy in the first place. A colleague who'd grown up in the Soviet Union once told me he couldn't understand why Australians still had a Queen, and I said, only half-joking, that it was because we didn't have to pay for her. We get the reassurance of a head of state without the responsibility of choosing them or the expense of maintaining the palaces.
I was going on about "our national character" in the Teams at work, and how we are a nation who likes to think of itself as hard-headed and pragmatic, but which also finds certain legal fictions very useful: our constitutional monarchy would fall into the same category as terra nullius or the extraterritorial detention of asylum seekers. And I realised as I was typing the words "our national character" that it felt somewhat dated, that I was referring to a heritage that is no longer representative of the majority of Australians, even though white blokes like me are disproportionately represented in politics and the media.
But even that demographic shift is unlikely to lead to change, I think, partly because the dead hand of the old national character is still holding the tiller, but mostly because a serious attempt to change the head of state would involve deciding what, in the absence of colonialism and its afterimages, this nation is actually about, and it's that sort of engagement with politics that the comfort blanket of the monarchy lets us avoid.