The banality of Prince Harry

5 February 2022

3:34 AM

5 February 2022

3:34 AM

When Prince Harry was unveiled as ‘chief impact officer’ at a tech start-up in California, many people were baffled. What did his job title mean? Well, now we know: his mission is to spout meaningless platitudes for wads of cash.

Among the pearls of wisdom dished out by Harry in his appearance on a virtual panel for mental health awareness company BetterUp, was that: ‘Mental fitness is the pinnacle’. We also learned that, when things get busy, ‘self care is the first thing that drops away.’

Harry’s solution? Firms should ‘give everyone time to focus on themselves’. Introduced by BetterUp’s boss Alexi Robichaux as ‘one of the bravest advocates for mental fitness’, the Duke’s insights into the topic were, as ever, eagerly awaited by his admirers.

Unfortunately, nothing that the chief impact officer said managed to transcend banality. We learnt that ‘life is about learning, right?’ and that ‘if you’re in your 20s, your 30s, your 40s, and even your 50s and you think you’ve got it sorted then bad stuff is going to happen.’

Because this is America, a handy life lesson soon followed. As the Duke of Sussex exhorted:

‘When bad things happen I think, ‘There’s a lesson here, I’m being schooled by the universe, there is something for me to learn. Next time it happens, I’m going to be more resilient and can see a way around it to achieve the ultimate goal.’

Short of the acquisition of ever-larger sums of money, it remains unclear as to what the ‘ultimate goal’ of either Prince Harry or Meghan Markle actually is. At least the Duke, who spoke almost entirely in cliches – ‘any fuel, any steam in the engine, I was burning the candle at both ends’ – did not repeat his previous statement that leaving work was to be ‘celebrated’ if people felt stuck in positions that did not empower them or bring them joy.

Such things are relatively easy to say for a multimillionaire who showily abandoned his own responsibilities. It might be harder for a struggling employee who is pushed into ever-greater financial difficulty with rising inflation, energy bills and the cost of living at record highs.

For all of prince Harry’s talk of ‘inner work’ and ‘outer work’, and how ‘every single bad thing – or the things you perceive to be bad – that happen actually can be good’, there remains an ever-growing gap between his Californian self-help wishy-washyness and anything that might endanger Brand Sussex. Harry and Meghan have a high-profile partnership with Spotify, which has so far produced one podcast. Yet when a row exploded over statements about vaccines made by the broadcaster Joe Rogan on a Spotify podcast, the Sussexes declined the chance to take a stance that might hit them where it hurts: in the wallet.

Instead, they solemnly declared:

‘We have continued to express our concerns to Spotify to ensure changes to its platform are made to help address this public health crisis. We look to Spotify to meet this moment and are committed to continuing our work together as it does.’ 

The cynic might suggest it is easy to make such empty statements, but considerably harder for them to follow through on any remedial action, especially if such a decision could – heaven forbid! – lead to one of their sources of revenue coming to an end.

What is becoming all too clear is that the entire Archewell project – launched with great fanfare – lacks a focus or purpose. All the podcasts and virtual appearances in the world cannot give it the structure that it needs for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to be taken as seriously as they obviously wish. Harry might bleat that ‘life is about discovery’, but he might wish to discover a means of turning his family’s celebrity into something worthwhile, or risk his reputation drifting ever-faster into obsolescence.

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