Sixty Joyless De-Britished Uncrowned Commonpoor Years (1949-2009)

Elizabeth II Vice-Regal Saint: Remembering Paul Comtois (1895–1966), Lt.-Governor of Québec
Britannic Inheritance: Britain's proud legacy. What legacy will America leave?
English Debate: Daniel Hannan revels in making mince meat of Gordon Brown
Crazy Canucks: British MP banned from Canada on national security grounds
Happy St. Patrick's: Will Ireland ever return to the Commonwealth?
Voyage Through the Commonwealth: World cruise around the faded bits of pink.
No Queen for the Green: The Green Party of Canada votes to dispense with monarchy.
"Sir Edward Kennedy": The Queen has awarded the senator an honorary Knighthood.
President Obama: Hates Britain, but is keen to meet the Queen?
The Princess Royal: Princess Anne "outstanding" in Australia.
H.M.S. Victory: In 1744, 1000 sailors went down with a cargo of gold.
Queen's Commonwealth: Britain is letting the Commonwealth die.
Justice Kirby: His support for monarchy almost lost him appointment to High Court
Royal Military Academy: Sandhurst abolishes the Apostles' Creed.
Air Marshal Alec Maisner, R.I.P. Half Polish, half German and 100% British.
Cherie Blair: Not a vain, self regarding, shallow thinking viper after all.
Harry Potter: Celebrated rich kid thinks the Royals should not be celebrated
The Royal Jelly: A new king has been coronated, and his subjects are in a merry mood
Victoria Cross: Australian TROOPER MARK DONALDSON awarded the VC
Godless Buses: Royal Navy veteran, Ron Heather, refuses to drive his bus
Labour's Class War: To expunge those with the slightest pretensions to gentility
100 Top English Novels of All Time: The Essential Fictional Library
BIG BEN: Celebrating 150 Years of the Clock Tower

Saturday, 3 March 2007

The Tyranny of Tidiness

With your host, Lewis Holden.

Lewis has some very good points in his responses to my posts which I have not yet addressed. This is quite deliberate, there are three or four posts in my Monarchist jeremiad to go yet, and I hope to get to at least some of the points he is making. Panic not, I do not attempt to slay the world in one post.

Lewis's response, which you can read by clicking on his name, seems to me to cut to the heart of the issue which divides us, and so I post on it without further delay, despite promising not to.Mr. Holden exhibits his undoubted intellect, and the debating training which we never doubted by labelling my last post a "squirrel". This itself is a well-known debating technique, as Dr. Swift knows, for he has used it: give the opponent's argument a nasty technical label, and you are half-way to winning it. (If that fails, try the Bill Wilmot technique of labelling the debater, although if you do adopt this, Dr. Swift advises better spelling).

The key paragraph for me in Lewis's response is this one:

But we are neither Marxists nor anarchists;

[Yet another example of debating training; accuse your opponent of saying something he not only did not say, but explicitly denied. This is completely irrelevant to the remainder of the post, but Dr. Swift could not let it go past without tipping his shovel hat to an intelligent opponent.]

Where we disagree with monarchists is on the issue of how the pinnacle of the hierarchy gains their office how our head of state gains their position.

Bingo. Or, to be more accurate, we disagree on which methods of appointment are legitimate. At the back of this disagreement, are, in my view, two differing conceptions of the State, and the natural structure of government.Mr. Holden exalts freedom of choice. He maintains that governments derive their authority from the consent of the governed, and he would say that the democratic process is the legitimate way by which that consent is manifested. If I have mischaracterised his position, I invite him to correct me.

I do not disagree that "consent" is required, but I see the State in less contractual terms than that. Following Roger Scruton in The Meaning of Conservatism (which book I recommend to Mr. Holden), I say that consent does not have to be elective. We do not choose our families. It is ridiculous to say that we give up certain of our rights by consent to secure certain privileges, because we don't. Families are built on a bond which is much deeper than a simple contract, and on a differing sort of authority which derives its power only from the fact that it is recognised.

Likewise, there are other customs and conventions which exert power over our thinking and our actions, simply because we recognise their authority. The sacred turf, at Christ's College, for example, which is sacred because it is considered to be so. Opening a door for a woman. Standing on the bus for an elderly person. There is no reason that we should do these things, but we feel we ought to do them, and that custom and convention excercises authority over us only to the extent that we recognise it.

Anyone who has lived in a village, as Dr. Swift has, can testify that there are dozens of conventions and agreements in community life (Don't walk on the grass verge. Don't touch the roses in Mrs. Brown's garden. Tip your hat, take your hat off inside, cross yourself, don't cross yourself, shout "Amen!", let Mrs. Aldrige have the first cup of tea, don't push in line, lower your voice, don't touch that.....) which are not voted upon at all. They are simply upheld by common consent as the sort of thing we do here. The Common Law is a very good example of the sort of thing I mean; a thicket of precedents and individual decisions which together make up a united whole.

To me, the State is a village, with its own conventions and customs. With Montesquieu, (The original populariser of Mr. Holden's notion of a "crowned republic", although what he said after that seems neglected), I say that what he called the "courtesy", or the custom which upholds the Monarchy is an absolutely valid way of giving consent. It is tacit consent, but consent none the less. The Hereditary Principle rests upon this customary basis. We don't vote, or opt-in to our Head of State, but in a thousand different ways, we consent to her continued reign.It is, no doubt, possible to abolish custom in favour of theoretical abstractions. It is possible to hew down the thicket in order to plan and plot the perfect Constitution on the grounds of ideology.

This is what Mr. Holden does regularly, trying to plan the new republic like pieces of a jig-saw. And, to do him justice, he does a careful and thorough job of making his case. But I repeat Mr. Burke's insight that we do not "frame a government". We inherit one, in all its messy humanity, and we must then decide what we ought to do with it. I think that even though a republic might be ideologically tidier, we ought to leave the village alone. He thinks things ought to be tidied up for our own good. This is one of the differences between us.

I expect Mr. Holden to say that the customs we inherit are not our own, and we have new ideas reflective of our identity. He might even quote that excruciating parallel with the kauri again. I'll look at the idea of New Zealand identities, true and false, in a future post.

7 comments:

Juan said...

An astute response indeed.

Though my youth and inattention precludes me from saying much, I do believe that I can contribute to this discussion in some small way. Perhaps, to help the contractually minded understand the virtue of inherited hierarchy, one must speak not so much of contracts as of a far more ancient mode of agreement, the covenant.

Lest I segue into a discourse on the promise to the Father of Many Nations, it would suffice to say that the covenant, while retaining the legal and official exchange of duty in a simple contract, is so much more than that, being embedded in mutual trust and a respect for the past, for history and tradition, and a clear vision of an ideal existence. It is not so much written down as understood; its intangibility is the base of its virtue. For, by setting up this agreement, we become connected to something greater than ourselves.

If I have been prattling on about nonsense with little correlation to the topic at hand, then I apologize most profusely. However, this talk of contracts and obligations has sparked an idea which I felt deserved to be properly explicated, and which I believed who help us see the monarchy in a new way, at least it so far as the wisdom of our elders can be called "new".

Neil Welton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Neil Welton said...

The finest examples of "community" exist in nature. Just look at the ants and the bees - look at how they've all been endowed with a natural need to serve and to respect a Queen. For in these communities we also see natural "customs and conventions" at work. Customs and conventions which not only "recognise authority" but which also serve to pacify the greater needs of the community. The need for authority, stability and order. The need for rules, laws and obedience to them. For without these in the hive or in the ant hill there would soon be chaos, anarchy and murder. That is why ants and bees (like humans) find it hard to accept or even tolerate the idea of a corrupted Kingdom. Indeed, one can only gleefully imagine what all the other bees would have done to Lewis, if he himself had been born as a bee.

Canicus said...

I'm an American. Where, really, does the consent come in? It's certainly not individual. I have absolutely no say in the structure of the government. I never had any choice about income tax or any other tax. I can't say how my children are educated with my income. If I vote for a candidate, and the opposition wins, I've withheld my consent from the opposition, but I have to submit. The same extends to whatever laws are passed, given my choice.

If, however, I do not make an individual consent, then I must make another form of consent. My individuality is subsumed to the corporate consciousness. In the end, I am simply be a number in a mass of people, whether it is national or one of the minority groups.

In each case, though, my desires get overwhelmed, and as the population grows, the importance of the individual decreases. As the importance of the individual decreases, the respect given him is decreased as utilitarian philosophies take deep root and people are mechanized.

Since this has the facade of consent, the people readily submit, and our minds are narrowed except on a few flash-point issues. We, consequently, occupy ourselves not with what is great but with Britney Spears and with American Idol. The tyranny, and that is what it is, deepens itself and removes ever more possible worldviews simply by "popular consent."

Now, if I don't consent, I have three options. I can submit as a good subject. I can go to jail. Lastly, I could go to another country where I similarly lack consent and start the whole mess over. I don't see any "revise the government option" available to me unless I number in millions.

"Consent of the governed" is really a sham, and the bigger we get, the more of a sham it's going to be. If I don't individually consent, then it is still simply submission by rule of force. If this is not so, if my individual submission is not necessary to validate the law, then it justifies hereditary and other forms of arbitrary authority. They both, ultimately, threaten tyranny. It's just a question of which one is worse.

Now, I'm still a republican in America, but I'm looking into examining monarchy, and the above is one of the more potent issues I face. Increasingly, it looks like "consent of the governed" is simply another wooden nickel.

Neil Welton said...

Buzz. Interesting post Canicus. Buzz. Believe me, it is much more easy on the conscience to serve a political neutral Queen, than it is to obey a politically charged president. Buzz. For a Queen rules by the random nature of Her birth, not by the politicized majority you politely call "consent". Buzz. Why not join us? For there shall always be a special place in our hive for you. Buzz.

Neil Welton said...

Oh, by the way (buzz), serving our Queen is much easier on the eyes too. Buzz.

Canicus said...

I'm examining monarchist theory, but I don't jump ship very easily, nor do I do so quickly. I've just begun the examination. The basic process by which I examine a belief I consider formidable is to argue for it and understand its underpinnings. After I gain a full understanding of it, then I decide. If I change my position, then I have adopted a stronger one. If I don't, then I make mine stronger by finding the its weaknesses.