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

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Monarchy can easily be debunked...

The following is the short essay "Equality" published by C.S. Lewis in The Spectator on February 11, 1944. The London Fog was enquiring from yours truly the source of that great quote, but I was also glad to stumble across (via the man with the mutton chops) a fashionable modern liberal who was perplexed by his own aristocratic fetishism, by his fascination with all of those things he once hated and vowed to escape. Flat equality, he had discovered, is a rather dim prospect that ran counter to his spiritual needs. Equality and democracy are necessary, but so is man's spiritual nature. Deny it food and it will gobble poison.

I AM A DEMOCRAT BECAUSE I BELIEVE IN THE FALL OF MAN. I think most people are democrats for the opposite reason. A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that everyone deserved a share in the government. The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they're not true. And whenever their weakness is exposed, the people who prefer tyranny make capital out of the exposure. I find that they're not true without looking further than myself. I don't deserve a share in governing a hen-roost, much less a nation. Nor do most people - all the people who believe advertisements, and think in catchwords and spread rumours. The real reason for democracy is just the reverse. Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows. Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be slaves. I do not contradict him. But I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters.

This introduces a view of equality rather different from that in which we have been trained. I do not think that equality is one of those things (like wisdom or happiness) which are good simply in themselves and for their own sakes. I think it is in the same class as medicine, which is good because we are ill, or clothes which are good because we are no longer innocent, I don't think the old authority in kings, priests, husbands, or fathers, and the old obedience in subjects, laymen, wives, and sons, was in itself a degrading or evil thing at all. I think it was intrinsically as good and beautiful as the nakedness of Adam and Eve. It was rightly taken away because men became bad and abused it. To attempt to restore it now would be the same error as that of the Nudists. Legal and economic equality are absolutely necessary remedies after the Fall, and protection against cruelty.

But medicine is not good. There is no spiritual sustenance in flat equality. It is a dim recognition of this fact which makes much of our political propaganda sound so thin. We are trying to be enraptured by something which is merely the negative condition of the good life. And that is why the imagination of people is so easily captured by appeals to the craving for inequality, whether in a romantic form of films about loyal courtiers or in the brutal form of Nazi ideology. The tempter always works on some real weakness in our own system of values: offers food to some need which we have starved.

When equality is treated not as a medicine or a safety-gadget but as an ideal we begin to breed that stunted and envious sort of mind which hates all superiority. That mind is the special disease of democracy, as cruelty and servility are the special diseases of privileged societies. It will kill us all if it grows unchecked.

The man who cannot conceive a joyful and loyal obedience on the one hand, nor an unembarrassed and noble acceptance of that obedience on the other, the man who has never even wanted to kneel or to bow, is a prosaic barbarian. But it would be wicked folly to restore these old inequalities on the legal or external plane. Their proper place is elsewhere.

We must wear clothes since the Fall. Yes, but inside, under what Milton called "these troublesome disguises"1, we want the naked body, that is, the real body, to be alive. We want it, on proper occasions, to appear: in the marriage-chamber, in the public privacy of a men's bathing-place, and (of course) when any medical or other emergency demands. In the same way, under the necessary outer covering of legal equality, the whole hierarchical dance and harmony of our deep and joyously accepted spiritual inequalities should be alive. It is there, of course, in our life as Christians: there, as laymen, we can obey - all the more because the priest has no authority over us on the political level. It is there in our relation to parents and teachers - all the more because it is now a willed and wholly spiritual reverence. It should be there also in marriage.

This last point needs a little plain speaking. Men have so horribly abused their power over women in the past that to wives, of all people, equality is in danger of appearing as an ideal. But Mrs Naomi Mitchison has laid her finger on the real point. Have as much equality as you please - the more the better -- in our marriage laws: but at some level consent to inequality, nay, delight in inequality, is an erotic necessity. Mrs Mitchison speaks of women so fostered on a defiant idea of equality that the mere sensation of the male embrace rouses an undercurrent of resentment. Marriages are thus shipwrecked.2 This is the tragi-comedy of the modern woman; taught by Freud to consider the act of love the most important thing in life, and then inhibited by feminism from that Internal surrender which alone can make it a complete emotional success. Merely for the sake of her own erotic pleasure, to go no further, some degree of obedience and humility seems to be (normally) necessary on the woman's part.

The error here has been to assimilate all forms of affection to that special form we call friendship. It indeed does imply equality. But it is quite different from the various loves within the same household. Friends are not primarily absorbed in each other. It is when we are doing things together that friendship springs up - painting, sailing ships, praying, philosophizing, fighting shoulder to shoulder. Friends look in the same direction. Lovers look at each other: that is, in opposite directions. To transfer bodily all that belongs to one relationship into the other is blundering.

We Britons should rejoice that we have contrived to reach much legal democracy (we still need more of the economic) without losing our ceremonial Monarchy. For there, right in the midst of our lures, is that which satisfies the craving for inequality, and acts as a permanent reminder that medicine is not food. Hence a man's reaction to Monarchy is a kind of test. Monarchy can easily be "debunked"; but watch the faces, mark well the accents, of the debunkers. These are the men whose tap-root in Eden has been cut: whom no rumour of the polyphony, the dance, can reach - men to whom pebbles laid in a row are more beautiful than an arch. Yet even if they desire mere equality they cannot reach it. Where men are forbidden to honour a king they honour millionaires, athletes, or film-stars instead: even famous prostitutes or gangsters. For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison.

And that is why this whole question is of practical importance. Every intrusion of the sprit that says "I'm as good as you" into our personal and spiritual life is to be resisted just as jealously as every intrusion of democracy or privilege into our politics. Hierarchy within can alone preserve egalitarianism without. Romantic attacks on democracy will come again. We shall never be safe unless we already understand in our hearts all that the anti-democrats can say, and have provided for it better than they. Human nature will not permanently endure flat equality if it is extended from its proper political field into the more real, more concrete fields within. Let us wear equality; but let us undress every night.

1. John Milton, Paradise Lost (1667) Book IV line 740.
2. Naomi Mitchison, The Home and a Changing Civilisation (London, 1934), Chapter I, pp. 49-50.


J.K. Baltzersen said...

Thanks to "Lord Beaverbrook" for posting this essay.

The late C.S. Lewis makes several valid points in the essay.

I would put it somewhat differently – now more than 60 years later. I would say that some of the medicine given against the older regimes is understandable – given the excesses that were. However, the side effects of the medicine have turned out – in several respects – to be worse than what it was meant to be medicine against.

Remember also that it was C.S. Lewis who said:

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their consciences.

adams said...

I agree that Lewis makes some good points. I however would like to make some of my own, but I am only able to post on v1 of this blog for some reason can I get an invite to post on this version of the The Monarchist?

David Byers said...

Good democracy is very dependent on good education.

But when it comes to Tyrannies I agree with Thomas Pain when he wrote "Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst; every other species of tyranny is limited to the world we live in, but this attempts to stride beyond the grave, and seeks to pursue us into eternity."

David Byers said...

Just imagine someone puts forward the following idea for Australia: All future Prime Ministers must be members of the Anglican Church. Now after you stop laughing at just how stupid an idea that is consider this, that is exactly one of the many archaic rules that govern who Australia’s Sovereign should be! Add to this that the Crown must preference males over females and you start to get the idea. One could go on to say even if the monarch did not have such laws governing them it is still not a democratic institution anyway.

For many years I promoted the Crown but when I finally sat down and really thought about this in a rational way, I could not help be see these glaring faults with our system. Time for someone to write a new constitution that enshrines a modern secular state where there is no such blatant discrimination.

Tim said...

I am new to this site and do not pretend to understand anyone's way of thinking, both past and present.

Mr Byers, I do not want to touch your comment about religion! However, with regard to the some of the issues you raised about the Crown of Australia I am sorry you have become disenchanted. If in Australia we had a real direct democracy with input from citizens into every piece of legislation and no need of a monarch, I may be willing to give up my monarchism. However as the saying goes, it will be a cold day in Hell before this happens. It is impractical and inefficient. I do not know what your perfect system of government would look like. However no system is perfect, yes it is deplorable that in 300 years no-one has bothered to change the Anglican requirements of being the monarch. As a Christian who does not have much time for organised religion I sympathise, however we must take the good with the bad and. Insofar as male-precedence goes, if you're going to support a monarchy at all, it is just as prejudiced to favour someone based on age as it is gender surely?

As C.S. Lewis and countless others (and you!) have noted, alot of the appeal of monarchy is not rational. It does not have tangible qualities and depends alot on the character of the incumbent and their flaws and virtues. However having a Queen does not stop me as an Australia voting, expressing my opinion, protesting or striking.

I wish you all the best,

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