31 October 2021

No, now is not the time to abolish the monarchy

Lordre: #AbolishTheMonarchy was apparently trending on Twitter for a while on 30 October, at a time when the Queen had been ordered to rest for what we can assume are health reasons. The news had sparked the sense that her health might be failing (perhaps she even has Covid-19). Some believed this was the appropriate moment to produce unfair commentary, obviously wishing her ill and thoughtless towards the feelings of others on the matter. Rather than go over specific tweets and exaggerate their importance, let us look seriously at the problems at hand. The royal family has taken significant hits to its reputation recently. The worst was the sexual abuse scandal of Prince Andrew, of whom the Queen is reported to still be very protective. Meghan Markle fans attack Reports of the disfavour and even possible racism towards Meghan Markle caused the hypocritical admirers of that particular aristocrat to act as if they oppose monarchy. Their concern was not the result of principled opposition to monarchy, but distress that the one they happen to worship won’t be going on the pedestal. We should remember that, absent the admiration of many towards the British royal family, Markle means very little to most people anyway. In fact, I am sure I remember some fawners indicating their hopes that Markle could be the future Queen, during some other gossip years ago. The significance or seriousness of such remarks is doubtful, but perhaps they demonstrate the absurdity of those who would like a fight with the existing monarchy just because their preferred foolish idol didn't get enough positive press. The use of a useless monarch The UK monarchy is one of the oldest in the world, and many see a value in preserving traditions. Even when absurd, traditions can provide feelings of stability. In politics, much power flows from the perception of power and much stability is dependent on the perception of stability. Stability saves lives and keeps many out of poverty. It prevents uncertainty, and it even prevents future terrors we could not have predicted. A Britain without the monarchy would be a less stable one, perhaps even comparable with Germany after the removal of its monarchy in the wake of the First World War. It was certainly a mistake to remove the German monarch in the manner that this happened (and as dictated by America) since many Germans still believed in authoritarian figures and were ready to follow an alternative figure as soon as one emerged. The monarchy and the perception of stability that comes from it significantly undermines the prospects of fascists and radicals in the UK, causing conservatives to tone down their rhetoric. If this were removed abruptly and without thought to the feelings of the people, much of the obedience and admiration that is directed to the monarchy would continue to exist but might be focused on supporting another nationalistic hero figure. We have no idea who that might be, or whether that person would be amenable to parliamentary democracy like the current monarch is. Pulling at the threads of civilisation and removing pillars of stability and predictability, even when they are merely built of people’s beliefs, has almost always been followed by regret among people who did it. Revolutions, vast constitutional changes and upheavals produce uncertainty and violence and cannot be justified, unless it can be proven that the status quo is already fatally intolerable and must end. Across the world, people settle for unsatisfactory coalitions of power and ineffective states because these are better than the alternative of a vacuum. The British monarchy is not murdering a population or posing an existential threat to people, so there is no need for urgency to remove it at present. Monarchies often do eventually pose that kind of threat to the citizens when the monarch is truly considered sovereign in place of the people. When such conditions arise, they must be removed by the people and tenuous republics must be attempted instead. This is no guarantee that the alternative governments would be any more legitimate or caring, though. Britain’s monarch is the head of state of a number of other Commonwealth countries, some of which may rely on perceptions about her for their internal stability. She is also a spiritual figure, being the head of the Church of England. Her removal would challenge the existence of a state religion in the UK and interfere with the faith of many, with yet more unknown consequences. We should not look for things that appear to be useless from our privileged perspectives, and remove them out of our boredom. It has to first be necessary and urgent to do so. Something needs to be not just apparently useless but a demonstrable threat to the people, to justify removal. A reactionary power Proponents of change should accept that Britain is an exceptionally reactionary country. While other populations even in Europe have eagerly taken to the streets in fervour to support revolutionaries, Britons tend not to. In fact, British people should be expected to react to such figures with quiet mockery and attempt to go on with their lives as before. It is for this reason that no major new ideology, including Jacobinism and socialism, has ever been adopted by the British state in all the centuries it was confronted with them. Britain is unique among the entire international community in that it seemingly continued, on and on, with same flag and the same system as before, while ideologies emerged and perished. That is unlikely to change even in the current century. The Queen is doing no harm and her health is important to many, including in other Commonwealth countries. May she recover soon.
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