Here comes good King Charlie
The crowning of King Charles the third will draw out all the predictable reactions.
We will have the fawning over every detail, making the whole royal family into twenty first century style super celebrities. On the other hand, some will notice that they are famous for nothing at all except being ‘royal’. We will also have the huff and snark about how the monarchy is a symbol of ‘imperialism’ and other abstract concepts
People will want Charlie’s head on the chop-chop like right now over things he had nothing personally to do with, just like they did with a previous King Charles back in sixteen something. Here in Canada, we will have the usual talk about abolishing the monarchy, which will fizzle out when it gets to the subject of replacing it with something else. I will discuss why that is.
I am not a monarchist. I am a wild leftist who wants to see capitalism overthrown and a meritocracy established. Nonetheless, I have a sentimental attachment to the monarchy. I think a lot of people do and I will also discuss that.
I am of a generation who can remember having to stand and sing “God Save the Queen” every morning in elementary school. There was some snark when this was dropped, not because everyone was so fond of Bessie, but because the French in Quebec were making us do something.
I even remember watching this weird ceremony on TV while chomping popcorn, of Charlie getting inaugurated as ‘Prince of Wales’ on turning twenty one. I think it was cold outside and there was not much else on the tube. Over the years, I have checked out some of the rituals of passage the royal family went through; births, weddings, funerals.
Yet I cannot get interested in the recent run of ‘soap opera’ type dramas based on the monarchy. The passing of old Bessie left me slightly melancholy. I was not born when she came to the throne.
Her death signals the passing away of the world I had been familiar with. In this is probably the best reason for a lingering attachment to the monarchy. From the eighties on we have been living in increasingly insecure and unstable times.
The royal family is a symbol of permanence and stability. Most normal people like that, especially in times of rapid, chaotic change. Only unstable people like an unstable society.
The most intense hostility to monarchy seems really to be a hostility to society. There is a huge effort these days to tear down any connection with the past. Many have noted that this seems to come from the ‘New World Order’ agenda; more on that.
Yet the truth is that monarchy has been a very stable institution. For all of human history we have kept turning back to monarchy. It is usually not forced on us, but becomes the only way to deal with the threat of external invasion and internal conflict.
About this, I have recently skimmed an interesting tome from an unlikely author. It is available online and titled “On Kings”. It is cowritten by someone who thinks he is an ‘anarchist’ as well as an anthropologist, David Graeber. Some would find that ironic.
Graeber finds that humans seem to have a need for monarchy in order to legitimate their legal and political system. To do that, Kings, and sometimes Queens, have to be seen as in some way above and beyond ordinary people. They tended to be descended from gods, or to become gods after death.
An older philosopher called Hobbes made almost identical observations about kings. Graeber even borrowed Hobbes’s cover illustration, with some interesting additions to the foreground. Yet most modern liberal philosophers are hostile to Hobbes and his ideas about sovereign power.
The truth is, in premodern times people generally did not accept ‘law and order’ coming from their peers. There were successful democracies when there was a will to make them work. Yet normally, it was as Hobbes said; without a sovereign authority to provide protection, people turned on each other and life was nasty, brutish, and short.
The recent decline of monarchy is a historic anomaly. It is not in fact being replaced by democracy. In most of the world we now have sham democracies, which are covers for capitalism, which is an ideological cover for the predatory oligarchy which monarchy had usually kept in check.
Not to get into a long discourse in the political science of monarchs, it seems to me that modern, technological civilization has become too complicated for monarchies. It is too complicated for democracies as well. I would say that this is why capitalism has gone so far out of control.
It seems that the most successful countries in the world today have developed meritocracies; government by cadres of carefully selected and trained experts, and that this is the way of the future. Historically, a meritocracy works within the frame of a monarchy, as in the Chinese emperors and their mandarins. Some attempts at a meld of meritocracy and democracy in the present world have been wrecked by capitalism before they really got going.
History is still working out what kind of government will work best in an advanced and post capitalist country. However, monarchies seem to be coming to an end. Even a merely ‘ceremonial’ monarchy is becoming impossible to sustain.
Being a ‘mere figurehead’ can still be a very complex job. Managing a royal family in the electronic age is even harder. The job of being a British monarch and commonwealth head is becoming impossible.
The decline of the British Royals is not because they are bad people. As with most families, there are some bright lights, some mediocrities, and some bad seeds. But the kinds of pressure they are now under is inevitably corrupting and demoralizing.
At the moment, the tremendous pressure which British society is under produces a ‘rally to the crown’ effect. The old order is collapsing and a new one is not ready to emerge. In such times people will cling to symbols of stability and that symbol, if he uses some intelligence, can help steer the country in a good direction.
I think after things finally settle down in a new course and life gets better and more certain for British people, then the monarchy will gradually fade away. In settler countries like Canada, the need to finally scrap outdated, colonial age institutions will lead to the replacement of the monarchy.
As for the Commonwealth, it seems to be humming along pretty well on its own. Come on, we all speak the same language. It has become a way for people all over the world to connect with each other outside globalist institutions.
But something must replace this anthropological need for an ultimate authority presiding over human society. I have yet to hear any serious idea about this. People who claim to be for democracy and want ‘the people’ to be sovereign, are really looking to capture power for themselves and their own faction or class.
The modern state which has come closest to a solution for this problem has been China. The Chinese Communist Party has succeeded in ‘institutionalizing excellence’ in its cadres. The country has become an effective meritocracy and the Chinese public accepts the authority of the party.
On the other hand, here in Canada, there is no longer much confidence in governing institutions. This is because they really are not working and there is no way to reform them. In this context, calls to abolish monarchy in Canada are especially ridiculous.
If it is impossible to change anything else in the country, it is unlikely we will change the most basic institution. The problem is, what to replace Charlie with. We need that symbol of sovereign power, which validates the legal and political systems, which is seen as acting for the good of all, and is above self interested dispute.
In Canada what we still have is a ‘Governor General’ who is theoretically the Queen’s ‘representative’, but is appointed by whoever controls our ‘Westminster model’ parliament. It is like there is a vacuum at the centre of our system. The system itself creates the deadlock to any reform.
The British monarchy are the last folks to blame for this situation. They have been hinting for a long time that they would like to get out of this obligation. It could put them in an awkward position if things went really bad in Canada.
Almost always, the real problem with replacing the monarchy in former British colonies has been in getting agreement about what to replace it with. Yet almost all of these countries eventually worked out a solution.
The problem in the few white settler countries which still have Governors General is this political inertia. It occurs to me that the best thing a new British Monarch could do would be to announce that he does not want to be the head of state, once removed, of Canada.
So, the Queen is dead. The King is already pretty long lived. He is clearly aware he is coming to the throne in probably the most unsettled times since those of his name sake back in the seventeenth century.
All I will do is sit back and watch the coronation and muse about the passage of time. I will likely pop some popcorn.
The more head straining deliberations about how to create an accepted and functional basis for governmental authority, in a time when monarchy has become unworkable, will wait for another time.
2 responses to “Coronation”
All Empires were held together by imposing Religion,of which the Monarch/ Emperor became head and Semi divine or divine. The Head of Islam,for example,was the Sultan of Turkey,Head of the Ottoman Empire, who was described as the Sublime Port,the Doorway to Heaven. Even Queen Victoria was pushed as a divine figure in India which justified the British rule.
[…] dropped a blog about the nature of monarchies, just prior to the coronation of King Charles. Here it is.I discussed why Monarchy continues to be attractive to so many people, and promised to follow up […]