Within the past few months, and despite several visits to hospital, recuperation from an operation and an extended holiday, I have managed to attend a couple of conferences associated with two of my major interests, that is, the “Republic” movement and the “Sea of Faith (UK)” network.
As I now get back to following more literary pursuits, particularly the writing of additional material for this blog, I wish to provide overviews/resumes for both of these organisations. This article will focus on the “Republic” movement”, the one to follow will be devoted to the “Sea of Faith (UK)” network.
Towards the end of June, I attended the 2013 Annual Conference of the British Republic Movement (BRM) in Leicester. It was generally agreed that this event was the most successful annual conference in the movement’s short history. That this was so was largely due to the informative discussion – led by the BRM’s Executive Officer, Graeme Smith, and the inspirational address given the conference’s guest speaker, the journalist Tanya Gold.
Tanya outlined the rationale behind her being a British republican. Interestingly, her prime reason for being so was that she abhorred the fact that children born into the British royal family effectively had no say in the shape and direction of their lives. Their birth into royalty predisposed them to a lifetime of royal life-style and privilege.
In all probability, the fact that Tanya was herself pregnant at the time of the conference may well have pre-determined her priorities in the matter. This was understandable.
Following and reflecting on the conference, I determined to make a list of the reasons why I was a republican, that is, why I was opposed to monarchy – in the United Kingdom as elsewhere. What follows is the outcome of such a determination. My reasons are not listed in any particular order of priority.
I wish to be a citizen of a country, not the subject of a monarch or any esteemed public figure – elected or otherwise.
I live in a modern democratic state. Therefore, I do not see the relevance of prefixing persons, public institutions and businesses with the letters “HR”. The origins, history and activities of monarchy (both current and historical) speak of its unsuitability in a democratic nation-state in the 21st century.
In a modern, secular democracy, no one religious faith should have pre-eminence. Therefore, to link a national sovereign with a national church, be it the Church of England, as is done in the UK, or with religion per se, is discriminatory, anachronistic and based on a false consciousness.
No one person, or family, or lineage, has the “divine right” to rule others. That may have been the case as an aspect of the historical development of communities, societies and states, but, as sociological and political studies have shown, human society has moved beyond that. States have developed over time, likewise should their institutions.
Monarchy stands at the pinnacle of a society’s class system, often regardless of what a monarch has been or done. It is a position of inherited privilege, not merit. It has been said that “Monarchy is a the survival of the tyranny imposed by the hand of greed and treachery upon the human race in the darkest and most ignorant days of our history” (Connolly)
Monarchy encourages sycophancy, deference, religious and sexual discrimination, and a national honours system essentially based on a class-oriented society and determined by those who hold the reins of power in the nation. Monarchy “… derives its only sanction from the sword of the marauder, and the helplessness of the producer” (again, my thanks to the 1910 article, ‘On Monarchy’, by the Scottish-Irish activist, James Connolly, which appeared recently under the name of MiCo in the britishrepublicanblog).
Contrary to popular belief, monarchy is a burden on the tax-payer. Published expenditure is only the tip of the iceberg. The institution has land and wealth ceded to it without the kind of genuine accountability expected of other public institutions.
Monarchy is an inherited privileged, without accountability in terms of election or choice, and spawns a lineage that has little meaning or function other than to be “royal”. This is true of no other citizen or group of citizens within the nation.
Generally speaking, in the modern era, monarchs and royal families assume the status of “celebrities” – with similar and inconsequential importance. One wonders what genuine gifts celebrities bring to a community or a nation. There is, however, no wondering about the self-serving and self-delusion that celebrity status often brings, or the fleeting nature of personal celebrity.
Those born into royalty have their lives determined for them from the outset. This is a denial of the right of an individual’s self-determination. A similar fate awaits those who marry into royalty, albeit with an element of choice prior to the event. A general political view would assert that public offices of all descriptions, including the highest in the nation, should be open to all who share a common humanity. A birth-right that is exclusive and privileged is part of the detritus of human evolution.
It would seem to me that much of the above 1-10 is self-evident, if not patently obvious.
However, the fact that there is still so much interest in royalty – from those who wave national flags in parades (and not only the British), to those who assiduously follow the gossip, fashion and day-to-day activities of “royal persons”, or those sycophantic journalists who duteously report on the most abstract and absurd aspects of royal life – would indicate that the fact and reality of monarchy will have an appeal to national life for some time to come.
That being the case, however, would also indicate that movements like those of “Republic” will likewise be an essential feature of that same national life. It’s a no-brainer, really!
I am a retired secondary school teacher of Humanities, having spent a major portion of my working life as a Minister of Religion with the Baptist denomination. I would now describe myself as a secular humanist and a socialist. I am married to Vicky and we have three children - two sons and a married daughter - all of whom are in their thirties. Formerly of Melbourne, Australia, we are all now living in England. My academic studies have been undertaken in Australia, the UK and the USA. I have a doctorate in religious studies from the San Francisco Theological Seminary.
In retirement I enjoy reading, listening to classical music and writing. I am a member of Republic, Sea of Faith, Dignity in Dying Campaign and the National Secular Society. As well, I have a subscription to a number of cultural and political associations, including Amnesty International and, as a committed European, The Federal Trust.