Tuesday, November 3, 2015 at 7:28 AM

Australia Bans British Honours. Other Commonwealth Countries Should Too.

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

I am a despairing anti-monarchist. This is why I was so encouraged yesterday when Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull explained his government’s decision to ban British honours as follows:

This reflects modern Australia. The knights and dames are titles that are really anachronistic; they’re out of date; they’re not appropriate in 2015 in Australia.

(BBC, November 2, 2015)

australia-pm-scraps-knighthood-honors-shows-republican-colorsTurnbull made no effort to disguise his republican disdain for royal practices and pretensions. Indeed, one got the sense that his tone and countenance would have been the same if he were announcing a ban on the frivolous etiquette of curtseying to members of the British royal family.

Of course, I not only share his disdain; I’ve been pouring scorn on British royalty and its “gold-plated scroungers” for years.

Here, for example, is how I vented my principled opposition to royalty in “The Problem Is Not Kate’s Weight, It’s Williams Title,” February 16, 2011.

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What concerns me is that people around the world seem even more vested in this anachronistic institution today than they were when William’s parents, Prince Charles and Lady Diana, got married 30 years ago (on July 29, 1981)…

Royalty is anathema to the universal principle that all people are created equal. A democracy that perpetuates royalty in the twenty-first century is almost as cancerous (and oxymoronic) as one that perpetuated slavery in the nineteenth.

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And here is how I prefigured Turnbull’s announcement in “Sir Becks and Lady Posh?! God Help the British,” November 15, 2013.

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kateb

Even more dumbfounding is the mockery countries like Canada, Australia, and Jamaica are making of their independence by retaining Queen Elizabeth II as their head of state. This would only make sense if, like Britain, Commonwealth Countries were using her as a tourist attraction; you know, the way Disney World uses Mickey Mouse…

I hope I can be forgiven for grasping for republican solidarity in a column the UK Daily Mail published on Monday under the provocative but unassailable title, “Sir Becks and Lady Posh? I admire them both, but this would be final proof the honours system has lost all reason.”

But, in fairness to Becks and Posh, nothing demonstrates how unreasonable this system has become quite like even proud citizens of former British colonies still coveting British honours every bit as much as British commoners do.

Is there any wonder we despair for our republics…?

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I despair because I have yet to meet a fellow native of any former British colony who shares my antipathy to monarchy. Admittedly, there’s probably something Freudian in my antipathy, stemming from the childhood trauma of having my English teacher in The Bahamas disabuse me of my pining to learn French (creole). I remember well her admonishing the entire class that, “You belong to England, not France;” and that was that.

Incidentally, I developed this pining after hearing a Haitian family friend speak “broken” French, which sounded far more interesting, even to my adolescent ears, than the “proper” English she was teaching us.

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 3.24.50 PMStill, I trust my Freudian trauma is more sympathetic than the Stockholm Syndrome that afflicts so many of my compatriots.

For only this syndrome explains no less a person than Lynden O. Pindling, the founding father who led The Bahamas to independence in 1973, proudly kneeling before the queen in 1983 to be knighted with the apocryphal words, “Arise, Sir Lynden!”

Never mind other British customs that are wholly unsuited for former colonies. Here, for example, here is how I pleaded for change in this respect in “Hey, Tony, What’s Up with the Brothers Wearing White Wigs,” Caribbean Net News, March 2, 2007.

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I am on record entreating regional governments to abolish the (inherently superficial and corrupt) British honours system, which only perpetuates a slavish devotion to royal pretensions amongst our people…

court-wigs-sqTherefore, it should come as no surprise that I’ve pleaded for our regional judiciaries to abolish wigs and gowns.

These legal accoutrements are more suited to the stuffy, dank, and frigid climes of the British Isles, not the liberating tropical weather of the Caribbean. Granted, blue-blooded British lawyers might find the itchy discomfort wigs of horsehair inflict perfectly amenable to their sadomasochistic nature. But we red-blooded Caribbean lawyers wear them under duress, as prickly and unsightly wigs of thorns.

Not to mention the sweat this quaint, effete and anachronistic attire produces, which I can personally attest poses a formidable challenge even to the most fragrant antiperspirant.

Accordingly I plead: free us from British wigs and gowns!

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Beyond wigs and gowns, I am also on record entreating regional governments to stop referring local citizens to the British Privy Council as their court of last resort. I decried this neocolonial subjugation in such commentaries as “No More Privy Council. Take Care of Your Own Judicial Mess,” October 8, 2009.

That said, the UK government claims that honours are awarded on merit for public service. But rich people buying titles have always dishonored the British honours system, much as rich people buying papal indulgences have always perverted the Catholic penitential system:

Think of the ‘Cash for Honours’ furor as England’s version of the Rod Blagojevich scandal writ large – and perhaps with white wigs replacing the Illinois governor’s famous hairdo.

Although the British government has over time tried to divorce money from title and privilege, it’s a rather quixotic enterprise. After all, James I created the title of baronet strictly as a way of raising money – he sold baronetcies for £1500 each.

(BBC, January 4, 2012)

In any event, thanks to Turnbull, these are encouraging times – at least for anti-monarchists in Australia. Hope springs eternal that other leaders from the “15 Commonwealth realms” will follow his lead….

To that end, I repeat this abiding plea, which I first published in “Pardon Me, Sir, but How Much Did You Pay for Your Knighthood,” July 14, 2006:

I urge citizens throughout the Caribbean Commonwealth to prevail upon our national leaders to stop nominating our citizens for these fairytale British honours, if not to perfect our sovereignty (as independent republics), then as a matter of national pride.

Related commentaries:
The problem
Sir Becks
Hey Tony
Privy council
Pardon me

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