The British Monarchy Must Go

photo by spacebahr

By Jason Hill

Last

week the British tabloids were saturated with stories of how Michelle

Obama broke with protocol by putting her arms and hand around Her

Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. Did Michelle have BO or something? Were

her hands contaminated? Exactly what is so special about Elizabeth that

makes it permissible to touch her hand but not shake it? Seeing the

Obamas standing stiffly and apart from her made me wonder about plain

commoners versus blue-blooded royalty. Does this woman have a greater

share in humanity than the rest of us? What’s the real rationale behind

all these protocols that seem to suggest that, standing beside this

woman, we have unequal intrinsic moral worth and value in relation to

her. I immediately think of the caste system in India.

Nowhere

is thetarnishment of the self more evident than in the notion of

Untouchability. The Untouchable (Dalit) in the Hindu caste system,

identifiable by his community, is not only thought to be physically

unclean. Indeed, the elaborate rituals that Untouchables

undergo—sweeping behind them as they walk so that no higher caste will

tread the same dust as they, assigned to specific occupational roles

associated with contamination—could easily be remedied by attending to

the hygiene of an Untouchable. But this is not the case. Not even a

cleansing bath could erase his contamination and impurity.

There

is some intrinsic feature that the Untouchable harbors by nature of his

existence—it cannot be located anywhere, a smelly armpit, an unwashed

crotch, uncombed and dirty hair, for example. This impurity that he

harbors is not even the residual stains of a sinful life. If such were

the case, then Untouchability might at least have the dignity of

playing a redemptive role in social life. The Untouchable would atone

for his sins by being scorned; his apartness would be punitive and

rehabilitative. To be so set apart from the rest of humanity would

restore in him an understanding of the importance of human sociability.

But the Untouchable is robbed of any such rehabilitative possibility.

He functions for others like a different species-being.

In a

post-enlightenment age, in the age of liberal democracies, the idea of

hereditary monarchy and hereditary chosennes seems downright illiberal

and archaic.

Had Princess Diana married Dodi Al Fayed, her

racially vague and somewhat androgynous pretty boy heartthrob, the

future king of England would have had a “commoner” and a North African

as a stepfather, which should make those of us who suffer from

principled sickness of the notion of royalty and blue blood righteously

pleased. We fail to understand how people can respect lineage more than

individual moral character. Make no mistake, in an era in which the

equal moral worth of all human beings regardless of background has

become the staple of progressive moral and political thought, the

British monarch — indeed, the very idea of monarchy — embodies the

worst social ills that deplete any hope for civilized society: racism;

sexism; ethnocentrism; and religious preference.

In a Vanity

Fair article, Christopher Hitchens pointed out just how racist, sexist

and ethnocentric the British criteria for becoming head of government

are. The specifications are set forth in the 1701 Act of Settlement

that stipulates that one has to be able to number oneself among the

descendants of: “The Princess Sophia, Electress and Duchess dowager of

Hanover, daughter of the late Queen of Bohemia, daughter of King James

the First, to inherit after the King and the Princess Anne, in default

of issue of the said princess and his Majesty, respectively; and the

heirs of her body, being Protestants.”

Hitchens’ article

makes clear what is meant by the term “heirs of her body.” It is

dependent on the notion of primogeniture, which gives preference to

sons over daughters, as well as the children of sons over the progeny

of daughters. Therefore, Prince William is second in line to the throne

while Princess Anne, his aunt and the Queen’s second child, is eighth.

To be head of state one must also be Protestant and a member of the

Church of England. One must descend in the male line, and listen to

this: One has to be ethnically German as far as possible. Ethnocracy,

the genesis of so much destruction, is institutionally guaranteed

longevity via the veins of the blue-blooded royals.

This is

offensive because it is just plain backward. It is Germany that emerged

as one of the most savagely tribal states of the 20th century. Until

recent years, all those who aspired to German citizenship had

todemonstrate German lineage as fully as possible. This ought to

offend the moral sensibilities of all Americans who relish the idea of

a civic as opposed to an ethnic form of nationalism. Ethnic Turks born

and raised in Germany and schooled in the language and culture had less

claim of citizenship than ethnic Germans born and raised in Russia and

whose ancestors have lived in Russia for over 200 years. That such

individuals can’t speak a word of German is irrelevant. German laws are

changing slowly and a residency of eight years is now required for

naturalized citizenship.

Blood, that human body fluid most

revered by a tribally minded people, is imbued with magical powers.

Possession of a certain type guarantees the possession of all sorts of

traits that are normally achieved by the rest of us through discipline

and courage. (Similarly tyrannical and oppressive is the “one-drop

rule” which identifies as black anyone with a shred of African

ancestry, and that still holds sway in America.)

Perhaps I have a

bias here. I am a product of a postcolonial island nation in the

Caribbean. I’ve never lived under colonial rule and know little of its

formal indignities. I continue to witness, however, the ghastly

spectacle of a people who continue to see Her Majesty and all her

progeny and their progeny as somehow representing a model of humanity

that is innately better in some ineffable way. What is really sad is

the failure to fully grasp the contradiction in the ideas of equality

and human dignity that they hold dear and the values of monarchial

lineage.

There is a conflict between the principles people

rely on to make sense of their lives as creatures of inherent dignity

and the ways in which their veneration or silence about an institution

that is deeply at odds with such principles renders them cognitively

immobile. Thomas Paine said, “The idea of hereditary legislators is as

inconsistent as that of hereditary juries; and as absurd as an

hereditary mathematician, or an hereditary wise man; as absurd as an

hereditary Poet Laureate.”

The truth is that those who fail

to abide by this fail to see how rotten to the core the idea of

monarchy is today. Its corruption lies in the fact that it assumes a

fundamental difference between the humanity we commoners possess and

the humanity of a blue blood. The sorry thing about this, like the

Catch 22 of original sin, is that most of us are accorded this share of

a blighted inferior humanity before we have even a chance to achieve

our humanity, let alone voluntarily corrupt it. No, we just have to be

born. That’s all. And so do they.

Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.