Two years ago when I had the opportunity to interview Sir Richard Branson, I asked him if he wanted me to address him as Sir or just Richard. He politely said that Richard was good enough. I replied that was good as I wasn’t going to call him Sir anyway!
When I told my Dad this he was not impressed. I told him it was all done in good humour but it really made me think about why I have no intention of genuflecting to people because of their title, royal or otherwise. I have been asked on a number of occasions why I am so adamant about this but I have never really explained it in detail. So here it is now, for the record.
The honours system is a reminder of the clear class divide in the UK. In 2012 with the Jubilee and her famous role in the Olympics, the media and government have reminded us what a lovely Queen we have and that we in the UK are her subjects. I think she is a lovely lady and does a pretty good job, but without apology I remain a republican and not a monarchist and as such the honours list is another reason as to why I think the monarchy is divisive. Yet even in a country which respects freedom of speech, not in the rabid way our cousins across the pond do, to speak against such ideas is almost tantamount to treason and a quick trip to the Towers. It’s like you can’t be patriotic unless you are a supporter of the monarchy.
The history of the honours system was such that members of the aristocracy and high ranking militia were recipient of such an order. They were awarded medals accordingly and since the 19th century this has widened to include more members of the community. It has been something I have seen become increasingly aspirational. Indeed many friends, professional and personal, in my community have received them and people have asked me what would happen if I was awarded such a thing for the years I have been in youth work. I am not interested. I still have issue with the whole concept of the British Empire. I still think it is divisive and reinforces a whole them and us approach that the British society stands on.
Kudos to those who have gone down that route and I respect you for but I still believe it’s divisive.
In Good Company
Danny Boyle (pictured), who in my opinion did a great job of showing an equal Britain for the Olympics opening ceremony, is widely recognised as one of the few people who amidst all the excitement about the new years honours rejected it. His simple statement was ““I’m very proud to be an equal citizen and that’s what the opening ceremony was about.” He is part of a list of individuals who also declined.
Benjamin Zephaniah “It reminds me of how my foremothers were raped and my forefathers brutalised.”
John Cleese “because I think they are silly”.
Professor Hawking “”Professor Hawking does not like titles. In fact he dislikes the whole concept of them”
There are a host of other non military professionals and entertainers who have rejected or in some cases returned the honours. This constant reminder that whilst we cannot be blue blooded upper class members of the community we can bow before those who are and be grateful that we can get an honour.
To be honest apart from being upgraded to first class on transport what is the point or value of being called Sir?
I am a republican
I am in favour of a British republic. I find the system of monarchy distasteful. Whilst I am not one of those who would go out on a limb and accuse the royals of being the country’s biggest benefit claimants, I don’t see why they need to be there. We are subjects to a family whose history and current future are a reminder that there is a class of people who feel that they are better than everyone else. Not only is that reinforced by history but our systems of political governance, policing, law making, religion and many customs are structurally in place to serve the monarchy. People whose employee terms are not to serve the people first but to serve Queen or King or whoever is sitting on the velvet covered bench at that time.
Has anyone really thought about what happens when we bow to the monarch what we are implying about power and authority there?
Seriously when I think of someone like the Duke of Edinburgh who has often been recorded being discriminatory to other people that don’t look like him why would I be bowing in front of him? This is a non elected family who essentially take our tax monies to rule the country and live in some of the best homes in the country under the premise they bring in tourism pounds. If this happened in any other country we would call it despotic or totalitarian. Not that the Windsors can be compared to the House of Saud but you get my point.
The beauty of living in a democracy such as ours is that we can raise this without, give or take a couple of angry people, having to be in fear of our life. I love what I do for my work and for my community. I don’t need a piece of metal to justify that or having to bow before a royal and be touched by some sword. Whilst I will, rather reluctanctly, take awards from my fellow business peers this is not one that excites me in the slightest. To those who do still like it though I say all power to your elbow. Knock yourself out.