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Monday, December 19, 2016

Thoughts on Current Monarchy Types

Thoughts on Current Monarchy Types

Many people with whom I am in sympathy on political, social, spiritual etc issues have been becoming increasingly critical of the institution of monarchy and, of course, look to me for a defense of the institution. Usually, this involves the Middle East but the European remnants of monarchy also come up from time to time. My response, I confess, may not be adequate. Overall, in terms of people I have direct contact with these days, I have some time ago stopped trying to persuade them of the merits of having monarchies in foreign lands or defending the current situation of the United States being allied to and pledged to defend practically all the remaining monarchies in the world (there is the odd exception such as Swaziland or Bhutan). I have not seen any benefit for the United States from this situation, nor any reciprocal support and, based on my interaction with monarchists online, it seems to retard their progress by making them think that the U.S.A. controls *everything* and thus they think they have no power and are reduced to an apathetic state of inaction and playing the blame game.

None of this, however, means that there is not a case to be made. It is just that it is one I think best suited to people in other countries. I think it makes sense for Americans as well but that would include the caveat that, at this point, it seems better for America to stop trying to be supportive of any monarchies, or, I should say for the benefit of those readers I most often hear from, simply end the current relationships as they stand because these people certainly do not believe the U.S. has been at all supportive. Fair enough, let them make their way without us. There are certainly those abroad, just as there are those among the few here, who question the value of monarchies they either see as in some way villainous at worst or completely useless at best. This is not, I assure you, a new question. Personally, as most know, I am a pan-monarchist who favors traditional authority in almost every part of the world (and in absolutely every part of the world were there time enough for sufficient change). Certainly, the different types of monarchy operating today are extremely different. You have faith-based absolute monarchies in the Muslim world, a few business-like Christian absolute monarchies among the micro-nations and you have the largely or completely ceremonial constitutional monarchies in which even the "Crown powers" are exercised by politicians.

These different types of monarchy may be vastly different but there is no fundamental reason why they should be antagonistic toward each other. Certainly, not being an Arab or a Muslim I would certainly not wish to live in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. However, as I am so far removed from it, what they do and how they order their society is none of my concern. The current situation with the absolute monarchies of the world, be they Saudi Arabia, Swaziland or Brunei, calls to mind some memorable lines from Bishop Jacques Bossuet's book, "Politics Drawn from Holy Scripture". In it the Bishop writes, while explaining the difference between absolute power (which he is for) and arbitrary power (which he is not) and laying out exactly what constitutes arbitrary power that,
"I do not wish to examine whether it is permissible or illicit. There are nations and great empires which are content with it; and it is not for us to awaken doubts in them about the form of their government. It suffices for us to say that it is barbarous and odious. These four characteristics are quite far from our own customs; and so among us there is no arbitrary government."

As usual, I think Bossuet is absolutely correct here. As I said, I would not wish to live in Swaziland, Saudi Arabia or Brunei and, happily, I do not. What makes such states repellent to me is, to the Swazi, Arab or Bruneian people, perfectly normal. Bossuet also comes close to making a blatantly pan-monarchist statement here by saying that, "it is not for us to awaken doubts" in other peoples about their form of government. Just because it is not the way that we do things, does not mean it does not work perfectly well for them and to disrupt that would most likely cause chaos. According to our legal, cultural and moral standards, what goes on in these places would be considered, frankly, barbaric but it is the way these people have been doing this for many, many centuries and if they are to change it must come slowly, naturally and by their own accord. In the time of Bossuet, of course, he was most likely thinking of the Ottoman Empire, the Mughals of India or possibly the early Qing Empire in China but I would apply it just as well to Oman, Qatar or Swaziland.
Half of what defines "traditional authority" is, obviously, "tradition" and while it is not the tradition in western countries to have arbitrary authority, in others it is. We have also seen that, even by western standards, what may be a monarchy a Dutchman or an Englishman would have no desire to live in, can, and invariably does, become worse with the end of the traditional system rather than better. Has modern Turkey become better or worse since the fall of the Ottoman Sultan? Certainly China has not been better off without an emperor under the Communist Party. There is also the example of Iran. Look at it from the British perspective; the traditional Qajar dynasty was overthrown by the more modern-minded Pahlavi dynasty which came to power via an anti-British coup. Obviously, from the British perspective, this was not an improvement. Yet, the fall of the Pahlavi and the monarchy as a whole with the Islamic Revolution, did not mean a government more favorable to Britain but one that regularly chants, "Death to England" though this seems to attract less attention than their other chants of "Death to Israel" and "Death to America" but it is no less real. Things can always get worse.

For those western monarchies that have been reduced to a totally or almost totally ceremonial status, I find this situation less than ideal but still preferable to having no monarchy at all. That is the direction that the arc of history has, unfortunately, taken. Personally, I prefer the traditional absolute (but not arbitrary!) form of monarchy but just as I would prefer a monarch that shared power to a monarch with no power at all, so too do I prefer a monarch with no power to having no monarch at all. There is, however, the added difficulty that, for me and most in the circles that I move in, a rather different set of circumstances than what most other monarchies have to deal with that takes priority. This is that, alongside the problem of having fewer monarchs with increasingly less authority, you have an overall decline in the traditions, culture and even the populations themselves of these nations as a whole. Between the centralizing, secularist forces of the European Union, the "social justice" movement, the open borders obsession and so on, the cultural and even physical distinctiveness of western monarchies is under immense threat.
This, I can only attribute to a flaw in the European character since other peoples certainly do not have this problem or at least certainly not to the same extent. One cannot and, I think, should not be hermetically sealed off from the outside world but others have been able to be open to foreign ideas and fashions without allowing these to destroy the native culture. In the monarchies of Africa and Asia, the traditional cultures of these places is still going strong compared to Europe. It is, perhaps, no coincidence that these countries also tend to be much more if not entirely homogeneous compared to western monarchies. The traditional dances in Swaziland, featuring bare-breasted young women, would likely be considered extremely offensive to Muslims but there are no Muslims in Swaziland so there is no talk of doing away with this custom out of consideration for their feelings. Christians in Saudi Arabia might object to the practice of polygamy but as there are no Christians in Saudi Arabia, this is not a problem. One can go to Japan and see Torii (a symbol of Shinto) all over the country while, in western countries, a cross on public land attracts criticism and legal battles to have it removed on the part of militant atheists. Plenty of Japanese people are effectively atheists but they do not object to the site of a Torii because it is as much part of their culture as the kimono or the tea ceremony. They are also, again, a very homogeneous country where few foreigners are permitted to settle and, for those who do, the idea that they could ever become Japanese or have the Japanese adjust to their culture, would be considered laughably absurd.
In the case of European monarchies, I would urge everyone to put aside what a monarch or other royal might say on some social issue that they disagree with and keep in mind the overall struggle for cultural preservation. After all, the monarchy is part, in fact a core, central part, of the culture you are trying to defend. They may only be a shadow of what they once were but that is no reason to give up on them. Personally, I tend to think that if the monarchs of Europe had a more secured and powerful position, in other words, if they actually had something personally to defend, they would tend to take a very different attitude. I also think the micro-nations of Monaco and Liechtenstein can serve as important examples for a possible way forward, a different way of doing things. Both are, effectively if not technically, absolute monarchies. They have very strict immigration laws, being in the case of Monaco practically one of 'by invitation only' and both have legally established religions. In short, they are everything that modern society says is supposed to be wrong, backward and doomed. Yet, both are fabulously wealthy, modern, safe countries that are not shut off from the world. Even with no natural resources of their own, their economic and political policies have created societies where there are virtually no poor people at all, no uneducated people and no crime to speak of. Obviously, what works for them will not work for everyone, but just as obviously they must be doing something right!

In short, I think all are worth defending, whether for what they are or for what they could be. The constitutional monarchies of Europe may not look like much today, but has a European republic ever done better? The most sustained example one could point to would be France and history clearly shows that most of their strength came from the gains they made during their on-again, off-again periods as a monarchy. No, all of these countries rose to their grandest heights as monarchies, the monarchy is integral to their cultural heritage and that alone should make them worth holding on to. Most also came to be what they are because of their own unique history, over a great length of time. This is because monarchies, in their purest form, are organic. Despite the best efforts of the Stuarts, the history of the British Isles, the growth of the parliamentary system in England, the tribal feuding of Scotland and Ireland, meant that Great Britain was never going to become a centralized, absolute monarchy like Bourbon France. The Dutch monarch should not be powerless, but given the history of the Netherlands, no Prince of Orange was ever going to be like the Czar of Russia. By that same token, although many advocate for it today and I am all for them, it is quite impossible for me to imagine Russia having a largely ceremonial monarch. Nonetheless, I want them all to have one.
"Tomorrow in the Senate, let them offer the sands of Libya
as my kingdom ... I will accept."
If the monarchies of East Asia or the Middle East are not to your liking, just remember that while you are under no obligation to support them, you should likewise do them no harm as the law of probabilities says that what replaces them will be something far worse rather than being in any way better. If it works for them, that is fine and no European or American should concern themselves with them. For the ceremonial monarchies of Europe, I say do not abandon your kings just because the revolutionary crowd has so distorted them. Rather, take as your example the monarchists of the past who sought to save their monarchs from their malevolent officials, in some cases even from themselves. Do not hand the enemy a victory but allowing them to so sully a key element of your cultural heritage to the point that they can easily toss it aside because everyone has been put off from defending it. In my more conspiratorial moments I sometimes wonder if that was not the point of some secret, master plan but that's beside the point. A monarchy, once lost, is almost impossible to restore, so do not let it be lost, no matter what it is reduced to.  As long as there is something, there is something to build on. As Cleopatra said to Caesar in the 1963 film, "Take a little, then a little more, until finally you have it all. Let them declare you king. Even if it's only of a tree in Asia Minor. The rest will come to you."

TradCatKnight: 'The Superiority of Monarchy"