Thursday, 25 November 2010

removing royalty

well, we didn't end up with a good result. i'm still feeling pretty sad about the tragic deaths of the miners over on the west coast, and wrote some thoughts about that at the hand mirror yesterday.

instead of anything heavy, i thought i'd write something about royalty. i guess it's prompted by the news of prince william's engagement, amongst other things. as you'd expect, i'm a complete anti-royalist. i can't possibly agree with the notion that people deserve any kind of position or honour simply by virtue of their birth into a particular family. which means that i also disagree with inherited titles.

any formal recognition a person receives should be as a result of their own efforts and actions. and it would be nice if the efforts and actions of the less well-off were equally recognised & rewarded as are the achievements of business people, sports stars & famous actors. i know there are a whole range awards given for various achievements - literary, scientific etc. but even many these are based on privilege, they often depend on having access to significant funding to carry out research for example, or having strong language skills that can only come with those who have had the privilege of a good education. still, at least these latter awards are based on some effort and talent shown by the recipient.

but royalty requires no talent that i can see. all that's required is the need to not make such a total ass of yourself that you are forced to abdicate your position. most everyone born to such a position manages that minimum requirement, primarily because they don't want to lose their privileged position.

what i can't understand though, is the support the general population gives to royalty that allows it to exist. there can be no king or queen, after all, without public support & without public funding. how is it that a family can convince the majority of a nation to publicly fund this position of privilege, especially in this day & age when very few royal positions carry any power (even the king of tonga is losing his)? is it some kind of cultural value deeply embedded from childhood, which people are unable to overthrow? if i asked for support from the public purse to live a lavish lifestyle, without any particularly valid reason, i'd be laughed out of the room. yet royal families all over the world manage to do this over generations. i can't understand it.

i've heard the argument that royalty provides stability by acting as the head of state. in which case, why can't someone by appointed every few years, like we appoint our governor-general? even the g-g's are selected on the basis of some kind of merit, some history of public service. that's a thousand times better than royalty.

i especially hate to see royalty in muslim countries, especially because it goes against every basic islamic value. leadership is not a birthright, human beings are as equal in the sight of God as the teeth of a comb except on the basis of their piety. leadership is to be chosen on the basis of knowledge & experience, and removed if the leader fails to fulfil the rights of the people. given all of that, i'm at a loss to understand how the royal families of saudi arabia & jordan justify their existence, nor the sultans of brunei and oman. malaysia also has some kind of figurehead royalty position, though i have no idea what role this person is supposed to fill.

if i ruled the world (yeah, i know, scary prospect!), one of the first things i'd do is dismantle every structure & institution related to royalty. all the money that would be saved & gained from sale of property, i'd reinvest in programmes to reduce poverty.


Anonymous said...

What's your opinion Abu Bakr's succession of Mohammed? Do you think the fact that they were relatives played no part in the choice?

It seems to me that family leadership is something that's been part of Islam since the very beginning.

stargazer said...

i think that abu bakr RA had enough leadership qualities, knowledge & experience, that while family relationships may have played a part, he was the best qualified at the time.

yes, family leadership has been an issue for muslims, but it is not something that is supported by islamic values or legal thought.

Anonymous said...

That's how the English monarchy started. A group of successive leaders who were chosen on their own merits by an elite circle of their peers and just happened to be related. Pretty soon the selection becomes a formality and heredity is all that matters.

Maybe if Abu Bakr had been chosen by a democratic election of all Muslims, things would have been different. Ayatollah Khomeini wrote some great things about why monarchy is un-Islamic, but he wrote them from a Shiite perspective so they don't apply too widely.

stargazer said...

very funny anon. nobody had come to democracy in the world at that time. the technology wasn't available, travel across the desert on camel took ages, there was no record like a census that would have captured the bedouin population. given none of the tools of democracy existed, who exactly in the 7th century was practising democracy?

in fact, abu bakr did the next best thing. he asked for and received a pledge of allegiance from the people, and asked them to remove him if he behaved wrongly. his selection as leader happened after a well-attended meeting of the citizens of madinah. he didn't usurp power, he didn't demand or expect leadership, he was asked to lead. none of his direct descendants took a leadership after him, so he wasn't in any way responsible for creating a family dynasty.

now, can you please stop derailing and stick to the issue of the post: royalty in the 21st century. especially figurehead royalty, taking public funds but providing no useful constitutional purpose that couldn't be filled using appointment by merit.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't saying he should have instituted a democracy or criticising him for not doing it, I simply meant it as a thought experiment. There were societies at the time who practiced democracy but they were very small scale not on par with the Caliphate. Having said that the same logistic obstacles to a genuine election also represent logistic obstacles to a genuine pledge - the pledge would have not reached most people until months, maybe years after Bakr had been ruling. The options for somebody who didn't accept him were limited.

But I'm sorry I didn't realise this was a derail. I thought you were interested in talking about Islamic monarchy. I don't know anything about the British and NZ monarchy and I believe in respecting cultural differences so I won't say anything. I hope you do find some people who want to discuss with you though.

stargazer said...

i'm happy to discuss islamic monarchy in current times, if you want to discuss that further. i just don't think your discussion about the 7th century have anything to do with the issues i've discussed in the post. i don't think your expectations of the past are correct, nor your characterisations of abu bakr's leadership. i've corrected them as much as i can, but really don't see the discussion going anywhere useful. thanx for stopping by though.