This is the second attempt at continuing the debate with Lewis Holden (President of The Republican Movement of Aotearoa New Zealand). In the way of all reconstructed posts, this has not the oratorical fire of the last one, but it will have to do.
Lewis's response to my last post kindly skates over a number of incoherencies and leaps in logic; the inevitable result of choosing too wide a scope and too short a space. I will try and fill in what I meant over the next few weeks. Let us begin with Mr. Holden's notion of "equality":
Republicans believe in political equality, and so reject the notion that the Crown, or any individual who gains their political office by genetic lottery, personifies New Zealand. But a nation is not an individual; republicans view all citizens as politically equal. Indeed, this is really the view of the wider New Zealand community - why else does a good number of New Zealanders bemoan the Maori seats? Political equality, that's why.There are two forms of legitimate equality, which spring from the intrinsic dignity of all human beings. One is equality before a just Magistrate, and the other is the Last Judgment, where Emperor and beggar will alike give account to the Almighty. We are all under the law, not excepting Elizabeth Windsor, who, as a private person, pays taxes, and is subject to the law. Of course, as she is Elizabeth Regina, she also administers the law and collects the taxes; such are the prerogatives of Princes, who have two bodies, a private body and act as head of the body politic. As Bernard Woolley would say, it's all a matter of hats, Minister.
The Maori seats are targeted for abolition by some because they are viewed as conferring special privileges on one section of the population on the basis of their race, that is, they breach the principle of equality under the law, by dragging in race to the political equation. National calls this, rather crudely, "One law for all" for that reason. It is simply a question of whether race should be a determining factor in the allocation of political clout.
There is a flat difference between this sort of legal equality, and the social equality of Mr. Holden, which objects to hierarchies in principle.
The impulse of Republicanism is a levelling impulse, one which rejects being subject to anything, rejects what Hayek calls (disparagingly) "traditional frames of meaning". Hence the rallying cry of El Presidente and his cohorts: "Citizens, not subjects", which decorates the masthead of the Holden Republic at intervals. Mr. Holden has obviously not heard of "the rights of free subjects" so insisted upon by our ancestors, and thinks "citizen" and "subject" contradictory. What do they teach them in these schools?
Republicanism is another example of what C. S. Lewis called "pseudo-democracy", which says "I'm as good as you" and "what right have you got to tell me what to do?" and "I'll soon show you!" It's an attractive impulse. "Let us break their cords asunder, and cast aside their yokes from us".
But despite the ideology of Mr. Holden, a desire for reverence, for hierarchy, is deep in the human psyche. Hierarchies are found in every human and animal society. Talents and strengths are not equal. It is inevitable that some will rise above others, and Mr. Holden would probably not disagree that they should. After all, even the Communist League are Blairites now. I am not talking about the sort of meritocracy that we all agree upon. I am talking about the sort of natural hierarchy which makes people admire, reverence, respect, adhere, and love, sometimes very ordinary people, because of what they represent, what they are. Not because they are useful, or beautiful, or particularly talented, but because they are themselves.
It is natural to love our parents, whether they are talented and useful or not, and we continue to do so, even after we outgrow them. It is natural to respect our teachers, and our priests, even if they are flawed. It was a beautiful thing watching those Roman Catholics who knelt to the late Holy Father, even when he was so weak he had to be carried. It is beautiful to watch soldiers salute their Queen, or Scouts salute their flag, because by them we are reminded that we are part of some greater whole, part of a natural and organic order. How absurd to shoe-horn equality between a mother and her child, or a husband and his wife. How joyless is it for a family, for a church, for a society, to always be insisting upon equality! There is no insistence on equality in relationships like these. Even when it exists, it is irrelevant. There is only love, and service, and reverence, and a glad joining together in a greater whole.
These might be "useless friperies" to Mr. Holden. Thank God, I do not live in the starched and scrubbed world which calls a woman merely an animal, a bishop merely a man, or the Sovereign merely an anachronistic add-on.
Troilus and Cressida puts it "Shake degree, and Strength will rule imbecility... rude son will strike his father dead". The conventions which remind us we are not atomised robots, but holisitc human beings, are precious to us. Lewis chafes that a "genetic accident" puts the Queen above him. But these hierarchies, these solidarities which we do not choose, are the most important of all. For by them we are reminded that there are things above equality, some things more important than insisting on autonomy. There is what C. S. Lewis calls "a unity of place", a uniting influence which is precious precisely because it transcends talent and merit and use, and it is simply human. Mr. Holden does not recognise this. I challenge him to watch the funeral of Her Majesty the Queen Mother, and he will see it.
The choice is not, as Mr. Holden seems to think, between hierarchy and an egalitarian society. Let him pipe down with his panagerics on Our Better Britain and its egalitarian tradition. It is simply a choice of hierarchies. If we are denied our Queen, and taught not to honour our past, we will have film stars, and gansta rappers. We will gush over Britney Spears, and palpitate over JFK Junior. A "genetic accident" makes him an idol, from a famous family of psuedo royalty, but does Mr. Holden complain? We will invent myth about cherry trees and George Washington, we'll faint at the feet of Matthew Ridge and Nicki Watson, we'll reverence and construct new hierarchies to replace the old, and some new and worse oligarchy will usurp our allegiance. As Gilray put it, he who wishes to shake the crown is already measuring it for his own head.
So which will you have? The hierarchy based upon false and transitory values, or the one which identifies a simple human truth, and is a product of the transcendent?
I say "Equality be damned". I serve a God whose Service is perfect freedom, and I kneel to a Queen who commands allegiance. I am confident enough, as a free subject, not to be blathering about equality.
Let us serve God, honour Her Majesty our Queen, and have done with it.
Cross Posted at The Kiwi Examiner