Category Archives: Royals and Monarchy

Can we get a less abusive society?

When I wrote my recent blog on reducing the problem of rape, part of my research (yes I do sometimes try to learn about something before I blog about it) was looking at the Crime Survey for England and Wales, the CSEW. (As I said, I wasn’t very impressed by it and I couldn’t accept it as a true indicator of crime. A lot of the questions are ambiguous and there are big gaps and strong biases in the coverage. Some areas would therefore be overstated in results while others understated and it lends itself far too well to political lobbies. I said it was about as reasonable an indicator of crime level as a casual chat in a pub.)

The CSEW has a large section asking questions about various forms of abuse within relationships. Not just physical abuse such as rape, but financial, social or emotional abuse too – belittling someone, not letting them see their friends, not allowing them their share of the money. That sort of thing.

Since then, it occurred to me that abuse within relationships is a micro-scale version of what we do all the time socially via politics. If you look at a country as a whole, different groups with very different ideological preferences have to somehow live peacefully side by side in the long term. If you like, it’s a sort of enforced marriage, writ large, or a grand scale civil partnership if you prefer that. 

Taking that analogy, we could adapt some of the questions from the crime survey to see whether things we do regularly to each other in the guise of everyday politics are really a form of abuse. Even within marriages and partnerships, what most of us consider unacceptable behaviour may be accepted or practiced by a quite large proportion of people – according to the figures out this week, 16% of 16-19 year olds think it’s sometimes OK to hit a partner.

If you really don’t like your own country, you could leave, and often some people will tell you to do just that if you don’t like it, but the costs and the aggravation and the ‘why should it be me that has to leave?’ are a big deterrent. So you stay together and suffer the abuse. 

So, let’s take a few of the questions from the CSEW and apply them to the political scale. The questionnaire is here:

http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/guide-method/method-quality/specific/crime-statistics-methodology/2012-13-crime-survey-for-england-and-wales.pdf

Starting with a few questions from the section on domestic violence:

Q1: Has your partner ever prevented you from having your fair share of the household money?

(Yes that question is in the domestic violence section, and I’d certainly answer yes, for pretty much every girlfriend I’ve ever had. That’s why I don’t believe much that comes out of the survey. It’s far too open to interpretation and far too tempting a tool for campaigning. Responses from people who have had serious abuse in this manner would be lost in the noise).

This one has a very obvious political equivalent, and we don’t even need to adapt it. Just about every pressure group would answer yes, and so would everyone who feels they should pay less tax or get more government support or more pay or feels the government spends too much on other people’s interests instead of theirs.

The battle between left and right often comes down to this. The left wants to take and spend more and more, and the right wants to keep their cash and spend it themselves. Each side occasionally gets their way to some degree, but there is no doubt in my mind – it is abusive, no better than a marital fight where the one currently holding the wallet or purse wins, i.e. whoever got most seats this time. We really should find a better way. It is this issue more than any other that made me realise that we ought to implement a dual democracy, (I describe that in my book Total Sustainability) and if we don’t this abuse will eventually lead to the Great Western War which I blogged about a couple of months ago:

http://timeguide.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/machiavelli-and-the-coming-great-western-war/

So, question 1, and we can already confirm we are in a highly abusive relationship.

Q2: Has your partner ever stopped you from seeing friends or relatives?

(Can anyone honestly say no to that?)

This one is rather harder to translate. The human rights act is notoriously pretty forceful on this when it comes to criminals, but what does it equate to in civil abuse? Aha! Public demonstrations. Government is intercepting a lot of metadata on who our friends and political friends are, using face recognition at public demonstrations, making them much harder to organise or attend, preventing access to a demonstration and dispersing large groups more. We can all think of groups we find repugnant and may prefer not to exist, but they do exist and share our land whether we like them or not, and they are human, whether we try to portray them as otherwise or not. This sort of abuse blurs into the next form, belittling. Some of us still defend freedom of speech, the right to say what you like without censorship. Others want to clamp down on it, selectively of course; their own right to demonstrate or speak freely must be protected. After the BBC’s Question Time this week, there were numerous people demanding that certain types of people or political parties should be banned from appearing. Such demands happen often. We saw Ed Davey and Prince Charles calling anyone who disagrees with their own views names and should be barred from having any public platform to air their views, the Green Party going still further and calling for people who disagree with them to be sacked and banned from office. So coupling it with belittling, this abuse is becoming the norm in politics and even the Royal Family are guilty of it.

So, more abuse.

Q3: has your partner ever repeatedly belittled you to the extent you felt worthless?

Anyone who ever watches political debate will easily recognise the strong analogies here. These days, in the UK at least, members of all political parties often do their very best to present opposing views as worthless, unacceptable, unfair, odious, backward, prehistoric, uncivilised…. It seems the norm rather than the exception. It isn’t just the parties themselves. Anyone who doesn’t tick all the boxes on the latest political correctness fad is often subjected to abuse by people who share opposing views. Civilised debate on a wide range of sensitive issues is impossible any more.

Definitely very abusive this time.

Q4 has your partner ever frightened you, by threatening to hurt you or someone close to you?

Isn’t that what strikes do? Or riots or even large peaceful public demonstrations? Or media campaigns by pressure groups? People often feel bullied into submission because of the potential consequences they feel if they don’t comply with the demands.

Quite abusive

The rest of the questions are not relevant, being specific to particular weapons. But I think I have made my point. By the criteria we use to judge abuse in our own personal relationships, our society is as guilty as hell. I think it is getting worse year by year. I think we are heading slowly but surely towards a critical point where the fuse finally blows and social breakdown is likely.

I think that in the 21st Century, it is about time we started to work out a more civilised way of living together, sharing the same space with human dignity and mutual respect. Maybe love is a bit much to ask for, but surely we can manage without abusing each other?

The future of the UK monarchy

It would have been poor taste to write this last month, but we’re back to normal now. I am often asked about the future of the monarchy, and it is a valid topic for futurists I guess. I’ll write what I think ought to happen, and then what I think will happen.

I am not a royal basher. I am one of millions of people who respect the Queen and hope she lives a long life, but who nevertheless think the monarchy should go to the grave with her. I think it simply belongs in history. I recognise that many people like it and want it to continue, and I have no wish to offend them, I just don’t agree and would prefer it to end.  It generates media and tourism revenue for sure, but that isn’t sufficient justification for its continuation, and doesn’t make up for the downsides. I can’t think of any other.

The full range of arguments for abolition and for a proper democracy don’t need repeated here, you’ll have heard most. Here is the one I prefer:

Kings and queens in our history books, mythology, even fairy stories, existed in times when you had to win battles and capture a throne, and even if you inherited it, you still had to win more to hold on to it. To do so you must solicit the support of many powerful people in battle, and unless you also win their loyalty, you’ll need far more – a volunteer is worth ten pressed men. So in a way, it was a raw and brutal sort of democracy. Either you won and kept people’s support or you couldn’t be king. It wasn’t just handed to you on a plate, nor something to lay back and relax luxuriantly in. But the last generations of course have been simple inheritance of titles, and without the hard work to win loyalty, the monarchy has lost its true authority. The royals now live in expensive style at the expense of everyone else, but haven’t earned it and give far too little back. It is meaningless. Without won loyalty, monarchy is no better than a dictatorship, and with the ability to dictate stripped away as in the UK monarchy, it has no real meaning at all. It has become an empty symbol of times gone by, the fairy story bits without any substance, empty celebrity. Time for it to go.

The rest of the aristocratic titles should go with it of course, and that would work well with the coming reform the House of Lords. We should cut our shackles and start afresh. The associated wealth needs addressed too. Anything belonging to the crown  – the lands and properties, jewels, the gifts received by virtue of the position (and we could debate the full extent of what should be included in that and what rightfully belongs to individual royals) should be turned to other state uses, or put in museums.The redundant royals should receive pay-offs or pensions according to their prior positions.

What of the landed wealth, once given for favours and loyalty by past kings and queens, that has been passed down these generations, such as the country estates?  An extremist might want to confiscate anything that could be traced back to the crown. I think that is too harsh and unnecessary. A more humane approach could be simply to start treating all inherited wealth the same, to abolish the trusts used by the wealthy to hide stuff from taxation, get rid of any special exceptions for farms and so on. If everyone is treated the same, inheritance can only pass down a generation or two before it is absorbed back into society. Families that pass wealth on and manage it well enough to maintain its value even after such taxation would have earned it.

If we did this, the monarchy would have a dignified end. The Queen did an excellent job and it would end on a high note. If it is allowed to continue, it will be a relic that will become increasingly unwelcome.

So much for my own views. What is likely? Well, it has some momentum, and there is insufficient demand for an early dispatch, so it will probably cling on for a good while after the next coronation, maybe a decade (a honeymoon period plus a few years), two at the most. I can’t give a date for that because I don’t know when the Queen will die. But the reign of either Charles or William (I think Charles will be crowned if he survives the Queen and will be as bad as many of us expect, and if he abdicates quickly, it will still be too late) will quickly erode the support for it, not necessarily on their own, but with the help of the full suite of royal hangers-on. People will lose patience with the associated expense and embarrassment. With a minority of support, it will be abolished and given a dignified burial. As for the rest of my wish list above, that depends very much on who is in power at the time, but I suspect it will go more or less along the lines above.