Pulling Together


Liberty, monarchy, and order

Saturday saw a happy occasion, at least for those enjoying our current constitutional arrangements. The King, who has served as such since 8th September, was finally crowned in what we are told was a stripped-down ceremony. Well, I wonder what it had looked like before. I saw the event on television at a nearby church, appropriate enough since it was basically a church service.

I have written about the benefit of an unelected head of state before so won’t rehearse those arguments here, except to remind us that countries with such an arrangement include those ranked as happiest in the world in the Nordic region. Instead, I will take a little time to consider issues surrounding the republic/monarchy argument in recent days.

The first thing is to consider the slogan adopted by Republic, the protest group which attempted to demonstrate on Saturday, but was instead arrested on arrival. “Not my King” is, of course, derivative from the slogan used by people so outraged by the election of Donald Trump as American President in 2016. Then, it was simply a claim that the elected President did not represent those who had not voted for him. So opposed were they to his rule they wanted to clarify he did not represent those who had not voted for him. By doing so, they were in effect rejecting the principle of democracy, rejecting the result of the election because they objected so strongly to it. Inasmuch as that worked, it did so because it questioned the electoral process and its ability to produce results some found unacceptable.

The American President is a political leader elected on policies. He has policies which people can object to supporting. There is content to be rejected. Doing so still suggests a weakening of democracy, which only works when all accept the result, but at least there is content to reject.

By contrast, the King has not come to power on any policy platform or with any agenda. He simply is because he is who he is. He does not represent anyone in the democratic sense, just the symbolic nation to which we belong by virtue of birth or residence. There are no policies to dissociate from. There is no contrast between those who support him and those who do not. Copying an American slogan into a totally different context makes no sense at all, and shows just how weak the protesters’ thinking is.

Perhaps of more concern is that they were arrested on arrival on a new “sus” law. They were arrested because they were suspected of conspiring to do something. In other words, not for something they had done, but for the officers’ reaction to what they might intend. As I wrote last time, “I can control my intentions. I cannot control your reactions.” To judge people on something they cannot control is fundamentally unjust. It’s why we object to racial or disability discrimination, in fact. This is not a just law. I might be pleased they could not disrupt the celebration, but not if they were arrested on such an uncontrollable basis.

The implication of something one of the protesters said about the disruption did cause me concern. He said he was arrested because his actions might spoil a party, and people have to put up with others chanting when they get together. I don’t think that’s true. Surely people are entitled to celebrate without others spoiling their fun. Are we not back to the distinction between protesting and disrupting? We should be entitled to stand on the fringe and show disapproval. In many cases we should be able to interact by handing out literature or shouting slogans, but not where such an action would itself be disruptive. It might be all right to stand outside a crematorium with banners objecting to some issue related to it. It wouldn’t be appropriate to chant slogans so mourners at a funeral were disturbed, or to invade the chapel with banners during the proceedings. There are times or places where what is demonstrating and what is disrupting change. I was worried that the protester did not seem to recognise the subtleties. As a member of a political party, I would expect to be able to attend meetings in peace. It would be inappropriate to invade another party’s meeting and display our slogans there. My freedom must not interfere with yours.

The fundamental failure to discuss issues like freedom and the legitimate limits of freedom is one of the more dangerous trends in current society. It is as if people have simply forgotten the sacrifices which won us what we now have and are in danger of losing. Only when freedom is gone will people realise how important it was. Then it will be too late. Wake up, while you still can!

About the Author

K J Petrie has a Full Technological Certificate in Radio, TV and Electronics, an HNC in Digital Electronics and a BA(Hons) in Theological Studies.

His interests include Christian and societal unity, Diverse Diversity, and freedoms from want, from fear, of speech, and of association. He is a member of the Social Democratic Party.

The views expressed here are entirely personal and unconnected with any body to which he belongs.

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