“Honors” perpetuate hereditary absurdity

Posted By: January 03, 2018

“Honors” perpetuate hereditary absurdity

Brian Feeney.Irish News.Belfast.Wednesday, January 3, 2017

THE flummery’s over for another six months. Until June, that is, and the Queen’s birthday honors list, for make no mistake all the gongs handed out are inextricably linked to the British monarchy and its former empire – much as so-called northern nationalists who accept them would wish otherwise.

Of course, in practice it is a British government committee that vets the names but the whole process stinks of empire, class, sexism, inequality, and racism – British values this malign Conservative-DUP junta seek to revive.

In this day and age, why would you accept, let alone want to be a member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE)? Motto: For God and the Empire.

In recent years more and more black and minority ethnic people have been rejecting the nonsense for obvious reasons.

For a start, the empire was based on the slavery of their forefathers and mothers. What sort of person would make such an offer?

The awards are carefully calibrated for the class as well as nostalgia for empire. Basic bottle washer has BEM resurrected a few years ago so more ordinary five-eighths could be co-opted into the system, but only as long as they understand their place, don’t you know? No senior civil servant would be offered a BEM. It’s a CBE at least.

Even then, awards depend on which government department an official is in or how important or profitable his, and it’s nearly always ‘his’, company or how much he gave the Conservatives.

For example, no-one here gets a top knighthood. There are knighthoods and knighthoods.

Here, the best you can hope for maybe if you’re head of the North’s civil service is bog- standard KCB.

The real flashy ones are reserved for Treasury and Foreign Office mandarins and such like. For them, it’s KCMG (‘kindly call me God’) or the very top one, GCMG (‘God calls me God’). Captains of industry expect a peerage these days.

On the bright side, more people are publicly rejecting the nonsense.

Curiously, we don’t hear from Northern Nationalists who reject offers, but then probably the NIO knows better than to insult them with an offer just as they know which Nationalist is likely to succumb and sign up to the empire – unlike officials in England, who have often got it spectacularly wrong.

Howard Gayle, Liverpool’s first black player, turned down an MBE because his “ancestors would be turning in their graves after how the empire and colonialism enslaved them.”

Albert Finney, the actor, rejected a CBE in 1980 and a knighthood in 2000.

Perhaps the most explicit condemnation of a proffered gong was that of novelist and Republican J. G. Ballard. He said he couldn’t accept an honor awarded by the monarch: “There’s all that bowing and scraping and mummery at the palace. It’s the whole climate of deference to the monarch.

“It’s a huge pantomime where tinsel takes the place of substance. It goes with the whole system of hereditary privilege and rank which should be swept away.

“It uses snobbery and social self-consciousness to guarantee the loyalty of large numbers of people who should feel their loyalty is to fellow citizens.”

Ken Loach, the film-maker, explained why he turned down a gong: “It’s all the things I think are despicable: patronage, deferring to the monarchy and the empire which is a monument to exploitation and conquest. I turned down the OBE because it’s not a club you want to join when you look at the villains who’ve got it.”

Perhaps the record holder in the rejection stakes is the artist L. S. Lowry who turned down an OBE, a CBE, a knighthood and a big one, Companion of Honour – twice. Both Conservative and Labour governments were obviously desperate to bring him on board.

Needless to say, there are many people here, mainly unionists, who subscribe to the whole fantasy: monarchy, dreams of empire, recognition, a new hat or suit for a visit to Buck House, even though it probably won’t be the queen pinning on the medal.

Nevertheless, it is a curious mindset. Apart from reverence for the inherent absurdity of a hereditary system there’s knowing your place and accepting fundamental inequality in British society.