Today, June 11th 2007, is a public holiday in Bermuda, the official (not actual) Queens Birthday. I don’t remember much of the Queens birthday events prior to my joining the Regiment in 2003. I remember marching in the parade in 2003, and I remember being a medic for the parade in both 2004 and 2005; I left the Regiment in spring 2006 and so didn’t participate that year. However, while not actually in the parade, I did go down to Front Street that year. I went to see how the medics were, say hi, when possible, to former comrades, but also to distribute hastily printed (and I’m afraid full of spelling mistakes) pamphlets detailing the Progressive Labour Party’s FAQs on Bermudian Independence.
This year, I don’t think I’ll make it to the parade. This is partly based on my 2006 experience. Handing out those pamphlets, although it seemed like a god idea at the time, didn’t translate into sense in practice, as the vast majority of parade watchers that I came across were tourists there for the pomp and circumstance, for the quaint spectacle of it all. Many of them were very interested in the pamphlets, but I felt it was more a patronising interest in the local affairs of Bermuda. At the end of the day though it really didn’t make much sense expending so much effort discussing Bermudian independence with tourists here only for a week. There was of course a distinct minority of Bermudians who were there, virtually every single one of them relatives of a participant in the various companies forming the parade (Regiment, Police, Fire Service, Sea Cadets). They took the pamphlets, and we had some good back and forth discussion.
This year however, I am dedicating the day, apart from regular household chores, to a campaign for a British Republic (as long as we are part of the UK of the Commonwealth), that is, for an elected head of state.
Now, Mrs. Elizabeth Windsor, Mr. Philip Montbatten, and the various Montbatten-Windsors, that is the so-called Royal Family, may very well be nice enough people, so I stress that I’m not attacking them for who they are, but what they are, the institution that they manifest. I’ve actually had the good fortune to meet Mrs. Windsor, as well as Mr. Montbatten, at different times. Mrs. Windsor seemed like a nice enough lady, a tad conservative in her politics and relgious views from what I recall of our brief conversation/interaction, and Mr. Montbatten struck me as kind of goofy with foot in mouth issues.
But I really don’t understand how we, as in the British ‘subjects,’ still put up with the notion of a hereditary head of state, or with the lack of a written constitution (Bermuda has one, but not the UK), or even with the fact that we are technically ‘subjects.’ Now, I admit, as a child I would’ve been considered quite a loyalist or monarchist. I lamented the loss of the Empire, I freely stood at attention when the school forced us to line the streets waving little Bermuda flags and Union Jacks, I rpoudly belted out the words to God Save the Queen, and I even went out of my way to see the Queen at Albouys Point on her last visit, I think in 1997.
I really have a hard time figuring out what an earth I was thinking back then. My best guess is that I wasn’t really thinking, that is not critically or with access to all the facts. I kind of sponge-like absorbed all this jingoistic and monarchist propaganda that I had been both subtly and overtly exposed to in different ways.
Now, as I’ve said, Mrs. Windsor may be a nice enough lady, and I can understand that she hasn’t really offended anyone that much, which is what I find a lot of people say when I advocate a republic, ‘But shes so nice…’ I’m sorry, but I’m a nice person to (I think so at least) and theres a lot of nice people, but that still doesn’t explain why she’s head of state, nor does it justify such a concept as hereditary head of state. And just because she’s such a nice lady, who’s to say that the next or future head of state by virtue of birth will be ‘nice?’
Furthermore, the very concept of having to defer to someone, or that person having certain rights (like being head of state), by virtue of birth just smacks of elitism, and the way I see it serves as a model for some to advocate even more archaic and undemocratic social systems (like racial segregation for example). I can also accept the argument that the monarchy is largely racist in that only members of the Windsor family can become head of state, and while it is possible for the members of this family to enter into interracial unions, the practices of this family (marrying other ‘nobles’) tends to reduce that potential, and thus the monarchy is going to be dominated by one race, the anglo-germanic. So a non-white really doesn’t have a chance to be head of state.
I also, as a militant secularist, have some serious concerns about the union of Chruch and State that the monarchy represents, with the monarch being similteonously head of state and head of the Anglican Church, with Anglicanism being the State Religion of the UK, as well as Bermuda as a result.
And I for one refuse to be anyone’s ‘subject,’ or refer to anyone in such a self-debasing manner as ‘protocol’ demands. I also believe that the institution of monarchy is very damaging or traumatic to those born into it. Just imagine the pressure that must be put on a child born to the Windsor family, and the effects of paparazzi, not to mention the effect of everyone else deferring to you as superior, as well as being quite literally royally spoiled. To me its a wonder that any of the Windsors can even maintain a facade of sanity or normality as a result. I think its really quite cruel to them to be honest.
And to top it off, us ‘subjects’ even pay to be ‘subjects’ through various hidden taxes, and they are exempt from paying lots of taxes as well.
Now, I know a lot of people will say, okay, but they don’t really have any real power.
I disagree. I think they have a lot more power than is often made out to be the case. Without a written constitution its really quite hard to really determine what powers the monarch actually has. What we do know is that the monarch has the power to determine the Prime Minister, that the Prime Minister has to meet with the monarch once a week, and its quite possible that the monarch has or can intervene in political events without us knowing.
As for the claim that the monarchy is good for tourism, I don’t buy that either. We can still do parades and the like without a monarch. And opening up their property and art collections (the art collection alone is valued at ten billion pounds) would be a boost to tourism.
Theres a lot more I could say, but I’m going to leave it at this for now. There are movements for a republic in the UK, as well as chapters in Australia, Canada and New Zealand. I plan to get one of the ground here. As long as we are part of the British Empire or the Commonwealth, and as long as there is an Empire as opposed to a Federal Republic, or a monarch as a head of state, there is a need for republicanism. This chapter will of course be open to all British and Commonwealth ‘subjects.’ And no, you don’t have to agree with my Marxism or my general leftism, you just have to basically agree that the monarchy needs scrapped and a republic put in its place. Anyone interested, let me know. I’ll get to work on the basic organisational stuff tomorrow, and contact information soon after.