Monday, June 29, 2009

Mad Rant: Our Utopian Republic

(this is an old article of mine, so while some changes have been made it might sound dated)

It is remarkable how the U.S. government seems to have so many problems when roughly 98% of the American public (supposedly) believes that we have the very best administrative system ever devised in the history of the world. It is just as remarkable that a majority of Americans think our current President is the greatest thing since sliced bread and yet that same majority disagrees with virtually all of his actions when these are presented to them plainly. Contradictions seem to abound in this great Utopian republic. So far, I have yet to find a single argument against monarchy that could not just as easily be made against our own federal republic. Perhaps, it would be different were it not for the extremely lofty vision we have of ourselves. If anyone doubts that "we" have such a loft opinion I will direct them to the capital dome in D.C. to see the painting of George Washington ascending into Heaven flanks by cherubs.
One example is the debate over gun control. The U.S. Constitution very clearly guarantees American citizens the right to own firearms, as well as providing a well-regulated militia, which would today be the National Guard. However, when the Constitution was written militias were under state or local control whereas today they are also under federal control. The point, which conservatives are quick to point out, of the Second Amendment was to give the American people the means to overthrow the government or change it in some way by force of arms if their rights are threatened as our Founding Fathers did against Great Britain.

However, I can easily argue in favor of gun control by pointing out that the underlying right championed by the revolutionaries, to change the government if it does not suit you, was proven to be irrelevant regarding the U.S. government by the Civil War. President Lincoln did not say, "well, these backward southerners are just exercising their right to set up a government more to their liking", but rather called up 75,000 troops to make war on American citizens and force them to submit to federal authority. The point behind the right to bear arms fades away when presented with this fact of history. My own political science professor a number of years ago admitted that the question of secession had never been legally settled, which was why no southern leader was ever charged with treason. The issue was settled, not by the democratic process, but by simple brute military force.

The past debate over war protestors also brought up a few cracks in our perfect republican armor. Why is it so important to Americans to have a right to voice protest and disapproval? Since we live in a democracy, since the foundation of our republic is that sovereign power resides in the people, why would we ever need to protest anything? A constant argument I hear against monarchy is that, since it is a hereditary 'office' the king, queen or emperor is not accountable to the public. And yet, how accountable are leaders in a republic if their citizens find it necessary to lie down in front of traffic or put tape over their mouths and carry pictures of dead children just to make their point of view heard by those in the halls of power? When it comes to answering the call of the people, one of history's most overlooked monarchs made one of the most eloquent statements on the subject. It was 1945, Viet Nam, which was being engulfed by revolution, was the place and the man was Emperor Bao Dai, who issued a proclamation reaffirming his commitment to independence which read in part, "We put the happiness of the Vietnamese people upon our golden throne. We would rather be one of the people in an independent country than the king of an enslaved country." Many years and many thousands of lives later not a few would wish that the mob, under the influence of so many propagandists and rabble-rousers, had forced their monarch into such a position. No one appreciated what they had until it was gone.

I also recall a fictitious conversation on the subject, thanks to the late, great monarchist Walter Moore who recommended to me the film "Juarez" in which takes place a mini political debate between the Emperor Maximilian and the captured general Porfirio Diaz (who despite his portrayal in the film later became a brutal dictator). Emperor Maximilian in this scene makes one of the most accurate statements regarding republican government as probably ever graced the silver screen. He agreed with the principle of democracy as an ideal, but stated that without such safeguards as a monarch could provide, democracy could deteriorate into mob rule in which the masses flock to whatever silver-tongued politician promises them the most (see the film for the correct words). Sound like anything you know?

The truth is, any 'Great Society' based upon the rule of the people alone could never be ideal in my opinion. Personally, I regard truth and principles to be unchanging, and many of mine have gone 'out of style', but regardless of that, public opinion is a very erratic and unpredictable thing, which is easily manipulated and easily swayed. Some of you may recall the case of the New York waitress who was mugged and beaten to death in front of her apartment building while more than 30 of her fellow tenants watched without making the slightest effort to come to her aid or even call for help. This is the very essence of what psychologists call Deindividuation or 'mob mentality'. While among the masses, it is difficult to see the true nature of things, even when it is happening right in front of you. You suffer from pluralistic ignorance, many in that apartment said they assumed someone else had already called the police. You suffer from audience inhibition, it being a scientific fact that the larger the group, the less willing one is to stand out and act differently. Finally, there is diffusion of responsibility, as the crowd gets bigger you share responsibility with others and take less and less notice of your own actions or inactions.

Most monarchists are aware of the fact that Adolf Hitler failed to take power by revolution but succeeded using the democratic method. Once in power, even if free elections were held, the public was so easily manipulated and influenced, it is doubtful the Nazis would have been voted out of office even then. After the war was over the constant defense given by ordinary Germans and war criminals alike was that they could not stand out, they could not disregard the propaganda and decide for themselves. Hitler received the full support of the German public for an unprovoked invasion of Poland simply by having a few prisoners dressed in Polish uniforms and shot on the German border. Photographs were taken and evidence was produced of this 'Polish attack' and the German people dutifully rushed to the front to 'defend' their country from Poland.

Our Utopian Republic depends on a wide array of variables. Do people have the correct information to make important decisions on their own? Do they have the desire? An intelligent, well informed populace is widely considered to be the prerequisite for democracy, and yet, in America, the oldest 'modern' republic in the world, many people in government think it is necessary to penalize smokers for their habit. It seems that our own leaders do not think the American public is intelligent enough to know by now that smoking is harmful and so 'Uncle Sam' has to step in with legal action to keep you from hurting yourself. We say that an intelligent, well informed public is necessary for democracy, yet we all know what trouble resulted when laws were made that you could not vote if you could not read. Apparently not knowing the alphabet does not mean you cannot have a thoughtful opinion on economics and foreign policy. Then there's always the fact that we will trust an 18-year-old boy with a machine gun in the army but not allow him to have a glass of champagne on his own wedding day for lack of 'maturity'.

Can monarchs wave a magic wand and solve all of these problems? I seriously doubt it. In my more wicked moods I have even doubted if they should even try, well imagining the monarchs of the world saying, in the words of Kaiser Wilhelm II, 'You have cooked this broth and now you're going to drink it'. What monarchs can do is to provide a voice, even if theirs is the only one, of reason in the middle of the insanity. They can simply do things that others cannot, and would do more I think if given the opportunity. If one denies a royal any role at all in the affairs of their nation, what have they left to do but fall into frivolity and scandal?

The Prince of Wales is often the center of attention for his lack of a 'job' but, despite his personal failures, I do applaud him for championing many causes I think were worthy, outside of the usual starving and diseased peoples around the world. When the British farmer was in need, their Prince came to the rescue. When urban designers wanted to fill beloved London with so many modern Towers of Babel, Charles protested; and, when something as English as fox hunting came under fire, the environmentalist Prince lended his voice to the country minority. However, for me, and remember these views are only my own, few royal figures set such an example as when King Baudoin of Belgium was 'deposed for a day' because he refused to sign into law a bill that went against his moral beliefs (it was an abortion bill). It was an action quite unheard of, but demonstrated the depth of his personal convictions that he would do whatever was necessary to avoid putting his signature to something that he believed to be morally wrong.

What would the United States be like with a royal figure, in the national spotlight as a part of the government, who could demonstrate to the public leadership rather than simple political maneuverings and endless debates decided ahead of time by polls and percentage figures? How would our dear politicians, bureaucrats and congressmen respond to having a monarch looking over their shoulder, competing with them for public esteem and working with enough charities to perhaps make even the apathetic American public aware of just how many millions congress drains from the average taxpayer? Perhaps when we can level the playing field and the continued rule of our own 'absolute republic' we can move closer to that dreamed of idyllic society. But of course, any such talk critical of republican government in this country especially will quickly earn you the title of 'Mayor of Crazytown'. But, what do I care? I am, after all, The Mad Monarchist.

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