Thursday, September 3, 2009


The so-called "republic debate" in New Zealand is an odd thing. Here's the Cliff Notes, setting out how it's usually handled--at least, when it's handled at all.

1. The Poll War.

Every now and then, someone will do a Poll on the Monarchy. It usually (but not always) reveals a majority in favour of the Queen--personally--who doesn't like Her Majesty? And crashing indifference about Constitutional arrangements in general. Insert lots of "But when we have Prince Charles, will the Crown continue?" breathlessness. To be honest, I think the Poll War is pointless, for reasons I shall outline.

2. The National Identity issue

A republic is a sign of national growth. Gratitude, even. Place in the sun, mature country, growing out of colonialism and cultural cringe, etc. When we "grow up" we leave home. I disagree with the basic premise of this argument, but it's a good one. In the news media, it is accompanied by lots of slightly sneering old newsreel footage of people bowing and snivelling to various Royal figures, and implications it's time we grew up. Vide John Campbell's A Queen's Tour.

3. But young people/ordinary people don't care.....

Royal tours, events like the Jubilee, interest in the Monarchy, etc. is ebbing--young people don't care about it, and old people are dying. See 2. It's this argument I'm interested in for this post.

Suppose I grant it (I don't think I do, but suppose I did). Here's my question. Are "young people" uninterested in the Monarchy, or simply uneducated about it? Is the indifference to the Monarchy a sign of wider indifference to, and disconnection from, civic life in general?

How many young people vote?
How many vote in local bodies?
How many join service clubs, or political ones?
How many know their neighbours?

How many are educated enough about civic life, history, and constitutional issues to even make an informed decision, for or against the republic?

Is our generation (for Dr. Swift is young) generally remarkable for depth of public engagement? Investment in constitutional, moral and social values? (in some cases, clearly yes. But is civics one of these things?) Or is the young majority for a republic (assuming there is one, see 1.) simply making up their mind based on sloganeering, and back issues of OK! ?

Somehow, it is a bad thing for the Monarchist majority to make up their minds based on personal loyalty to the Queen, as a celebrity figure (I don't disagree with this contention).

But the level of knowledge and engagement of the republican man-in-the-street are not interrogated. Is he or she really in favour of a republic? Or simply blankly incomprehending about the Monarchy and its historical and Constitutional role?

How much is disconnection from the Monarchy a sign of disconnection and distrust of institutions in general? It's these things we should be debating.

And by the way, if you want to see the republican case set out in depth and detail, skip the Cliff Notes, which do not do it justice--buy the Handbook. I intend to practice what I preach, and do just that.

Cross-posted at The Monarchist.


The Monarchist said...

Welcome back, Swift. I have added a couple of links to feed you some traffic, such as it is.

Neil Welton said...

I blame the education system.

Recapture your education system and, in time, you'll recapture the youth and the future of a nation.

But does New Zealand have the time.

Lewis said...

Thank God for intelligent analysis for once. This is why I'm glad your back Swift. I intend writing a response, of course - I'll gladly out some of the ignorant reasons for supporting a republic.

@Neil - this has been stated endlessly, but I suspect it is not correct. It assumes all supporters of a republic have no education on the monarchy whatsoever.

Swift said...

I'm not saying you're ignorant. I don't think that.

I'm questioning whether your side or ours actually have the tool kit previous generations had to even decide on the issue.

It's not like they hand out "The Rights of Man" with lunch nowadays.

Lewis said...

Ah, well by ignorant I mean some of the silly and nonsensical reasons I hear for supporting a republic, most of which would do our cause damage in the long-term.

Did they ever hand out the Rights of Man with lunch? That would've been amusing. A McRights meal and good old McPaine's.

Swift said...

Oh, right. We have plenty of those too. If we had an oddities contest, our side would win it.

Speaking of which, I'll miss Bill Wilmot, in a strange kinda way.

I don't mind a McPaine meal provided they hand out a McBurke burger at the same time.

Neil Welton said...

"It assumes all supporters of a republic have no education on the Monarchy whatsoever."

It is a pretty accurate assumption.


The referendums in Australia and New Zealand will probably be lost. This is because The Monarchy and the monarchists have managed to make themselves into quite an irrelevance in these countries. I have tried to explain this to some monarchists. How unappealing it is to mix party politics, intolerance and reactionary ideas with support for The Monarchy. How unappealing it is to voters to come across as a loony tune (more interested in the purity of ideological ideas than in reality) when trying to garner votes. Mostly they don't want to listen or know. You can't say I haven't tried, Lewis.

If you want a donation for your organisation, Lewis, get in touch.

One now senses that the monarchist causes should be put out of their misery in both New Zealand and Oz.

I wish all those campaigning for the Monarchy in New Zealand and Australia all the luck in the world. They're going to need it.
Indeed, I'd start by getting rid of a few people, particularly in their monarchist organisations, but the less said the better. I don't want to rock the monarchist boat. But they know who they are.

Swift said...

How unappealing it is to mix party politics, intolerance and reactionary ideas with support for The Monarchy.

Oh quite.

Pot, meet kettle.

pacific6 said...

My year 7 teacher Ms. Orakau used to read an excerpt from Plato's 'Republic' every morning. Her other two favourites were 'Struggle Without End' by Ranginui Walker and 'Animal Farm'. She used to make us promise to do everything in our power to remove the monarchy from New Zealand's constitution. I wonder where she is now? No doubt spreading the word where ever she goes.

Swift said...

We need more teachers who read Plato in the morning. :-)

Neil Welton said...

"Pot, meet kettle."

You will have to explain that remark - for you don't talk much sense, Swift. You make all these allegations but then don't explain or back them up. Just explain.

For example, you recently called someone "a crook" on your blog. There was no explanation of that remark. When blogging I feel you need to be a bit more explanatory.

Just friendly advice.

Not criticism.

Lewis said...

I suspect any civics requirements might just backfire on supporters of the monarchy. After all, check out the subversive questions from the Queen's representative:

Ask students to reflect on what changes they think could happen to the role of the Governor-General in the next 50 years? Have a class discussion.

Who might be the next Governor-General? Students can draw up a short list of candidates; judge the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate before making their final selection. They could write a letter to the Prime Minister outlining who they think should be the next Governor-General and why.

Swift said...

If you insist.

I called Mr. Peters a crook because he is one--and not says me, says the Privileges Committee of Parliament, among other people.

As to the other remark, your urging of tolerance is at seeming odds with your desire to purge a Monarchist League which isn't even yours.

Swift said...

Lewis, that's a matter of detail--I'm not opposed to asking the question, however slanted.

I feel the same about all those endless 'change the flag' Social Studies projects, in which retaining the flag how it is is never an option.

On the matter of GG appointments, I'm not opposed to some reform there either--it might be a better idea to have the GG nominated to HMQ by a balanced and impartial Commission of Parliament--or some such similar system, perhaps.

Neil Welton said...

My desire to see change in the New Zealand and Australian Monarchist Leagues has nothing to do with tolerance, politics or ideology.

It has everything to do with leadership and also judgement.

As The Crown is at stake, I'm afraid it is my concern - even though my concerns are a bit difficult for your to grasp.

Swift said...

Thanks Neil. Bless you.

Lewis said...

Do elaborate please Neil :-)

Swift said...

Let's talk about Civics instead, and leave personalities out of it, shall we?

I apologise for my callow youth, and my tone.

Let's get back on track.

Neil Welton said...

What is your e-mail, Lewis?

Lewis said...

Fair enough.