What’s missing from this excellent thought-provoking analysis is the tension between those who perceive the universe to be a god-ordered space in which individuals may seek to serve God’s purpose, and those who perceive it be a space that people can collectively shape at their will, with our destiny resting entirely on whether we can co-operate to “solve” the tragedy of the horizon and other collective action problems. (Of course this is a false binary with fuzzy edges but I think it is a useful analytical concept nonetheless.)
Queen Elizabeth II was firmly in the former camp, along with a large part of the US Republican Party, a smattering of backbench UK Tories, and large parts of the mass population of the West. The late Queen’s son, along with your Trudeaus and your Carneys and your Robespierres and the mainstream of the US Democrats and most of the mainstream parliamentary parties in the UK and its advanced world daughter democracies, are in the latter. Both camps include people who might have no common bond other than their perspective on this question, although the average age of the more idealistic latter camp might be lower than that of the former.
The big question is whether our liberal democracies can create stable alliances within each of these groups, and also then create an orderly spaces in which representatives can forge some kind of political compromise between the and within the groups. The context of a belligerent Russia and Chinese Communist Party, high and increasing income inequalities, and a shrinking, ageing population (amongst other macro issues) makes the challenge very hard indeed.
The hyper-politicisation of institutions – and the attendant invasion of the social and the personal by the political – is indeed is a dire threat. The first thing that the institutions need to do is to realise that they may have been hyper-politicised, hold their hands up, and refocus themselves back on to their core purposes. Covid, climate, social justice – all pose profoundly political, complex questions that need space to be politically debated, deliberated, and carefully considered. They are not things that can be outsourced to a single unified army of technocrats to “solve” – but of course the debate on them needs careful, impartial, analytical technocratic advice from a wide range of academic and other expert sources. Not least because there is clearly not political consensus on the nature of the universe and our ultimate end goal – is the aim to serve a godly purpose, or is it to try create something as close as possible to a heaven on earth for everyone? The technocrats can’t answer that.
People pursuing each of these ends have in the past caused immense suffering and destruction. It’s pointless debating whether the Inquisiton was “worse” than the gulags; whether a stifling patriarchy is “worse” than unthinking wokism. It’s better simply to find the humility to accept, depending on your perspective, that one will never be able perfectly to serve God’s purpose, or that there will never be a fully just and equal society on earth (or, indeed, both).
Similarly, the idea that political problems can be solved be redefining or changing the specific polity to which a given territory (Alberta, or anywhere else) belongs won’t resolve the underlying tensions within that territory; and mass population movements are obviously a very bad and impractical idea.
Rather, if we are to have any hope of getting anywhere, we have to put our blinking phones down, switch the TV off, and start talking to each other again about the core substance of the political matters at hand. not the constitutional process or the personality-based flotsam on surface. And to do so with humility, courage, grace, and an acceptance that we are not always going to agree but that we have a shared endeavour to forge a better common understanding. Most important in all of this is a dogged determination not to get own points across but to really try and listen to and understand what others have to say to us – and maybe even to change our own minds, including about some of most fundamental beliefs or pre-conceptions.
Our politicians need to step up and lead from front on this. What better way to honour Queen Elizabeth II, who spent a long lifetime listening but very rarely speaking?
Big hopes! Andrew. How we govern ourselves as individuals provides some guidance of our capacity to govern those societies we live in. German legal texts from 1225’ish reveal an intent of the law to “mirror back to citizens the values they most prize in themselves.” Bit like our late Queen Elizabeth.
I think the late Queen managed to occupy a unique position by being the person she was. Firstly, she was a dedicated Protestant, a religion which enabled today’s liberalism that is now morphing into Wokeism (the successor ideology) – very much also within the CoE. With that it meant a lot that she was the Supreme Governor of CoE continuing a tradition of Britain’s first Brexit from Europe 500 years ago embodying that distinct British identity. Also she was a woman holding what’s probably been the top political position women have been able to hold for the past 450 years or so. It’s no surprise she was a uniting force for all the slices and layers of British society, but it’s also not a surprise it’s hard to fill the space she leaves behind.
For what it’s worth, the membership of my mother’s senior citizens’ centre in British Columbia voted yesterday to remove the portraits of the Queen and Prince Phillip that hang above the reception desk. I should add that this was the result of a longstanding debate within the membership and not directly linked to the Queen’s passing.
I get the general sense that most Canadians aren’t hostile to the monarchy, merely indifferent. However, the author shouldn’t underestimate its symbolic value to Canadians in their core, never-ending identity battle: to differentiate themselves from the Americans. Having the monarch on much of the currency is a pretty direct expression of that.
The identity battle, weakened by the anti-national concept of the country being a salad bowl as opposed to the American melting pot, co-exists with the observation people and cultures across and adjacent to the western US border line, have more in common with each other than their compatriots in Eastern Canada.
Alberta’s sotto voce libertarian desire is to become an American state, freed from Ottawa’s involvement with the province’s massive natural resources. The breakup of Canada might go like this.
British Columbia becomes a state. Alberta and Saskatchewan, and Manitoba become states. Ontario would become Canada. Quebec and her wholly dependent eastern provinces, become French Canada. Nova Scotia and PEI, distanced from French Canada and financial drains would be basket cases neither the US or Canada want. The territories would incorporate, but without subsidies from either Canada or French Canada would be at risk and a source of stress.
None if this is likely to happen. Until it does.
Whatever happens and whenever, it’ll always be 30 minutes later in Newfoundland.
Interesting that support for Constitutional Monarchy is greatest next door to an English-speaking republic with a president holding executive power. The Canadians can see how that works…so possibly they prefer the current arrangements to either an executive president of their own…who would be C-in-C of a scout troop by comparison with his next door neighbor…or a ceremonial one who would struggle even to achieve that status.
As it is, in extremis…the POTUS would probably take a call from King Charles III. As I believe he already has…
There’s actually some substance to these issues beyond how people ‘feel’ about the monarchy and the current monarch. For the most part the Queen stayed out of politics in the UK but there is some comfort taken that she was still there, part of the process, signing laws into existence and authorizing the formation of governments. In Canada that role is delegated to the Governor General, but the Governor General is selected by the Prime Minister. The Governor General does not take orders from the Queen (in practice) but simply rubber stamps and goes through the motions. As of late they tend to be selected for their celebrity status and not as senior statesmen who might exercise independent thought. There is no comparison whatsoever between the stature and weight of the hereditary and beloved monarch versus the clown show of our usual Governors General. Thus there is no check and balance whatsoever provided by the monarch (or anyone else) in our version of democracy. The real reason why Canada needs to become a republic is to check the power of the Prime Minister and separate the executive from the legislative branch. But much like the Tolkien ring of power, once political parties get their hands on the all-powerful prime minister’s office, the last thing they want to do is restrain that power in any way. Hence proposals to elect the senate (our version of the House of Lords) also go nowhere. Not even MPs can speak against their leader without immediate ejection from the party. Canada is a monarchy, but in practice its the prime minister who reigns supreme for his or her term.
I appreciate Andrew Horsman’s thought provocative comments. Well thought out and presented.
In life, one person’s voiced comment seems to override the thoughts of others. Until one holds a vote, you have no idea.
I’ve lived 33 years in the United States. That republic is presently in shambles, ready to ignite with the first spark. Like no other country in the world, Canada, whose early history is American history, same language and principles, has fought two campaigns, the Battle of Quebec of 1775 and the War 0f 1812, to drive American invasion and aggression off our lands. Lincoln’s threats to invade Canada finally led to the confederation.
Freedom House (freedomhouse.org) lists Canada in third place for freedom. The United States may be found in the 62nd slot. They have similar backgrounds, a similar mother country, and similar ideals. Yet, we are different.
The answer may be found in my short letter to the Toronto Star newspaper.
The monarchy was real, and she was real. They protected usTue., Sept. 13, 2022
Grief. The realization of the importance of this one person in our lives.
Her death cuts me deeply. And sensing how our Commonwealth nations are grieving together, I come to realize how close we are.
The monarchy was real, and she was real.
Trump has demonstrated the critical weakness of republicanism. The elected head of state will have a bias along party lines.
The monarchy is a watchdog to ensure that the privy council and the government respect and maintain the constitution and the people are served wisely.
“What is notable these days is not so much how Canada’s centre-left elites have lent their support to monarchy, but how the Right-wing opposition to those elites has increasingly drifted into anti-monarchist territory, almost seeming to converge at times with voices on the Left.”
Very well observed.
Part of this is, frankly, that a segment of the right of Canada have become associated with a pro-US sentiment. A lot of this was because of the Cold War, and a sense that Canadian identity, kept in aspic, is part of an elite plot to subsidise a lot of subpar entertainment, artistic products and industrial products with a ‘made in Canada’ badge. The Conservative party in the 80s deliberately sought free trade with the US whilst the Liberal party denounced it as treason to Canadas principles. The Liberal party is highly associated with billigualism and the myth of the two nations as the basis for Canadian identity – that and the fact that Quebecois nationalism was largely left wing (though not so much now) meant that many Canadian Conservatives looked to the US as a model. Now it’s true that the old British identity does hold up with some branches of the Conservatives – see the dispute over Empire day being renamed to Canada day – but increasingly this seems to be less and less relevant to younger Conservative voters, whereas much of what the US right is saying is.