The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'republic'
The South African capital, currently known as Pretoria, is being renamed to Tshwane, the name of an ancient African king, and also a word meaning something like "unity". The renaming has to do with breaking links with the old colonial white minority regime.
By the same token, perhaps when the republican debate restarts in Australia, we can expect proposals for renaming Australian cities. After all, why should cities bear the names of dead English noblemen like Viscount Sydney or Lord Melbourne (let alone areas named after imperial war heroes like Baron Collingwood)? Perhaps, if Germaine Greer's Aboriginal republic ever comes about, Sydney can be renamed to "Warrane" or similar, and other places can have similar post-colonial name changes.
The upcoming Royal Wedding Mk. II isn't exactly looking like the finest hour in the history of the house of Saxe-Cobourg-Gotha; first it got rescheduled to a town hall or somesuch because they couldn't legally have it at the cathedral, then the Queen decided not to attend (whilst strenuously denying that her action was in any way a snub), and now it turns out that the only way that Prince Charles is going to get to marry Camilla is by invoking a European human-rights law guaranteeing the right to marriage. Which is not the most dignified state of affairs. That and the danger that the IRA may bomb the wedding to protest not being allowed to get away with the robbery they didn't commit.
Not surprisingly, the prospect of having what is becoming the World's Most Expensive Reality TV Show at the helm of state has stoked the embers of the Australian republican debate, as Graham has pointed out.
I'm not one of the year-zero republicans who believes that Australia's British colonial heritage is evil and must be repudiated like an abusive parent (after all, we did get a lot of good things from Britain; the rule of law, Westminster-style democracy, an appreciation of good tea and a sense of irony, to name four). However, an Australian head of state would be good, especially given that the present monarchy is starting to look somewhat ridiculous.
Having said that, one good thing about the monarchy is that the head of state (which, in reality, is the governor-general) is above the ebb and flow of politics, and can keep a cooler head. Replacing them with a party-political President elected every four years would lose that. Graham's idea of a purely ceremonial president is good; I have always liked the idea of making the Moomba monarch (usually a footballer, soap star or other celebrity) the purely ceremonial head of state for a year, during which they would cut ribbons and attend state occasions. However, a one-year term may be a bit too short. Recently, I have been thinking that, to get the advantage of the monarchy that it is above the cycle of politics, the head of state's term should be longer than four years. Perhaps 10- or 12-year terms would be best. This would also encourage the election of figures with more staying power than, say, some footballer or Australian Idol finalist.
As for the title of the head of state, "president" sounds too political (not to mention too reminiscent of France, the US, Italy or other horrible examples). "King" or "queen" sounds a bit silly, and "monarch" would, technically, be inaccurate as the figure would not actually rule. "Taoiseach" may appeal to the Fenian wing of the republican movement (i.e., the ones who wanted to give Australia a green flag), though most Australians would probably not be able to pronounce it. One idea would be to find a word in an Aboriginal language meaning "chieftain" or "wise person" and use that; however, now that reconciliation has been binned, that would seem somewhat patronising.
And if all else fails, we could do what Murgatroyd suggested and establish a cadet monarchy, with a lesser member of the British royal family emigrating to Australia and becoming the resident monarch.
The Graun has published an extract of Germaine Greer's latest polemic, "Whitefella Jump Up". In it (originally published as a Quarterly Essay, and now reprinted by another publisher), she argues that to achieve nationhood, Australia should declare itself an Aboriginal Republic, replacing the head of state with "the Aboriginal people", and allowing anybody in Australia to call themselves "Aboriginal":
The second step in the journey is a second statement to the self in the mirror. "I was born in an Aboriginal country, therefore I must be considered Aboriginal." This is a tougher proposition, as long as Aboriginality is thought of as racial, but if we think of Aboriginality as a nationality, it suddenly becomes easier. It would not involve the assumption of a phoney ethnicity or the appropriation of the history of any particular Aboriginal people. The owners of specific dreamings would continue to be so still, and would continue to pass them on according to their law as it applies to those concerned.
Greer then goes on to argue that the Australian national character owes more to Aboriginal traditions than to the British character; that Australia's British settlers and their descendents gradually "went native" without realising it, adopting everything from the broad, nasal Australian accent to the egalitarian tradition, from backpacking and "feral" dance parties (which came from "going walkabout" and corroborees) to the tradition of telling exaggerated yarns, from the continent's first inhabitants; meanwhile, the gulf between Australia and Britain is vast:
Observers of white Australian life are struck by the degree of segregation between the sexes, which cannot be explained by the prevailing mores of the countries they came from. Aboriginal society, too, is deeply segregated; men and women are used to spending long periods in the company of their own sex. The more important the occasion and the larger the gathering, the more likely it is that women will gather in one area and men in another, just as white Australian men gather round the beer keg, leaving the women to talk among themselves. One explanation of the Australian mania for sport of all kinds is that sport is the only remaining area of human activity that is still rigorously segregated.
Funny that she mentions this, because none other than Jeremy Paxman pointed out (in his book The English: A Portrait of a People) the great degree of segregation between the sexes in English society (as compared to other European societies and/or America, undoubtedly). This has probably changed somewhat over the past few decades, though to say that Australian blokes' tendencies to watch the footy with a tinny of VB in hand while the sheilas talk in the kitchen about their kids/the last episode of Neighbors comes from Aboriginal customs of "secret (wo)men's business" seems more far-fetched than attributing it to how English society was in decades or centuries past.
Sentenced: Republican guerilla Gregory Anastasiou, aka Lucifer, was gaoled for five years for a campaign of arson attacks against those symbols of British colonialism and upper-class hegemony, the hedges of Melbourne's leafy inner eastern suburbs. Anastasiou previously served time for a similar series of hedge burning attacks in the 1980s, and was a cult hero of sorts, giving rise to the Hedge Burner Fan Club.
Strange bedfellows: It has emerged that, during World War 2, Scottish nationalists allied with the IRA attempted to establish an alliance with Nazi Germany, with the aim of establishing a Nazi-allied Scottish Republic in the chaos of the Blitz, (via Lev)
Republicanism: it's not just for Australians anymore. Well, maybe it is, but the Poms are making skeptical noises about the monarchy. Given that they foot the bill for maintaining it, they arguably have more right to than the Australians do. To be precise, it has been commented that the Royal Family should move to more modern (and cheaper) accomodation; among the candidates the BBC has raised are the Millennium Dome (a silly and expensive novelty in London) and Battersea Power Station (wasn't that meant to become the World's Biggest Cinema or somesuch?). As far as making the royals pay their way, there could be some ideas there. Given how the royal family is, for the most part, the world's most popular soap opera, why not sell them to Aaron Spelling or someone, or install webcams in Buckingham Palace and sell advertising on the site?