Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Curmudgeonly egalitarian speaks out . . New Year Honours - Why?

I'm quoting George Orwell here, from 1944 - and still we have the system.

"Looking through the photographs in the New Year's Honours List, I am struck (as usual) by the quite exceptional ugliness and vulgarity of the faces displayed there. It seems to be almost the rule that the kind of person who earns the right to call himself Lord Percy de Falcontowers should look at best like an overfed publican and at worst like a tax-collector with a duodenal ulcer... "...When you remember that nearly the whole of the rest of the world has dropped it, it does seem strange to see this flummery still continuing in England, a country in which the very notion of aristocracy perished hundreds of years ago. The race-difference on which aristocratic rule is usually founded had disappeared from England by the end of the Middle Ages, and the concept of "blue blood" as something valuable in itself, and independent of money, was vanishing in the age of Elizabeth. Since then we have been a plutocracy plain and simple. Yet we still make spasmodic efforts to dress ourselves in the colours of medieval feudalism. "Think of the Herald's Office solemnly faking pedigrees and inventing coats of arms with mermaids and unicorns couchant, regardant and what-not, for company directors in bowler hats and striped trousers! What I like best is the careful grading by which the honours are always dished out in direct proportion to the amount of mischief done: baronies for Big Business, baronetcies for fashionable surgeons, knighthoods for tame professors. But do these people imagine that by calling themselves lords, knights and so forth they somehow come to have something in common with the medieval aristocracy? Does Sir Walter Citrine, say, feel himself to be rather the same kind of person as Childe Roland (Childe Citrine to the dark tower came!), or is Lord Nuffield under the impression that we shall mistake him for a crusader in chain-armour? "However, this honours-list business has one severely practical aspect, and that is that a title is a first-class alias. Mr X can practically cancel his past by turning himself into Lord Y. Some of the ministerial appointments that have been made during this war would hardly have been possible without some such disguise. As Tom Paine put it: "These people change their names so often that it is as hard to know them as it is to know thieves.""
- 'As I Please', Tribune, 07/01/44.

The whole caboodle makes me cringe and I hate it when people I respect accept honours - the latest being David Hockney, who receives the Order of Merit.  OK, not a knighthood, but why does he need it - we surely know how good his work is, and he has made plenty of money.  I love his early drawings and his prints of California and Yorkshire.  And I admire his capacity for work.

I may be an egalitarian curmudgeon - well, not maybe -  I am, of course.

Well, bugger my boots, I hadn't remembered he'd refused a knighthood in 1990.
Graun article