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The U.K. Honours System
December 22, 2003 11:29 PM   Subscribe

Take This Honour And Shove It Up Your Arse: Some, like JG Ballard and Benjamin Zephaniah, want the UK Honours System abolished; others want it reformed; diehards want it left as it is. The recent leaking of a distinguished list of refuseniks, coming just after Sir Mick Jagger got his ya-yas out in Buckingham Palace, reminds us of Groucho Marx's famous comment that he'd never join a club that would take members like him. It's certainly an archaic and complicated system but, it seems to me, no more open to abuse than other countries' systems. And, arguably, no less ridiculous or hypocritical either. But is it (symbolically, culturally, whatever) useful enough nowadays, simple political expediency apart, to be worth hanging on to?
posted by MiguelCardoso (17 comments total)

 
I've every respect for someone who refuses an honour. I have zero respect for somebody who refuses an honour offered when one political party is in power only to accept later when another party is in power. Everyone has their own reasons for refusing but such a thing seems to me to strengthen the system of favour and leave it further open to abuse from those you are refusing than it would otherwise be.

Still, the honours list is a good thing. They make a list for us to work through when the revolution comes. Quite sweet of them really.
posted by vbfg at 4:07 AM on December 23, 2003


They make a list for us to work through when the revolution comes. Quite sweet of them really.

Bagsy I get to shoot Jonny Wilkinson.
posted by bifter at 4:18 AM on December 23, 2003


Are we going to shoot Sir Ian McKellen too?

'Cos I don't wanna.
posted by Blue Stone at 5:34 AM on December 23, 2003


miguel, it would seem that some traditions just don't die easily.
posted by madamjujujive at 5:49 AM on December 23, 2003


Blue Stone: How about if we throw in Richard Branson as a sweetnener?
posted by biffa at 6:07 AM on December 23, 2003


mumble mumble talk about a tough crowd. Wassamatter, not enough Guardian links for the Socialist Workers' Brotherhood? Has it all come to this: who are we going to hang first, come the revolution? You want I look through the Congressional Medal of Honor? You want I drag Canada, Australia and New Zealand into this? ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 6:38 AM on December 23, 2003


mumble mumble talk about a tough crowd. Wassamatter, not enough Guardian links for the Socialist Workers' Brotherhood? Has it all come to this: who are we going to hang first, come the revolution? You want I look through the Congressional Medal of Honor? You want I drag Canada, Australia and New Zealand into this? ;)

He's educated! Get him!
posted by bifter at 6:52 AM on December 23, 2003


It does sort of smack of that European anti-elitism, the sort of thing that today makes dogs prohibitively expensive in Germany, because it used to be that only the wealthy could have them; and the same with fox hunting in England--bitterly hated because it was a sport reserved for the rich and powerful.
Of course, these things are rationalized away: "Lots of hungry people could eat the horses those dogs eat!"

Come to think of it, how much of the EU is based on "giving one in the eye to those rich bastards"? Okay, so you suffered under the noble classes for a couple of thousand years. GET OVER IT.
posted by kablam at 10:33 AM on December 23, 2003


It reminds me of how Richard Feynman wanted to refuse his Nobel Prize (not for political reasons) but was told it would cause more trouble to refuse it than accept it.
posted by drezdn at 10:48 AM on December 23, 2003


So what exactly is wrong with anti-elitism?
posted by lerrup at 11:43 AM on December 23, 2003


> Still, the honours list is a good thing. They make a list for us to work through
> when the revolution comes.

Come the revo, will the French be shooting their Legion d'Honneur chevaliers while you're working your way through the Brit upper crust? Will you be rounding up hereditary peers? life peers? knights? hons? people with hyphenated names? or just everybody with good teeth? Will you be starting with Debrett's and working down or with Labour knights and working up? You need to settle these questions now, to avoid confusion in the event.

Oh, and when you do come to the life peers you may shoot Thatcher (what has she done for me lately?)and Lloyd-Webber but not Rendell of Babergh, Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, or Menuhin. Because I said not.
posted by jfuller at 12:04 PM on December 23, 2003


The issue with British honours is, in my view, nothing to do with anti-elitism, but the pattern of granting honours. 1) Honours aren't egalitarian, but correlated to the existing social status of the recipient. 2) Many, if not most, honours are granted not to those who've worked above and beyond the call of duty, but routinely given to fatcats for a lifetime of making their pile in already well-rewarded jobs.
posted by raygirvan at 12:18 PM on December 23, 2003


Many, if not most, honours are granted not to those who've worked above and beyond the call of duty (My emphasis)

It's that if not most, Ray, that convinces me, as an interested observer, to ultimately defend the system, although I agree with every other word of yours. Imo, the most is indeed in doubt. I know a few hardworking, decent people who have received minor gongs for a lifetime given to helping others - and it's nice to be recognized. In a way, it's a pity the media, instead of exploring the rich "lower" echelons, where so many interesting lives are hidden, wastes its oxygen on the celebs.*

Besides, you should get a whiff of the Ruritarian, French-inspired system of continental European honours, called "condecorations", an apt word, considering the meaning of the French word "con".

*Yes, I was going to say worthless celebs; but I thought better of it. ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 1:38 PM on December 23, 2003


Point taken. I was thinking of the highly publicised honours and the high-level ones such as knighthoods.
posted by raygirvan at 4:25 PM on December 23, 2003


The honours system, coupled with the royal family and the class system that persists in British society, to me indicates why Britain will never be a world leader again. Not least because they make me sick beyond belief.

Just trollin' sayin'.
posted by bwerdmuller at 6:29 AM on December 25, 2003


That and the whole economics thing, which is admittedly far less important.
posted by vbfg at 10:56 AM on December 25, 2003


What would you Brits say to the idea of a *new* honor?

Knight Of England (KOE). A non-hereditary, non-Lords Knighthood bestowed only on field combat military commanders whose units had distinguished themselves in battle. Closed to non-military, staff officers, and those above the rank of Colonel.

Instead of a medal, they get a dress armor breastplate made from titanium.

Bitchin.
posted by kablam at 12:24 PM on December 25, 2003


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