The Coronation of His Majesty King Charles III is set for this Saturday, the sixth of May. As this event, the peak of the ceremony surrounding the accession of our new Sovereign, has grown nearer, the woodworks have released a fairly predictable swarm of vermin intent on spoiling things as much as they can. Liberal Party bureaucrats circumventing proper procedure to quietly commission changes to our royal symbols to make them less evocative of tradition. Special interest groups trying to make what should be a solemn yet celebratory occasion embodying unity, stability, and continuity for each of His Majesty’s realms and for the whole Commonwealth, as was the Coronation of His Majesty’s late mother, all about them. Left-wing journalists calling our institution of monarchy “outdated” and “archaic”, which it, being timeless, can never be, suggesting that we “severe our ties” to it as if it were something external and not integral to our constitution, and defaming both the monarchy and our country as a whole by insisting that our history be read through the distorting lens of BIPOC racial grievance politics. Sadly, these latter have found a strange bedfellow in the person of Maxime Bernier, the leader of what they would absurdly describe as the “far right” People’s Party of Canada. For me, this last means that come the next Dominion election I will have one less option to vote for. While on most things, perhaps everything except this, where Bernier’s views differ from those of the present leadership of the Conservative Party I agree with Bernier, this is a deal breaker. No small-r republican will ever have my support, no matter how right he is on other things.
Bernier has allowed his objections to Charles the person blind him with regards to monarchy the institution. His objections to Charles have to do with the king’s views on certain controversial points. Our prime minister, Justin Trudeau is far further removed from Bernier's views on these same points - and many others as well - than is our king. Imagine if Bernier had tweeted that because of his objections to Trudeau we should replace parliament with something else. This would be recognized instantly as a terrible suggestion. Yet the same bad reasoning – get rid of the institution because of objections to the person – is worse in the case of what Bernier actually said. The monarchy is a non-political – in the sense of party politics – office. It is therefore much worse to attack the institution because of objections to the officeholder based on partisan political views in the case of the monarchy than in the case of parliament and the prime minister.
It is because he approaches monarchy from the standpoint of Modern democratic assumptions – yes, populist nationalist assumptions, comically labelled right-wing by those seemingly unaware that the original right was anything but populist and nationalist, are Modern democratic assumptions, well within the boundaries of historical liberalism - that Bernier makes the basic blunder of failing to recognize that it is because the monarchy is non-democratic that it is non-political and that it is because it is non-political that it can both stand above partisan politics as a beacon of unity and serve as an anchor of stability for parliamentary government in the turbulent sea of Modern democratic politics, an institution far more important and valuable even than its ancient democratic complement of parliament, which only the basest of fools would want to mess with.. This mistake can be categorized with others common to those who have so imbibed the basic assumptions of the Modern Age that they simply cannot think outside that box and find it painful to even try. These mistakes all involve prioritizing that which, important as it may be to the moment, is fleeting and ephemeral, over that which is fixed, stable, permanent, and lasting. This is the consequence of turning our backs on the consensus of the wisdom of all of human tradition until yesterday and deciding that the marketplace is a better model for the whole of society than the family.
When we speak of stability and permanence with regards to human institutions, of course, we are referring to these qualities to the extent that they can be possessed by anything in our earthly, mortal, existence. Monarchy is the state institution that has demonstrated the largest capacity for such. Family is the most permanent social institution. While I am referring to family in the general sense of “the family”, the oldest and most universal social institution, specific families also have much longer lifespans than the individuals who belong to them in any generation. We are born into families that have been around a lot longer than us and, until very recently at any rate, those families raised us to behave in ways that would ensure they would be around long after we are gone, i.e., grow up, get married, have kids, raise those kids to do the same. Like living under the reign of a king whose Sovereignty has passed down to him from those who reigned over generations of our forebears this reminds us that we are not each our own individual selves the centre of the universe around which all else revolves and to whose wills reality must bend the knee. This is a reminder we are in constant need of now more than ever since we are constantly surrounded by voices telling us otherwise.
The recognition that everything is not about us, that we are part of things bigger, more important, and longer lived than ourselves, is, paradoxically, absolutely essential to our growth as individuals, not physical growth of course, but our development into our best possible selves, the selves we are supposed to be, the kind of growth that perfection in the original root meaning of the word points to and which in the language of the ancient thinkers consists of finding and accomplishing to the best of our ability our good, that is to say, our end, our purpose, the reason we are here on this earth. For we cannot find and serve our own small-g good, if we are solipsistic prisoners of our own selves. Our individual small-g goods are not, pace Nietzsche, goods we make for ourselves out of our own wills, but are that within us which answers to big G Goodness. We do not have to be able to conceive of Goodness in philosophical terms, but none of us will ever come near being the best version of ourselves possible without acknowledging Goodness as something that is what it is regardless of what we think, say, or do about it and something to which our will must bend rather than vice versa.
Goodness is often spoken of in connection with Beauty and Truth, both of which like Goodness are what they are regardless of us and to which our wills must bend. These are stable and permanent in the absolute sense. In philosophy and theology they are called the Transcendentals, which term means “the properties of being, i.e., that which is to existence itself what “red” is to “apple”, but as has already been stated, a philosophical understanding of these things is hardly necessary. The important thing to understand is that we don’t have a say in what Goodness, Truth and Beauty are and that we are to conform ourselves to these rather than to try to force them to conform to our will.
We live in a time when we are suffering the consequences of having done the exact opposite on a massive scale. Take Beauty for an example. Our cities look as one would expect them to after a century or so of architects and city engineers designing buildings and streets with the idea that Beauty must take backseat to utility. Our countrysides, while not affected as badly as our cities, show the scarring one would expect when those responsible for projects that affect the countryside share the same priorities as the aforementioned architects and city engineers. Is it any wonder, with such disregard for Beauty being shown by the engineers responsible for city and country alike, that so many others add to the problem by strewing garbage all over both? We have art and music that looks and sounds like what one would expect from a century or so of sculptors, painters, and composers who no longer saw the primary purpose of their vocation as being to create works of Beauty but to “express themselves” and “reach the people” even if that meant shocking them with ugliness. Bernier’s objections to Charles the person are based on His Majesty’s life-long outspoken environmentalism which, in the minds of Bernier and many who think like him, make His Majesty into someone like Bill Gates or Al Gore. Even if His Majesty was that type it would still be utter folly to wish to abolish the office of the monarchy because of such a quirk in the present officeholder, but it is also an ill-informed misjudgment of His Majesty. His environmentalism began as countryside conservationism rooted in his love of the Beauty of the countryside. His love for Beauty has manifested itself in a similar outspokenness with regards to the other things discussed in this paragraph. It would be difficult to read his defense of older buildings and architectural styles and his biting criticism of modernism and functionalism as anything other than a deep traditionalism. Similarly, if you consider everything he has said and done with regards to environmentalism instead of focusing in only on climate-related matters, it is quite evident that he is more of a Wendell Berry than a Bill Gates.
Late last week a bill cleared parliament, the first of several planned by the current Liberal government, that will have the effect of severely limiting Canadians access to Truth by giving the government the same, or even stronger, control over alternative sources of information online that they already exercise over the traditional media. This is not, of course, how the prime minister and his cult of followers talk about what they are doing. They say that this first bill is intended to protect “Canadian content” on online streaming services. They say with regards to their internet legislation as a whole that they are trying to protect Canadians from “online harms” such as “misinformation”, “disinformation”, and “hate”. If one were to make the mistake of taking this language literally and seriously one could be fooled into thinking that it is the opposite of Truth that the government is trying to keep from Canadians for “misinformation” and “disinformation” as these words are properly used mean information that is false. The Liberals, however, use these words to mean information that disagrees with whatever narrative they happen to be promoting at that moment and since that narrative is almost inevitably false it is Truth that ends up being censored as “misinformation” or “disinformation”. A Ministry of Truth never promotes Truth, it only suppresses it. It is always a bad idea, but especially so when coming from someone like our prime minister who never tells the Truth when a lie will suffice. Only a few days before the Online Streaming Act passed he told an audience that he never forced anyone to get a vaccination. This was a rather audacious lie considering there were not many world leaders worse than him when it came to imposing vaccines on millions by preventing anyone without one from having any sort of a normal existence. Many opposed this bill and will continue to fight it, in the courts if need be, and to his credit Bernier is a leading example of these. This was done, however, in the name of freedom of speech, and freedom of speech was championed, not because of its necessity to Truth (without freedom of speech, including the freedom to speak that which is false, we do not have the freedom to speak Truth, the parallel to the classical theological argument that without Free Will, including the ability to choose evil, we do not have the ability to choose the Good) but because it violated our individual rights. I don’t deny that individual rights are important, but they are a liberal value, and like all liberal values their importance is greatly exaggerated in this age. Truth is more important. Sir Roger Scruton wrote “beauty is an ultimate value – something that we pursue for its own sake, and for the pursuit of which no further reason need be given. Beauty should therefore be compared to truth and goodness, one member of a trio of ultimate values which justify our rational inclinations”. (Beauty: A Very Short Introduction, 2011) Imagine how different the fight against the Liberal Party’s plans to seize control of what we can say or see online would be if those fighting fought first and foremost in the name of Truth, the permanent and lasting value, and framed their arguments accordingly.
My hope and prayer for Max Bernier is that his eyes will be opened and that he will come to see that as important as all the things he has been fighting for are, what T. S. Eliot called “the permanent things”, both the truly permanent ultimate values of Truth, Goodness and Beauty and the relatively permanent concrete human institutions such as the family and in the political sphere parliament and especially the monarchy which point us to those ultimate values, are more important and that he will repent of having allowed his minor objections to Charles the person to attack the monarchy and espouse small-r republicanism. Until such time, he will have to do what he does without my support.
God save the King!
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