Monarchism, religion and colonialism

Vox made a video about how the English monarch is still the head of state of different countries. In the comment section, I posted this comment:

As an Indonesian, I find it weird that independent countries still have a foreigner living in faraway land as their symbolic head of state. It is even weirder that the faraway land has an entirely different cultural root.

From all any of English royalty-related comments I have made, I consider that to be the least cynical and disparaging and the most matter-of-fact. I mean, Indonesia does not have a head of state who lives in a faraway land; ours, who is also our head of government, is an Indonesian citizen who grew up in Indonesia and has identified as an Indonesian all of their life. Obviously, for people like me, the idea of having a foreigner as a head of state is weird.

But, that comment still manages to ruffle feathers.

As if almost on cue, people started chastising me because I am from Indonesia, a non-Arabian country dominated by a religion of Arabian origin that is Islam, which they deem as a colonising religion. With that fact in mind, they believe I have no right to criticise.

One thing first: I agree with them that Islam is a colonising religion. In many countries, it is undoubtedly a politically, socially and culturally influential religion with large numbers of adherents. It has the ability to devour smaller and less powerful religions without direct coercions and it has definitely done so, including in Indonesia. As an Indonesian Muslim, it is a fact that I have to acknowledge.

But, that’s the only thing I agree with them. I don’t believe a religion is a cultural colonising power.

In essence, religion is a set of spiritual rituals and worldviews. But, the latter are often expressed using ancient figures of speech which original meanings are unknown by modern audience; this allows anyone to create their own interpretations, which may or may not be influenced by one’s cultural backgrounds.

Sunni Islam – the disproportionately dominant Islamic branch in the world and in Indonesia – is a highly decentralised religion, which gives its adherents even more freedom to interpret… and also the freedom to follow any imams as they desire or to not follow any at all.

In Indonesia, the Javanese and Sundanese people – the biggest and second biggest ethnic groups, respectively – are predominantly-Muslim and yet, their traditional arts are still dominated by South Asian influences; the Santris are the only ones who embrace more Middle Eastern ones.

There are indeed Muslim-majority ethnic groups whose cultures have strong Arabian influences. But, they don’t speak Arabic and they certainly do not identify themselves as Arabs. The actual Arab-Indonesians themselves are uninterested in Arabising their homeland; not even all of them can speak Arabic.

Most Indonesian mosques constructed before the 20th century utilised local architectural styles. Oh, and Indonesia’s national official symbols are taken from Hindu and Buddhist mythologies, as a tribute to the region’s Hindu and Buddhist roots.

And even a centralised religion is not that rigid. Yes, the prospect of having spirituality dictated by someone living in a faraway land unnerves me. But, it is still culturally flexible.

In Indonesia, some Catholic congregations love incorporating traditional cultures into their liturgies. Languages, costumes and music, they have no issues staying in touch with the local traditions.

If I use my detractors’ logic, that means I have to see the entire western world as a Middle-Eastern colony, considering Christianity is also from the Middle East.

Regardless of its place and culture of origin, regardless of how centralised the leadership is, a religion can be moulded to fit to any cultures as one pleases… as it has always been since forever.

Meanwhile, a living monarch does not have such malleability. No matter how non-white and non-English your Commonwealth realm country is, no matter how much you try to twist it, the living white English-born and raised monarch will always be white and English.

Oh, and the bit of info about national symbols? It shows how Indonesians aren’t interested in having their country represented by anything Islamic. On a symbolic official level, many of us prefer to be represented by our Hindu and Buddhist ancestors.

If you see Indonesian tourism ads and take a peek at what Indonesian festivals abroad have to offer, you will see Islam is barely mentioned or depicted, if at all. Islam takes centre stage only when the occasions are specifically religious (e.g. Ramadhan fast breaks or Idul Fitri celebrations).

Every time Islamists champion Sharia-fication of Indonesian law, they get harshly reminded by moderate Muslims that Indonesia is a Muslim-majority country and NOT an Islamic one. Unlike the Islamists, the moderates are actually considerate about the religious minorities.

Basically, if you want to call me a hypocrite for posting that comment, make sure a living monarch is entirely comparable to religion and prove that Islam has been used to symbolically represent Indonesia as a whole.

Those “rebuttals” were not even the worst I received. Someone took it to a next level… by claiming that the legitimacy of the Indonesian president is the exact same as the King of England’s. Just like how the monarch hasn’t lived in every single Commonwealth realm, the Indonesian president hasn’t lived in every single Indonesian province, they say.

Okay, then.

Yes, it is true Indonesian Presidents haven’t lived in every single province. But, those provinces are… you know… provinces. They are not sovereign states, they are territories of a sovereign state. While presidents have always been Muslims and of Javanese descent (which unfortunately is a sign of poor ethnic and religious representations), they are elected by the people (at least after the fall of Soeharto); citizens from all provinces have the right to vote.

Meanwhile, not only the English monarch is the head of state of different independent countries, it is also a hereditary position and the person holding it was never elected by the people. Apples and oranges, but far more idiotic.

Those are just reminders of how monarchists – especially English ones – are borderline cultish.

If they are not borderline cultish, they wouldn’t do whataboutism, they wouldn’t project, they would try their best to argue using facts and commonsense…

And they certainly would not get riled up by one of the least offensive and provocative anti-monarchist comments ever made.

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An actually great defence of monarchism

Well, not ‘great’. Just more convincing.

I have my share of documentaries about royal families. Unsurprisingly, most of them are about the British one; to a lesser extent, I also have watched ones about the Japanese and Swedish ones.

When I watched the documentaries about the Swedish one, I was surprised by the presentation. Instead of classical music or any music that represent Swedish heritage, they utilise pop music. Instead of framing the monarchs as untouchable members of the elite, they are framed as if they would blend really well among the commoners.

I asked a Scandinavian friend of mine and he confirmed Scandinavians prefer their monarchs ‘relatable’.

For a long time, I was confused: how did Sweden, Denmark and Norway manage to cling to both monarchism and Jante Law? Now, I know why.

It is the complete opposite with documentaries about British and Japanese royal families.

Besides the more abundant use of classical music soundtracks, they also lavishly display the wealth, the lineage and the celebrity status of the monarchs… and they are seen as good things! The documentaries insinuate the monarchs are worthy of our admiration because they are blue-blooded wealthy celebrities, because we are (supposedly) inherently underneath them!

Don’t get me wrong: I am still not a big fan of ‘relatable’ monarchs. Even if their relatability is genuine and unfiltered (I doubt it is), it still does not erase the fact that they get their arbitrarily-existing jobs because their ancestors who lived centuries ago were politically powerful. The borderline cultish veneration is still there.

But surely, if you argue monarchs are needed because they are symbols of their people, wouldn’t it make sense to depict them as ‘relatable’? If that’s the case, there is a higher chance I would be a monarchist myself. I don’t see how anyone can symbolically represent others if they are seen as inherently above them.

Well, I do see it. People who are comfortable with the existence of wealth and lineage-based strata would be just fine with feet of the powerful (the right kind, obviously) rested on their heads. For them, it makes perfect sense to feel presented by over-privileged and definitely not relatable individuals.

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Monarchists

Straight up, many know nothing about how government works.

For starter, most monarchies nowadays are constitutional. In those countries, monarchs are NOT the heads of governments, they are heads of states. Whether they are elected or they get the positions  because of their long-dead ancestors, their jobs are simply meant to be personifications of their respective states. Their duties are mostly entirely symbolic.

As a result, for every political progress and deterioration that occurs in a constitutional monarchy, it can only be credited and blamed on the judicial, legislative and executive branches of the government.

In the specific case of the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, he was credited for being a unifying force for his ability to douse conflicts in his country. But, if he was indeed a unifying force, wouldn’t he successfully prevent any future conflicts from emerging ever again, even after his death? I mean, at this point, coup has become a Thai tradition.

While I am clearly annoyed by monarchists in general, the British ones are a ‘special’ breed: they believe once Great Britain becomes a republic, they will refer to the prime ministers as ‘presidents’ and it is too outrageous to imagine.

Two problems why it is a stupid sentiment.

First of all, why does the title fucking matter? Why is it so personally hard for them to refer to their leaders as ‘presidents’? It is extremely petty to make a big deal out of such an inherently inoffensive title. A president is literally someone who presides over things, for fuck’s sake!

Second, it is just another symptom of their political ignorance.

The UK is one of the countries that embrace parliamentary system. In such set-up, the heads of government are elected by the parliament; with some exceptions, they and the heads of state are two separate positions, with the former having actual executive powers and the latter having almost entirely ceremonial roles. Hence, why constitutional monarchies are parliamentary; the presidential and semi-presidential ones have no rooms for centuries-long, so-called divinely-approved nepotism.

What’s the point of this article?

It is simple: I just wish monarchists admit their love of the monarchs is anything but rational. No, they cannot claim rationality when their arguments defy basic facts about politics and, most importantly, when they behave like cult members.

In the UK specifically, not only they take criticisms of the monarchs too personally, they also think Meghan Markle, whose so-called sin is defiance against the status quo, is a bigger monster than Prince Andrew, who cannot convince the world that he and Jeffrey Epstein did not share the same hobby.

Don’t forget there are countries where insulting the monarchs is literally illegal.

Many will laugh when someone admits that him/her approval of certain things (e.g. monarchism) is entirely emotional. But, I cannot laugh at that someone because it would be hypocritical of me

My embrace of theism and Islam are also entirely emotional and that acknowledgement is a sign of self-awareness and self-awareness kills the zealots, apologists and even potential-extremists inside us, including the ones inside me.

As a result, not only I have acknowledged other people’s inherent right to hate the things I love, I have also acknowledged the potential soundness of their hatred.

If monarchists accept their monarchist stances are emotionally-driven and accept their beloved monarchs are their ‘nationalised waifus’ (as Oliver Thorn of Philosophytube nicely put it), they would stop behaving like cult members.

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I support monarchism because…

*puts on a mask*

Being a monarch is a hard-earned job!

If you have to compare between a person who gets his/her high-earning and high-ranking job by working all the way from the bottom and a person who gets her/his because of his/her lineage, it is obvious the latter is hardworking one!

It is just common sense that the former is a sign of laziness and the latter is extremely hard to achieve! Most of us have never made any efforts to be born into the right families and monarchs are the only ones who have achieved such high accomplishment!

It is frustrating how this thing needs to be said in the first place!

The monarchs make me feel happy!

Who cares about the education, healthcare, economy and political stability?

The only things that matter are my feelings! The purpose of human existence is to make ME happy!

And the only ones who can make ME happy are the monarchs!

They make ME feel extremely good about the world we live in, making ME forget about how fucking shitty the world we live in!

They are literally Gods!

Nepotism is everywhere!

It has been established that the ethical and moral legitimacy of an action is determined by its popularity among the masses. Appeal to popularity is literally a principal accepted in logic and ethics!

That’s the reason why logicians and ethicists support monarchism: because it is based on nepotism and nepotism is literally everywhere!

I mean, literally every person has settled that murder and rape are ethically and morally-acceptable because of how their societal prevalence!

If we have settled that, why can’t we listen to the experts and settle that monarchism is not only acceptable but also good for our political establishments?

*takes off the mask*

 

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