Divine right? My friend Sissy’s ass!

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

My grandparents had a great affinity for the British royal family. For many years, a picture of Queen Victoria hung in our Greyville home. When television entered our lives post 1976, they hung on to the activities of Elizabeth Windsor and her brood, including the wedding of Charles and Diana, with a sense of reverence.


Well, used to be a time when kings wielded power over life and death; mainly because that was how they got to be kings in the first place. Kings ascended to the throne by conquest, and having taken possession by force then enacted laws to protect their heritage.

These laws translated into a core theme – genuflect, or lose your head.

The British royal family trace their ancestry as rulers back to 871 AD when Alfred became king of Wessex after the death of his brother.

Shortly after, Viking raiders seized London. Six years later, Wessex was invaded by Danes. Leaving Alfred to run for cover on the island of Athelney. Over the next decade or so, Alfred raised an army, expelled the invaders, and took possession of London.

Today, his descendent Elizabeth II is Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, and Saint Kitts and Nevis.

Our own most prominent royal family was similarly founded by conquest. Almost 1 000 years after Alfred's time, Shaka successfully militarised a small clan into one of the African continent's largest pre-colonial kingdoms.

Shaka died without offspring. His brother, Mpande, eventually took over the kingdom and was the ancestor of the current king, Goodwill Zwelethini kaBhekuzulu.

Today, neither Elizabeth nor Goodwill wield the power of life and death, but cultural memory on the part of descendants of the conquered means that many today blindly continue to follow the divine right of kings.

Is it really sensible to be paying homage to someone today because his ancestor several hundred years ago had the ability to kill your ancestor?

The whole concept of reflected glory based on bloodline is a bit silly, isn't it? I have a friend whose brother knows the man who owned the mule that Sissy Spacek rode in "Coalminer's Daughter". What does that say about me as an individual?

Author Ayn Rand, reflecting on racism, made this observation:

The notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage – the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry, means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors.

I agree completely. Racism makes the case that by virtue of bloodline, one human being is inherently superior or inferior to another.

Which then begs the question: how is belief in royalty any different to support of racism?

Our world is festooned by those who claim inherited greatness. There is no such thing.

As parents, many of us look to our children partnering those who come from a "good family", but that's kind of stupid because good families produce saints and child-molesters alike.

And so, today, in the twilight of Nelson Mandela's life, we find commentators bemoaning the infighting among his descendants.

How utterly absurd! Surely no person can be held responsible for the ethical vicissitudes of his or her ancestors or descendants.

The fact that Mandla Mandela is considered to be "traditional chief" of the Mvezo in the Eastern Cape is no indication of his inherent value as a human being.

Neither is the fact that Nelson Mandela is his grandfather.

Let's put this dynastic rubbish to rest once and for all. Individuals are great because they are great, while morons are morons because they are inherently dof.

If we believe blood determines our being, we must accept that there is merit in racism. They are one and the same.