Wednesday, June 20, 2007
  The Gong Show

A couple of days ago I had a mild go at the British Honours system.

I'm not a rabid republican, but I do feel that the monarchy is an outmoded institution and that its various offshoots should be less remote from the populace. They are a clan cult of celebrity with little relevance, a class apart from the lives of we lesser mortals. (One might say the same thing about most politicians in this country who enrich themselves at our expense whilst doing bugger all.)

The Independent newspaper has always opposed the British honours system. Efforts by the present Prime Minister to open up the nomination process have had little effect, and towards the top end of the scale no perceptible effect at all. The system remains one of mutual backslapping, where the great and the good patronise their own and senior civil servants are rewarded just for having attained a particular grade. It is a pernicious anachronism that has defied modernisation and should have been abolished long ago.

It is only right and proper that various worthy citizens should be recognised for their contributions to society, rather than, as I wrote earlier, for doing what they are paid to do. Although we may question choices, they are 'vetted' by juries of their peers in particular fields of endeavour. Eight committees make recommendations to a main committee which sifts, sort and vets before making recommendations to the Prime Minister. He then informs good Queen Bess in whose name, as the notional head of a non-existent empire, these awards are given.

Twice a year, New Year and the Queen's (official) Birthday in June, the names are announced, the press goes gaga over certain choices and thousands of 'ordinary' citizens quietly celebrate with their families that their honest toils have been recognised as being of societal benefit.

Naturally, the arts and sports awards receive the greatest publicity. Some honorees, such as Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith are really the 'Best of British'. Others, such as singer Joe Cocker who was awarded an OBE last week, leave one asking why him rather than, say, her. (I'm a big fan of Joe, incidentally, but that's an anecdote for another time.)

Twenty or so years ago, I spent three months in Ladakh, Kashmir and Rajastan in north-west India. One of the books I travelled with was Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, about children born on the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, the precise moment of India's independence from Great Britain and Pakistan's formation.

It appears to be an allegory, spiced with satirical commentary, on the political course of modern India and the in-fighting of its various social and religious factions. It is an endlessly inventive book with a cheeky sense of humor and wild, exotic imagery, but it does not eschew somber moments.

I found the book of great value in helping to understand something about the land I was travelling through and its peoples; I also found the book to be dense and somewhat difficult to digest - definitely not a 'plane and train' read.

Some 18 years ago, his Satanic Verses was published. This was purportedly an attack on Islam so fundamentalist Muslims, who, of course, hadn't had the opportunity (or the literacy) to read the book, issued a fatwa, a death threat against Rushdie. But, as he told Time magazine, the book "isn't actually about Islam but about migration, metamorphosis, divided selves, love, death, London and Bombay."

The sad irony, he said, "is that after working for five years to give voice and fictional flesh to the immigrant culture of which I myself am a member, I should see my book burned, largely unread, by the people it's about -- people who might find some pleasure and much recognition in its pages."

Inevitably, the book was banned here in Indonesia.

In 1989, Son no.1 and I travelled through Sulawesi and ended up for a night in Gorontalo. We met a retired doctor in a cafe and he invited us back to his house for breakfast. He told us that he had been sent to Sulawesi as a military man, part of a force intent on quelling a separatist movement. He had never, somewhat to his regret, been 'repatriated'. Amongst the other topics we discussed was Satanic Verses, which he said he wished he could read as he wanted to make up his own mind. I thought that was a brave statement to make in a Suhartoist and Muslim community.

Of course, he was right. That inflammatory statements are currently being made by Iranian and Pakistani envoys about the award of a knighthood to a novelist in another country, can only mean that there are severe problems within those countries and, whoopie, here's a tired old excuse to divert attention from them.

I cannot comment on the honour given to Rushdie; I don't have any of his books on my shelves and, as I said, I find his writing difficult to penetrate. Others are more able than I in assessing his contribution to literature.

The current controversy is as much about sovereignty as it is about culture. Britain professes to be a multi-cultural country. If it were to kowtow to ill-considered protests from other sovereign nations about someone deemed to have contributed to that multi-culturalism, then the world is much more dangerous for the rest of us.

Labels: ,



12:00 pm
Alien Thoughts from Home

Home Thoughts from Abroad

Interactive World Time

Indonesian Dictionary

Indonesian Acronyms

Indonesian Slang

Learn Indonesian

Currency Converter

Email Me

The WeatherPixie

5 Day Forecast

Get Firefox!

  • West Sumatra Earthquake Aid Agencies
  • Sidoarjo Mud Volcano
  • Reports on Crashes and Sinkings

  • Living in Indonesia
  • Tempo
  • Bugils News
  • Jakarta Post
  • Jakarta Globe
  • Down To Earth
  • Loads of Advice
  • Inside Indonesia
  • Green Indonesia
  • Hobson's Choice
  • Gunung Bagging - New - clamber volcanoes
  • Indonesian Music
  • Indahnesia Online
  • Maps of Indonesia
  • Indonesia For Kids - blog
  • Green Group Links
  • Faces of Indonesia - blog
  • Photos of Indonesia
  • Indonesian Publications
  • International Crisis Group
  • Indonesian Engaged Travel - blog
  • Outside The Indonesian Box - blog
  • Indonesian Corruption Watch
  • News and Events Aggregators
  • Indonesia's Vegetarian Restaurants

  • Living in Jakarta
  • Culture Shock - Jakarta - 'my' book
  • Bataviase - loads of info in Indonesian
  • Rujak.org - for a sustainable Jakarta
  • Jakarta Kid - stories of street kids
  • Jakarta Events - as it says in the title
  • Map of Jakarta
  • Jakarta Nite Out
  • Jakarta Nite Out - for Francophiles
  • Jakarta 100 Bars - as it says in the title
  • Jakarta Java Kini - upmarket magazine
  • Jakarta Urban Blog- as it says in the title
  • Jakarta Green Map
  • Jakarta Daily Photo - as it says in the title
  • Jakarta? Been there!
  • Protecting Jakarta Bay
  • Nightlife - for single guys - check the forums
  • Jakarta Restaurant Reviews - as it says in the title

  • Living in Bali
  • Hector - at Bali Times
  • Bali Spirit
  • Bali Expat Forum
  • Nusa Lembongan News
  • I've Been To Bali Too Blog - defunct but still good stuff

  • Education Matters
  • Education 21
  • Performing Monkeys
  • Yayasan Goodwill International

  • Pre-Independence History
  • 1941-1942
  • A Family Tale

  • Del Boy - my multi-talented co-author
  • Hotel Rimbo - a mate
  • Ethos Travel - Son No.1
  • Indo Fair Traders
  • Organic Vanilla
  • Merdeka Coffee
  • Pekerti Nusantara

  • Indonesian Blogs in English
  • Top Blogs
  • Merdeka - aggregator
  • Elyani - good stuff
  • Therry - good stuff
  • Om'Bak - group thoughts
  • Yosef Ardi - business gossip
  • Treespotter - his serious blog
  • Milk Tea Girl - poems and stuff
  • Bitching Babe - another slice
  • Café Salemba - ekonomi +
  • Enda Nasution - The Guv'nor
  • Aroeng Binang - a neighbour
  • Harry Nizam H. - legal practitioner
  • Ethereal Shards - youthful ponderings
  • Muli's Commune - defunct but good links
  • Isman H. Suryaman - not a 'Fool'
  • Rasyad A. Parinduri - ekonomi
  • Tasa Nugraza Barley - returned from the USA
  • Indonesia Anonymus - infrequent but always good

  • Indonesian Expats
  • Naz - a "12.5% Indonesian" in Norway
  • Bleu - in Malaysia
  • Anita - in Scotland
  • Maya - in Antibes
  • The Writer - in Denmark
  • Spew-It-All - in Australia
  • Jennie Bev - in SF
  • Rima Fauzi - in Belgium
  • Nadia Febina - in Angola
  • Society of Spectacle - in Berlin
  • Overseas Think Tank - for Indonesia
  • Indonesians Living Abroad Forum - as it says in the title

  • Expat Bloggers in Indonesia
  • PJ Bali - oil worker
  • Mat Solo - Malaysian oil worker
  • Jenny Q - an expat wife
  • Dr Bruce - retired teacher in Bali
  • Spruiked - Brett's take on things
  • Indoprism - an expat family
  • Java Jive - original photoblog (now in the Phillipines)
  • Amor Fati - good links
  • Metro Mad - Jakarta Globe columnist
  • Rob Baiton - back in Oz
  • Jakarta Kid - about street kids
  • Green Stump - in Kalimantan
  • Most Curious - née Betty Loves Blogging
  • The Mad Rotter - Henk loves Indonesian music
  • Duncan Graham - journo archives
  • Hardship Posting - more wtf
  • Indonesia Matters - loads of stuff
  • The Opinionated Diner - and NZ music
  • Patrick Guntensperger - has opinions on current issues

  • Selected Aseanist Blogs
  • SARAwho? - Southeast Asia Aggregator
  • Pelf-ism is Contagious
  • Brommel - usually in Indonesia
  • Friskodude - SF travel writer
  • Klong Walking - an Addick in Bangkok
  • Agam's Gecko - musings from Thailand

  • London Blogs
  • Diamond Geezer
  • London Daily Nature Photo
  • London Bloggers Tube Map

  • Other Fave Blogs
  • Aangirfan - who is s/he?
  • Ad Busters - ecological economic sense
  • Samizdata.net
  • Strange Games
  • The J-Walk Blog
  • Environmental Graffiti

  • Charlton
  • Doctor Kish
  • Inspector Sands
  • Forever Charlton
  • Official Charlton site
  • Addickted to Blogs
  • Ex-Charlton forward in Belize

  • I'm an Aging Hippie
  • Man
  • XTC
  • World Changing
  • MoonJune Records
  • Canterbury Sounds

  • My Youth
  • Blackheath
  • Charlton Lido
  • Charlton House
  • Woolwich Ferry
  • Greenwich Park
  • Severndroog Castle
  • Overlapping Memories
  • More Overlapping Memories
  • Map of My Stomping Ground

  • Put Your Feet Up
  • Biscuit of the week
  • 50's British TV Nostalgia
  • Hello Children, Everywhere

  • Enter your Email

    Subscribe with Bloglines

    Locations of visitors to this page


    eXTReMe Tracker

    Listed on BlogShares

    Personal Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory

  • May 1998
  • March 2004
  • April 2004
  • May 2004
  • June 2004
  • July 2004
  • August 2004
  • September 2004
  • October 2004
  • November 2004
  • December 2004
  • January 2005
  • February 2005
  • March 2005
  • April 2005
  • May 2005
  • June 2005
  • July 2005
  • August 2005
  • September 2005
  • October 2005
  • November 2005
  • December 2005
  • January 2006
  • February 2006
  • March 2006
  • April 2006
  • May 2006
  • June 2006
  • July 2006
  • August 2006
  • September 2006
  • October 2006
  • November 2006
  • December 2006
  • January 2007
  • February 2007
  • March 2007
  • April 2007
  • May 2007
  • June 2007
  • July 2007
  • August 2007
  • September 2007
  • October 2007
  • November 2007
  • December 2007
  • January 2008
  • February 2008
  • March 2008
  • April 2008
  • May 2008
  • June 2008
  • July 2008
  • August 2008
  • September 2008
  • October 2008
  • November 2008
  • December 2008
  • January 2009
  • February 2009
  • March 2009
  • April 2009
  • May 2009
  • June 2009
  • July 2009
  • August 2009
  • September 2009
  • October 2009
  • November 2009
  • December 2009
  • December 2013
  • Creative Commons Licence