I’ve been meaning for some time to write a post on kingship. It’s now so long overdue that I’ve almost forgotten altogether what it was I originally wanted to say (at the bottom of this page as I write this is a time stamp stating the last update was August 11, 2011 at 5:18 AM – that’s how long I’ve put this off). Now, six and a half years since I started writing and blogging and thinking about such things as kingship, a lot has changed for me – ideologically, theologically, physiologically. But here I am finishing a post I started almost 7 years ago, so obviously some things don’t change. Or maybe I just can’t let a bad idea go.
Kingship. It’s a subject that fascinates me. I suppose the reason is that it’s one of the universal continuities of history that’s expressed in literature of all genres, and literature is what draws me to fathom a world more fantastic than this. –No, that’s not true; kingship intrigues me because of the sheer selflessness required to sacrifice one’s own agenda to do what’s right for the collective whole (and that, I think, is what separates the true king from the tyrant). As a political ideology, in an age where the generally held belief is that if it’s not democracy then it’s wrong, kingship (or monarchy, or autocracy) has fallen into the dust and disuse of ages long-since gone past. It’s a relic of another time that no longer concerns us, save through fiction and remembrance. King Henry the VII did such and such, and King James wrote the Bible, and Queen Elizabeth is old and senile, etc, etc. It’s history and other things that don’t matter, because today we have a much better way of governing: democracy. We shouldn’t be bothered with the exploration of outdated ideas, right? I mean, afterall, the queen is really more a symbol now than a political figurehead.
I know that democracy seems to work. I know that autocratic governments tend toward tyranny and imperialism. I know that on the whole monarchies do in fact seem to be a thing of the past. However, I still believe in kings. I still believe in kingship. I still believe in kingdoms and powers and dragons and demons and princesses and knights. I have to believe that people are basically good enough to manage that kind of power selflessly, to do what’s right for the collective whole – to be the hero when it really counts. I have to believe we aren’t all just self-absorbed jerks. The power of being one person in charge of one nation, making decisions that affect everyone – well that kind of responsibility isn’t something most people ask for. It takes real guts; it requires a real hero.
Maybe I’m just naive. Maybe there are no heroes left.
But if people are good then why not democracy? Surely we can all be good together and talk and get along and make plans and policies and whatnot and so forth? The problem with democracy is exactly that: the talking. Sitting in on a board meeting where no one is really sure who’s in charge, who gets the final say, is maddening. There will always been differing opinions. If someone doesn’t break the tie then decision making always ends in stalemate. And that’s why democracy is slow and cumbersome. Everyone wants to get their word in. Everyone’s got an opinion. And everyone had the right to an opinion.
But that isn’t realistic. The thing is, we live in a world of war. We’re trying to be nice and get along, but world will always be at war in some way or another. It can’t not be, and it is this way because we’ve made it this way. Maybe you want to go right back to the beginning and blame it on sin. Maybe you want to look in the mirror and blame it on yourself. Maybe you want to blame it on me. I don’t care. Truth is, our world is a world at war and there isn’t any peace until it’s over. Man against man; ideology against ideology; religion against religion; race against race. We may well be doing this forever, and that’s a depressing thought. But the reason isn’t really the point; what matters is what we do with it. What I’m saying is this: democracies are all fine and great if a nation wants only to sit around and watch its leaders fight over decisions that haven’t been made. Democracies are brilliant if you feel like wasting tax-payer’s dollars so old men can argue. But a parliament of old men can never make the decisions a king must make. In a moment a king must choose right from wrong, never mind what consequences will follow. The love or hatred of the people will judge him. The same is true of democracy, but we judge politicians for decisions they haven’t even made. They run on ifs and maybes, not action; and because of this they can never gain the love of their people in the way a king can. When they must go to war, they will never saddle their horse and lead the charge. That’s what a king is for. And we WILL have need to go to war. When the lines are drawn, when the company rides, who will lead? Where is the king? Because that’s the other point, of course. A king who doesn’t practice selflessness, who doesn’t lead the charge, he isn’t someone who can inspire the people to action; and a king who doesn’t inspire can’t rule forever.
What I’m trying to say is: in the real world wars make heroes and heroes make good kings. The more we try to hide from the nature of the universe to pit us against one another the more we murder the unborn heroes who could make our world better for us all.
Of course I’m only vaguely speaking of actual kings and actual governments, really. Take it metaphorically, if you will – the point is the same. I’m not saying go out and pick a fight, just to make a hero. But conflict is a natural part of life, and in the midst of the conflict, in the heat of the flame, we’re shaped into the heroes we’ve always been, and we become kings. It’s just human nature.