27 May 2012

On Family Life

Does your family also work like a constitutional monarchy? Recent events and sustained observation has forced me to conclude that mine does.

The parents, of course, are hierarchical heads of state, a joint position inherited by blood and marriage and as such in continuance of the divine right. The sad burgeoning of the bourgeoisies has over time diluted the strength of the crown and powers are increasingly devolved onto the middlings, but the prestige and respect attendant on the double throne still survives. In any case, the constitution is but unwritten and compound more of tradition and convention that clear-cut legalities of a law.

Politically, therefore, the state is a form of feudal federalism in the fluid style of the Stuarts. The thrones share and control a number of important ministries, but a few are still the preserve of lords of the chamber and yet more are shared betwixt the crown and its dependencies. The Treasury, for instance, is shared equally amongst all revenue generating members of the state and the Exchequers jointly deliberate the expenses of the realm. The Foreign Office too is shared by all major members of the Royal Council and relations with other potentates are determined as much by individual agency and effort as by combined writ of the Council.

Of course, like all mechanisms one hardly realises the amount of behind-the-scenes work which goes into making this fluid yet fixed structure keep going seamlessly. It’s only when some rupture disturbs the normal functioning of the realm that you become aware of the underlying layers of complexities which prop the system. These ruptures can be of various kinds, but what their occurrence provides is an insight into the ways in which the state functions.

Such a rupture occurred recently with the issue of the state car. A new vehicle being purchased for the purpose, the matter of disposal of the old one became contentious. Much of the Council argued in favour of an immediate phasing out, but the member for affairs cultural and supernumerary arguing strongly for continuity and heritage a reluctant case was made out for conservation of the car.

Therein ended the first of many meetings. The issue being so tangled, a series of deliberations could not settle it. Inter-ministerial memorandums of understanding and mutual interest were come to, lengthy analyses conducted and reports prepared. Comment was invited from experts financial and mechanical, the Foreign Office consulted heads of other allied potentates and a holistic white paper was prepared.

Of course, that wasn’t just it. As in all senatorial setups, debate categorised the process at all stages, but what mattered the most was not the rhetoric of the moment but backstage alignments and confederacies. Members of the Council sent feelers to each other, the thrones themselves issued bilateral negotiations and the black clouds of chaos so threatened the matter that the original issue stood the risk of obfuscation amidst piles of red tape and tangential deliberation. All seemed lost and at the risk of becoming a dreaded official secret erased from public memory till, as, again, is wont with such forms of governance the highest power issued a directive and so the matter resolved. Backstage considerations must indeed have been involved, but in the best traditions of family life all was conducted with that sign of imperious command that put the matter to rest: fully, completely and amicably.

No comments: