Tuesday, 27 September 2016

The Birth Lottery And The Animals.

I have rather mixed feelings about monarchy. I mean I don't have a problem with inherited wealth as such. If people work hard and want to pass the proceeds of their industry, or their business itself on to their kids then good on them. To a great extent birth is a lottery, you could be born in a wealthy developed country with a host of educational and  employment options, you could be born in a poor underdeveloped country. You could be born into war, or into peace, you could be born an elephant, a rhino, or a giraffe that gets shot by an American child.

Being born heir to the throne of a country may be the biggest lottery win of all, although the world is not necessarily as kind to monarchs as it once was. Monarchy has been with us for a long time; ancient Sumeria, Egypt, Persia and many more. For all their Republics the Greeks and Romans had monarchy too. The position of Roman Emperor was for a period more akin to a meritocracy despite the best efforts of some dynasties to establish acceptance of an hereditary system which worked for periods too, Julian, Flavian etc.

By the Middle Ages in Europe, being the first born 'legitimate' son of a king pretty much guaranteed men would follow you and so long as daddy had the good sense to stay alive until you reached maturity you were probably on to a good thing. The French revolution changed much and led to the devastating wars with Napoleon as he went in search of an Empire, which is ironic because what the royalty of Europe who opposed him wanted was to avoid republicanism, whilst Napoleon probably wanted to establish his own line just like any other king.

What fools we all are. In Syria there is a 'President', a gentle looking man in a suit who treats the country as his own personal fiefdom, kills his own people in droves and behaves more like a medieval monarch than any of the few remaining royal households in Europe. Here in the UK the queen or king is titular head of state, they don't have, like most of their 'subjects', to worry about a roof over their heads, food in their tummies, education, employment, well, anything much really, but their power is limited, very limited actually.

What they do have is influence. There are still plenty of royalists, even in places like America and Australia. The Royals are however limited as to which areas they dare to exert influence in, because there will always be some ambitious politician wanting to become a 'president' who will accuse them of abusing their role and move to end the monarchy if the door is open so much as a chink. Which brings me on to Willie Wales, son of the Prince of Wales and next in line after his father to take the throne.

Willie is currently campaigning to end the trade in endangered species and their body parts, ivory, Rhino horn and so on. It's a campaign I endorse wholeheartedly but it represents something of a moral maze too. The winner of the birth lottery is effectively telling poor people in underdeveloped countries not to use what they see as their natural resources. A man with the best education available is telling a park ranger not to accept a bribe which might educate his kids.

These things do not detract from the essential rightness of the message. We don't need ivory to make beautiful art and we don't need keratin from Rhinos as medicine, it's fingernail clippings essentially. However, market forces come into play; while the wealthy are prepared to pay ridiculous sums for ivory and the superstitious will credit nail clippings with magical properties we humans go on destroying the natural world around us.

Willie Wales is right to protest and it's one of the few areas where he can do so without attracting a barrage of criticism. I'd like to see him protest the failed constitution of the UN, but even if he were so inclined he dare not.

I hope this current campaign not mere posturing, look what a good caring guy the future king is, a way to protect the monarchy. I hope he's putting his money where his mouth is too and then monitoring the effect of his efforts. I hope he's helping the people who are tempted to take bribes or poach, so they don't feel motivated to try and get a little more of what he has, by destroying the animals around them.

I hope that as well as bending the ears of other world leaders he's being creative too. Perhaps we should flood markets with fake Rhino horn, if people don't know whether they're buying the real thing or not perhaps they'll stop altogether.

I still don't know quite where I stand on monarchy, which is rare for me, but I do know where I stand on poaching and endangered species and I know we should help as well as preach. That said, good luck with the campaign Willie Wales. Good luck, you'll need it.

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