If ordinary folk do not take these Rauritanian baubles seriously, the UK ruling classes and their gofers undoubtedly do. Not least because by receiving one they move up a notch in the hierarchy which controls this state. There is nothing like receiving one of Betsy's baubles to ensure a recipient remains inside the tent pissing out.
If anyone still doubts these trinkets have no value then why do the media big them up so, including papers like the Guardian who claim to oppose them? Every first, second or third Saturday in June and on New Year's Day, it's hold the front page for the honours list. Even in the darkest days of WW1, when millions were being slaughtered, the new years honours list was big news.
Created by Edward III who introduced knighthoods as part of his plan to finally subjugate the people who had stubbornly refused to accept the Norman invaders' legitimate right to rule. Realising if he were to successfully ingratiate a new ruling class he would have to incorporate the more pliable elements of the native population, especially the old Saxon aristocracy.
The first Norman order of Quislingism, was the Order of the Garter, which was created in 1348. Since then the system has evolved down the years to address the changing needs of the English and later British ruling class.
Its clever stuff, all about turning a divisive and elitist system of honours into a unifying force. Today the mainstream media concentrate on the small fry and celebrities who have been named in the honours list. Thus in Betsy's birthday list this year you have Katie Cutler a 22 year old, awarded the British Empire Medal after she hit the headlines when raising money on social media for a disabled man who was beaten up by a thug. Recieving an honour and media publicity work in tandem.
There was a time when the media concentrated on school crossing and dinner ladies, but with most having been made redundant due to government cuts, they move on to the next best thing. Being kind to the weakest in society is their latest wheeze, something it never normally preaches. Preferring to smear the disabled and unemployed as benefit cheats, scroungers and work shy layabouts who deserve to be in jail let alone have their benefits cut.
Writer, feminist, and campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez, who successfully campaigned to keep a woman on a British banknote received an OBE. Yet she seems oblivious to the fact it was the very people she was struggling against who rewarded her with the bauble. Why is something she and the media fails to ask, preferring to concentrate on anonymous trolls on Twitter.
Further up the bauble food chain the Comedian Lenny Henry is awarded a knighthood, as did trade union bureaucrat Paul Kenny. Neither seemed to have any qualms about being part of an honours system which celebrates the British Empire. Hell what do they care they're now officially recognised by their 'betters' as being in the tent pissing out. "The urinal on the right is yours Sir, but don't forget to wash your hands with carbolic soap before you bow and scrape to your Queen."
It's a great pity these men couldn't have taken Benjamin Zephaniah lead when he was offered a bauble:
Me? I thought, OBE me? Up yours, I thought. I get angry when I hear that word "empire"; it reminds me of slavery, it reminds of thousands of years of brutality, it reminds me of how my fore-mothers were raped and my forefathers brutalised. It is because of this concept of empire that my British education led me to believe that the history of black people started with slavery and that we were born slaves, and should therefore be grateful that we were given freedom by our caring white masters. It is because of this idea of empire that black people like myself don't even know our true names or our true historical culture.
When it suits them, they embrace the struggle against the ruling class and the oppression they visit upon us, but then they join the oppressors' club. They are so easily seduced into the great house of Babylon known as the palace. For them, a wonderful time is meeting the Queen and bowing before her presence. Then we get the foreign recipients, amongst them the Irishman Van 'the Brits man' Morrison. Why any free thinking artist, let alone an Irishman would belittle themselves in this way is a mystery to me. It beggars belief why he would wish to blot his copy book by being associated with this reactionary institution when he has always claimed to let his music speak for him. Ditto Kevin Spacey. By accepting these charms they poured excreta all over the American Revolution and 1916 when their fellow countrymen broke the deadly embrace of the British crown.
This type must realise what they're doing is unsavoury as they often use pathetic excuses to justify their silly inexcusable behaviour. "I did it for my mum"; "I did it for my fans"; "I did it for the family"; "I did it for the people I worked with down the years who helped get me where I am today." Which in the case of Van, Kev, Lennie and Paulie is in a right royal pile of shite.
No one gets a gong for fighting racism, sexism, or oppression, how could they when the gift of such trinkets are in the hands of the oppressors? They're for "charity, good works, etc," in one case this year for bringing happiness and kindness into a 'community in which presumably the bedroom tax and poverty lurks. Couldn't you just hug a hoddie?
Once you get beyond the show business froth, etc, and look at who receives the overwhelming majority of the so called higher honours a darker picture emerges, class prejudice and elitism lurks in every crannie. Servants of the Crown are most prominent, military, spooks, politicians, judiciary and senior civil servants dominate, people who swear allegiance to the crown, not the people or state. Then with manufacturing in the UK having been decimated over the last three decades by neo liberal governments, its mainly the City of London which scopes up the honours, shysters and crooks are rewarded by the dozen.
Here is a list of some of those who refused, or returned one of Betsy's baubles. I find it's interesting when announcing the honours they fail to provide us with the names of those who refused them. Perhaps they have no wish to start a rush. Whatever, two of my favourite refuseniks are:
John Lennon, who returned his MBE in 1969 with a note that read:
I am returning this MBE in protest against Britain's involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam, and against 'Cold Turkey' slipping down the charts.
Muhammed Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan; offered a knighthood in 1925, he replied: "I prefer to be plain Mr Jinnah." Indeed! Well said Sir.
Benjamin wrote a poem which sums up this sorry business perfectly, see below.
Bought and Sold
Smart big awards and prise money
Is killing off black poetry
It's not censors or dictators that are cutting up our art.
The lure of meeting royalty
And touching high society
Is damping creativity and eating at our heart.
The ancestors would turn in graves
Those poor black folk that once were slaves would wonder
How our souls were sold
And check our strategies,
The empire strikes back and waves
Tamed warriors bow on parades
When they have done what they've been told
They get their OBEs.
Don't take my word, go check the verse
Cause every laureate gets worse
A family that you cannot fault as muse will mess your mind,
And yeah, you may fatten your purse
And surely they will check you first when subjects need to be amused
With paid for prose and rhymes.
Take your prize, now write more,
Fuck the truth
Now you're an actor do not fault your benefactor
Write, publish and review,
You look like a dreadlocks Rasta,
You look like a ghetto blaster,
But you can't diss your paymaster
And bite the hand that feeds you.
What happened to the verse of fire
Cursing cool the empire
What happened to the soul rebel that Marley had in mind,
This bloodstained, stolen empire rewards you and you conspire,
(Yes Marley said that time will tell)
Now look they've gone and joined.
We keep getting this beating
It's bad history repeating
It reminds me of those capitalists that say
'Look you have a choice,'
It's sick and self-defeating if our dispossessed keep weeping
And we give these awards meaning
But we end up with no voice.
Taken from Too Black, Too Strong. Published by Bloodaxe Books (2001)