3/28/2008

Honour is its own reward

I came across an article about President McAleese and her husband being up for an "honorary doctorates" to mark their contribution to the Irish peace process.



Let's leave aside the debate as to what both of them did, if anything of substance at all.

What interests me is the whole concept of "honorary doctorates" and other such honours.

As a Law graduate I have an LLB because I worked for it, the same as any other graduate of any other discipline. I can't for the life of me understand the whole concept of "honorary doctorates". If people wish to have a doctorate, and I know many who have them, then let them do the work for it.

I was always brought up with the maxim of something given without effort is never appreciated.

As it is "honorary doctorates" mean as much to me as the archaic and anti-Republican British Honours system.

When you consider that men like Ken Loach, Albert Finney, C.S Lewis and W.B Yeats all have refused honours it shows that there are those with enough belief in themselves and their own work.

As a Republican I firmly believe that all men and women are equal. I am no better than anyone else but by god no one is any better than me.

I'm not a person who admires many politicians but one who I have huge admiration for is Tony Benn.

I met him last year when he addressed the AGM of the Haldane society in London last year.

This is a man who actually battled so that he could reject his inherited peerage. It is because of him that the Brits had to bring in the Peerage Act 1963.

Benn's father had been created Viscount Stansgate in 1942. When Benn's older brother Michael was killed in an accident during the Second World War Benn was left as the heir to a peerage. He made several attempts to remove himself from the line of succession but they were all unsuccessful.

In November 1960, Benn's father died and as a result he was prevented from sitting in the House of Commons and became the 2nd Viscount Stansgate. Tony Benn fought to retain his seat in the by-election on 4 May 1961 caused by his succession. Although he was disqualified from taking his seat, the people of Bristol South-East re-elected him.

Outside the British Parliament Benn continued his campaign, and eventually the Conservative government accepted the need for a change in the law. The Peerage Act 1963, allowing renunciation of peerages, was given the Royal Assent and became law shortly after 6 p.m. on 31 July 1963. Benn was the first peer to renounce his title, at 6.22 p.m. that day.

Tony Benn returned to the Commons after winning a by-election on 20 August. He has a sample of his blood taken before his renunciation of his peerage, so he can say there is still some "blue blood" in his house.

These kinds of honours do nothing to improve a persons standing. Men and women are judged by the people that they are, not by the awards that they have collected.

The honors of this world, what are they but puff, and emptiness, and peril of falling?
Joseph Addison

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