Nothing marked the decadence of Byzantium so much as the absurd rituals of its Court. Conceived in the days when the Roman Empire still stretched from Scotland to Syria, they were maintained and elaborated when there was nothing left but Constantinople itself, and a tiny corner of Greece. The Treasury was empty. the provinces gone, the army tiny But the Emperor and his courtiers kept awarding themselves ever more elaborate titles and honours, as if they were still a mighty superpower.
For Byzantium, read Britain. Today its ruling class has handed out yet another series of honours with archaic titles like Member of the British Empire. In reality the British Empire comprises little more than England and a few highly questionable offshore islands. Whether the British Empire was a Good Thing or a Bad Thing in the past we leave to others to discuss. But there is little question that its archaic legacy of class and culture is a bad thing now, holding these islands back from real progress in things like education and science.
But look at the people who get the gongs, and they are some of the best in society. People who’ve done that little extra in all sorts of fields-sports, business, charity, science or just good old slogging work to hold their communities together. Yes, they do deserve some extra recognition. It would be churlish to throw away this social gold just because of a bit of historical revisionism. Instead we propose a National Service Award, divided into three classes of merit, for outstanding civic service in the areas we have mapped above(military matters are entirely outside our remit). That way holders of older awards like OBEs and MBEs could be “copied across”, much like the modern NVQ system allows all academic awards to fit into a common framework.
Everyone now agrees the the poor old UK is in a fix. The only way out of any fix is to look to the future. Might this be one tiny step towards it?
#new years honours #byzantine empire #uk decline #national service award