2007 - 2022

The Shoe-Shine Boys

Singers gotta sing, players gonna play and writers must write. If a person does not follow their passion it normally leads to internal disappointment. For me, writing is something I must do, sometimes it is spontaneous and seems to come from nowhere, the creative flame is lit by some spark and off I go. At other times, it is more of an itch that must be scratched, the thought gnaws away at the mind, often impacting on sleep or concentration that would be better directed at the task in hand. The itch becomes unbearable and sooner or later it must be given that deep, longed-for scratch that will (hopefully) alleviate it. I.e. I must write it out.

Such is the case with the subject of this article. It is one that has bothered and bemused, interested and irritated, disappointed and dumbfounded for a number of years now (yes, I know, too long a time to leave an itch unscratched – such is the power of procrastination eh!). I wonder and am interested to learn if others have the same bewilderment at the fact this phenomenon occurs. It is a phenomenon that has been around in various forms for many a year and I imagine that it will continue for many more given the current state of things in the British Realm. Indeed, in recent days it has been used as a political tool to buy allegiance.
So, what is it that itches so?

First, I’d like to labour the introduction (even further) by playing a game. A quiz even. Here goes.

Question 1: Who is it the odd one out from Rod Stewart, Mick Jagger, Alex Ferguson, Billy Connolly, Bob Geldof and Colin Kaepernick?
Answer – I think it fair to say that it is no hard task to point out that all except Kaepernick have been knighted by the hand of a British Royal, all, except Kaepernick, are designated ‘knights of the realm’.
Question 2: What is it then that connects these individuals?
Answer – It is a physical action that connects them all – the ‘bending of the knee’.
Question 3: What is the second difference between Kaepernick?
Answer – The intention of all except Kaepernick was to show allegiance, to submit, to join in with, to perpetuate, to support and to legitimize the British Royal Family.

Each one bent the knee in submissive acceptance of a title bestowed upon them by the pinnacle of the still entrenched British class system.

Kaepernick on the other hand, he executed a carefully thought-out and respectful protest against the entrenched racial discrimination of the American political system, at a time when the pinnacle (D. Trump et al) promote the racial divide and exacerbate the existent racism with their actions.

Whereas Kaepernick acts against it, the rest acquiesce to the injustice of the Royal Family and the attached consequences for society of having an elite stratum deemed more important than the general populace.

You may have guessed by now I am an abolitionist and Republican.

What is it that puzzles me about this phenomenon? To be sure, it isn’t hard to understand that people will curry favour with powerful individuals and groups, history is littered with examples. Also, anyone who has worked in a factory or office will no doubt have a story about some brown-nose sucking up to the boss for their own personal advancement or benefit.

Some examples of kowtowing are easily explained. Take Alistair Darling for instance, here is a man who was photographed walking down the street holding a banner calling for a worker’s republic and claimed to support the abolition of the House of Lords. Yet as night follows day, he showed no shame in succuming to the ‘trill’ of ermine as he was rewarded for his defence of the Union following the referendum. Even more base, that socialist stalwart John ‘Bruiser’ Prescott binned his ideals en-route to the House of Lords so his wife could wear a new hat, so much for it being an ‘affront to democracy’ as he’d previously said.

Politicians are no stranger to this type of volte-face, we saw Emanuel Barroso, a former member of the underground Maoist MRPP in Portugal and now taking the fight to the heart of the enemy by working for Goldman Sachs, come to the aid of the Union in 2014 when hunting for votes for another top EU job. Though none to me are more obvious than the example of Adam ‘Republican’ Tompkins who, acting out of sheer desire for prominence, unclenched his raised hand and brazenly joined the Tories to lead the chant for the Queen’s Eleven and all things Unionist. This, from a man who once said you can’t be a democrat and a monarchist. Whilst I believe we can rightfully change our mind as and when we wish, to me, it seems to demonstrate a severe lack of conviction and character to move from one political position or worldview to another so easily.

No, what interests me is not the all-to-predictable sliming of political slugs but why those who I believe would decline such an offer, that, due to their backgrounds and/or experiences, would knock it back without a doubt. Take Fergie, a man who kicked his football amongst the rivets of the ClydeShipyards, living in a Glasgow that has suffered immeasurably at the hands of the class-system in our so-called United Kingdom. I don’t think we can separate the poverty experienced in the Gorbals and the privilege enjoyed at the Palace. I thought that that alone should have been enough for him to remember his roots and either politely reject the offer or better still publicly decry the absurdity of taking the knee for those who have never worked for their wealth. He who used the grit and nous of his upbringing to such good effect in attaining success in his field. Alas no, he bent the knee, and not to tie his bootlaces either.

What about Ole Mickey Jagger, that rascal, that ladies man (or alleged exploitative sex pest depending on what you believe). Here was a middle-class English boy with a passion and a plan, to sing the Blues and spread its words. The Rolling Stones became hugely successful and Jagger lived his life the way he saw fit. However, the Establishment didn’t like his music and behaviour or at least the impact they thought it was having on society – people wanted to enjoy freedom to do as they wished, this challenged the status quo, a status quo that had long been good for the establishment – for the Royals and their ilk. He soon felt ‘the long arm of the law’ on his fashionable collar and the gutter press sensationalised his every move. Jagger wasn’t happy, he even penned the song Street-fighting man following a bust, singing;

‘the time is right for palace revolution’ and ‘I’ll shout and scream, I’ll kill the King and rail at his servants.’

Jagger moved to France as he was literally hounded out of England by the Police and Press. Reason enough to laugh at the offer of such an ‘honour’ whenever it arrived in his life. Nope, he didn’t ‘rail at the servants’ he bent the knee and became one.

Billy Connolly, another Glasgow son who witnessed first hand the result of Scotland’s position in the hierarchy of needs as dictated by the Establishment elite and their Conservative supporters. He’s one of us, thought I as a young lad growing up in a Housing Scheme. If I’d been asked I’d have replied: “He’s like yer brilliant, crazy Uncle who comes roond at New Year and sends the party mental, the complete opposite of all that Royalty shite and the posh grubbers of their craven court.”

Now the distance between us is now immeasurable. Why? Because you bent the knee Billy, you been gone and bent the knee Billy (hangs head).

And then there’s Rod, with his cheeky, cat-that-got-the-cream smile. Sometimes the lottery of birth blesses you with talent or looks, he was lucky in the talent department, the man can croon somewhat and has therefore been able to profit from his voice. He once sang about stealing your Dad’s cue and make a living playing pool, being a young Turk and running away with a girlfriend etc. Here was a man that said to other young working -class men, hey look, if I can do it so can you, there’s nothing stopping you making it and having a good time, you just have to go for it (well until his pink jackets and Los Angeles embarrassment). That’s not to say I agree with Rod and his life’s actions, I don’t. What I am trying to say is that I didn’t see him as an establishment busboy, he goes to the footy ffs. But another fail, another bewildered look on my face as I thought about him bending the knee to get his wee pat on the head – that’s a good wee Rod – you bend the knee now Rod. (stomach turns in disgust).

In the case of Kaepernick, we have someone I can look at and wish to emulate, think well of and be supportive of his actions. Kaepernick took a decision to make a very public stand against the blatant racial discrimination in America. He deserves my respect, he has used his position to challenge the status quo, to rail against the injustice, to influence society, to show solidarity. A now rich man identifying with the poor and downtrodden, not a rich man bowing his head in meek acceptance of the continuation of an injustice that should have long been consigned to the history books. Kaepernick bent the knee and stands taller than all those others mentioned in this article.

Now I understand that it may be better to bend the knee in some circumstances. For example, if someone had a gun to my head or were threatening to kill my family or others around me. I might even bend the knee for a large sum of cash, I would use the Utilitarian rule that my embarrassment was less valuable to society than the money, which I could go on to use to help myself and others. However, I could never bend my knee for a so-called honour, to think I could ever stoop so low. It is unimaginable. I reflect that it must be status that sways the head to accept such an offer, each of those I mention has enough money, so it must be plain old status – look at me I have a title – a Sir no less.

Personally, I am of the opinion (as happens in the Sue Townsend book The Queen and I) that the Royal Family should have their riches removed and be placed in the nearest available council housing and be left to survive on the benefits available to every other poor bugger unfortunate enough to find themselves unemployed in Brexit Britain these days. In saying that, I would still be agitating to improve their situation, I would still be voting and arguing against Conservative policies that kill poor people. I would fight their corner if they were discriminated against. We don’t differentiate between the downtrodden in society, we should defend our ideals to the last. You may need support yourself one day.

So, the itch has been scratched, I will hopefully no longer lose/waste time thinking about this subject. I now prefer to remind myself, and will finish this article by highlighting, a few of those who did not accept that bending the knee was a viable option for their sense of self-worth or compatible with their ideals. Doris Lessing wouldn’t bend the knee because she attacked the Royal Family as a youth. Henry Moore the sculptor, son of a coal miner, wanted to stay in touch with his roots so didn’t bend the knee. Bowie and Lennon both declined to bend the knee. Glenda Jackson, Aldous Huxley, George Bernard Shaw, all remained unbowed. Our own Danny Boyle refused to bend the knee. Let’s celebrate all those (hopefully) principled individuals who declined as opposed to falling into the trap of elevating in public life those who doff the cap to their ‘betters’.

Here’s my motto – Stand tall, stand free, an ‘Honour’ will never bend my knee.

Comments (15)

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  1. Ivan says:

    Well said – keep on scratching the itch!

    1. David Anderson says:

      Cheers Ivan!

  2. SleepingDog says:

    As far as I’m aware, the formalized offer of a knighthood demonstrates the asymetricality of the power relationship. Instead of, say, a live-televised one-on-one (Queen to prospective) unscripted offer, there’s something like a de-personalized behind-the-scenes sounding-out. There is no chance of a live, unscripted public refusal, which would clearly be embarrassing and powerfully resonant.

    On the other hand, these kinds of honours are useful indicators of the vilest scum in society, who naturally grasp at the chance to crawl under the outer protection of establishment cloak of secrecy and privilege. Just like the judges who argue against uncovering miscarriages of justice in case it undermines public faith in the judicial system, there will be those who argue that uncovering wrongdoing amongst the annointed would similarly tarnish the system’s image. My impression is that increasingly bad behaviour goes along with this increasing sense of untouchability.

    Interestingly, there are signs that ex-colonies of the British Empire are gearing up to throw down some legal challenges once a weakened UK is adrift of the EU (the museum loot repatriations are one sign of this). This could still see the Queen charged with offences. I wonder what she did with all those begging letters from her incarcerated and tortured subjects around the globe? People who were down on their knees, begging for their lives, land and freedom.

    1. David Anderson says:

      Hi Sleeping dog. In my imaginary life where I am awarded the Nobel prize for literature for a polemic against the causes of poverty that goes on to change the world for the better, I go through the ‘sounding-out’ process then turn up at the gates with a posse of journalists to decry the Royal family and their ilk. This comes weeks before we vote yes in an Independence referendum and go on to oust the whole shebang and become a Republic. I can but dream, though the second part is wholly feasible, Scotland could very easily vote yes and become a Republic. It would be a braw thing to do.

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @David Anderson, good luck with your project! Yes, the acceptance of an honour gives the recipient a platform to promote their (deferent, possibly permanently altered) views, while the refuser is denied such a platform. At least the Nobel Prize committee is made up of named people with some accountability for their decisions.

        Talking of platforms:
        Man who abused children at Fife care home stripped of MBE
        what must the children have felt when they saw their abuser honoured by the Queen? I can only suppose that it would increase their hurt.

        Indeed, the Establishment must keep an extra-tight lid on revelations, dissent and events in the lead-in to any constitutional vote.

  3. Gordon Peters says:

    If it’s of any interest – but pertinent to your point of being disappointed by folks who have bent the knee – I was just at a celebration by Eritreans of the end of UN sanctions which their government always maintained were based on lies – and they have a motto from the freedom fighting days of the seventies to nineties which is ‘Never Kneel Down’.

    1. David Anderson says:

      Hi Gordon, thanks, I just done the google thing so have learned something about another part of the world thanks to you :-).

  4. Al Sutton says:


  5. Squiggly says:

    People are not for you or against you..they are thinking only of themselves.
    stand by the river long enough and sooner or later the body of thine enemy will float by….
    oh look there goes the Big Yin….an there’s Rubber Lips… an the rest…
    whit some folk will dae fur a bag o’ siller an some balding guy bashing ye wi’ a sword….boke.

  6. babs macgregor says:

    Bob Holman too, never bent the knee.


    Well said Dave. I cannot understand how some of the people you name, and others who have accepted lesser “ honours “, can look themselves in the mirror. “Order of the British Empire” for god’s sake! You couldnae make it up. Citizen Andy

  8. Jo says:

    I can’t agree with simply trashing people who have chosen to accept such awards in the manner you have in this piece David.

    Rod’s music is part of my teenage years and beyond. Connolly’s genius as a comedian has made me cry laughing. A more recent recipient, Kenny Dalglish, is arguably the best footballer we ever produced although more of a King Kenny to me than Sir Kenny. And do we write off the huge contribution to music by the three Beatles who accepted the awards? You may not approve of the system, that’s your right, but I question your right to attack people as you’ve done here. That’s not reasonable or fair.

    I support independence too but I part company with those who can pen such attacks as this and label people you don’t even know. It’s fine to say you don’t like the system but there’s no need for the vicious, hateful stuff. There’s nothing honourable about that.

    1. David Anderson says:

      Sorry if you think I have been ‘vicious and hateful’, it wasn’t intended to be. I spoke of bewilderment and disappointment not hate (I don’t know where you see it to be honest). I take nothing away from their personal achievements, only this morning I was howling the song ‘factory girl’ by the Stones. All those I have mentioned are great at what they do or did and I mention that too, I don’t write of any of their achievements. I simply disagree with their decision to accept an ‘honour’ from what I believe to be a fundamental part of what is wrong with British Society.

      I just don’t think bending the knee to a Royal Family is a good thing to do for society (any society). It reinforces division, it legitimizes the continued injustice of the current system. I have no truck with honouring people for their achievements, it can be done in better, more egalitarian ways, (e.g. by a public body that is representative as opposed to being tainted by political or class shenanigans). My opinion, as I intended to demonstrate in the article, is that I think less of people who bend the knee for the Royal Family, that is all, no hate, no viciousness, a wee bit o stomach-turning disgust at the most. Will the recipients care – I doubt it. Am I happy with what I wrote – Yes (well apart from the grammar mistakes etc). It is their acceptance of the honour that I don’t agree with, nothing else. Anyhoo, we are all entitled to our opinions Jo, though I hope you re-read and see that I am hot being hateful. A bit spiky and accusatory yes but not vicious either.

      1. Jo says:

        Thanks David. I appreciate the reply.

  9. Alf Baird says:

    These are surely unionist imperialist baubles? Very few supporters of Scottish independence appear to get them, one assumes because they do not support the union. Sean Connery’s was allegedly blocked first by Donald Dewar but he did get a bauble eventually, perhaps due to public disquiet. Tom Devine got his before he ‘came out’ for indy; would he get one now? Probably not. Is there anybody else supporting indy awarded a ‘high-level’ bauble in a nation where half the people want to end the union? At root this is about status and appearance and which ‘national’ side you are on, theirs or ours. I suspect if anyone has a list of all the nichthoods held by Scots still alive today virtually all will be unionists, and most will be Tory. The bauble system therefore seems prejudicial and highly discriminatory on political grounds (i.e. pro-union) and for that reason alone should be ended, more surely in Scotland.

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