Saturday, 11 June 2011

The Achievements of the Famous can stand up for Themselves

First up, it's worth congratulating all of those who were successful in the latest round of honours nominations. Given that fewer than 1,000 people were awarded an OBE, MBE knighthood or something in recognition of lifetime contribution, it would be unfair to begrudge any of life's highest achievers their moment in the sun for winning what accolades are out there.

Hand on heart, in the highly unlikely event of this bunny's nomination for a gong from Lizzy, I couldn't bring myself to accept it. As a committed republican it would surely be hypocritical to do so? So when I find myself wishing that the honours system would be scrapped and replaced with something more relevant to the achievements of the individual, and a system that focusses on the public-spirited and selfless, missing out the already-famous altogether, I hope you will appreciate it is a view that does not stem from personal jealousy in any way.

Some of the high profile stars who have found themselves amongst the latest recipients of state recognition are individuals for whom I already have enormous respect. I can take or leave Bruce Forsyth, but then some of the achievements of our best sportsmen in particular only serve to inspire awe. Cyclist Mark Cavendish won no fewer than five stages in the 2010 Tour de France and finished second overall in the sport's premier race. In addition to his World and Commonwealth titles, his reputation as a world class athlete in a highly competitve arena cannot be in question. Jessica Ennis has achieved World Indoor and Outdoor golds as well as the European title in a stellar career in the heptathlon. Philips Idowu is current World and European triple jump boss, and has been competing at the elite level in the event since the mid point of the last decade.

And then there's the Ashes, which started with a mammoth 517-1 in the second innings to save the First Test at Brisbane, and brought crushing victories at Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney, all by an innings and plenty, with none leaving any doubt whatsoever as to who were the better side in the series. The 3-1 England victory was certainly no more than they deserved, and there were indeed some superb personal performances that stood out in a team effort. Andrew Strauss captained his side with a calm authority that reflected in focussed batting, disciplined bowling and razor-sharp fielding, and has proved himself to be an astute strategist in the field building on the foundations laid by Michael Vaughan.

England's top willow-man, Alistair Cook, plundered 766 runs in a five match series in which England only actually batted seven times as opposed to the allotted ten innings. Not only did he average a phenomenal 127.66 in the series, he also claimed the record for the highest number of runs scored and continuous minutes spent at the crease for England when he moved to 136 not out in the Second test - 371 runs and 1,000 minutes without dismissal are testament to superhuman powers of technique and concentration - no wonder Geoffrey Boycott rates him so highly. Cook currently sits at number 5 in the ratings for the planet's top batsmen and with time on his side, along with the possible retirement of some of those above him, could very well find himself at the top of this tree should his career progress in the same direction.

The point of going through all this is that all of these public figures, of whom Brucie could quite justifiably exclaim, "didn't they do well?" have no problem whatsoever in terms of name recognition. They, along with their superb achievements at the top level of competitive sport, are immensely respected both on these shores and overseas - for instance even the Australians will admit through gnashed teeth that Cook is a bloody fine player, and they just wish he was one of theirs. I suppose that if you wish to labour the point, an OBE or MBE does no 'harm' as such, but then surely the point of giving someone an award is not to 'do no harm' is it?

I find myself scratching my head and wondering what the point in these awards is, what good they actually serve when given to people who are instantly recognisable to the public as it is, and whose achievements, however brilliant and awe-inspiring, are already well known to anyone who wants to know? I waxed lyrical about the cricket because I was one of those who stayed up through the night to listen to Test Match Special on the radio, and like the thousands of others who did, I will never forget the efforts of Cook in particular, who became a one-man run machine that demoralised the Australian attack. An MBE or OBE is not going to make any of us remeber his achievements any more vividly.

As it is, the majority of honours are not given to those already in the public eye, but instead are bestowed upon individuals said to have served their community or the nation as a whole with distinction. Of course, Dave's 'Big Society' already existed long ago in the form of the great many who give of their time selflessly to assist with community projects, raise money for charity or assist those amongst the most vulnerable in society. None went into such work and stuck with it for the carrot of a possible honour or award at the end, or for any sort of financial reward. Many of those projects run at a local level which benefit those around them would cease to exist were it not for the voluntary co-operation of dedicated men and women.

It should be left to these communities to decide upon their own form of recognition, and to show gratitude towards the people who keep things moving in their own more personal fashion. Many of those OBEs awarded to people for their service to the place in which they live or work appear to be 'awards of best fit' that do not really fit at all.

Once you try to incorporate sportsmen, filmstars. charity workers and dinnerladies under the same umbrella, this is when the the rigidness of the system shows, and fails to do justice to the individual efforts of the recipient. Would a local or regional 'lifetime achievement' award for those who have given of their to help the lives of others not be a more suitable and fitting accolade? Of course there will always be instances where the efforts of one man or woman transcend regional boundaries and generate a positive impact that ripples through the whole country, or at least a substantial part of it. There is nothing stopping the numerous regional bodies from getting together and deciding to award some form of national recognition to those (if we're honest, quite rare) individuals who deserve it.

Stars of film, sport and music are already famous for a reason. Kudos to all of them for the significant achievements that have landed them their wealth, status and name recognition. However, a further award from the state in honour of these efforts is wholly unnecessary and will not make them any more well-known than they already are. Any honours or awards system should be spared for those who perform remarkable acts of public service that benefit their community away from the spotlight of the public eye. Let these communities themselves decide who the appropriate recipients of such honours should be, and allow them, not Lizzy to hand them out too.

1 comment:

  1. State propaganda - there is more merit in a "heart of gold" from Cilla.
    If you want to be called "sir" do it by deedpoll, and if you want to dress in ermine do it in your own time and at your own expense.

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