Robber Barons

Posted: June 15, 2015 in Current Affairs, History, Politics, Stuff
Tags: , , ,

#MagnaCarta

Nuisance Texts

Woke up this morning only to find I was the victim of nuisance texts from someone called Philae Lander (you can bet your life it’s just a machine and not a real person) who appears to a) know that I was involved in an accident within the last three months that wasn’t my fault, and, b) wants to congratulate me on the 800th anniversary of the signing, or ‘sealing’ of the Magna Carta?

Magna Carta (British Library Cotton MS Augustus II.106).jpgIf you live in a democracy you may know from your history lessons at school that the Magna Carta or ‘Great Charter’ was approved by King John on this very day in 1215 in order to avoid a civil war with a number of his wicked Barons, who, sick of nasty John’s greed and power, wanted some of it for themselves.

If you never grew up in a democracy then think Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves – that’s the 1991 Kevin Costner one, not the dogs’ dinner that Ridley Scott did in 2010 with Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchet.

Cast your mind back to how brilliantly villainous Alan Rickman was as King John’s cousin and representative, the Sheriff of Nottingham. That’s how bad it was back then. People were heavily taxed without any say in the matter, many went missing, were imprisoned, tortured, or killed for no other reason than they opposed the powers that be. Oh, and Christmas was cancelled, often.

If you never saw Prince of Thieves then try and picture a fortnights holiday in Saudi Arabia or the New Caliphate – it’s basically the same thing but with different shaped swords. That’s the real victory of Isis – time-travel – taking us all back to the good ol’e days.

Three is a Magic Number

Moving again in the correct direction through time: Of the sixty three original clauses demanded by the Barons in the original document, only three have any real relevance for us today:

No taxation without representation – that’s the biggie, apparently; then there’s a little clause against arbitrary arrest, imprisonment, and the guarantee of a fair trial from one’s peers; and finally there’s the liberty of the Church (then the Church of Rome) to be free from interference by both monarch and government.

Little did our Robber Barons, who were simply out to get a bit of the action for themselves, understand just how loudly this trio of demands would echo down the ages:

In these three clauses we can see the beginnings of parliamentary democracy, the separation of church and state, and the establishment of a rule of law that all, including those in power, would be held to.

Ripples from the Magna Carta can be seen in John Wycliffe’s (1384) democratisation of the scriptures: he translated the bible into English encouraging believers to read it for themselves and coined the now oft quoted ‘government of the people, for the people and by the people’ – a foreshadowing of all round bad guy Martin ‘Lex’ Luther nailing his scrotum to a Wittenberg church door in 1517.

Following the Reformation, the ‘Three Little Piggies’ of the Great Charter were to influence 18th century thought both in revolutionary Europe and, through continued religious persecution, the British colonies in America – and was ultimately to produce the War of Independence, the American Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

People of the quality of Paine, Madison and Jefferson were patently steeped in the holy trinity of the Magna Carta.

Greeks with Gifts

This fact that was not lost later on Winston Churchill as Britain stood alone during the dark days of European fascism: Churchill planned to remind the United States of this by presenting them with one of the remaining Magna Carta originals in an attempt to shame them into the war against Hitler.

Had he a highlighter he would have picked out the three clauses in iridescent yellow.

Fortunately, for British posterity at least, someone reminded Winnie that the Magna Carta didn’t actually belong to him – so he could hardly give it away.

Besides, the impending ‘monicker’ of having been the ‘Man Who Gave Away The Magna Carta’ became moot as the Americans were forced into entering the war following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour.

Following the defeat of the axis powers the newly created United Nations formed a committee chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt to produce a ‘Magna Carta for all mankind’. On the December the 10th 1948 the United Nations adopted The Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

Europe, now on a roll, formed the Council of Europe in 1949 and Britain proposed a European Convention on Human Rights. Proudly chaired by the UK, the convention entered into force on 3rd of September 1953.

Benefit Porn

On the 800th anniversary of possibly the most important document in the history of our species long march to justice, freedom and equality, many of the population in the country of its birth use foodbanks and the most feckless and stupid of the poor are held up and televised as entertainment rightly described as Benefit Porn. Governments prevaricate about releasing numbers of deaths following suspension of welfare payments, and elements of our community, for whatever reason, appear disenfranchised enough to go and fight – and die – for a fascist, misogynist, homophobic, supremacist ideology, an ideology that must have somehow competed positively for the mind-set of these young men and women.

As the poor, the desolate and the desperate watch the rich celebrate today’s anniversary they can reflect on the fact that the British public have recently voted into power a government which stands on a policy of withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights.

Ah, the good ol’e days, eh. It seems the Robber Barons never really went away.

Oops, hold on… another text?

Apparently I’ve been mis sold PPI insurance? How do I shut this Philae Lander thing up?

Anvil Springstien.
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