Special Disco Mention #36: Magna Carta
Magna Carta. The pillar of the English legal system. Foundation of the god given rights of all Englishmen to liberty from tyranny, oppression and devotion to the rule of law.
Due to a worrying level of acceptance of other cultures, faiths and ethnicities our noble leader David Cameron and his band of merry companions have stepped up to champion our “British values”. This apparently includes the noble promise that all school kids be forced to study the charter signed by the evil king John and his barons in the year of our lord twelve hundred and fifteen.
I’m a bit of a self confessed history geek and feel that kids in our schools will always benefit from learning about the deep and rich past of these islands in which we live. I also think that studying this document and the circumstances that led to its existence is also particularly apt in the current climate in which we find ourselves.
As a brief synopsis the great charter came about because king John was a complete and utter shit and his poor barons were just about fed up with him shagging their wives, taking their land without due process and generally being a fucking nuisance. John was the inheritor of the Angevin empire, which from their homeland in Anjou ruled over about half of what we now call France, all of England and about half of Ireland. Because of his epic incompetence as a ruler, John managed to piss pretty much all of the continental lands up the wall. These had been built up over centuries through a tasty blend of war, careful marriage planning and general medieval badasserey.
Losing all his lands on the continent led to John being pretty much stuck in the more boring, drizzly end of his empire – England. With nothing better to do he proceeded to strut about this island acting like a royal fuckwit. His barons, being rather nonplussed by this state of affairs, duly rebelled. As they couldn’t find anyone better to replace him, the barons basically sat him down and make him sign Magna Carta, which enshrined in law the rights of a free man to not be punished except than under the laws of the land.
But what makes this so pertinent today is the fact that a free man in those days specifically referred to the landed gentry, to whom most of the population of the realm at the time were bound to in the system of serfdom. Having nothing to do with riding waves and using the term “bodacious”, serfdom actually referred to the system whereby the peasantry were all bound to their feudal lord, having to pay them rent, being kept in poverty and basically having little or no freedoms of their own. So Magna Carta essentially upheld the rights of the wealthy, land owning elite so they were free to prosper and accumulate wealth at the expense of the masses.
So here is the nub of why Mr Cameron is obviously so misty eyed about this document as it directly chimes with his own "British Values" and his vision of the country. Protect the rights of the wealthy elite. Promote their ability to own property and increase their wealth at the expense of those who don't have the means to support themselves. It doesn't take the largest leap of imagination to switch the robber barons for the investment banker, the feudal lord for the hedge fund or the property tycoon.
Gawd bless you Magna Carta.