Sunday, November 2, 2014

Myth -v- Fact (1): Magna Carta

I love the fact that our belief in myths so often overwhelms our accurate analysis of history.

Magna Carta did not give rights to 'the people.' It established rights for knights and the clergy, the corporate robber barons of their day, and protected their right to hold in feudal servitude the vast majority of the people, without interference from a king, seeking to steal 'the knight's fee' for his own taxes.

Imagine a nation of strict hierarchical layers. Where there are a few, genuinely 'freemen.' But the vast majority of the people exist only by paying 'a knight's fee,' and being in the unpaid service of their local lord of the manor or bishop.

After years of their king, the top-ranking feudal warlord, taking the cream of 'the knights fee,' the lords and bishops rebelled, and demanded the Magna Carta to protect their right to hold the people in servitude, without having to lose the primary benefit through tax to an arbitrary king.

In fact, since we are talking about the equivalent of corporate robber barons and the church of its day winning rights from an arbitrary central government against the interests of the people, why so difficult to imagine? Just look at the United States today.

Would we really be celebrating the Magna Carta quite so joyously if we realized it would be like our celebrating a Proclamation from Abraham Lincoln, not to emancipate the slaves, but instead to confirm their fealty to white Southern overlords?

Meanwhile, dispelling the Guy Fawkes myth this coming Wednesday ...