Sunday, May 24, 2015

Magna Carta Day

So I don't really know anyone who is happy with the election results. I actually don't know anyone who was happy with the candidates they had to choose from. No one would tell me who they voted for, even when asked point blank. I feel like these three sentences are deeply related.

Tomorrow is a bank holiday. A blank holiday. No Labor Day Memorial Day Fourth of July President's Day Martin Luther King day. No specific things to remember together. No ritual to bring a sense of unity. Just a bank holiday. Funny how everyone laments the erosion of "British Values" when they participate in a culture that does very little to prop them up. I mean. Bank holidays? The banks are calling the shots. That is what you see when you look in your calendar the first and fourth Mondays in May.

I propose that we call this second May bank holiday Magna Carta day. I totally dig the rule of law and I feel like it is really something everyone can get behind. That mythical document signed at the tip of a sword at Runnymede - the granddaughter of the Charter of Liberties gave a number of concrete rights, some of which are really no longer with us. But what I really want to celebrate - along with habeas corpus and trial by a jury of your peers - is what the Magna Carta was - a reminder to the sovereign that it serves the people and the people will only take so much.

Power is taken. Power is taken by people acting together. But when people won't even talk to each other about who they voted for, well, then, they are not exactly empowered. The guy sitting next to me last night at a dinner party had no idea who his wife voted for and no desire to know. Voting is secret. Good lord. As long as people's participation in politics is confined to a single silent strangled exchange in a ballot box, then the sovereign is going to do what it wants.

Most people are appalled at the privatization of the NHS. Of the Royal Mail. I mean Royal Mail is driving out competitors with low prices now that they are a private company (yet apparent out of reach of the competition authorities). They will then proceed to raise prices and extract private profit from the public duty of the government to provide a mail service.  Shareholder return at the expense of the people. Network Rail. Stagecoach. This just keeps happening.

The election passed with not a word spoken about how the weapons we sell - the UK's number one export- ultimately fall into the hands of people in the Middle East. The election passed with everyone enthralled to the immigrants are bad narrative. UCL and LSE have done extensive studies which both concluded that immigrants are a net benefit to our economy. But where is a narrative that immigration is good? How is it that someone facing criminal charges has to pay a fee to plead guilty and a larger fee to go to trial? How is it that jury trials are now basically non-existent? Why is it that no one discusses the Bank of England's role in harming the union of the United Kingdom with their treatment of Scotland? How can it possibly be that there will be a vote on whether to leave the EU? A lot of terrible things are happening.

We are too busy to change the narrative. We are too busy and tired with our jobs and our jobs being consumers to do anything but be consumers of the provided narrative. After the kids go to sleep is a rough time of day to unravel the half-truths, swim upstream, exercise your own judgment. And even when we could at a dinner party say what we think the narrative could be, we don't dare eat that peach.

Funny how consumerism is defeating the intellectuals. Such a sound defeat as well. There are trains to catch - ever more expensive- there are houses to renovate. There are celebrities to love and hate. There is a lot of competition in the culture right now around being able to slow-roast a pork shoulder and eat giant hamburgers on brioche rolls. There is unhealthily over-involved parenting to mete out. There are a million things to distract us from our relationship with the sovereign.

So perhaps join me in calling this bank holiday Magna Carta Day and for a few moments consider your own power. Your own British value.  In this United Kingdom. For we all stand united in our desire to have more power come to us, the people. Make this bank holiday a people's holiday.