Monday, June 15, 2015

Magna Carta

I see that celebrations around the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta are in full swing this week; the Queen and other dignitaries will be visiting Runnymede today (scenic route to Ascot?) to attend a ceremony at the famous (approximate) site of the original signing of this most important treaty. I would imagine that all standing monarchs visiting Runnymede today will ponder their luck that the chain of thought and legal reforms triggered by Magna Carta and other secular advances still hasn't reached it's logical conclusion or permeated all parts of the world. In many countries there are still powerful people and institutions that consider themselves above the law, and many laws whose foundations lay outside of the realm of evidence and reason. For example, just this week marks the fifth anniversary of the arrest and imprisonment of a Christian woman Asia Bibi who has been sentenced to death for Blasphemy in Pakistan over what seems like a simple case of religious persecution combined with a trivial domestic dispute over drinking cups.

Of course, all around the world there are countless other cases and abuses of the core ideas of Magna Carta, ideas that have stood the test of time even though they were quickly suppressed by the religious powers and vested interests of their time. In the heady days of it's inception and even before the ink was properly dry (within weeks), the Pope annulled the treaty in return for King Johns submission to his authority. I guess that freedom and the idea that no one is above the law, not even God's henchmen or the King, is still an anathema to those who prefer the arbitrary implementation of Earthly power.


Chairman Bill said...

I believe Magna Carta was more to do with codifying the barons' rights than the average serf.

Steve Borthwick said...

CB, absolutely right, I believe it only applied to "free men", i.e. the vast majority of the population wouldn't have benefited at all (most of them probably couldn't even read it). Still, you can't argue with the "ideas" that it sparked.