On June 15th this year Western Democracies celebrate the 800th Anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta in 1215. Just what does a document written in Latin by Feudal Barons 800 years ago have to do with our New Zealand of today?
Good question. Any study of the history of that time informs us that it was primarily a struggle between whether a King could impose his sovereign will, especially in the field of taxation and law, without any justification or consultation of the people. The Barons, feudal landlords objected strongly, and in essence forced King John to accept the provisions they demanded.
Let us not run away with the idea that it at once gave the freedoms we enjoy today immediately to the “common” people. Fundamentally it was written by the Barons for the Barons, but this one document cracked the walls of feudalism, and subsequent generations prised open those cracks further, which led consequently, to the gaining of the right of every person to vote in free elections without fear or favour.
Magna Carta was re issued over the centuries resulting in change. Those changes have in essence brought forth Western Democracy, in a practical evolutionary Charter adopting to new circumstances; but still retaining the critical essentials of individual freedoms. One of its greatest strengths is that it remains the basis of very different democratic systems, especially so in electing the many varied types of “Parliaments”.
We in this country need to take a very good look at our own position as it relates to democracy in our elections,. No longer can we elect ALL OUR MPs to Parliament under the present M.M.P. situation. We have given away that right and now we are, in practical terms, half way along the road to dictatorship. In reality that is what an appointment process of non elected Members to our House of Representatives is all about.
Especially so, when those LIST MPs are just party political appointees with no loyalty to any electorate and merely serve to ensure numbers for each Political Party.
Magna Carta unlike the Treaty of Waitangi, cannot be re written for the convenience of any particular group, whose aims are to gain both political and economic domination. For 800 years it has evolved from a document signed by a few on the banks of the River Thames at a place called Runnymede. For centuries it was barely marked, but now it is commemorated by Nations who respect the rule of law and democratic rights. Fittingly on the hill above Runnymede is another memorial to the RAF and Commonwealth countries, whose service men and women died in the 1939/45 War.
It would be far more beneficial for our school children to be taught the impact that Magna Carta has had on the history of democracy, and on our development as a modern nation; than using the Treaty of Waitangi to promote division and separatism in New Zealand.
It has been said that “If you do not know history you are like a leaf that does not know it is part of a tree”.
PS - please take a little time out and read Magna Carta's history!
Brian Arrandale is a keen scholar and writer with a background in farming and management.