Thursday, April 26, 2012

Getting Anglo-Saxon on Government?

Bayeux Tapestry

Today I read an interesting article on the BBC website about a movement in northern England to reintroduce the former Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia and separate from England.

What’s new there? There are several regions around the world who would like to do the same thing and separate from the countries in which they find themselves; Crete and Quebec come immediately to my mind and there are many more. It may be for different reasons (cultural, monetary etc.) but the overarching perspective, I suppose, is a belief that the current government, in whichever region we are talking about, is just not cutting it, not governing for the benefit of the people.

According to this article (, that is the case in northern England.

Pericles' Funeral Oration in Athens
I’m a big believer in learning from the past, no surprise there! If everyone could just remember and learn from past mistakes, so many troubles could be avoided. Unfortunately, it sometimes seems that it is the doom of humankind to repeat history, perhaps a sad reflection of the cycle of life. We are part of a giant ourobouros devouring our own tail but making the circle smaller and smaller. Governments throughout history are by no means perfect. Ancient Greece gave rise to democracy but was it true democracy when most of the population was not permitted to participate, including women and slaves? Still there was something there. The Romans were well organized under the tribes in the Republic, but greed, bribery and threats were always at work behind the scenes. When the Empire came about, representation of the people was facial, a mere formality under the powerful Emperors.

I am by no means an expert on various forms of government. However, I can see the value of what the Mercia Movement in England envisions. Here is a bit from the article, quoting a representative of the movement:

The Roman Senate
"The Mercia Movement therefore aims to act as a catalyst in the removal of the Establishment and in the re-empowerment of the ordinary people of the country. Mercia remains a legally autonomous region and we intend to re-create its independence in reality.
"Anglo-Saxon England provides a vital historical model which proves that a society based on community, organic democracy and environmental harmony is not a dream, but an achievable ideal."

Reading this, my first thought is that it is hopeful, idealistic (like me!) and sadly, unlikely. Central governments are not likely to give up chunks of their countries, nor are banks likely to give up their stranglehold on all of them. But the idea of grassroots democracy is a good one and though the Saxon version of it, with its ‘moots’ and ‘witans’, was by no means foolproof, at least something like that would provide the people with an opportunity.

As I read the news, speak with people from around the world, it seems to me that people are more and more desperate, lost in helpless mindset. Greece now, is a perfect example. Elections in Greece are coming up soon and as we all know, the people of that country have been battered and bullied of late. People will vote, they have too, but what are their choices? One corrupt party over another? The politicians are so corrupt, they have resorted to stealing money from the middle and lower classes, the people who need the most help. Bonds have been taken from people illegally with no sign of repayment. And they will get away with it. What can people do?
A peaceful protest in Athens

The word ‘idiot’ comes from the ancient Greek word ‘idiota’ which was used to describe someone who does not get involved in their local ‘demos’, who does not use their democratic voice. It is interesting that the ancients, those who invented democracy, had such a word. Yet today, so many people in our own communities do not get out and vote, do not get involved. How then can we complain?

I am contradicting myself here. On the one hand, we should get involved. On the other, the choices of politicians are, more often than not, poor indeed. I don’t have an answer and I am sure that this topic will spark many a heated dinner time debate over meat and mead (or wine!).

There is an argument for monarchy here also, for they would have a vested interest in keeping a country running smoothly if not for themselves then for their heirs, their children’s children. A monarchy thinks more of the long-term health of itself and, ideally, its subjects.

At the end of the day, the Saxons had Robin Hood to speak for them. But, short of putting black-goose fletched arrows in the sheriff’s men’s backs, peaceful protest and grassroots community involvement are good ways to get involved and make your voice heard. Finally, stop electing real ‘idiots’!
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