‘Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you? Did she die in vain?!

Americans are often very parochial, paying scant attention to happenings across the Atlantic where parallel struggles for civil liberties and freedom from a surveillance state are taking place.  One of these events is the British by-election at Haltemprice and Howden, where Tory David Davis is pitted against recent counter-terrorism measures passed by the British Parliament.  Davis is protesting a new law that would allow British citizens to be held for up to 42 days (6 weeks) without charges being brought.  Davis argues that this is a violation of the ancient right of habeas corpus, guaranteed by the Magna Carta in 1215.

Campaigning in behalf  of David Davis in Haltemprice and Howden, Bob Geldof asks the question:

Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you? Did she die in vain?!

I will let Geldof’s eloquent words speak for themselves.  However, I would urge Americans to consider the fact that with a few tweaks in wording, Geldof could well have been speaking for millions of Americans who are equally outraged by the actions (or inactions) of their government — think FISA, Guantanamo, Valerie Plame, Abu Ghraib and so on — and on — and on.

“Let us be grand for once then, for we talk of great subjects. Let us ask ‘what is the point of England ” now that Parliament, whose primary purpose is to defend the liberties of the people have so gratuitously, so wantonly, so casually betrayed that trust and taken from us that same liberty which above all else defines this country and its constitution, and that which has been its greatest gift to the world its freedom, its tolerances, its civilisation which William Wilberforce so forcefully argued from this town so many centuries ago.Melville claimed for America “that it bears the Ark of the liberties of the world.” It could be better said of that Britain which invented and codified those freedoms.

Are Magna Carta, and Habeas Corpus not to mention the Anti-Slavery laws, to be traduced in one brief sad moment of political expediency. When a 800 years ago Britons told the state in words that still ring true and through the ages: “To no man will we deny, To no man will we delay, Justice and Right”. 42 days detention denies and delays Justice and Right. It is a clear breach of ancient right, of Magna Carta itself.

So what great existential threat does this country now face that did not face our forefathers of the past 1000 years. What is so grave the emergency now that neither civil war nor world war nor various terrorisms were considered so dangerous to our security that our oldest statutes and few that have lasted the 700 years relevance of habeas corpus could be upended for such a ha’pnworth of momentary contemporary panic. If authority is to be respected it must be just. When it is not, then the greatest threat to that authority is its own instinct to authoritarianism.

These new security measures, these new limitations on our liberties are not the thin end of the wedge We’re way past that now. This is now, already, the bulkier mid way point of that authoritarian block. For we have in the past few years so mauled our ancient defended rights, rights for which bloody battles were fought and heroes lived and died for, as to seriously consider whether the constitution is today much more than a cartoon of its essential meaning. And what moral authority resides any longer in a lawmaking body that acts against the liberties of its own people? Is it not true that the willingness to use intolerable means to achieve impossible ends shows the political mind at its most deluded?

Meanwhile our supine press gulled by political complicity, lull the population to apathy by banging on with their trivial irrelevancies while the constitution is quietly turned aside. Shame on them. Alas they are shameless.

What terrorizes the terrorists is our civilization. What those unthinking fools of fundamentalism fear most are the very freedoms our representatives strip from us. Essentially this ‘war on terror’ is a conflict waged against Islamist forces that claim to reject the Enlightenment. If that is so, then how can we ever succeed if we side with our opponents in rejecting those same ideals? Every moment we are spied on by the invisible watchers. Every time that we are recorded and monitored at every turn, on every purchase. Every time we are mandatorially logged, noted, tagged and followed on databanks and files because “it is in our best interest” They win. And every time we accept it, we lose. We must not hold this attitude of passive acceptance to these restraints on justice, rights and liberties that ultimately amounts to nothing more than complicity with intolerance.”


Explore posts in the same categories: Anti-big-brother campaign, David Davis resignation, freedom of speech, Guantanamo, habeas corpus, Haltemprice and Howden declaration, Magna Carta, politics, Surveillance society, UK Parliament, Uncategorized

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