The Pocket History of England - Part 1
Part 1of 6
The Pocket History of England
The Queen is Queen by a complicated and convoluted consensus. People kneel because, historically, it was the only way the Robber Barons could agree to stop trying to kill each other and each other's Peasants.
Initially, amassing bands of Peasants and Lackeys and flinging them at the bands of Peasants and Lackeys amassed by the other Robber Barons in defence of arbitrary claims to pieces of ground was the most important pastime of the Robber Barons. They used to have a good time because it kept them fit and the Peasants could always be relied upon to co-operate. If ever this became too much of a strain on a Robber Baron's Peasant resources, he had to forego the pleasures of this, the most noble, pastime and settle for amassing bands of dogs and horses and chosen Lackeys and flinging them at foxes and stags. This would give the Peasants a chance to rebuild the economy: get the crops going, rebuild the wagons, re-fire the forges, rebuild the roads and fortifications, and most important, reproduce.
The Barons had no difficulty controlling the Peasants. They simply entrusted chosen Lackeys with their flogging. It is the peculiar nature of a Lackey's character that allows this to take place. Lackeys are people with little or no internal self-esteem who are constantly on the look out for someone in "authority" who can provide them with some (self-esteem). By careful manipulation of this supply of synthetic self-esteem the Barons were able, and still are, to call upon the Lackeys to do the most outrageous things, including flogging Peasants into producing the wherewithal for their own destruction.
But things sometimes got out of hand such that the battles became larger and more drawn out and began to render stabilisation-of-the-economy periods impossible even for the most diligently flogged Peasants - to the extent that even the Barons' own standard of living began to be affected. So, in order to preserve and maintain this fundamental aspect of the economy (the Barons' standard of living), they the Barons, found themselves needing to agree to revere a third party - a separate office.
Into this office, with the suspicious support of the other Barons, was placed a Baron whom the other Barons agreed to call King.
This King walked on thin ice. He could only "lead" where none of the people who'd agreed to let him lead had any vested interest. This usually meant Foreign Wars. But, this position of compromise was delicately balanced. Initially meant as a means of ensuring that no particular Baron should suddenly acquire undue power, start grabbing land again, and thereby endanger the stability that everyone with any power comes to crave, the decision gradually took on a meaning of its own. The King gradually became the office through which all righteous action in the name of stability came. And gradually it became impossible to determine whether the righteous action emanated from one or more of the supporting Barons or from the King himself. Thus the King accumulated more power until his "divine right" became inargueable, incontestable, because no one could afford, or was willing, to stick his neck out.
Things kept on in this way for some time. But eventually, as must happen, all good things must come, if not to an end, to at least an apparent transformation. What happened was that the Peasants began to get Religion. Christist Religion. The bit of the story about Christists which warmed the hearts of the Barons was the bit which taught people to know and appreciate their place. This was good for stability which, as it happened, was good for Barons.
But some of the Peasants noticed that, besides teaching appreciation of place, Christ also taught equality of humans. Then some Peasants also noticed that the Barons and their Lackeys were generally quite pleased with this Religion unless the notion of equality came up. Then they became distinctly displeased and killed, maimed, and deported (depending on the degree of their displeasure) any Peasants known or even thought to be giving this radical and unruly notion any undue consideration.
After a period of time in which many Peasants suffered and died in great loneliness the rudiments of Peasant mobilisation, fuelled by this unruly concept of equality, began to emerge and began to demonstrate some of the awesome power that Peasants, working together, actually have.
The concept of "King" began to crumble and many of the Barons were at first very shaken. Many of them stuck to the "divine right" principle, because it was the only one they knew or could think of, and got killed. Many of them were more cynical and detached and waited out the storms.
When "Parliament" began to emerge, the surviving Barons pressed for their "rights" as only Robber Barons can. So effective were these surviving Robber Barons in pressing for their "rights" that they were able to justify, through Enclosure Acts and the like, driving the now less governable and therefore less profitable Peasants off the land altogether and bring on to the land vast quantities of sheep to replace them. This made life much easier and more profitable for the Barons. and much more difficult, as usual, for the Peasants. They were crowded into the cities where the new "industry" was beginning to gain momentum. The Peasants, now completely cut off from the land, unable even to grow their own food (and maimed and killed when they tried to do it on the few tiny parcels of "common land".) were forced to compete with each other in search of work at the new monolithic manufacturing establishments, the Factories.
Because the nature of their predicament changed so drastically in the "Industrial Revolution", what headway the Peasants had only just began to make in their rural settings was lost. The nature of their exploitation by the Robber Barons changed. Instead of having the Peasants flogged by their Lackeys, the Barons de-humanised them by depriving them of the land and making them the servants of Machinery. The Lackeys were put in charge of the Machinery and instead of flogging the Peasants, they manipulated them by threatening to cut them off, individually , from their new, enforced, and only means of sustenance - the Machinery.
The fact that the Machinery belonged to the Robber Barons was a direct consequence of the Barons having, for generations, killed and flogged people who questioned their ownership of the land and its produce. The currency they were able to concentrate enabled them to "purchase" the Machinery ("purchase" here meaning paying Peasants subsistence wages or less with currency derived from generations of Peasants' labour on the land to build the machinery).
This now subtley altered predicament caused the Peasants much anger, suffering, frustration and disease. Being forced to compete (there were so many of them driven from the land) for subsistence wages meant, inevitably, taking less than subsistence for impossibly long working days. It meant living in overcrowded and neglected dwellings (also, surprisingly, belonging to the Robber Barons and their Lackeys) and sending their children out to find work.
It took many years for a new Mobilisation to develop, but Peasant history is full of brave men and women who, right from the start, set to work trying to correct the balance and who were sacked or maimed or killed. Because of the determination and courage of some of these people the concept of Combination came into being and became the Peasants answer to the Machinery. Combinations were the forerunners of Trade Unions. They were organisations of people who would agree not to service the Machinery for less than a subsistence wage. These organisations were declared illegal by Parliaments full of Robber Barons and Lackeys and many Peasants were fined and beaten and imprisoned for even discussing such organisations.
Such were the appalling living and working conditions that the Peasants had no choice but to persist with their Combinations. This sometimes meant taking action against fellow Peasants who, without considering what they were doing to Peasants in general, would continue to compete for work and take less than subsistence wages. These were bad and unhappy moments.
But the Mobilisation continued to gain momentum and finally emerged with some "rights" to organise and even some Parliamentary representation.
But the going was slow, and tortuous.
/ to be continued.
© 2011 Deacon Martin