Joined: 23 Sep 2008
Location: West Dorset, UK
|Posted: Thu Dec 04, 2014 3:34 pm Post subject: It’s Black Friday – get me out of here!
|It’s Black Friday – get me out of here!
Little did I know, whilst I sat with twenty or so others in rather lofty discussions about Plato’s Laws and the British constitution, that gathering outside just a hundred yards or so away in London’s famous Oxford Street, was a seething mass of shoppers determined to benefit from pre-Christmas price slashes! But more on that later.
The lack of knowledge and understanding of our own constitution, my own ignorance included, and amongst even politicians who are an integral part of it, has puzzled me for some time, ever since Tony Blair’s famous gaff when he tried to dismiss the fellow who sits on the woolbale in the Houses of Parliament – that’s the Lord Chancellor by the way – and (amongst other things) he looks after ‘The Great Seal of the Realm’ (lovely isn’t it?), which is used to symbolise the sovereign’s approval of important state documents. Yet:
'In 2003 Tony Blair ...... announced his intention to abolish the office of Lord Chancellor and to make many other constitutional reforms. After much surprise and confusion, it became clear that the ancient office of Lord Chancellor could not be abolished without an Act of Parliament.' (Wikipedia – Lord Chancellor)
What amazed me the most was the total lack of embarrassment on the government’s part that they were ignorant of their own constitution. Yet this fits with the ‘clean sheet of paper’ modus operandi that politicians seem to feel they can wield these days, ignoring not only hundreds of years of tradition, but also more importantly, the principles upon which that tradition is based. As Melanie Phillips pointed out in 20031:
‘He [Tony Blair] can ride roughshod over our constitution without any discussion. But as with the House of Lords, it is only when the detail is examined that the intellectual and political bankruptcy of the plan itself becomes all too apparent.’
We learned through our discussions last Saturday that the British constitution is based upon a triad of POWER, WISDOM and GOODNESS. This manifests as the EXECUTIVE, the LEGISLATURE and the JUDICIARY. The Executive have the power, the Legislature the wisdom (the knowledge of the laws) and the Judiciary represents the goodness.
This is reflected in the third triad: the CROWN (presently the Queen), the LORDS and the COMMONS. So the Crown represents the power, the Lords the wisdom (‘spiritual and temporal’) and the Commons the goodness – that is the goodness of the people (who vote for the MP’s in parliament) and hopefully the politicians as well! Hence we have a system known as ‘the Queen in Parliament’.
We may not understand it all but it works, after a fashion anyway, even today, even though it is being slowly dismantled in favour of ‘separation of powers’ and general dilution of the principles upon which it was founded. Yet perhaps there is scope to educate people about the nature of our constitution and the traditions and principles that it is supposed to uphold? From there it ought to be possible to use it as a foundation for reforms, social and economic, to bring about a fairer and more caring community generally – after all the third leg of this constitution is the ‘goodness’ of the people, which may seem to get buried, but is always there and is reflected in the general law abiding nature of the people as a whole. As Blackstone puts it so succinctly ‘Such, among others, are these principles: that we should live honestly, should hurt nobody, and should render to everyone his due; to which three general precepts Justinian has reduced the whole doctrine of law.’ And further points out:
‘As, therefore, the Creator is a Being, not only of infinite power, and wisdom, but also of infinite goodness, He has been pleased so to contrive the constitution and frame of humanity, that we should want no other prompter than to inquire after and pursue the rule of right, but only our own self-love, that universal principle of action. For He has so intimately connected, so inseparably interwoven the laws of eternal justice with the happiness of each individual, that the latter cannot be attained but by observing the former; and, if the former be punctually obeyed, it cannot but induce the latter. In consequence of which mutual connection of justice and human felicity, He has not perplexed the law of nature with a multitude of abstracted rules and precepts, referring merely to the fitness or unfitness of things, as some have vainly surmised; but has graciously reduced the rule of obedience to this one paternal precept, that man should pursue his own true and substantial happiness. This is the foundation of what we call ethics, or natural law.’
Notice ‘power’ and ‘wisdom’ and ‘goodness’ again, reflected also in the constitution above. And that this ‘goodness’ (eg. Justinian law: honesty, harmlessness and rendering to others their due) is an inner understanding that leads to ‘true and substantial happiness’. It would be a shame if the constitution is diluted to such an extent that this profound knowledge lost.
Now, back to those shoppers, and conditions which might have brought out the worst in people, but actually there was no obvious bad feeling. As it turned out we had chosen to meet for our last Saturday economics study day this term on the one day this year when another trinity came together bringing people from all over to gather in Oxford Street, London, as if the general build up for Christmas wasn’t enough. These three were the famous Christmas lights along Oxford Street, Winter Wonderland (another event in Hyde Park with fun fair rides, events and stalls selling all kinds of things) and then through the wisdom, or as my husband put it, cynicism, of the stores, the slashing of prices generally by about 20%, and more specifically for a very small number of highly desirable items such as TV’s, by up to 80% – effectively giving them away, and then wondering why people were literally clambering over one another to get to these ‘offers’!
One might wonder why they did not call this pre-Christmas sale White Friday, more in keeping with Christmas cheer, snow and all that, but as it turned out ‘Black’ was an apt description! It reminded me of ‘Black Wednesday’ when the stock market crashed! Anyway, in blissful ignorance I casually made my way to my usual bus stop at about quarter past five after our study day ended. Met with crowds even more dense than usual I still did not gather what was happening, until I found no bus was due for ages and there were so many people waiting anyway I decided to make my way to the next one or to Marble Arch tube. Here, after making my way very slowly through the crush, and past the most massive Primark I’ve ever seen, I found one entrance was closed with a man making sure people could only come out, and the other had a queue right out from the top of the steps onto the street. Trying to hold onto my temper and my dignity I began to make my way along Park Lane to see if I could find another bus stop. Yet here too the crowds continued, with Winter Wonderland over the road and coaches lined up all along Park Lane. I managed to get about half way down and called my husband who said “get on a bus to Sloan Square”. It wasn’t where I was headed but there was a 137 bus nestled between the coaches, with its doors open and space to get on – his words were like a hint from the Divine! So on I got, and off we went, with more and more people cramming in as we went slowly onwards toward Knightsbridge and then Chelsea. It lurched to a halt at least twice, blowing on the horn as shoppers risking life and limb were nearly annihilated by the bus! Two ladies next to me seemed to think this was normal for London at Christmas and were vowing never to come again at this time of year! One of them read out ‘Jet Shop’ which she saw over the road at Knightsbridge. I looked up to see, sure enough, a shop with a very large photo of two jets in the window – I didn’t suppose any high rollers would be out shopping for jets in this crush, whilst secretly I hoped they were stuck in it with the rest of us! There was a young lady pinning herself to a shop window with a shiny Ferrari safely contained behind a thick glass wall in the background, whilst her boyfriend took a picture of her! She was smiling happily and I wondered at the significance of the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, the one group never having to put up with conditions we were subjected to, and yet plucking anything they want anytime that they want it, and the other emulating the former yet unable to obtain much more than cheap goods and a photo – yet all the aspirations directed towards a single aim – material satisfaction. But what was so painfully obvious was that is not possible – there is no end to ‘desire’ if that is all it is directed towards, material accumulation – not Primark, nor a Ferrari, nor even a private jet will bring fulfilment. That’s not to say material needs don’t have to be met, it was just a striking example of what happens when that seems to be the only aim in life – the gathering of more and more stuff and a more and more luxurious lifestyle – it has no end. I made it to Sloane Square and civilisation – Peter Jones was obviously not involved in this price slashing business! I got to my destination and to my car but it took nearly two hours, twice as long as usual, and that wasn’t the end of it for me, headed west out of London, for England were playing Australia at Twickenham, and I got stuck in traffic there too!
I would like to begin to draw this rather rambling discussion to a close with a quote about the nature of the wise man or woman, and the relationship between such wisdom and government. It is a quote by Emerson in ‘The Science of Economics: the Economic Teaching of Leon Maclaren’ by Raymond Makewell, and it says it all really:
‘..... the less government we have, the better – the fewer laws, and the less confided power. The antidote to this abuse of formal Government, is, the influence of private character, the growth of the Individual; the appearance of the principal to supersede the proxy; the appearance of the wise man [or woman!], of whom the existing government, is, it must be owned, but a shabby imitation. That which all things tend to educe, which freedom, cultivation, intercourse, revolutions, go to form and deliver, is character; that is the end of nature, to reach unto this coronation of her king. To educate the wise man, the State exists; and with the appearance of the wise man, the State expires. The appearance of character makes the State unnecessary. The wise man is the State. He needs no army, fort, or navy, - he loves men too well; no bribe, or feast, or palace, to draw friends to him; no vantage ground, no favourable circumstance. He needs no library, for he has not done thinking; no church, for he is a prophet; no statute book, for he is a law giver; no money, for he is value; no road, for he is at home where he is; no experience, for the life of the creator shoots through him, and looks from his eyes. He has no personal friends, for he who has the spell to draw the prayer and piety of all men unto him, needs not husband and educate a few, to share with him a select and poetic life. His relation to men is angelic; his memory is myrrh to them; his presence, frankincense and flowers.’
Actually the last sentence has been left out in Raymond’s book, which is a pity as it encapsulates the poetic element of the nature of a ‘wise’ man (or woman). Those of us who have been privileged to meet and recognise such a person or spiritual Teacher, know just how accurate that description is.
The graphic contrast between the description of a wise man/woman and the heaving masses in search of material satisfaction begs the question that Sufi mystic Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee asks in this quote from his essay ‘The Wall’2:
‘What would happen if the power of light and the enactment of divine will were to return directly to our world with all of its dramas of worldly power and fantasies of self-empowerment? How would we respond? Would we know to bow down before That glory, or would we rebel and fight, try to hold on to our images of ego power, and become caught in a battle of light and darkness? Would a deep inner knowing of the reality of divine will surface into our collective consciousness, or would we see this power as another aggressor whom we need to fight to keep our independence? Do we even know how to bow before God and the messengers of light, or are our images of personal freedom too important?
‘It is so long since the light was here that we have almost no memories even in our ancestral consciousness of how to live in the light. We have learned how to live in the shadow lands of our culture, how to manipulate and deceive, how to protect our self and our possessions. But in the light there can be no manipulation or deception: there is too much light. We will have to learn once again how to be honest and truthful, how to be sincere and open. And how to take real responsibility. This is the only way to live in the light.’
So, the question remains – would we recognise the 'world of Divine Command' and would we know to bow down?
1: Interesting comment on Tony Blair’s attempt to abolish the role of the Lord Chancellor in this press article: ‘Today the Lord Chancellor. Tomorrow the monarchy?’ by Melanie Phillips, The Daily Mail, 16 June 2003.
Link to full article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/columnists/article-229977/Today-Lord-Chancellor-Tomorrow-monarchy.html
2: ‘The Wall’ by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee: http://www.sevenpillarshouse.org/article/the_wall/
Comments/observations/putting me right on anything - all welcome!