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Seeking better ways for human existence should be our common mission ...
A proposition, 384 years on

The previous article in this series set out a concise description of the different evolutionary states of human existence can be found amongst Gnostic texts1 where one can recognise three basic levels of human existence:

  • An uninitiated relatively uninformed physical and emotional state marked by supersition, fanatasy, fear and sometimes violence arising from real or imagined threats
  • An intellectual state where people turn their attention to analysing how mankind and nature works and accumulating knowledge on what is beneficial and prejudicial to mankind's state
  • A spiritual state is where mankind applies accumulated knowledge to improving that state of existence for mankind

These states of existence are all constructed by mankind to varying levels of perfection.

One of the characteristics of humans at the lower state of existence is that insecurity can attain such an intensity that it creates the motivation for self-preservation in the face of threats, at the expense of others. Over time societal evolution has been accompanied by the creation of various "institutions" that aim to extend preservation and protection of individuals in the context of society in general through laws, education, and the creation for forums for the peaceful resolution of disputes. As part of this evolution three other types of institution have evolved over time in the form of political parties, large commercial companies and the media. The more recent characteristics of this co-existence is that the institutions created to protect and promote the wellbeing of people in general have become heavily inluenced by legislators, that is, politicians who are, in general, members of political parties. Political parties have come rely on the media to attempt to influence the public discourse on issues of social concern. The facility with which political parties succeed in using the media depends in good part on their supporting economic agendas that benefit the commercial companies who also happen to fund political parties and join siper pacs.

Because the politicians feel that they depend upon this support in order to get elected their motivation for self-preservation shifts from representing those who vote (the electorate) to those who provide the media support and financial contributions to the political party.

The regulatory environments, originally designed to protect the public suffers from a disorientation away from societal and public need towards the interests of commercial interest groups. Many regulatory agencies become populated not by independent professionals but rather by people placed there by commercial companies so as to run "extra-constitutional" regulatory agencies. This has happened in the areas of banking and media in particular. The media operators promote their self-preservation by serving the same commercial and political interests and cease to be a genuine "free press" that holds government to account on issues of interest to the general public. This is no longer a function upheld, even although under the US Constitution, for example, that is supposed to be one of their primary functions.

As a result the ability of people to declare their personal needs in a frank and plain fashion finds no platform, no medium and the tendency has been for any criticism of existing norms to be considered to be aberrant, disloyal or even sedition. As a result whistleblowers are hounded, anyone reporting on dishonesty or irregularities, as is required in the job descriptionsof most people, only find themselves becoming the target of of the very institutions whose rules they follow. Speaking truth to power has become an impossible and thankless task in an environment where the political system no longer follows the constitutional norms of striving to promote the happines and wellbeing of mankind.

A proposition - 358 years on1

The Leveller document, "An Agreement of the Free People of England" of 1649 and others provided source material for the English Bill of Rights of 1689. The Bill of Rights has provided a basis for the defence of freedom of millions of people in those countries integrating the Bill of Rights as a central tenet of their constitutions or basic law.

Commitment to common sense

In the way the Levellers expressed themselves in their constitutional writings one detects a sharp sense of commitment to the cause of freedom. This was not a group enjoying the benefits of a well-paid lecture circuit supported by a think tank or writing their pieces to meet broadsheet deadlines in exchange for payment. For many of these people, such as John Lilburne, this was a life long mission causing them to endure a less comfortable existence than those they sought to free. The authorities feared people like John Lilburne and considered them to be seditious, constantly circulating ideas calling into question their arbitrary hold on power. His expression, and the sense it made to the people who read his pamphlets, was so appealing that on the two occasions John Lilburne was on trial for his life the sheer size of the crowds attempting to hear the case, and the obvious popularity of the individual, caused judges, and all others, to back down from committing him to death.

Freedom as common sense

When one reads the Leveller's pamphlets and documents one is struck by the clear rationality of their argument and an absence of propaganda. They went straight to the heart of the matter and thereby to the hearts of those who read their work.

Freedom as a timeless message

It is dangerous and foolish to discount the views of people from all walks of life who many years ago enthused over such propositions. Although of another time such English people sought freedom recognizing its value in terms of upholding their culture of expectations, of what is normal, that code of practice deeply ingrained in the soul of each person; unwritten but understood by all through time and space.

No class struggle, no bloody revolution

For whereas the government exercised power in an arbitrary manner people could see that there was a better way for society to be organized. This vision was not some awful bloody revolutionary theory promoting the removal of some class but an appeal to logic and a peaceful means of social transition. Indeed, John Lilburne opposed the execution of Charles I and also fell out with Cromwell over his insistence in invading Ireland which, although in response to a massacre of Protestants in that country, Lilburne considered to be a mission largely flamed by religious bigotry and which would result in the deaths of defenseless and innocent people.

In addition the Levellers' concepts were entirely free of the motivations founded on jealousy and prejudice commonly associated with the more recent post-1917 horrific collectivist movements arising in Europe under Communism, the Nazis or the Fascists. No, here was a movement genuinely promoting the wellbeing of all founded in peace and without religious intolerance. It was a movement avoiding any diversion into emotive concepts of class struggle but was inclusive of the poor as well as the rich, seeking to raise the wellbeing of all in the English Commonwealth (15). The popular appeal was also grounded in the fact that such a system was so evidently feasible and, therefore, inspirational and one able to transform society by bringing about a state which could enjoy a popular support of a population living under a Parliament which upheld their free will.

What went wrong?

Some 358 years after "An Agreement of the Free People of England" was penned out in the Tower of London we, so far, have not reached this happy state of affairs. It behoves us to look more carefully at what aspects of the Leveller's advice the political classes of the day failed to take onboard, with intent or through carelessness.

The abuse of power

Most of the ills facing Britain today relate to the massive concentration of power in the hands of political parties run by professional politicians. The Levellers had sought to avoid the formation of factions and political parties for they realized this would lead to corruption and a diversion of Parliamentary power from the people. They had also sought to avoid the existence of professional politicians since they were also seen to represent a threat to the freedom of the people of England. British experience since then shows that the Levellers were justified to have such concerns.

Open operation of factions & political parties

By not introducing the constitutional control they suggested, we have ended up with a system whereby political parties openly participate in elections promoting their own professional politicians who, as the Levellers feared, make use of their power in a way that does not serve the free will of the people. We are nowhere near that visionary and transparent simplicity of a free and happy people graced by a government whose actions reflect the free will of the people.

Those who should be distanced from power, control it

The Levellers and many people in England desired universal suffrage and a Parliament of faithful representatives of each community to represent their free will. But what has happened is the very identifiable elements, judged to be the potential cause of the corruption of this expression of the free will of the people, have taken control. This control is used to secure power at the expense of reflecting the true preferences of the voters and therefore suppresses freedom of expression.

The inmates run the institution in their own interests whereas those, for whom the institutions exist and who pay the inmates' incomes, are ignored.
1  Thisarticle is based on Chapter 12, "A Proposition - 358 years on" in "The Briton's Quest from Freedom - Our unfinished journey" (HPC, Portsmouth, 20 07, 418 pages) a book written by Hector McNeill, the British constitutional economist. It provides a description of the decadence in the handling of constitutional propositions leading to provisions that corrupted the concept of a Parliament of the will of the people and weakening of the functioning of a participatory democracy and economy leading to increasing differentiation within the social and economic constituencies.