Who Made Your Pants?

Gorgeous Pants. By women, for women.

What does Magna Carta mean to you?

Yesterday, I went to meet a friend who also has a background as a chemist (as in someone who understands chemistry not a pharmacist) to talk a bit more about fabric sourcing and impact – blog post coming on that soon. I try to make every train ticket to London work hard so had booked another meeting later on and took the opportunity to fill a bit of the time in between by going to see the Magna Carta exhibition at the British Library.

I learned about the Magna Carta when I was about nine. I *think* I went to an exhibition about it or something as part of a school trip. I’m not sure. But I know that I’ve had a copy of it hanging up in my house for years. Before saying anything else…. I know it didn’t do much for women, and I know it mostly got repealed and and and. But at nine years old, I fell in love with it. I loved that some men stood up to a figure of authority that was behaving unfairly and that they got organised and challenged that unfairness. I loved that they took the king, bodily, so that he had to listen. I’m no vigilante but I do sometimes think, ‘don’t ask permission, ask for forgiveness’, and I’ve always thought they must have got to the end of their tether to do that.

The exhibition was brilliant – do go if it’s your kind of thing – and my heart swelled to see how many people, in how many countries, have tried to curtail unfair power, to claim and assert the rights of regular people, through history. I knew that the Capitol Building had a gold engraved copy of the Magna Carta but I didn’t know there were similar charters, pre the Runnymede sealing of the first version, in 1215, in other counties. None seems to have quite the mythology that Magna Carta does but there are documents from France and other countries which show similar statements and intents. And then later, the are other documents which either directly reference if or which are clearly influenced by it.

The governing rules of the first English colonies in America – Virginia, and later Pennsylvania – are, in places, almost direct copies. Compare ‘justice shall neither be sold, denyed nor delayed’ with ‘to no-one will we we sell, deny or delay rights of justice’. Later still, the English Bill of Rights of 1689, echoes Magna Carta and it was of real political significance during the English Civil war (I was taught about this by a fantastic teacher, Mr D Thomas, who had us use pencil cases and files to show how the battles played out. In hindsight, he was clearly a republican and socialist and I was and am still deeply influenced by his teachings) the U.S. declaration of Independence, and the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights share the feel, the aims and some of the words. I joined Amnesty at the age of 15 on the power of those words. I have them hanging up in my house too, next to a translation of the Magna Carta. I think they’re beautiful.

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I’m aware that this isn’t about Pants. But it is about rights, and WMYP is emphatically about rights, too. It’s about saying workers have the right to earn a fair wage. It’s about saying it’s not right for workers to be forced to work in factories with what turn out to be fatal cracks in the walls. It’s about saying that we have equal rights with the people sand blasting jeans in China and that they and the 170 million children (11% of all children) globally involved in the garment trade have equal rights to us. Those children should be getting the education children here are. It’s an accident of birth that we are where we are and they are where they are. It’s about saying that as moral, decent, regular humans, with heads on our shoulders, brains in those heads and absolute shared humanity in our hearts, just – be decent. Don’t be evil. Don’t exploit, or bully, or shame. Don’t support people who do. Don’t incarcerate people without trial, or, as most of us aren’t heads of state, don’t support countries who do. Don’t steal. Don’t close your eyes to the wages that aren’t being paid when you buy a bargain you don’t need but it’s cheap.

I know our modern life is full of compromises and competing pressures and I know that money is tight for a lot of people. But I genuinely think we all want to make good choices and support others and it’s unfair to say that people who haven’t much money don’t or can’t care. The future is a big place and maybe a necessary decision taken in one set or circumstances today will be different tomorrow. Information is key. Knowing your rights is key. Stand up for your rights, and the rights of others. They’ve been hard won by people who actually fought. We – you, me – can vote, every time we go shopping, for the rights of others. And we don’t need to kidnap a king to do it.

 

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