Tag Archives: rule of law

On Magna Carta

“Monday Musings” for Monday June 15, 2015

Volume V, No. 24/232

magna carta

Happy Birthday, Magna Carta !

By: Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA, ScD (Hon)*

 

Today is the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, Latin for “Great Charter.” Next time you are in London, go by the British Library, near Euston Station, climb the stairs. On the left you enter a pavilion full of old books, ancient manuscripts, including a Guttenberg Bible, etc. On the right, you will find a good size room set aside to display the magnificent British document, the Magna Carta, signed by King John of Lackland dated December 28, 1215. The document was actually written in Runnymede on June 15, 1215.

The room exhibiting Magna Carta is wired with the latest technology to give the viewers all they want to know about Magna Carta. But I have found the display, describing King Lackland’s Magna Carta, much lacking (pun intended), especially in the intellectual and political history of the precious document. What is presented in the British Library is very useful, but short on depth and epistemic understanding of events leading to the birth of the document. Here are some reflections and a brief critical analysis:

Faithful readers of this space recall the essay on Queen Matilda Maude of England (February 7, 1102- to September 10, 1167), who laid the cornerstone of Anglo-Saxon freedom and the governance of the rule of Law. Matilda was like our 20th century Susan B. Anthony (February 15, 1820 to March 13, 1906), who championed women suffrage by laying the work for the 19th amendment which was signed in 1919 by President Wilson. What a feat, 92 years of freedom and voting right for the American women. Going back to Matilda Maude and her important work to sow the seeds of Magna Carta in Britain’s mental space: Matilda and her younger brother were the only two legitimate children of King Henry I who had altogether sired 23 children. She reigned for a  brief period of time and was never crowned, thus not listed in the British monarchic line of succession. Instead, her male cousin Stephens of Blois was the monarch 1135-1154 and is listed in the history books. Omitting the work and contribution of Matilda Maude form history of Magna Carta is a major historic and intellectual oversight.

Another significant omission is the impact of assassination of Thomas Beckett, the Archbishop of Canterbury, on December 29, 1170. As one notices, he was assassinated one day short of 45 years before the signing of Magna Carta. Archbishop Becket was assassinated by four knights from the court of King of England Henry II. They were dispatched to “rid England from a bothersome and intruding priest”. With the brutal killing of Beckett, the public became sensitized to the atrocities of Henry II, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, and their three sons (very much like Libya’s Gaddafi and his sons) and a ground swell of revolt against kingship began to slowly brew over the next 45 years.  Indeed the excesses of Kings of England over a century brought on the emergence of Magna Carta, the principle message of which was to severely restrict the powers of the throne.

King John Lackland who signed Magna Carta was not a benevolent and humanitarian king like King Cyrus the Great of Persia and Hammurabi of Babylon and other famous altruists of yore. The 12 years old battle of Bouvines definitely restored French power under King Phillip II Augustus bringing the Angevin-Flanders conflict to an end.  But the battle of Bouvines in 1214, enfeebled King John considerably. By 1214, King John was a worn out fellow bereft of energy and friends. The British Lords and aristocracy viewed him as a usurper of land with hedonistic tendencies similar to those Henry III. They detected King John’s weakness and vulnerability by moving rapidly and writing a document consisting of 61 clauses, they named it Magna Carta. It restricted the liberties of the king and moved England toward a constitutional monarchy. Magna Carta is essentially an unimpressive document mostly dealing with laws of commerce and cannons of trade. It does not hold a candle to US Constitution, our Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence But some of its clauses are brilliant examples of human rights advocacy. Consider Article 39. It states “No freeman shall be arrested or imprisoned or deprived of his freehold or outlawed or banished or in any way ruined, nor will we take or order action against him, except by the lawful judgment of his equals and according to the law of the land.” Doesn’t it sound like something written by John Locke or Thomas Jefferson?   In America, we are blessed to have the intellectual depth, wisdom, and knowledge of 2500 years history by a group of devoted patriots, America’s founding fathers who gave us our Republic. They skillfully wove concepts from Declaration of Human Rights by Persia’s King Cyrus the Great, dubbed Messiah in the Bible (Isaiah 41), Code of Hammurabi, and the renaissance philosophers, especially Pico Della Mirandola’s “Oration on the Dignity of Man” in the tapestry of our beloved nation.

Personally, I love America. Unlike many of my misguided colleagues who are ashamed of America, I am proud of America. I love the cacophony and gridlock in US Congress with 8% approval rating. I love the liberty and freedom to disagree, argue, and have robust and serious conversation without fear of being arrested and jailed. I love America’s devotion and commitment to supremacy of the rule of law and not those of a ruler, a Shah, an Ayatollah or a some two-bit dictator-President-for-Life.  And I am happy to pay my taxes to ensure the survival of our freedom, but not happy to see my taxes wasted, and moneys misspent on programs that encourage delinquent and antisocial behavior. Behavior like irresponsibly fathering many children by many women, and not being a daddy to them. Behavior like setting one’s highest ambition in life to get on public welfare. Behavior like coming to America, living here for many years, enjoying the fruits of the liberty, freedom and equality America offers, yet not learning the English language, and not assuming any civic pride and patriotic responsibility….

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*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association; Life Member, American Medical Association; Life Member, Southern Medical Association; and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012).

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On the Celebration of Thanksgiving and a Few Other Observations

“Monday Musings” for Monday November 26, 2013

Volume III, No 46/140

thanksgiving-day

THANKSGIVING  2013

by Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*

To My Dear Family, Friends, Colleagues and Readers:

Thanks for being

Thanks for becoming

Thanks for all the good inside of us, intellect, trillions of neuronic connections

Thanks for our ability to feel love, compassion, and presence of God in us

Thanks for the arts, the humanities, flowers, music, and trees

Thanks for poetry, dance, ballet, ballads and symphony and

Thanks for science and the universe

Thanks for Socrates’ elenchus

Thanks for Aristotle’s enteleche

Thanks for Zarathustra, Buddha, Rumi, Mohammad, Ferdowsi, Avicenna, Goethe,

Jesus, Gandhi, Mozart, Moses and Abraham. Thanks for Hanukah, Easter, Purim and Bishvat

Thanks for my own mother, for Mother Teresa, Joan of Arc, Catherine of Siena, Virgin Mary, Sappho, Matilda Maud, Susan B. Anthony and Queen Melisende of Jerusalem.

Thanks for family and connectedness

Thanks for the World

Thanks for eternity

Thanks for transcendence

Thanks for America

Thanks for life, and oh, yes

Thanks for timely death

But although humanity has come a long way, we have ways to go as reflected below:

Slavery in America

News media report practice of slavery in India, Africa, Pakistan, and other parts of the world. I submit that we practice slavery in America. I am referring to student- athletes who can barely read and write. They work like slaves to generate a product with sales in the billions of dollars, yet they get punished for accepting any gift from fans. The unfairness is accentuated by the practice of awarding coaches with less than a mediocre record, with contract extension and whopping raises sending their annual compensation into millions.

This is a repetition of 17th and 18th century slavery, and the epitome of hypocrisy and unfairness. The entire system is unethical. It should be illegal and ought to be banned. One reasonable solution is to pay the student athlete a salary and pay teachers to tutor them and bring up their academic standing not with phony non existing classes, but with real teaching, while they play their sport. Also, cut the exorbitant salaries of the coaches and give it to our school teachers who barely make ends meet.

Enjoying Chaos

Hype, hyperbole, and hysteria surround the congressional impasse partially shutting down the government. While everybody is fretting, complaining and climbing the walls, I find myself calmly and thoroughly enjoying what is happening. No, I am not a sadist enjoying suffering of others. No, I am not a masochist to enjoy suffering. No, this is not a shadenfreud to vicariously enjoy suffering of others. Then you might ask how could I enjoy the shutting down of government and suffering of the furloughed and idled?,,,

Well, what I am enjoying is the miracle of the Republic our founding fathers have created and graciously given to us: a government with three equal forces and importance who could pull their weight in debate, in polemic discussion and finally in action. It is the system of US government that blesses America that we enjoy. No dictator by issuing fiat is going to tell what Congress may do, and no supreme court may give the other branches of government its marching orders. Three branches of government are not only equal in theory and parlance, but in actuality. I am thankful for America and our Republic.

Enjoying Chess

Readers recall our discussion of forthcoming chess championship a few weeks ago. Well, we had the match last week and as predicted Magnus Carlson the 21 year old Norwegian chess player, a grand master at age 12, unseated the long-time champion Wiswanathan Anand who had reigned for seven years. Although not on camera, reporters have it that Anand wept.  Watching Carlsen play chess is like taking a tour of the inside of the brain of Mozart while he was composing the Jupiter Symphony in C major. It puts you little closer to God. A brief note from 1972 championship from a previous “MM”;

“Bobby Fischer died at age 64, on January 18, 2008. I was privileged to be in Reykjavick, in 1972, and see him in action playing chess with his Russian opponent Boris Spassky about whom I have written in the past. What impressed me about the young man, besides his bad behavior and total paranoia and mistrust for everyone, was his total mastery of the game, and his brilliance.  His kind of brilliance was unfortunately blinding and not illuminating. It was more damaging than benefiting. He is a good reminder of Richard Wagner (1813-1883), the most brilliant opera composer, writer and thinker of the 19th century. Wagner’s biological father was a Jew. Like Wagner, Fischer was also born to Jewish parents, yet like Wagner, in his life time, he piled an incredible amount of derogation and insult on Jews. Like Wagner, Fischer was an unrepentant and zealous anti-Semite.

There are plenty of reasons to bury the memories of Bobby Fischer and let him fade in dustbin of oblivion. But his brilliance in chess may be selectively used as a role model for teaching focus, determination and devotion to learning to our young people. He provides a good example of how to train the brains of our children and grand children. Let us celebrate him, and his contributions to the honored and honorable game of chess.”

Carlsen, on the other hand, is a wholesome young man unafflicted by any neurotic encumbrance and anti-Semitic fervor.

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*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He serves as a Visiting Scholar and lecturer on Medicine, the Arts and Humanities at his alma mater the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health.

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On the Greatness of America and Constitution Day

“Monday Musings” for Monday September 16, 2013

Volume III, No. 35/129

the constitution

Constitution Day, Supremacy of the Rule of Law,

What Makes America Great?

 By Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*

226 years ago, on September 17, 1787, the founding fathers of our beloved Republic singed the sacred document we know and cherish as the US Constitution. Thereby they gave birth to America. They gave birth to our great nation. No, America is not great because of its prosperity. It is not great because of the proverbial “American dream” of a brick home with a two car garage. It is not great because it gives us security, opportunity, and order. And it is not great because of its advanced technology, and the number of Nobel Laureates it produces in science, medicine, literature and humanities. America is great because it is a nation of laws and its absolute commitment to the uphold and maintain the supremacy of the rule of law. Today, the Constitution Day, it is fitting to take a psychological scalpel and dissect what goes into the grandeur of America’s reverential devotion to upholding the rule of law. I am selecting two cases, one national and one local. They dramatically and eloquently tell us the story of America.

On the national scene, there is an ongoing trial of psychiatrist Major Nidal Hasan who by his own admission in a rampage on November 5, 2009 killed 13 and wounded 32 of his fellow soldiers at his Texas military base. Recently, speaking on his own behalf in the court he said “The evidence will clearly show that I am the shooter.” Major Hasan is paralyzed below chest. He requires special medical attention at Brooke Army Medical Center. He is incontinent and in need of round the clock nursing care and rehabilitation. Also, there is a special security team assigned to protect his life- day and night. He was tried in a specially fortified court room. Sources familiar with his care report that Major Hasan’s security detail rivals that of the President. For example, when he is transported back and forth to court, a helicopter and bullet proof cars are used to ensure his safety. The cost is in the millions. Besides, since November 5, 2009, he has been paid a salary of $278.000 in addition to $78,000 for housing allowance. Yes, the majesty of the supremacy of the rule of law in the beloved land of America is dramatically demonstrated by how we are treating an admitted killer. American dream is not the proverbial brick house with two car garage, vacation homes, technology, and prosperity. It is the US laws, its sacred Constitution, the sacrifice of the founding fathers who gave us our Republic are the muscles, bones, and spirit of American Dream. The supremacy of the rule of law and not the whims of a dictator, a king, a Shah, or an Ayatollah is the basic foundation of the majesty of American democracy.

On the local scene, a couple of years ago, with astonishment and awe, I sat and watched the court proceedings of the former NC Governor Michael Easley on television- astonished, because a former Chief Executive Officer of a sovereign state was being sentenced, and in awe, because of the unshakable and uncompromising supremacy of the rule of law in America. America from time to time may go down financially, retrenched economically, and our state may have a three billion dollar budget deficit, but nowhere on earth the sanctity and supremacy of the rule of law are so cherished and enshrined in the nation’s psyche as they are in America.

God has blessed our beloved nation, the United States of America, and we are blessed to be Americans.

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*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He serves as a Visiting Scholar and lecturer on Medicine, the Arts and Humanities at his alma mater the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health.

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On Illegal Immigrants and Ethics

Monday Musings for Monday April 01, 2013

Volume III, No. 13/117

immigration

(Editor’s Note:  Our inbox is full of requests for a ‘Musings’ about immigration.  Here are a few thoughts.)

 Some Thoughts on Illegal Immigrants and the Moral Dimensions of Ethics

By Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*

The illegal immigration is a daunting issue that does not go away. If anything it gets bigger and more complex as time goes by. We are told that the President and US congress are finally trying to offer a solution.

As an American by choice and not by birth, I have the privilege of seeing both sides of the picture.  The public perception of a stereotype immigrant enhanced by media is a fellow who is here earning good wages, not paying taxes and being a burden on our schools and health care.

Let us not forget that nearly 80% of all the Nobel Laureates in the twentieth Century were immigrants who chose to come to America and become US citizens. The vast majority of Nobelers in the past 113 year history of the Prize have come to America as immigrants. America has greatly benefited by the constant infusion of brilliant, motivated and idealistic immigrants to its shores. Many immigrants who come here do not come for the search of a job, a proverbial brick house with two car garage and a beach place. We come to America because this county remains the last haven for the lovers of freedom and seekers of liberty. We come to America because of the attraction of the supremacy of rule of law and not rule by whims of kings, Shahs, Ayatollahs and dictators.

The opinion on the subject is diverse. One group advocates that illegal immigrants ought to be caught, treated like criminals and deported. Another group, sounding humane, recognizes the sacrifice, risk taking and inspirational motivation of the immigrants. These are good honest family men and women. They assert that illegal immigrants are dedicated people here to work hard, take jobs that native Americans would not, and support their families back home. And there is a third group, the realists that know the value of illegal immigrants in our economy.

Since the dawn of Neolithic man, people have immigrated to improve their lot. Remember America itself is an immigrant nation. A recent report available online, prepared by Kofi Annan, the former United Nations (UN) Secretary General, submits that immigrants not only benefit themselves and their families, they also benefit the economy of their host country as well as the economy of the country they leave behind. Moneys sent back to their country are spent to improve their families’ standard of living. The report cites the immigrants’ contribution to the economy of their native countries was 225 billion dollars in 2005 and 167 billion dollars in 2004. It further documents that the families of the immigrants spend more on education and health care at home than do others.

Also, there is an invisible and intangible benefit not easily quantified that the families of immigrants left at home are more motivated and inspired to lift themselves from poverty by educating their children and instilling hope in the future of their younger generations. Lastly, this group of economic pragmatists sees that successful immigrants, such as financier George Soros, the hedge fund mogul, benefit their native countries by investing and transferring skill, knowledge and entrepreneurship back home. The burgeoning software industry in India which emerged as the result of intensive interaction between immigrants from India and the universities and industries in America is an eloquent testimony to the positive and global impact of immigration. The cover story of the current issue of The Economist magazine, March 30th which I just received is about “India becoming a Great Global Power”.

I hope the US Congress and the President engage in a dispassionate, reflective and altruistic debate on this critical issue to examine all arguments and produce laws that are fair, just and generous to all immigrants.

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*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He serves as a Visiting Scholar and lecturer on Medicine, the Arts and Humanities at his alma mater the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health.

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