Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Who ever heard of Thomas Paine?

Well, here I am again, you lucky, lucky people. I promise you that it was not my intention to post an article today, but if somebody was the wander round in my head looking for good ideas right now, they'd have about as much luck as a reporter trying to find out where exactly the government expenses has gone. Good ideas are rare, so rare, in fact, that I have ceased to notice them properly, case of point; the time I thought that no harm could come from me gaffer-taping my school bag together. In short, I apologise if today's 'Good Idea' actually transpires to be an idea that frankly leaves you bored out of your mind, and wondering why you don't just skip all the articles with 'E.C' at the bottom of them. You see, for ages I had completely written off Radio 4 in my head as a channel for over-privileged, over-indulged men in their fifties, who like nothing more than to comment on politics while knowing absolutely nothing at all, but decided to give it the benefit of the doubt and tune in last night. I must say, for the billionth time that day, I was proved absolutely and completely wrong. I've always had a little bit of a thing for the unsung hero's of history (Winston being the exception), because usually the only reason they are 'unsung' is that they have been written out of history by the people who would rather they didn't exist. For example, I assume I wasn't taught in depth about American Independance while in primary school because my lessons went along the lines of the teacher pointing at a map and saying 'Used to be ours, used to be ours, used be our, the French got that bit - no idea how that happened but there you go, there's america, we gave that bit back', and some bright spark in the class piping up with 'Why did we give that bit back? Whoever dun that must be a right div'. And because I am, for want of a better word, a bit of a nerd, I always want to fill the gaping holes in my knowledge at every possible opportunity, fully aware that this will be finished by the time I am about 1000 years old. It was with this idea in mind that I tuned into radio 4 to listen to a programme ( is it still a programme if its on the radio?) about a certain Thomas Paine, an eighteenth century revolutionary writer, who apparently lay the foundations for the political landscape of Britain, America, and even France to be changed irreconcilably. So. Who on earth was Thomas Paine, and why am I banging on about him?

At the time of Tom Paine, America was basically a group of colonies ruled by Britain, and needing to pay tax to Britain, and probably not liking Britain. All Americans wanted at the time was to be seen as more important on an international scale, but Tom pushed the boat out with an even more revolutionary idea: That America should be independent, and he publicised this in the (I think) fantastically named 'Common Sense'. Because if you are going to criticise your opponents point of view, you may as well do it in style, and undermine the foundations of British politics, by proposing that we should be a republic. A fierce republican, Paine argued that the concept of inherited leadership was about as credible as the prospect of a hereditary mathematician, and if that were true I'd be whizzing through my maths GCSE right now (my Nan being a genius). Obviously, this didn't really gain him any fans in the British aristocracy, who relied entirely on the power of the monarchy in order to justify their own high status, and the people who did support Paine were the working class, who didn't really have any way of expressing themselves. Paine then went on to write up 'The Rights of Man' part one and two, which stopped just short of socialism, preaching that men should be equal, and inherited superstitions should become a thing of the past. Not only did the British Aristocracy disagree with his idea, they also disliked his writing style as they thought it 'vulgar', meaning that people actually could read it. Its like when broadsheet newspapers slam anything vaguely readable, because you must be really brainy if you can read something that's barely in English. I'm pretty sure those writers of today and the 18th century would pass out if they read any of my articles!

So there we are. A little introduction to good old Tom Paine. I suggest reading more about him if you're interested, as to be honest with you, I haven't the time to continue any further with this article. Thanks again for reading this far, and I hope the article was vaguely entertaining for you!


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