Saturday, June 03, 2006

King of the who?

As you’re going through your day, remember that “supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.” Below is a lesson in government from the writers of Monty Python, excerpted from The Holy Grail. As much as I’d like to be the first to use this bit as a way to introduce students to government, the idea has already been used. I credit Todd Millick with reminding me of the sketch. One of his professors at UC Davis actually showed students the movie clip as an introduction to his government class. Anarcho-syndacalism, by the way, is a real term and is explained here.

Source: Monty Python's Completely Useless Website

ARTHUR: Old woman!


DENNIS: Man!


ARTHUR: Man. Sorry. What knight live in that castle over there?


DENNIS: I'm thirty-seven.

ARTHUR: I-- what?

DENNIS: I'm thirty-seven. I'm not old.


ARTHUR: Well, I can't just call you 'Man'.


DENNIS: Well, you could say 'Dennis'.


ARTHUR: Well, I didn't know you were called 'Dennis'.


DENNIS: Well, you didn't bother to find out, did you?


ARTHUR: I did say 'sorry' about the 'old woman', but from the behind you looked—


DENNIS: What I object to is that you automatically treat me like an inferior!

ARTHUR: Well, I am king!


DENNIS: Oh king, eh, very nice. And how d'you get that, eh? By exploiting the workers! By 'anging on to outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the economic and social differences in our society. If there's ever going to be any progress with the—

WOMAN: Dennis, there's some lovely filth down here. Oh! How d'you do?


ARTHUR: How do you do, good lady. I am Arthur, King of the Britons. Who's castle is that?


WOMAN: King of the who?


ARTHUR: The Britons.


WOMAN: Who are the Britons?


ARTHUR: Well, we all are. We are all Britons, and I am your king.


WOMAN: I didn't know we had a king. I thought we were an autonomous collective.


DENNIS: You're fooling yourself. We're living in a dictatorship. A self-perpetuating autocracy in which the working classes—


WOMAN: Oh, there you go, bringing class into it again.

DENNIS: That's what it's all about. If only people would hear of--


ARTHUR: Please, please good people. I am in haste. Who lives in that castle?


WOMAN: No one live there.

ARTHUR: Then who is your lord?


WOMAN: We don't have a lord.


ARTHUR: What?


DENNIS: I told you. We're an anarcho-syndicalist commune. We take it in turns to act as a sort of executive officer for the week.


ARTHUR: Yes.


DENNIS: But all the decision of that officer have to be ratified at a special bi-weekly meeting—


ARTHUR: Yes, I see.


DENNIS: By a simple majority in the case of purely internal affairs,--

ARTHUR: Be quiet!


DENNIS: But by a two-thirds majority in the case of more major—


ARTHUR: Be quiet! I order you to be quiet!


WOMAN: Order, eh? Who does he think he is? Heh.

ARTHUR: I am your king!


WOMAN: Well, I didn't vote for you.


ARTHUR: You don't vote for kings.


WOMAN: Well, how did you become king then?


ARTHUR: The Lady of the Lake,... [angels sing]...her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water signifying by Divine Providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. [singing stops]That is why I am your king!


DENNIS: Listen, strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.


ARTHUR: Be quiet!


DENNIS: Well, but you can't expect to wield supreme executive power just 'cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!


ARTHUR: Shut up!


DENNIS: I mean, if I went 'round saying I was an emperor just because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me, they'd put me away!


ARTHUR: Shut up, will you. Shut up!


DENNIS: Ah, now we see the violence inherent in the system.


ARTHUR: Shut up!


DENNIS: Oh! Come and see the violence inherent in the system! Help, help!I'm being repressed!


ARTHUR: Bloody peasant!


DENNIS: Oh, what a give-away. Did you hear that? Did you hear that, eh? That's what I'm on about. Did you see him repressing me? You saw it, didn't you?
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