”Another Robin Hood movie, another ideological travesty. Interviewed recently on his role in the new epic, Russell Crowe said it was a story of class warfare, of robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. It’s an alarming omen to again see Robin Hood heroism mindlessly distorted. Aside from its vacuously erroneous simplicity, this standard image of Robin Hood is grounds for concern about the state of our culture”. ( John Ridpath )
It might be better to keep it mindlessly distorted than letting it run amok along a complex path that straddles politics, ideology and economics.However, lets assume to be lost in Sherwood Forest. We come to a fork in the trail and while weighing the decision spot an unmarked trail…. Certainly, there are a number of similarities between Robin Hood and Oscar Wilde. They were both middle-aged men who both liked to wear tights and play dress-up, and although reasonably bright, were not below stooping to ideological travesty, and in Wilde’s case transvestity, as a metaphor for an even larger context of class warfare.
Steal from the rich to give to the poor, is the creed of Robin Hood. It’s a feel good tale of the heroic Robin Hood against the evil rich king, and by extension the rich altogether. It’s the commoner vs. the upper class or the serfs vs. the lords in medieval times. In modern times, it is the haves vs. the have-nots. Although the debate on the political and economic doctrine of Robin Hood is most apparent, there are other factors involved. Its an idea of living of living close to the land, and a simple story of being free and enjoying a certain liberty to which the band of merry men were willing to pay the price, so to speak. Its about the creation of a different form of culture; one based on exchange and communication, rather than huge fixed assets, part of the extravagant accumulation practices of medieval royalty. The English priest Tim Jones, claimed it was OK under certain conditions for the poor to steal. The question is what exactly is theft?
”The Rev. Tim Jones caused an uproar by telling his congregation that it is sometimes acceptable for desperate people to shoplift – as long as they do it at large national chain stores, rather than small, family businesses. Jones’ Robin Hood-like sermon drew rebukes Tuesday from fellow clergy, shop owners and police. From his pulpit at the Church of St. Lawrence in York, about 220 miles (355 kilometers) north of London, Jones said in his sermon Sunday that shoplifting can be justified if a person in real need is not greedy and does not take more than he or she really needs to get by.”
It could be said that Robin Hood needs the poor as much as the tax collectors do. The poor are his pawns as well, as he works through his own problems of power/authority/sex/money. The movie does show that ”power” is very fragile and that genuine power does not have to be backed by use of fear and force. Ultimately, Robin Hood is not a socialist, but in his heart of hearts, an anarchist, who can justify his acts as legitimate in the face of an intolerably and immoral and repressive society. On the other hand, he didn’t go far enough; like Obama wanting to save the financial system through ”reform” , Robin Hood, does not really reject existing society. He battles heartily against it because he is so much part of it. He is a compromiser at heart who just wants some limited and purposeful attempt at reform. In a sense, Robin Hood does a disservice to the poor by raising expectations that the refuse from the tables of the wealthy is but a sample of the gourmet meal to come, when he knows full well the most meager of rations is all that will ever be provided. Its the democratic ruse to foster false hope and create inescapable dependency. So Robin Hood serves the interests of the rich very well. He may have been sent as part of a set-up to serve as a patsy in the large scheme: A desire to make the poor reliant, to position themselves as heroes of the common man. This new theology of the Renaissance man has far more in common with a noble/serf relationship than it does with helping one free themselves from the chains of poverty.
What many people fail to realize is that Robin Hood in its current incarnation is a fairy tale based solely on the theme of socialism and a somewhat simplistic, even absurd theory that egalitarian equality that can be acheived if we just redistribute the income stream to where everyone has an equal amount.The concept of Robin is taught to children who have no concept of economic realities. As such, they have no chance to analyze it for themselves and are lead to believe it is a great idea; without going into the finer print such as Robin’s search for ”Liberty. Under Law” and as enemy of state enforced robbery, and what was really the implication of the Norman Invasion.
”The emotions of man are stirred more quickly than man’s intelligence; and, as I pointed out some time ago in an article on the function of criticism, it is much more easy to have sympathy with suffering than it is to have sympathy with thought. Accordingly, with admirable, though misdirected intentions, they very seriously and very sentimentally set themselves to the task of remedying the evils that they see. But their remedies do not cure theease: they merely prolong it. Indeed, their remedies are part of the disease. ( Wilde )
They try to solve the problem of poverty, for instance, by keeping the poor alive; or, in the case of a very advanced school, by amusing the poor. But this is not a solution: it is an aggravation of the difficulty. The proper aim is to try and reconstruct society on such a basis that poverty will be impossible. And the altruistic virtues have really prevented the carrying out of this aim. Justas the worst slave-owners were those who were kind to their slaves, and so prevented the horror of the system being realised by those who suffered from it, and understood by those who contemplated it, so, in the present state of things in England, the people who domost harm are the people who try to do most good; and at last we have had the spectacle of men who have really studied the problem and know the life–educated men who live in the East End–coming forward and imploring the community to restrain its altruistic impulses of charity, benevolence, and the like. They do so on the ground that such charity degrades and demoralises. They are perfectly right. Charity creates a multitude of sins.” ( Oscar Wilde, The Soul of Man Under Socialism )
Robin Hood is a bit of a pitiable figure when his image is recast as a member of the nobility rather than an educated yeomen ; a anti-bourgeois product who is self-consciously doomed. In his own mind he is an avenging angel visiting an utterly corrupt society. To others, he is a criminal, tipping toward assassination and gratuitous violence from the well of pettier crimes and misdemeanors,; except Robin Hood cannot seem to escape bourgeois morality that follows him like a shadow and haunts him as it did Dostoevsky; there is a high level of torment by the need for confession and atonement after the act, to pay taxes to the bogeymen of Christian guilt. As man of action and secular saint, he never effectively resolves the paradox ; he is saved by compromise yet defeated by a basic acceptance of the world as it is. A reverence for life and a respect for the freedom of others, carried to lengths that most would find excessive. A situation that rubs against the tipping point of senseless destruction of innocent human beings.
”The possession of private property is very often extremely demoralising, and that is, of course, one of the reasons why Socialism wants to get rid of the institution. In fact, property is really a nuisance. Some years ago people went about the country saying that property has duties. They said it so often and so tediously that, at last, the Church has begun to say it. One hears it now from every pulpit. It is perfectly true. Property not merely has duties, but has so many duties that its possession to any large extent is a bore. It involves endless claims upon one, endless attention to business, endless bother. If property had simply pleasures, we could stand it; but its duties make it unbearable. In the interest of the rich we must get rid of it. The virtues of the poor may be readily admitted, and are much to be regretted. We are often told that the poor are grateful for charity. Some of them are, no doubt, but the best amongst the poor are never grateful. They are ungrateful, discontented, disobedient, and rebellious. They are quite right to be so. Charity they feel to be a ridiculously inadequate mode of partial restitution, or a sentimental dole, usually accompanied by some impertinent attempt on the part of the sentimentalist to tyrannise over their private lives. Why should they be grateful for the
crumbs that fall from the rich man’s table?” ( Wilde )
”Upon the other hand, there are a great many people who, having no private property of their own, and being always on the brink of sheer starvation, are compelled to do the work of beasts of burden, to do work that is quite uncongenial to them, and to which they are forced by the peremptory, unreasonable, degrading Tyranny of want. These are the poor, and amongst them there is no grace of manner, or charm of speech, or civilisation, or culture, or refinement in pleasures, or joy of life. From their collective force Humanity gains much in material prosperity. But it is only the material result that it gains, and the man who is poor is in himself absolutely of no importance. He is merely the infinitesimal atom of a force that, so far from regarding him, crushes him: indeed, prefers him crushed, as in that case he is far more obedient.”
Robin Hood is a reflection of some of the more heretical views of the late Middle Ages; some of the underlying tenets of political anarchism are present wrapped in a Biblical form not dissimilar to the concept of a martin Buber. To free human relations from artificial constraints, live a social life without any central coercive hierarchy and organization, a replacing of conventions by spontaneity, external sanctions by inner purity and a legal code of justice by an unforced brotherhood of man; without obviously pushing to the absurd, absolute limits.
While Robin Hood was later portrayed as a noble (some even called him the Earl of Huntingdon), another early ballad, “The Gest of Robyn Hode”, plainly opens with the following lines: “Lythe and listin, gentilmen, that be of frebore blode; I shall you tel of a gode yeman, his name was Robyn Hode.” Historically, a yeoman has always ranked below the nobility, even though he was a free landowner. If Robin Hood had been a noble, it would have been rather an insult to describe him as a man of lesser rank than he actually bore. ( Carrie Eckles )
The early ballads show that he was the more prominent of his merry men, who were also yeomen (they seem to divert to his leadership). And while later legends give him many companions, including Maid Marian, the early tales portray Much the Miller’s Son, Little John, and Will Scarlet as his primary comrades.
One aspect of Robin Hood that has remained the same over time was his political stance: he was very against corruption – especially in the nobility and the clergy – and championed the rights of the poor. It was no wonder Robin Hood was so popular during the Middle Ages; he was literally the voice of the oppressed, hungry, and disgruntled masses. From stories such as “Piers Plowman”, it is clear that Robin Hood had already saturated pop culture by the mid-1300’s, even becoming a fixture at traditional May Day games. ( Carrie Eckles )