In development that feels strangely like kismet, an encampment of dispossessed young people who wish to opt out of the corporate system and reclaim a basic freedom of working the land, have made their way to Runnymede, a hallowed site in the history of the commons.
Runnymede is where King John signed the Magna Carta in 1215, settling the long civil war with barons and commoners, and leading to the Charter of the Forest that granted explicit commoning rights to commoners. Runnymede is therefore an appropriate place for contemporary Occupy-style encampments. It's where the king formally recognized that he was not above the law, and that the commoners have rights that must be respected. But history and king-like proxies have papered over such truths. (Peter Linebaugh's Magna Carta Manifesto is THE book to read on this subject.)
A group that calls itself Diggers 2012 is now trying to engineer a rendezvous between that past and a commons-directed future. After being forced out of their encampments in London, the Diggers are now establishing their own Runnymede Eco Village. (Thanks for the alert on this news, James Quilligan!) The Diggers want to secure their own right to the land and to develop their own autonomous system for self-governance and subsistence. Some want to create a banner, "We don't want workfare, we want landshare!"
After being shooed from one place to another, and suffering the destruction of their plantings, the Diggers decided to set up camp at Brunel University’s Runnymede campus, which has gone unused for six years and is poised to become a construction site for apartments. In The Guardian, columnist George Monbiot has a wonderful column about the encampment at Runnymede, which he described as “a weed-choked complex of grand old buildings and modern halls of residence, whose mildewed curtains flap in the wind behind open windows, all mysteriously abandoned as if struck by a plague or a neutron bomb.
The Diggers are off on an out-of-theway, unused piece of land. Not exactly a prime location on which to attract attention. But they are nothing if not determined to make a point and build another world. As one camper explained: “Like our forbearers, ‘The Diggers’ of the mid 17th Century, we too will face the same forms of oppression as we attempt to make use of the disused land. And like the Diggers, we are committed to continuing our mission to make use of the disused land in the face of brute force. So if the bailiffs come, we may go, but we may too come back and keep coming back. For you can tear down our structures and rip out our crops, but you cannot kill the spirit of our vision. We are not here to fight anyone. We know in our hearts that our activities are just and reasonable. So we will carry on.”