The wealthiest and most powerful in Europe Australasia and North America have turned the Robin Hood myth to their advantage.
Still if we move out from Hobsbawm’s focus on the social bandit as actual individual and consider the entire Robin Hood myth the ideal remains familiar in our outlaw-free world.
The myth requires a great mass of heavily taxed poor people who work terribly hard for little reward.
The profits of their labour and the taxes they pay go to support a small number of lazy arrogant rich people who live in big houses – wallow in luxury and have no need to work.
Any attempt to resist let alone change this unjust system is crushed by the weight of a vast private-public bureaucracy encompassing the police the courts the prison system the civil service – large property-owners and banks – all embodied in the ruthless figure of a bureaucrat-aristocrat personification of the careerist-capitalist elite – the sheriff of Nottingham.
Two figures stand between the sheriff and the poor.
One is the absent king.
He carries a monarch’s title but exists only to represent benign authority order and justice – the kinder fairer authority that existed before he went away – naively leaving the sheriff to govern in his name and pervert his wishes – the same authority he will restore when he returns.
The other is Robin Hood – who defies the system – who stands up for the little people – who levels the playing field.
He takes from the rich to give to the poor.
It’s a plan.
Taking from the rich to give to the poor has been – is and should be the way forward for an exploited majority against remote unaccountable concentrations of extreme wealth and power.
One word for it is ‘redistribution’.
Robin Hood is a programme of the left.
Robin Hood is Jeremy Corbyn.
He’s Russell Brand.
He’s Hugo Chávez.
So it used to seem.
But a change has come about.
The wealthiest and most powerful in Europe Australasia and North America have turned the myth to their advantage.
In this version of Robin Hood the traditional poor – the unemployed the disabled – refugees – have been put into the conceptual box where the rich used to be.
It is they – the social category previously labelled ‘poor’ who are accused of living in big houses – wallowing in luxury and not needing to work – while those previously considered rich are redesignated as the ones who work terribly hard for fair reward or less – forced to support this new category of poor-who-are-considered-rich.
In this version the sheriff of Nottingham runs a ruthless realm of plunder and political correctness – ransacking the homesteads of honest peasants for money to finance the conceptual rich – that is the unemployed the disabled – refugees working-class single mothers dodgers scroungers chavs chisellers and cheats.
In this version of the myth Robin Hood is a tax-cutter and a handout-denouncer.
He’s Jeremy Clarkson.
He’s Nigel Farage.
He’s Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.
He’s by your elbow in the pub telling you he knows an immigrant who just waltzed into the social security office and walked out with a cheque for £1000.
He’s in the pages of the Daily Mail fingering a workshy good-for-nothing with 11 children – living in a luxury house on the public purse.
He’s sabotaging the sheriff of Nottingham’s wicked tax-gathering devices – speed cameras and parking meters.
He’s on talk radio – denouncing inheritance tax.
He’s winning elections.
This is not a uniquely British phenomenon.