I have great respect for quotemasters and aphorists. People who make keen pithy observations with general truths have serious intellect, and a superior style in the art of communication. Slavery is not an easy topic to intellectualize, let alone aphorize. We like to think of ourselves as enlightened post-enslavement creatures, but there are slaves all around us. In fact, human societies have never been without masters and slaves. If you don’t see it this way, then you’re not looking hard enough.
The late Mokokoma Frans Mokhonoana had a thought, “What some people regard as freedom is slavery wearing makeup…a push-up bra…and a corset.” Another original thinker by the name of William (Patrick) Ophuls pointed out that democracy doesn’t exist without abundance, that freedom is just a biproduct of abundance fueled by the industrial revolutions. He believes we are now entering a period of ecological scarcity, and will revert to the historical mean of autocracy.
Every human civilization has been built by slavery. Masters and slaves have always been with us. They manifest through cycles in our story. Bangambiki Habyarimana, another clever thinker and aphorist, explained what drives this…“Deep inside every slave there is a repressed, dormant master.” During the rise of a civilization, slaves are complacent. When a civilization falls, there is a revolution and some slaves change places with their masters.
War is about enslavement, not democracy as we are told. There’s one side trying to maintain its power and another side trying to usurp the power. It is nothing more. Slavery is a tricky word, from the Latin sclava. But slavery didn’t start with the slavs of Eastern Europe who were captured by the Muslims of Spain in the 9th century AD. The Egyptians enslaved the Hebrews long before this period, as recorded in the Bible and the Quran. Is slavery political or religious? I say both.
In the Genesis creation story, God made man and woman, and put them in a garden called Eden, to work. They were happy unpaid workers (indentured servants) until some sleazebag serpent convinced Eve to disobey her master and eat a piece of fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She then coerced Adam to do the same. You know the story—suddenly their eyes were opened. They both lost their jobs in the Garden of Eden and were kicked out for good.
As we proceed through Genesis, there’s a plethora of family conflict before we get to the next big slavery story. Jacob, a Hebrew man, has twelve sons (the 12 tribes of Israel). Because Joseph got special treatment as his dad’s favorite, his brothers were crazy jealous and sold him to Ishmaelite traders for 20 pieces of silver. Joseph ended up in Egypt, first as a slave, but eventually as king. His Hebrew family later migrated there to escape the famine around 1600 BCE.
Hebrews were welcomed by the ancient Egyptians, and all was good. The Egyptians and Hebrews lived in harmony for a long time. Then a new regime came to power in Egypt, and the new king noticed something happening: a population boom among the Egyptians. I see it as similar to what just happened to our world population from the 1800s to now. It was around 1 billion in the year 1800 and is now around 8.1 billion. That’s 8x larger, like this scene from the beginning of Exodus:
6 In time, Joseph and all of his brothers died, ending that entire generation. 7 But their descendants, the Israelites, had many children and grandchildren. In fact, they multiplied so greatly that they became extremely powerful and filled the land.
8 Eventually, a new king came to power in Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph or what he had done. 9 He said to his people, “Look, the people of Israel now outnumber us and are stronger than we are. 10 We must make a plan to keep them from growing even more. If we don’t, and if war breaks out, they will join our enemies and fight against us. Then they will escape from the country.”
11 So the Egyptians made the Israelites their slaves. They appointed brutal slave drivers over them, hoping to wear them down with crushing labor. They forced them to build the cities of Pithom and Rameses as supply centers for the king. 12 But the more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more the Israelites multiplied and spread, and the more alarmed the Egyptians became. 13 So the Egyptians worked the people of Israel without mercy. 14 They made their lives bitter, forcing them to mix mortar and make bricks and do all the work in the fields. They were ruthless in all their demands.
God saw the Egyptians making the Hebrews work hard and decided to help the Hebrews get free. The Old Testament stories continue in this regard. God is depicted as the father of freedom, but after the Hebrews are freed from the Egyptians, God creates all kinds of new rules for them to follow and worship him. Why God chose to help the Hebrews and make them a people to worship him is a great mystery that requires one to look beyond the Bible for answers.
Zecharia Sitchin took a different approach to explain slavery. He wrote various books on ancient Sumerians texts and led academically oriented archaeological tours around the world, establishing structural connections. Sitchin explained the Anunnaki in the Sumerian texts were the lineage of the Nephilim referenced in the Bible. The Anunnaki came to Earth to mine gold which would repair the atmosphere on their planet Nibiru. They created modern humans, by manipulating the DNA of our primates, to work their mines and build their civilization here.
Biblically, as depicted in Genesis, the Nephilim are mysterious beings described as large and strong. The Hebrew word “Nephilim” is commonly translated as “giants.” These creatures are thought to be fallen angels by some scholars and extraterrestrials by others. Genesis 6:4 reads: “The Nephilim were in the earth in those days, and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bore children to them; the same were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown.”
It’s hard to know what to believe about where we came from and why we are here. Over the past 150 years, we made technology our slave primarily through the finite remains of ancient marine organisms, such as plants, algae, and bacteria that we extracted from Earth. We farmed out hard labor to other nations and used our fiat currency to control their natural resources and fuels. As our network of slaves has grown, more and more humans have been “liberated” from hard labor. Human slaves created technology slaves that work for the benefit of us all.
Hmmmm, we have been recently liberated from hard work because technology saved us. The Hebrews were liberated from Egypt because God saved them. But God then immediately imposed new rules under a new system that implored their submission and required them to make sacrifices for their sins and worship him. I don’t have more to say other than the master-slave relationship is ubiquitous and obscure. Here’s one more aphorism confirmed by history: “Freedom is a road seldom traveled by the multitude.” – Frederick Douglass
Next week I’ll talk about AI. If you enjoy my work, please pass it along to others via Twitter, Facebook, email, or any other way that feels right. All I want and need for Christmas is for more people to hear me. “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well” —Ralph Waldo Emerson.