The history of human beings has seen a lot of peaks and dips. There have been times when we have been at our best and times when we have been at our worst.
The Second Orthodox Caliph of Islam Umar[May Allah be pleased with him] said that “Allah created man free..”
Throughout our history whenever we realised this freedom, humanity rose to heights of prosperity, intellectual and spiritual progress. And whenever this concept was taken away, we plunged into a ravine so deep and dark that it was only through the enlightened souls of the Prophets that we were rescued from our plight and misery.
I will limit the scope of my discussion to a single era of our history. The era when Ancient Egyptians were liberated by Prophet Moses[Peace be upon him]. The Pharaohs’ of Egypt pushed tyranny to new limits, in fact the word “Despotism” was used to describe the unlimited power and authority given to the Pharaohs. A comprehensive study of the way Pharaohs ruled and how the people were herded like cattle reveals that the Pharaohs were not just rulers with unimaginable authority. In fact their “unimaginable authority” was nothing but a mirage, they were mere humans, just like thousands of peasants whom they killed. This “unimaginable authority” or Godlike power, came from their unparalleled understanding of human consciousness, both individual and collective. They had mastered the art of mass deception .
Preservation of Bloodline:
The first step to create the perceived God like status was to engineer the Divine right to rule. The Pharaohs were able to do this by only allowing their own to come to power, by making their bloodline, the royal bloodline as a pre-requisite for the throne Pharaohs eliminated the threat of a common man acquiring the throne and serving the people at large.
“The rulers of Egypt were usually the sons or declared heirs of the preceding Pharaoh, born of the Great Wife (Pharaoh`s chief consort) or sometimes a lesser-ranked wife whom the Pharaoh favoured. Early on, the rulers married female aristocrats in an effort to establish the legitimacy of their dynasty by linking it to the upper classes of Memphis, which was then Egypt’s capital. To keep the blood-line pure, many Pharaohs married their sisters or half-sisters and Pharaoh Akhenaten married his own daughters.”
Consolidation of Power:
Intermarriage was the key to consolidating all the power to make sure that the heirs always came from their own “golden bloodline”. This led to the consolidation of not only power but also wealth because the Pharaoh(being the God on earth) was entitled to all the taxes. This potent mixture of all the power and wealth of Egypt, created a gap between the ruling proletariat and the common slaves and peasants- a gap of resources, finances, intellect and knowledge. The Pharaohs never allowed the wealth to trickle down, thus making sure that the people were always kept on the margin, just earning enough to buy their bread and butter but not enough to allow social mobility. It will not be wrong to say that ancient Egypt had almost zero or no social mobility. The working class of Egypt was completely enslaved and therefore deprived of any intellectual ability to question the authority of the Pharaohs.
“Although peasant children probably never entered any formal schooling, male children of scribes and the higher classes entered school at an early age. (Young girls were not formally schooled, but because some women knew how to read and write they must have had access to a learned family member or a private tutor.) Though we have no information about the location or organization of schools prior to the Middle Kingdom, we can tell that after that time they were attached to some administrative offices, temples (specifically the Ramesseum and the Temple of Mut), and the palace. In addition to “public” schooling, groups of nobles also hired private tutors to teach their children. Because education had not yet established itself as a separate discipline, teachers were drawn from the ranks of experienced or pedagogically gifted scribes who, as part of their duties and to ensure the supply of future scribes, taught either in the classroom or took apprentices in their offices.”
(extracted from chapter 7 of Egypt and the Egyptians, Cambridge University Press 2001, Copyright Douglas J. Brewer and Emily Teeter 1999)
The lower class and peasants couldn`t even educate their children, this was the second control measure applied by the ancient Egyptian bureaucracy to cement their control over the people for generations.
Total control over Wealth and Knowledge gave the Pharaoh a degree of control over the people. He could keep them in their miserable condition for as long as he liked, but there was just one problem, in order to have “total control” over the people, Pharaoh had to make them oblivious to their miserable condition. This was done by a two pronged attack. Firstly Pharaohs` authority as the God on earth, made the people subservient to him anyway, they were never going to resist. But the Pharaoh knew that there are always some rebellious souls who will refuse to bow down to exploitative social norms. In order to quell any such resistance, Pharaoh devised means of deception to keep the masses indulged in their “lowly” lives. Music, arts and festivals were a vital part of ancient Egyptian lifestyle. The bureaucracy regularly enjoyed these leisure activities and the enslaved lower class, instead of “thinking” and uniting to bring an end to their slavery, were content with working like farm animals, chasing the false dream of upward social mobility. Hoping that one day they too could have lofty palaces, singers and dancers like the upper bureaucracy had.
The Pharaoh said and the people believed. This however did not happen overnight. It took years and years of submission to brainwash the people into thinking that the Pharaohs really had God-like powers. As a result of submission for decades and millennia to the Pharaohs, slavery had become a part and parcel of the DNA of the Egyptians. When Prophet Moses[Peace be upon him] came as a liberator for the Egyptians, they had become zombies, worshipping one Pharaoh after another as their God, never questioning the fact that he had a body like theirs, spoke like them, was born, raised and had to die like them, so how could he be a God ?
Slavery had become diffused in the social fabric of the ancient Egypt. Breaking such a deep rooted mindset which is backed by strong control measures is never easy. The mindset of people never changes if the social norms governing the mindset are not challenged first.
In the coming articles we`ll discuss how the prevalent authority, social norms and the mindset was challenged and changed within a span of few decades.
by Danial Ahmed
Team Operation Pakistan