Africa Writes 2016: Nawal el Saadawi

I don’t listen to podcasts usually but I enjoyed this one too much. It is great. Saadawi is awesomeness personified.

I like her comments on middle east, on identity politics, on academia, on post modernism, on being a doctor and an author. In short, I am, for lack of a better word, in love. I am going to look for her work.

This podcast comes highly recommended.

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History of African civilizations in

the Nile Valley by Bethwell Ogot, a review.

In my view, this book is not meant for a scholarly audience but beginners in the study of African civilizations. It is quite thin on citations though the gives a selected biography for those who would want to carry out further reading on the subject.

Having said that, we can talk about the few portions of the book I liked.

In chapter 5 on contributions of the Pharaonic Egypt to Human history- cultural contributions he mentions The Dialogue of a pessimist with his soul which I thought is an interesting read and is true today as when it was written. Consider this portion

Spoke to my soul that I might answer what it said:

To whom shall I speak today?

Brothers and sisters are evil and friends today are not worth loving.

Hearts are great with greed and everyone seizes his or her neigh­bor’s goods.

Kindness has passed away and violence is imposed on everyone.

To whom shall I speak today?

People willingly accept evil and goodness is cast to the ground everywhere.

Those who should enrage people by their wrongdoing

make them laugh at their evil deeds.

People plunder and everyone seizes _his or her neighbor’s goods.

To whom shall I speak today?

The one doing wrong is an intimate friend and the brother with whom one used to deal is an enemy.

No one remembers the past and none return the good deed that is done.

Brothers and sisters are evil

and people turn to strangers for righteousness or affection.

To whom shall I speak today?

Faces are empty and all turn their faces from their brothers and sisters.

Chapter 6 where he treats of the Egyptian religious beliefs and the Judeo- Christian heritage. The conclusion one arrives at, though not explicitly stated by the author, is that what is original in the Judeo- Christian religion, if any, is quite minute. That these religions built on the conceptions of the early Egyptians. Parallels abound between what the Egyptians believed and what the followers of the Abrahamic religions believe. He argues that the origins of modern secular must be sought in the beginnings of the Bible’s ancient faith in a radically transcendent god. He writes

Only a religious faith that was radically polemic to the ancient culture of magic and indwelling spirits could have initiated the cultural and psychological and spiritual revolution necessary to cause entire civilizations to reject the gods and spirits men had revered from time immemorial. Only god can overturn the gods for the masses. Without faith in the new god it would have been impossible to dethrone the old gods. Thus secularization is the paradoxical, unintended, long-term consequence of a distinctive kind of religious faith. By privatizing religion, secularization multiplies the number of value systems that can co-exist within a common public realm. Instead of serving as the common inheritance of an entire community, religion becomes a matter of personal choice.

In the next chapter he introduces models that have been employed in the study of ancient Greek philosophy: The Ancient model which acknowledges Egypt as the source/ parent and the Aryan model which seeks to downplay the role of Egypt and thus Africa in Greek civilization.

In chapter 8 where he writes of the transmission of Egyptian philosophy, science, religion and so on by the Greeks and Romans, he mentions Giordano Bruno, he asks could he have been burned at the stake for among other things his belief that Egyptian religion not just as foreshadowing Christianity but as the true religion? Bruno wrote

Do not suppose that the sufficiency of the Chaldaic magic derived from the Kabbalah of the Jews; for the Jews are without doubt the excrement of Egypt, and no one could ever pretend with any degree of probability that the Egyptians borrowed any principle, good or bad, from the Hebrews. Whence we Greeks [by which he seems to mean Gentiles] own Egypt, the grand monarchy of letters and nobility, to be the parent of our fables, metaphors and doctrines.

In the same chapter, there is a quote from Newton’s Principia Mathematica thus

It was the most ancient opinion of those who applied themselves to philosophy, that the fixed stars stood immovable in the highest parts of the world; that under them the planets revolved about the sun; and that the earth, as one of the planets, described an annual course about the Sun … The Egyptians were the earliest observers of the ( heavens and from them, probably, this philosophy was spread abroad. For from them it was, and from the nations about them, that the Greeks, a people more addicted to the study of philology than of nature, derived their first as well as their soundest notions of philosophy; and in the Vestal ceremonies we can recognize the spirit of the Egyptians, who concealed mysteries that were above the capacity of the common herd under the veil of religious rites and hieroglyphic symbols.

This book just like the others I have read on the subject till now, which are few, do not answer my question: Who were the Egyptians and why did Africa turn out black?

Free at last. Free at last!

At last god decided not to harden pharaoh’s heart but not before he kills every firstborn of Egypt including cattle which he had already killed earlier. Now friends, I know I have said this god ain’t all knowing, it is only fair I show you why 13 The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. Am a bit confused here, when there was darkness over Egypt for 3 days, sons of Israel had light, this can only be possible if they stayed separately. If this is the case, why would they need to mark their doors? The reason, however, why I think this stories contradict chapter after chapter is they had different authors and the audience to whom it is addressed was not a critical one as we are now.

12 Now the Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you. Which month is this?

On other matters, when Moses is addressing the sons of Israel telling them how to mark their doors so as to be spared when the lord shows up to do murder innocents, are there no Egyptians listening? How could he have a kamkunji/baraza without trouble from pharaoh’s guards and soldiers especially since we are told they were slaves.

We can pass the story of unleavened bread and the prescribed eating style which I find absurd and incredulous if it were an instruction from a all powerful god but from a fearful minion it would be sensible.

We are told the sons of Israel lived in Egypt 430 years, I will need help tracing this period. From the verses we have read to this point, it simply doesn’t add up.

And finally one of the many crazy religious laws

43 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the ordinance of the Passover: no foreigner is to eat of it; 44 but every man’s slave purchased with money, after you have circumcised him, then he may eat of it. 45 A sojourner or a hired servant shall not eat of it. 46 It is to be eaten in a single house; you are not to bring forth any of the flesh outside of the house, nor are you to break any bone of it.47 All the congregation of Israel are to celebrate this. 

 

The last plague

Up until this moment we have seen god and his handy men perform several magic tricks; turning water to blood, darkness over Egypt for 3 days, locusts, insects, hail storm, boils death of cattle and I think staff that become snakes and at the same time god keeps hardening pharaoh’s heart so that when he is about to release the sons of Israel he changes his mind. At this point now, god is tired and can’t take any more of this ( remember he is responsible for pharaoh hardening his heart) and decides to show his hand in a final decisive way.

Not too fast my friends, he still has some show off to do

Speak now in the hearing of the people so that each man ask from his neighbor and each woman from her neighbor for articles of silver and articles of gold.” The Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. Furthermore, the man Moses himself was greatly esteemed in the land of Egypt, both in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants and in the sight of the people.

Where did the people get these precious stones, they have been slaves for as long as we can recall. Alchemists would love to know where they got the gold, did it come from the words Moses spoke or did they mine and not hand over to pharaoh, be the judge my friends.

Am confused here  Moses said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘About midnight I am going out into the midst of Egypt, and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of the Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the millstones; all the firstborn of the cattle as well.  All livestock owned by the Egyptians have been killed already, where have these firstborn of cattle come from? What is the guilt of goats and sheep? And what about slave girls? And are there other slaves apart from the sons of Israel and why do they have to lose their firstborn? What wrong have they committed against god or against the sons of Israel if they are also slaves?

You’d think after these senseless murders, god would have some sanity of mind to not harden pharaoh’s heart. No he doesn’t, he is still not satisfied with murder and destruction so he hardens pharaoh’s heart one final time. It is here that Moses and Aaron should have rightly told god to do the rest himself. It is a waste of their time to send them to pharaoh and go behind their back to harden pharaoh’s heart.

Who do you think is responsible for the sons of Israel continued suffering[am not sure they are suffering]. Is it god, pharaoh, Moses and Aaron, the people of Egypt of the sons of Israel themselves?

Old wive’s tales

When we were last here, the water had been turned red [blood], am not sure whether the pigment has changed. They haven’t said so I can assume it’s still the same. God ups his game and now he promises to bring frogs to the land. I don’t think till here these signs discriminate between Egyptian and sons of Israel. What I don’t here is anyone raising a petition to god, why must the people of Egypt suffer while it is god who had made pharaoh’s heart hard, by the way how do you do that?

Is there anyone around who could just create frogs remotely by stretching a rod over water, I would want to try this sometime if only he/she can share this ability with me.

Did I tell you god is not omniscient, if he were he’d know pharaoh was going to harden his heart after the frogs were cleared or what do you think?

Now when all dust in Egypt has been turned to insects, where would anyone stand? To make things interesting, god puts an insect defense system for the sons of Israel so they are not affected by the insects. But there is a problem here, if they are slaves, are all of them on forced leave or do this protective shield move about them?

Well and as you already know, pharaoh convinces Moses who persuades god to take away the insects and then pharaoh still hardens his heart. What we are not told here though is whether god was kind enough to inform pharaoh he will be hardening his heart or else pharaoh has no understanding why he is refusing and is thus being punished unjustly!

locust infestation. This is not even 1/1000 of what we had in Egypt at that time

dust storm. I think it was something close to this since all dust was turned at once into insects

whose fault is it

Having been given a spokesman and power of sorcery, Moses now faces Pharaoh in the hope of prevailing upon him to release the sons of Israel so they could go and worship the lord their god in the wilderness and since the lord has set up pharaoh to refuse, he doesn’t let the sons of Israel and we have from here the signs from on high.

There is a show of might between Moses/ Aaron on one side and pharaoh’s sorcerers on the other. When Aaron’s staff becomes a snake even the sorcerers’ staffs become snakes but they are eaten by Aaron’s serpent. I need help here, was the serpent here venomous or not and what family of snakes did it belong to? Were they black mambas, puff udders or rock pythons, someone please help.

This will be my case against god if he were to exist, why had he to kill the marine life? Is it there was no better way to free the sons of Israel that did not involve destroying whole ecosystems? As you well know, am not a student of medicine, someone tell me if water can turn to blood? Or did god, Moses and Aaron collectively make the water so dirty it looked red but even this is hard to explain. Dirty water is brown or green if there is algae and almost black if you have oil spill, red I haven’t seen unless when I dip my finger after cutting it in a cup of water.

On other news, if pharaoh’s sorcerers could achieve the same result as Moses and Aaron, then god is not great all the same.

I have a last question, if all the water is blood in wells, jars and the Nile where do the sons of Israel get water? If this state of affairs went on for 7 days, where did cows and other animals get water to drink? What was their wrongdoing that they also had to suffer? And finally wouldn’t have been easier for god to make pharaoh and his army sleep for several days when the sons of Israel walked to freedom at anytime without having to kill fishes, frogs, poison water and so on? Just asking!

Between Moses and Aaron who is the oldest of the two?

Moses and Aaron turn water into to blood