Saturday, December 14

The Afterlife and Marxist History

December 13 1:00 AM

Regarding the December 12 post (Zhen Huan, Deadly Beauty -- a reader was offended by my characterization of Zhen Huan's ruthless, murderous rise to power as "adventures" and didn't see Scarlett O'Hara and her life as an apt comparison.

I was making what I thought was a broad point when I mentioned Scarlett. Actually, there can be no apt American comparison because this nation, and even this land going back to 'native' tribes before the arrival of Europeans, never had the kind of government that produced women like Zhen. But such women were by no means limited to China and its imperial eras.

If you want hair-raising reading check out the harim (harem) system in ancient Egypt. The harim wives who had any chance for one of their sons to take the throne were not only murderous and ruthless, they thought and acted like generals. Only the smartest, nastiest wives and sons survived that battlespace.

There were so many plots and counter-plots that finally one pharaoh couldn't take it any longer. He ordered that the entire harim be moved out of the palace -- and out of the capital city. He had a city built just for the harim. That only made things worse because distance from the capital meant it was even easier for the wives to plot and scheme with military brass and courtiers.

From what I read of the harim plots I think it's open to question whether any of the Egyptian kings died a natural death. It seems the choices were death on the battlefield or be murdered by a son or the son's mom. Maybe that explains the elaborate tombs the kings built and the elaborate tales about the afterlife. Are we sure it was really the afterlife?

That's what I would have done, if I'd been a pharaoh trying to survive into my golden years. I would have built the biggest tomb I could afford. Outfitted it with all the comforts of home including an escape hatch and canoe, and enough food and wine to last until the hubbub died down from my funeral and the ascension of a dear son to my throne. Then I would have told my favorite wife,"Okay it's time to move into the tomb now."

My favorite wife being barren, ugly, and smart enough to spend her downtime in the harim gym because she knew I wasn't going to do much of the rowing.

All right, Pundita, back to the salt mines. You'll never guess how I came across that report on Zhen Huan's popularity with Chinese TV audiences. I was following a trail from an article that related to non-conflict aspects of swarming. By the way after I get that essay done on swarming I never want to see or hear the word 'swarm' again.

As to who would end up in the sarcophagus, then -- well remember that I myself am a survivor of the harim system of choosing rulers; how do you think I got on the throne? So I'm not exactly the fountain of compassion. But how much would it take, given stories about the afterlife that the tomb-building industry generated in Egypt? Just say to the favorite faithful retainer, the one with the mind of a five year old, "How would you like the honor of playing me at my funeral? You'll be well compensated in the afterlife."

And notice that these afterlife journeys featured the pharaoh's boat laden with treasures while sailing on the celestial version of the Nile -- treasures small enough to fit into a boat. So while it's said that some pharaohs broke the treasury to build their tombs, are we certain that's exactly what happened in all cases? Were they all complete idiots, these mothers who built a great civilization with the help of their sons?

No, this isn't revisionist history. I'm having fun with fragments of circumstantial evidence based on what I think of human nature. What I think is that it's been a very long time since human nature was born yesterday. I also think there is a tendency for later generations to assume earlier ones were peopled entirely by idiots. This tendency has reached epidemic proportions ever since Marxists took over the telling of history. But see I stop and think: was everyone who lived before Karl Marx an idiot?

The reality is that when you mix together absolute monarchism, polygamy, and inheritance through the male line, you have a brutal system of politicking. Surviving that system must have taken great cunning in addition to ruthlessness.

All right, that's enough. Back to work. Oh wait! -- I've been jabbering so much about ancient Egypt I didn't notice the time. Drat, I'll have to put off writing about swarming again because now I need my beauty sleep. Anyhow, I suppose I wasn't shocked by Zhen Huan given my readings on the harim plots. It was indeed an adventure, triumphing in imperial China's courts.

And speaking of the tomb-building industry, it was big business supporting many trades, many artisans. It wasn't only the tomb; the afterlife was big business. You couldn't just show up in the afterlife with your cat wearing a ratty everyday jeweled collar. It had to be a special collar. Everything had to be special, right down to the dinner plates and toothpicks. All right somebody get the hook.

6:35 AM December 14
More snow in the forecast for this morning. Yes yes I'm hard at work on the swarming post.


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