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Sunday, April 04, 2010

A Brand New Pharaoh and a New Slavery

How did the enslavement of the Jews in Egypt begin? Pharaoh announced a Public Works Project and called upon them to volunteer to labor for the public good. To set an example, he was the first to arrive and personally wielded a shovel to show his commitment to the project. The Jews came as well to volunteer as well and anyone who complained about the work being too hard was pointed to Pharaoh, who wore a brick mould around his own neck, and asked, whether he was less willing to contribute than Egypt's own ruler?

For the first week Pharaoh showed up to "work" every day. Then the next week there was no more Pharaoh. The month after that everyone but the new slaves and their taskmasters were gone. The chains were placed on them and their quotas were based on the labor that they had voluntarily done, which had been tracked and recorded, and was no longer a matter of choice. They were not slaves.

That is indeed how slavery begins. It may not always be with a public works project, but turning free men into slaves requires more than just force, it requires the cooperation of the would be slaves on at least some level. First the larger society must be convinced that a particular group should be enslaved, this is fairly easily done for people are willing enough that others should be made to work for their benefit, whether the "others" are an ethnic or economic group that has been rendered suitably despised. Secondly the slaves themselves must be convinced that they have no choice but to be slaves. This is far more difficult, and requires that they enter a state not merely of physical slavery, but spiritual slavery. The chains of slavery must not only be on their arms and legs, but in their minds.

In ancient times slavery was fairly simple, but the modern day rise of the middle class created a demand for a new kind of slave. The middle class slave. 1984 aptly described what the middle class slave would look like. While the lower class worker would be physically oppressed, his mind would remain relatively free, because the rulers did not think he had any ideas worth controlling. By contrast the middle class worker would be in a state of constant mental oppression, his television habits, his casual conversations and his ideas constantly scrutinized to drive him into a paranoid state in which he would have to shut down his mind to avoid the risk of ever implicating himself in anything. He would have to conform to the collective to survive. He would have to choose to enslave his mind in a pernicious form of spiritual slavery, replacing his mind with ideology, and his soul with conformity.

What does a new Pharaoh look like then? He isn't likely to look like the old kind. He is not a Pharaoh who turns sheep herders into pyramid building slaves, but one who turns middle class workers into government slaves. As the nature of labor changes, so too does the nature of slavery. Slavery could still consist of government organized work programs well into the industrial era, as Stalin's Russia demonstrated. But in the post-industrial countries, slavery is less likely to consist of organized work programs, and more likely to consist of a network of regulations and taxation that serves the same purpose. But slavery is not defined by pyramids and physical chains, but by compulsion and tyranny. By a totalitarian regime that defines how you work and controls your standard of living, while benefiting from your labor.

A New Pharaoh would be a ruler of regulations more than of men, for regulations are the new chains. And since regulations are more invisible chains, he would need to sink those chains ever deeper into men's minds. His throne would be built on lies. His power would rest in sitting at the center of a vast web in which every one of his subjects was trapped. Because the web seemed to of so many small strands, it would be possible for his subjects to imagine that they were free, because there were only a few strands attached to them. But each time they tried to move somewhere, to start a business, to buy a house, to drive a car, to do anything... more of the strands would catch them, pinning them in place.

That web is what modern day slavery looks like, a network of sticky strands that does not seem like a trap for those who do nothing, but tightens with every action you try to take. A web that assures you that it is there for your benefit. That you are being trapped and consumed for your own welfare, and that the spiders who suck you dry, have only your best interests at heart.

Let us turn now to the modern day Pharaoh. When Obama visited Egypt, merchandise everywhere proclaimed him to be the new Tutankhamun. Pharaoh Tutankhamun started out as Tutankhaten before he took power. The name change was the difference between Amun and Aten. Where Aten was the monotheistic god who had been the deity of Egypt, a god that Tutankhamun needed to identify with in order to take power, once in office, he changed his name and turned Egypt into a polytheistic country.

The new Pharaoh understands that to control men, one must control what they believe in. That if you can make men believe that they are slaves even when they are free, they will believe that they are slaves. And if you can convince slaves that they are really free, they will proclaim their freedom even while serving you. He understands that absolute power comes from remaking men and using everything in their lives as vessels for that transformation.

Religion, culture and the whole world of ideas in totalitarian governments is usually indivisible from the state, because the state must control not only what men do, but what they think. Only in free nations can there be a division between the government and ideas, religion and culture. Because in free nations, men and women may choose what to think and believe for themselves. As a free nation becomes totalitarian, this process is reversed, and culture, religion and the world of ideas become more tools to be used by the government for their repression.

The slavery of the mind requires controlling everything that might enter the mind. And so the chains are first place on ideas and beliefs, and then secondly on the people themselves. The Old Pharaoh did not understand this, and so he asked Moshe who G-d was. The New Pharaoh knows quite well who G-d is. He also understands that men must be taught to believe and worship different things altogether. That perhaps they should not even realize that they are slaves, and therefore not even know that they need to be redeemed.

This finally then is the new slavery. The slavery of people who do not know they are slaves. And the New Pharaoh who wears a suit and tie, who smiles for the cameras as he ushers them into slavery. The chains of regulations. The whip of belief lashed across minds, not backs. For all our cleverness and technological prowess, we have not left the old evils behind, we have only cloaked them. But there is still a New Pharaoh and a New Slavery. And even to the New World, the dark ages of the Old World may still come.

8 comments:

Miriam said...

So how should we shecht this Pharaoh's god?

The Pharaoh of Egypt saw high value in the ram. No surprise that the Jewish people were told to have a sheep tied to the bed post and to later eat the thing!

so, what for now? What for this Pharaoh?

AmericanKnitter said...

Last night, as I was going to sleep, this same thought went through my head. (Perhaps it was because I had watched The Ten Commandments on television!) ... that Obama is like Pharaoh. The way he treated Netanyahu just recently...the twisted way he thinks about Israel, the arrogance, the unfeeling way he talks about people who honestly disagree with him...
I fear for our country.
But I have faith that HaShem will lead us out once again. This time it may be just as you say, out from the tyranny of the mind.

Keli Ata said...

I have no fear of Obama. Weak as I am in many regards I've been suspicious of him from day one.

You just don't follow up a trip to Israel with a trip to Germany and declare "People of Berlin, people of the world, this is our moment" without seeing red flags.

I'm like one of those villagers in old horror movies who is suspicious of the outsider.

Obama despite his constant need to be part of American pop culture--even to the point of calling Kenye West a jackass--Obama knows he's an outsider and people just don't trust him.

******

AmericanKnitter--I watched the tailend of The Ten Commandments last night, too. I thought the same things you did. For the firt time I wondered why Ramses didn't just kill Moshe and why Hashem didn't just kill Ramses to begin with.

But Obama distain for Israel and treatment of Netanyahu (pointing the soles of his shoes, forcing him to agree to a building freeze) did remind me of the exchanges between Moshe and Pharaoh.

Mikec said...

The 10 plagues demolished, one by one, the pantheon of Egyptian gods, this 'taking apart' of Egypt happened before the eyes of the people, both the citizens and the Jewish slaves, it culminated in the attack on Pharaoh's godship by killing his son and heir.

The Children of Israel knew what was going on here, and they were ready to go. The Egyptians 'paid' them to go.

Israel has been 'dependant' on America, and now America has turned on them, now they must depend on 'Moishe'......

But YHWH Help America....

Anonymous said...

Who can see where the country is headed? Sheep do not know when they are headed to slaughter, but we are not sheep. We have a soul that calls out to us and warns us of the path we are on. We know something is terribly wrong, Daniel's articles articulate the unnerving truth about our current dilema.

A country decends into slavery because slavery has a purpose, a rendering of the population to find the few true seekers. All others will perish.

Everything happens for a reason, we collectively called the spirt behind Obama up from below to serve us. Now that he has the presidency have faith that some will survive the coming nightmare and live to tell the tale.

It looks like our national experiment of self government needed better people than us.

Frequent reader

Moriah said...

I've been fairly intrigued by the Cloward - Piven Strategy.

Someone with lots of cash and tremendous foresight saw potential in this mannequin's charms - his so-called power of speech and winning smile. Personally I find him boring. I can't listen to him for more than a minute or two. He's not going to take rejection lightly. People like this are dangerous and seriously untrustworthy when cornered. He will definitely manufacture a crisis in order to further control us. He thought we would be more compliant and go quietly into that good night. Also in that same respect, he underestimated Israel. G-d didn't call us stiff-necked for nothing.

Keli Ata said...

Of course Obama in his Mose generation speech implied that MLK Jr. was a modern day Moshe, he was a modern day Joshua.

I watched snippets of that speech on TV the other night. Apparently Obama feels he's going to lead us into the Promise Land (rolling my eyes).

Anonymous said...

we must not do as the jews did as Hitler's henchmen led them to the gas chambers telling them they were going for showers. They wanted to believe that lie so they slowly walked into hell. ENSLAVEMEWNT OF THE MIND. IS AMERICA GOING TO REPEAT THAT OR ARE WE GOING TO SAY NO BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE??? SIGNED: REMEMBER

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