Archive for category 02. In the beginning
Image credit: Livescience.com
The homo species began about two million years ago with homo Erectus, upright man. The homo species had evolved over four or more million years, originally from the chimpanzee and bonobo species in Central Africa.
The development of the human species is generally explained as a natural evolution resulting from a changing habitat requiring less swinging in trees and more walking on savannahs. Such climate and habitat changes do happen in nature, evolving over millennia so that they do not disrupt the balance of nature. That however does not explain why our brains grew so much larger than other apes. Today we still share 97% of our dna with chimpanzees and bonobos, but that 3% difference is what has enabled us to create civilisation as we know it today. We have learned, or were taught, the domestication skills for the creation of fire, development of agriculture and medicinal use of plants; the technologies of pottery and metallurgy; engineering, construction skills and transport methods; astronomy and digital technology.
Western civilisation’s recorded explanation of human creation, the Hebrew bible’s Book of Genesis, tells us of the creation of humans in the Garden of Eden to serve the Supreme God and obey his angels. According to Genesis this was more specifically ‘where a river departed from Eden to water the garden, and from there it divided and became four tributaries. The name of the first is Pishon, which is the circumnavigator of the land of Havilah where there is gold’.
This is generally thought by historians to be the region of the middle east where the two rivers Euphrates and Tigris plus the two tributaries Greater and lesser Zap flow down to the Persian Gulf. However, according to the latest DNA tracing research, our species originated south of the Zambezi River in North-West Botswana, Africa. The northwest Botswana region is very rich in gold deposits and if our very original ancestors had started life effectively as slave labour miners in this gold rich region, then the Zambezi delta, where the Zambezi river does divide into four tributaries before flowing to the sea, would have provided the fertile land for farming for this settlement and as such it is a real contender for the location of the original Garden of Eden. Perhaps the suggestion of the Euphrates/Tigris location was due to a subsequent migration there which the descended inhabitants thousands of years later believed to be the original location of creation.
The Babylonian texts published in 1965 by W. G. Lambert and A. R. Millard, texts that had been written around 1650 BCE, (approximately 250 years before Moses is believed to have received the teachings of Genesis from Yahweh), actually contains an account of the sacrifice of a God in order to create man. Continuing on from the firsdt tablet in which the rebellion of the lesser Gods against the seven greater Gods the texts reveal:
Let her create, then, a human, a man, Let him bear the yoke! Let him bear the yoke!” Let man assume the drudgery of the god. They slaughtered Aw-ilu, who had the inspiration, in their assembly. Nintu mixed clay with his flesh and blood. That same god and man were thoroughly mixed in the clay. For the rest of the time they would hear the drum. From the flesh of the god the spirit remained. It would make the living know its sign. Lest he be allowed to be forgotten, the spirit remained. After she had mixed the clay, she summoned the Anunna, the great gods. The Igigi, the great gods, spat upon the clay. Mami made ready to speak, and said to the great gods:“You ordered me the task and I have completed it! You have slaughtered the god, along with his inspiration. I have done away with your heavy forced labor.“
The outcome of the rebellion of the lesser Gods against the seven greater Gods was the sacrifice of one of the lesser Gods so that his “essence” or DNA could be inserted into a primitive homo in order to make the human a more intelligent species for the purpose of being useful slave labourers in this Garden of Eden. The references to the mixing of clay is also recorded in the Hebrews Book of Genesis: God formed Man out of dirt from the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life. The Man came alive – a living soul; and in Greek mythology: Prometheus shaped man out of mud, and Athena breathed life into his clay figure. But in the context of the expanded Akkadian texts, the purpose of creating humans was as slave labour.
About seventy thousand years ago, for whatever reason, large numbers of our species migrated out of this ’heavenly garden’ northwards and westwards through Africa, Europe, Asia and America. Whether they migrated for natural climatic reasons or were, as the Jewish Bible relates, forcibly ejected from the farming lifestyle of the garden of Eden to live as nomads, we don’t precisely know. But the purest living examples of this migration are today found in the deepest, darkest jungles of South America and Papua New Guinea and on the great southern continent of Australia whose aboriginal people, before the arrival of Europeans a few hundred years ago, traced an uncontaminated race for nearly 60,000 years. Throughout most of the rest of the world we are hybrids; different blends of evolved cultures and skin colours as white skins mated with dark skins. However, having emerged from the identical source as all other humans, the aboriginals of Australia, Papua New Guinea and the jungles of South America are the clear evidence of how all humans would have evolved today had there not been an intervention of major significance to turn black skins white and to teach a level of technology that is beyond the natural evolution of humans in only a few thousand years. Somehow that fast track evolution happened in the northern hemisphere and those northern humans created an entirely different, urbanised civilisation.
Ever since the migration of our species out of Zambezi in Africa, the practice of slavery travelled with us as part of our DNA. Slavery as a practice goes back as far as historical records reach throughout Africa, the Middle East and Mediterranean. In the Bible as well as in the historical records of the Greek and Roman empires, slave trading was a common form of existence for the poor, socially disadvantaged and victims of war. Indigenous slavery in Africa was practised in various forms. Impoverished African families felt compelled to sell their children; captured enemies from tribal warfare were held as slaves and targeted kidnapping raids by African slave traders were commonplace. Enslaved individuals could then be sold on to other communities in need of labor. African slave traders would also hold hundreds of captured slaves near the coastline to meet up with Arab or European slave traders.
But in Africa another social change emerged. Whereas in the world of chimpanzees the alpha male usually dominates the alpha female, in Africa the alpha females began to establish a level of dominance in society and it evolved that now the alpha could equally be male or female. The history of slave trading out of the West and Central African region into Britain and America traces its origins back to the African Queen Marico, who had led her Manneh tribe from East Africa on a series of colonisation raids of West African tribes between 1545 and 1560. Queen Marico then took over trading arrangements with the Portugese who had already established trade links in this region that they named, Serra Lyoa (Lion Mountain), later corrupted to Sierra Leone. It was at this time that Britain followed the example of the Portuguese and began trading for, amongst other things, slaves who had been captured from tribes in West Africa and the Congo for the purpose of being traded. The British slave trade business was started by Sir John Hawkins with the support and investment of Elizabeth I in 1573.
Queen Marico of Sierra Leone was not an isolated example of an African warrior queen. In the research for her book “Gender and Power in Sierra Leone”, author Lynda Day found there were many women leaders amongst the 13 Kingdoms and 200+ Principalities in both pre-colonial and modern Sierra Leone. In 1808, the British signed a treaty with Queen Yammacouba to establish Freetown for the repatriation of freed slaves. A few years later the 1825 treaty with British Governor Turner was signed by Queen Ya Kumba who exercised great power over that region in southern Sierra Leone. Later treaties include the 1885 treaty signed by Queen Messe of Massah in the Krim country. There were a number of other women of power mentioned in dispatches including Yoko who was Queen of Senehu and Ella Koblo Gulama, Paramount Chief of the Kaoyamba chiefdom.
You will recall the legendary Queen of Sheba and probably presume she was an historical, possibly mythical, woman of enormous wealth and power. You may be surprised to know that the Queen of Sheba is alive and well today. Her Imperial Majesty, the Nubia-Sheba, Empress of the African Royal Kingdoms, the Queen of Sheba, Queen Shebah III is the descendant of the oldest matriarchal throne in Africa which originated in Kush, present-day South Sudan. Kush was once one of the great African empires for over 1,000 years and was an economic centre that operated a lucrative market in ivory, incense, iron and gold. The kingdom was both a trading partner with, and a military rival of, Egypt, even ruling Egypt as the 25th Dynasty. Queen Shebah III now lives in Trinidad and Tobago, by choice, and is currently the Vice-President of the Arab-African Supreme Council for African Affairs which is headquartered in Egypt. The council is an organisation of high level professional Arab and African business people. She also heads the African Kingdoms Federation, an organisation that seeks to restore the federation of African kingdoms. Africa has a long history of wealthy and powerful kingdoms.
The Kingdom of Aksum, now Ethiopia was a powerful and wealthy trading superpower for 500 years, from the 2nd century. Its gold and ivory made it a vital link between ancient Europe and the Far East. In more recent times the Mali Empire, created around 1200 ce by Sundiata Keita (the ‘Lion King’), was an enormously wealthy and powerful West African empire lasting to the 15th century. Legend tells that one of its emperors, Mansa Musa, while on a pilgrimage to Mecca in the 14th century, stopped en route in Egypt and spent so much in gold during his visit that its value plummeted in Egyptian markets for many years.
One of the largest empires in African history was the Songhai Empire which was formed in the 15th century from some of the former regions of the Mali Empire. This West African kingdom was larger than Western Europe and enjoyed a period of great prosperity thanks to a highly professional, decentralised bureaucracy and aggressive, co-operative trade policies. It reached its peak in the early 16th century under the rule of the devout King Muhammad I Askia, who conquered new lands and forged an alliance with Egypt’s Muslim Caliph. However internal tribal conflict eventually led to the collapse of this empire in the late sixteenth century. Tribalism was the force that undermined the prosperity of these once powerful and wealthy empires which should serve as a warning to social movements reverting to tribalism today.
Tribal conflict is the primary reason why the powerful economic empires of Africa collapsed into their current state of economic poverty. Social injustice in Africa has become a way of life as a consequence of this tribalism and is manifested in practices of abduction, forced labour under armed guard, the confiscation of identity papers and passports and child labour. The diamond mines of Sierra Leone and Liberia and the Cobalt mines of the Dominion Republic of Congo (DRC) are today dependent on slave labour. The DRC Cobalt mines were, in 2016, estimated by the Global Slavery Index to have had nearly 900,000 slaves including children as young as seven.
About 4-5,000 years ago the emerging civilisations of Greeks, Sumerians and Egyptians began making primitive written records of their ancient oral legends of the glorious times when the Gods lived amongst them. During the previous 5,000 years the seas had risen some 140 metres due to the warming of the planet and consequential melting of the ice caps and, at some point in time, the city of the Gods, Atlantis, had disappeared under water.
But as our human population grew exponentially, from less than half a billion a thousand years ago to one billion by the early 19th century and to 2.5 billion by the mid 20th century, political management structures evolved to adapt to large urbanised societies. The ultimate tribal authority of kings came under pressure. Liberal Democracy was first conceived in ancient Athens by Cleisthenes which gave the common citizen (although initially this did not include slaves) the right to both elect and dismiss their ruler. But in Western European politics the serious moves towards a democratic Parliament in Britain really began over 2000 years later with the English Civil war of 1642-1651 when Oliver Cromwell, an English general and statesman, led armies of the Parliament of England against King Charles I. Political chaos ensued after Cromwell’s son, Richard, failed to maintain control and in 1660 the ‘Royalist Cavaliers’ restored the exiled Charles 2nd, brother to Charles 1, to the throne. However the royals were forced to begin sharing power with the Commons and the Parliament became more and more ‘democratic’ over the next century, in 1801 the House of Lords was created to house the traditional nobility to oversee the House of the common people. In 1830, the Liberal Whig, the Earl Grey, became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
Economically, Liberalism was an expansive ideology to promote global trading and an end to tribal protectionism; giving the freedom to commoners, not of royal birth, to create their own wealth from industry. Imperialism and globalisation, manifested in global enterprises from Earl Grey tea made by English from tea leaf grown in India to McDonalds Hamburgers taking American fast food culture from a small Californian town to 120 countries, were the economic concepts of the Liberal movement. But the Liberal democratic movement was also founded on social principles of freedom of common people from oppression. In 1607 Britain had established its first permanent colony in America at Jamestown, Virginia. Twelve years later they introduced the first African slaves into their new colony. The southern states of America were populated by the Royalists of England migrating away from the rising influence of the Liberal Parliamentarians in England which led to the civil war. Slavery was therefore very much a practice of the royalists on their great estates. But in 1833, under the first Liberal Prime Minister, the Earl Grey, Great Britain passed the Abolition of Slavery Act. The British established a freed slave region named Freetown in Sierra Leone in West Africa and a British naval fleet was stationed there specifically to combat the slave trade. Freed slaves were returned to Freetown from Britain, South Africa, Nova Scotia and Jamaica.
American Quakers had also begun to address the treatment of Africans in the United States with a programme of repatriating freed slaves back to West Africa. Both Presidents James Monroe, from Virginia, and Andrew Jackson, from a poor white background in Tennessee, had been members of the American Colonization Society. The Society bought land from a ‘King Peter’ at Cape Mesurado, Western Africa, in 1821 for 500 bars of tobacco, three barrels of rum, five casks of powder, five umbrellas, ten iron posts and ten pairs of shoes. The land they purchased was just 60 kilometres in length and 5 kilometres width. In 1847 this strip of land declared its independence and became the new nation of Liberia populated by about 13,000 freed slaves from America whose repatriation was sponsored by the Society.
This American colonisation programme in Liberia was effectively shut down by the Liberals of the Norhern states of America who opposed the phasing out of slavery in favour of total abolition and who opposed repatriation in favour of integration within America as free people. The practice of African slavery in America ultimately led to the American Civil War in 1861 between the North and the South. This American civil war officially ended in 1865 after the death of 600,000 Americans from a population of 30 million. Scaled to their current population that would be equivalent of 6.3 million deaths today. Having won that war Abraham Lincoln immediately released four million ill-prepared Africans onto the streets of the towns and cities of the South. Into an economy that had been totally crippled by four years of civil warfare. Into a hostile environment where every single Southern family would have known tragedy, trauma and death at the hands of the northern liberals on behalf of these Africans.
Traders are traders, they buy and sell at a profit. It was no different in the slave trade in the United States. The British and American traders were the buyers and sellers, but the African slaves were captured for sale by Africans under the orders of African Queens, Kings and Paramount Chieftains. The plantation owners who bought slaves did not do so purely for the desire of owning household slaves but far more so as a commercial decision to enable them to most profitably supply tobacco and cotton from their farming estates in the southern states of America to satisfy the global demand. And it was those ordinary global citizens who could not afford silk but desired the comfort of cotton and those who enjoyed a cigarette or pipe who were the ultimate funders of the American slave trade of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
With the Labour/ Communist Parties of the early-mid 20th century dominating the ‘Left’ side of the political arena opposing the Conservatives on the ‘Right’, the Liberal movement became caught in the midddle, no mans land. As the 21st Century dawns the Liberal movement has an identity crisis and was quickly becoming a forgotten and irrelevant political force. In response the Liberal movement stepped up its cause with a range of high profile campaigns promoted largely on social media. The end-is-nigh ‘#extinctionrebellion campaign; the anti-competitive #itsonlyagame movement; the anti-white supremacy #blacklivesmatter movement; the #metoo ‘name & shame the alpha-male’ movement and the gender-denial movement #areyouaboyoragirl?yes. But most disturbingly is that the modern Liberals have created and openly promoted a “Cancel Culture”, denying any debate or tolerance of opposing positions on their ideology and thereby undermining the very ‘freedom of thought and speech’ platform upon which the Liberal movement was founded. But no longer do generals lead soldiers to fight for peace and justice; the Liberals’ weapon in this political and social war is social media.
If the cotton garment wearers and the tobacco smokers in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries funded slavery back then, who today are the funders of the modern slave trade in the DRC? DRC supplies 60% of the world supply of cobalt. Follow the supply chain; the cobalt that is mined by slaves in the DRC is essential for the manufacture of lithium ion batteries that are used to power mobile phones, laptops, electric cars, electric bikes, mobility scooters and solar power generators and also in the manufacture of the powerful magnets needed in wind power turbines.
What hypocrisy lies with the Liberal activists today using their smartphones and laptops to organise, record and disseminate their “#BlackLivesMatter” and “#extinctionrebellion” protests? Instead they should refuse to buy a device from a manufacturer that cannot prove social justice and a living wage for the African miners. If that costs an extra 50% for the device, that is the price a Liberal should willingly pay for social justice. What futility is there in the destruction of the bronze ghosts of traders long dead who once facilitated the demand of the consumers of the day for tobacco and cheap cotton garments, no questions asked?
What patronising tokenism in the Manchester City and Arsenal football players and the NBA American basketball players ‘taking the knee’ pre-match in a protest against race-based social inequality? Manchester City players are paid an average of seven million pounds a year, that is a weekly pay of 134,615 pounds; Arsenal a bit less at around five million pounds. American NBA players are paid just under $US8 million, or over $US150,000 per week, all of these are ‘plus sponsorships’. The average weekly wage in the DRC is just under six pounds or $US7. One week’s wage from one player would increase by tenfold the wage of over 2,000 African families. A thousand sport players giving up just one week’s wage would achieve this for two million of the poorest African families. Forget a token, cynical knee-bend; form a trust, show them the money.
So if you are checking your texts or posting a selfie on Instagram or handing your ‘wag’ the keys to the new Maserati, when you suddenly hear the peel of African bells ringing out for social justice, then: “never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” (John Donne, ‘No man is an island’).