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Thirty Pieces of Silver

Benson C Saili
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER…

It was the price of a slave. So how could Judas have traded Jesus for a song?

The exact process of the ritualistic resurrection of Lazarus (Simon Zelotes) from figurative as opposed to real death is related in a textual fragment that was originally a component of what has come to be known as the Secret Gospel of Mark.

The fragment was discovered in a monastery at Mar Saba, near Qumran, by Morton Smith, later Professor of Ancient History at Columbia University, in 1958.   It was actually part of the contents of a letter written by the churchman Clement of Alexandria (AD 150-215) as a reply to his colleague Theodore.

In the letter, Clement confirmed the existence and authority of “Secret Mark” and suggested that it was being kept under lock and key.  

RELIGIOUS DUPING BY DELIBERATE DESIGN

Clement’s letter centred on a “heretical” group known as the Carpocrations, who were inspired by the teachings of Helena-Salome, the consort of Simon Zelotes and the mother of Mary Magdalene, and who had irregularly come into possession of the Secret Gospel of Mark.  It decreed that some of the original content of the gospel of Mark, whose dirty linen the Carpocrations were washing in public,   was to be suppressed because it did not conform with establishment agenda. The basis for this censorship Clement explained as follows:

“Such men (Carpocrations) are to be opposed in all ways and altogether. For even if they should say something true, one who loves the truth should not even so agree with them.  For not all true things are the truth; nor should the truth which seems true according to human opinions be preferred to the true truth – that according to the Faith. To them, one must never give way; nor when they put forward their falsifications, should one concede that the Secret Gospel is by Mark but should deny it on oath. For not all true things are to be said to all men.”

For not all true things are to be said to all men. No wonder the great Karl Marx said religion was the opium of the masses. What we learn from the Clement rejoinder is that there was originally a more authentic though controversial Gospel of Mark than the doctored one we have today.

Few Christians are aware that when the New Testament was collated at the Nicene Council in 325 AD, the gospel of Mark ended at chapter 16:8, whereby Mary Magdalene and other women depart from Jesus’s empty tomb: there no postmortem appearances of Jesus. Indeed, the gospel of Mark that we find in the two oldest complete or near-complete scriptural manuscripts (dated to the 4th century AD), the Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaticus, ends at 16:8. 

All the verses beyond that were later interpolations by church fathers who preferred a particular dogmatic spin.  Writes professor Smith: “Based on this letter (the Clementine response to Theodore),  we can conclude that  the Secret Gospel of Mark was the older and more complete, and the version we have is an edited version with the troubling passages left out by the Church fathers.”  The portions supplied by Clement fit in between MARK 10:34 and 10:35 and the middle of MARK 10:46.

Exactly what did the fragment from the Secret Gospel of Mark say?

THE PESHER OF THE LAZARUS RITUAL

The Secret Gospel of Mark tells a story similar to the raising of Lazarus in JOHN 11:1-44. Fragment 1 reads as follows:

“And they came to Bethany. And there was a woman there, whose brother was dead. And she came and fell down before Jesus and said to him: Son of David, have mercy on me. But the disciples rebuked her. And in anger Jesus went away with her into the garden where the tomb was; and immediately a loud voice was heard from the tomb; and Jesus went forward and rolled away the stone from the door of the tomb.

And immediately he went in where the young man was, stretched out his hand and raised him up, grasping him by the hand. But the young man looked upon him and loved him, and began to entreat him that he might remain with him. And when they had gone out from the tomb, they went into the young man’s house; for he was rich.

And after six days Jesus commissioned him; and in the evening the young man came to him, clothed only in linen cloth upon his naked body. And he remained with him that night; for Jesus was teaching him the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. And from there he went away and returned to the other bank of the Jordan.”

Fragment 2 describes what purportedly happened in Jericho thus: “He came to Jericho. And there were there the sisters of the young man whom Jesus loved, and his mother and Salome; and Jesus did not receive them.”

In the two passages referenced above, as well as in the corresponding passage in the gospels (JOHN 11:1-44), there are a number of terms with meanings in the Essenes’ pesher language (the code language intended for initiates only) which are not apparent in the English language. These terms we will attempt to make clear for the  readers though fuller details can be found in the writings of Barbara Theiring.  

Bethany, as you may know by now, was a building at Qumran. Bethany is Bethania in Hebrew and it means “House of the Poor”. The Essenes referred to themselves as a community of “the poor” since in general they did not possess individual property as all property was ceded to communal ownership.   

The woman “whose brother was dead” was Mary Magdalene. It was Mary  Magdalene and her mother Helena-Salome (Martha in the gospels, a title meaning “Lady”) who pleaded with Jesus to revive Lazarus (Simon Zelotes), that is, restore him to the Essene leadership fold after he had been excommunicated following his involvement in the mini-insurrection against Pontius Pilate in November 32 AD. 

The two women feared that Simon, who was “sick”  (in the early stages of excommunication) would “stink” if he remained long in the tomb through not having the means of ritual washing Essenes underwent on a daily basis.  The reference to Lazarus as “brother” implies conventual brotherhood as opposed to a  relational brother, just as “sister” meant  conventual sisters rather than relational sister (in the Catholic Church, a “Brother” or “Sister” is one who “commits him/herself to following Christ in consecrated life of the Church, usually by the vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience”.) After his demotion from the papacy, Lazarus was now a brother and not a superior.  

Mary Magdalene was rebuked by the disciples because by urging Jesus to reinstate Simon, she was going against the edict of Jonathan Annas, the new Father of the Essene community.  The “loud voice” that issued forth from the tomb (appealing to Jesus to lift his banishment as part of the ritual) meant a voice of authority. Simon, as the former Essene Pope, was a man of authority still. “Young man” was a technical term for initiates, who at their initiation wore a linen surplice without any undergarment. 

This was the level to which Lazarus had sunk after he had been excommunicated, meaning he would have to work his way up the hierarchy once again once he was reinstated as an Essene. After his excommunication, Simon Zelotes became “rich”, meaning he was no longer an Essene – the “poor” – and therefore was now entitled to private property such as the very house in which he now lived.  “Love him” (a part of the ritual’s jargon) in this context means Simon desired to have a special communion meal presided over by Jesus as the Davidic messiah. 

“The young man who Jesus loved’ meant Simon Zelotes as he typically sat next to Jesus at the special meal of the apostolic band.   Now that Simon Zelotes had been restored to the Essene fold, Jesus as a matter of routine had to instruct him again in “the mysteries of the Kingdom of God” – special knowledge, called Gnosis, which only high-ranking Essene members were privy to.

THE JUDAS DEAL

The release of Simon Zelotes from excommunication not only alienated Jesus from Jonathan Annas, the man who had replaced Simon as Pope, and his ilk but also caused him to fall afoul with the law.  

First, by unilaterally reinstating Simon Zelotes, he was claiming the role of Jonathan Annas, who as the Father of the Essene community had the prerogative to excommunicate (spiritually “kill”) and restore – (spiritually “resurrect”). When Jesus boasted in JOHN 11:25 during a conversation with Helena-Salome, the consort of Simon Zelotes, that “I’m the resurrection and the life”, he was referring to his actions in relation to Simon.  Put differently, Jesus was claiming to be at once the Davidic messiah, Malchus, and the priestly messiah, Zadok, or Melchizedek in short.  It was on grounds of this claim and other associated acts that Jonathan Annas decided to plot against Jesus.  

Second, Simon Zelotes was an outlaw: he was wanted by the Roman authorities for his part in orchestrating the insurrection against Pilate and for the killings that ensued. Thus Jesus’s reinstatement of Simon was certain to be interpreted by Pilate as showing open support for a fugitive from justice, resultantly making him an accomplice in the whole affair.

The three wanted men – Judas Iscariot, Simon Zelotes, and Theudas Barabbas – had been in hiding in the Qumran caves since December AD 32. In March AD 33, they came out of hiding to attend the seasonal council of the leaders of the Essene community that was held at Qumran with a view to observe the Passover and other associated festivals.  All the three had been restored to Essene membership.   

By this time, Judas had already concocted a plan as to how to extricate himself from his predicament. His instrument of redemption in this regard was none other than Jesus. Judas had loathed Jesus for some time now.  Jesus had turned him down as his deputy in a liberated Israel. He had married Mary Magdalene, a commoner and a non-Jew, and he now claimed the roles of both King and Priest. Judas therefore was of the view that not only did Jesus lack wisdom but he was power-hungry and held him (Judas) in very low esteem when he was a respected intellectual and as the Essenes’ treasurer-general was a man of high standing. Not only was Judas the Essenes’ chief scribe but he was the underground leader of the Zealots, the military wing of the Essenes and the most esteemed liberation movement.


In the event, Judas decided to make a pact with Jonathan Annas. He proposed that Jesus replace him as the third culprit among the trio who were wanted by Pilate. Jonathan Annas, who was already alienated by Jesus, readily acquiesced. In return, Judas would not only be struck off the wanted list but he would assume leadership of the 30-man group that John the Baptist had established.  The group actually comprised of 29 men and 1 female, Helena-Salome, to represent the 29-and-half days in the lunar cycle (a woman was regarded as half a man). The group’s symbol was silver, like the silver light of the moon, and was thus known as the Thirty Pieces of Silver. The prospective take-over of the group by Judas is what the gospels mean when they say Judas betrayed Jesus with thirty pieces of silver. There was no money involved whatsoever (in any case, 30 pieces of silver was the price of a slave and it does not make sense that Jesus traded Jesus for such a pittance).    

NEXT WEEK: MORE PROVOCATIVE ACTS BY JESUS

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Heartache for Kelly Fisher

9th February 2023
T

o date, Princess Diana, General Atiku, had destroyed one marriage, come close to ruining another one in the offing, and now was poised to wreck yet another marriage that was already in the making. This was between Dodi Fayed and the American model Kelly Fisher.

If there was one common denominator about Diana and Dodi besides their having been born with a silver spoon in their mouths, General, it was that both were divorcees. Dodi’s matrimonial saga, however, was less problematic and acrimonious and lasted an infinitesimal 8 months. This was with yet another American model and film actress going by the name Susanne Gregard.

Dodi met Susanne in 1986, when she was only 26 years old. Like most glamourous women, she proved not to be that easy a catch and to readily incline her towards positively and expeditiously responding to his rather gallant advances, Dodi booked her as a model for the Fayed’s London  mega store Harrods, where he had her travel every weekend by Concorde.  They married at a rather private ceremony at Dodi’s Colorado residence in 1987 on New Year’s Day, without the blessings, bizarrely, of his all-powerful  father.  By September the same year, the marriage was, for reasons that were not publicised but likely due to the fact that his father had not sanctioned it,  kaput.

It would take ten more years for Dodi to propose marriage to another woman, who happened to be Kelly Fisher this time around.

 

DODI HITCHES KELLY FISHER

 

Kelly and Dodi, General, met in Paris in July 1996, when Kelly was only 29 years old. In a sort of whirlwind romance, the duo fell in love, becoming a concretised item in December and formally getting  engaged in February 1997.

Of course the relationship was not only about mutual love: the material element was a significant, if not vital, factor.  Kelly was to give up her modelling  job just  so she could spend a lot more time with  the new man in her life and for that she was to be handed out a compensatory reward amounting to   $500,000. The engagement ring for one, which was a diamond and sapphire affair, set back Dodi in the order of    $230,000. Once they had wedded, on August 9 that very year as per plan, they were to live in a $7 million 5-acre  Malibu Beach mansion in California, which Dodi’s father had bought him for that and an entrepreneurial purpose.  They were already even talking about embarking on making a family from the get-go: according to Kelly, Dodi wanted two boys at the very least.

Kelly naturally had the unambiguous blessings of her father-in-law as there was utterly nothing Dodi could do without the green light from the old man. When Mohamed Al Fayed was contemplating buying the Jonikal, the luxurious yacht, he invited Dodi and Kelly to inspect it too and hear their take  on it.

If there was a tell-tale red flag about Dodi ab initio, General, it had to do with a $200,000 cheque he issued to Kelly as part payment of the pledged $500,000 and which was dishonoured by the bank. Throughout their 13-month-long romance, Dodi made good on only $60,000 of the promised sum.  But love, as they say, General, is blind and Kelly did not care a jot about her beau’s financial indiscretions. It was enough that he was potentially a very wealthy man anyway being heir to his father’s humongous fortune.

 

                                              KELLY CONSIGNED TO “BOAT CAGE”                 

 

In that summer of the year 1997, General, Dodi and Kelly were to while away quality time  on the French Rivierra as well as the Jonikal after Paris. Then Dodi’s dad weighed in and put a damper on this prospect in a telephone call to Dodi on July 14. “Dodi said he was going to London and he’d be back and then we were going to San Tropez,” Kelly told the interviewer in a later TV programme.  “That evening he didn’t call me and I finally got him on his portable phone. I said, ‘Dodi where are you?’ and he said he was in London. I said, ‘Ok, I’ll call you right back at your apartment’. He said, ‘No, no, don’t call me back’. So I said, ‘Dodi where are you?’ and he admitted he was in the south of France. His father had asked him to come down and not bring me, I know now.”

Since Dodi could no longer hide from Kelly and she on her part just could not desist from badgering him, he had no option but to dispatch a private Fayed  jet to pick her up so that she join him forthwith in St. Tropez.  This was on July 16.

Arriving in St. Tropez, Kelly, General, did not lodge at the Fayed’s seaside villa as was her expectation but was somewhat stashed in the Fayed’s maritime fleet, first in the Sakara, and later in the Cujo, which was moored only yards from the Fayed villa. It was in the Cujo Kelly  spent the next two nights with Dodi.  “She (Kelly) felt there was something strange going on as Dodi spent large parts of the day at the family’s villa, Castel St. Helene, but asked her to stay on the boat,” writes Martyn Gregory in The Diana Conspiracy Exposed. “Dodi was sleeping with Kelly at night and was courting Diana by day. His deception was assisted by Kelly Fisher’s modelling assignment on 18-20 July in Nice. The Fayed’s were happy to lend her the Cujo and its crew for three days to take her there.”

Dodi’s behaviour clearly was curious, General. “Dodi would say, ‘I’m going to the house and I’ll be back in half an hour’,” Kelly told Gregory. “And he’d come back three or four hours later. I was furious. I’m sitting on the boat, stuck. And he was having lunch with everyone. So he had me in my little boat cage, and I now know he was seducing Diana. So he had me, and then he would go and try and seduce her, and then he’d come back the next day and it would happen again. I was livid by this point, and I just didn’t understand what was going on. When he was with me, he was so wonderful. He said he loved me, and we talked to my mother, and we were talking about moving into the house in California.”

But as is typical of the rather romantically gullible  tenderer sex, General, Kelly rationalised her man’s stratagems. “I just thought they maybe didn’t want a commoner around the Princess … Dodi kept leaving me behind with the excuse that the Princess didn’t like to meet new people.” During one of those nights, General, Dodi even had unprotected sexual relations with Kelly whilst cooing in her ear that, “I love you so  much and I want you to have my baby.”

 

KELLY USHERED ONTO THE JONIKAL AT LONG LAST

 

On July 20, General, Diana returned to England and it was only then that Dodi allowed Kelly to come aboard the Jonikal.  According to Debbie Gribble, who was the Jonikal’s chief  stewardess, Kelly was kind of grumpy. “I had no idea at the time who she was,  but I felt she acted very spoiled,” she says in Trevor Rees-Jones’ The Bodyguard’s Story. “I remember vividly that she snapped, ‘I want to eat right now. I don’t want a drink, I just want to eat now’. It was quite obvious that she was upset, angry or annoyed about something.”

Kelly’s irascible manner of course was understandable, General,  given the games Dodi had been playing with her since she pitched up in St. Tropez. Granted, what happened to Kelly was very much antithetical to Dodi’s typically well-mannered nature, but the fact of the matter was that she simply was peripheral to the larger agenda, of which Dodi’s father was the one calling the shots.

On July 23, Dodi and Kelly flew to Paris, where they parted as Kelly had some engagements lined up in Los Angeles. Dodi promised to join her there on August 4 to celebrate with her her parents’ marriage anniversary.  Dodi, however, General, did not make good on his promise: though he did candidly own up to the fact that he was at that point in time again with Diana, he also fibbed that he was not alone with her but was partying with her along with Elton John and George Michael. But in a August 6 phone call, he did undertake to Kelly that he would be joining her    in LA in a few days’ time. In the event, anyway, General, Kelly continued to ready herself for her big day, which was slated for August 9 – until she saw “The Kiss”.

 

THE KISS THAT NEVER WAS

 

“The Kiss”, General, first featured in London’s Sunday Mirror on August 10 under that very headline. In truth, General, it was not a definitive, point-blank kiss: it was a fuzzy image of Diana and Dodi embracing on the Jonikal. A friend of Kelly faxed her the newspaper pictures in the middle of the night and Kelly was at once  stunned and convulsed with rage.

But although Kelly was shocked, General, she was not exactly surprised as two or three days prior, British tabloids had already begun rhapsodising on a brewing love affair between Dodi and Diana. That day, Kelly had picked up a phone to demand an immediate explanation from her fiancé. “I started calling him in London because at this time I was expecting his arrival in a day. I called his private line, but there was no answer. So then I called the secretary and asked to speak to him she wouldn’t put me on. So Mohamed got on and in so many horrible words told me to never call back again. I said, ‘He’s my fiancé, what are you talking about?’ He hung up on me and I called back and the secretary said don’t ever call here again, your calls are no longer to be put through. It was so horrible.”

Kelly did at long last manage to reach Dodi but he was quick to protest that, “I can’t talk to you on the phone. I will talk to you in LA.” Perhaps Dodi, General, just at that stage was unable to  muster sufficient  Dutch courage to thrash out the matter with Kelly but a more credible reason he would not talk had to do with his father’s obsessive bugging of every communication device Dodi used and every inch of every property he owned.  The following is what David Icke has to say on the subject in his iconic book The Biggest Secret:

“Ironically, Diana used to have Kensington Palace swept for listening devices and now she was in the clutches of a man for whom bugging was an obsession. The Al Fayed villa in San Tropez was bugged, as were all Fayed properties. Everything Diana said could be heard. Bob Loftus, the former Head of Security at Harrods, said that the bugging there was ‘a very extensive operation’ and was also always under the direction of Al Fayed. Henry Porter, the London Editor of the magazine Vanity Fair, had spent two years investigating Al Fayed and he said they came across his almost obsessive use of eavesdropping devices to tape telephone calls, bug rooms, and film people.”

Through mutual friends, General, Porter warned Diana about Al Fayed’s background and activities ‘because we thought this was quite dangerous for her for obvious reasons’ but Diana apparently felt she could handle it and although she knew Al Fayed could ‘sometimes be a rogue’, he was no threat to her, she thought. “He is rather more than a rogue and rather more often than ‘sometimes,” she apparently told friends. “I know he’s naughty, but that’s all.” The TV programme  Dispatches said they had written evidence that Al Fayed bugged the Ritz Hotel and given his background and the deals that are hatched at the Ritz, it would be uncharacteristic if he did not. Kelly Fisher said that the whole time she was on Fayed property, she just assumed everything was bugged. It was known, she said, and Dodi had told her the bugging was so pervasive.

 

KELLY SUES, ALBEIT VAINLY SO

 

To his credit, General, Dodi was sufficiently concerned about what had transpired in St. Tropez to fly to LA and do his utmost to appease Kelly but Kelly simply was not interested as to her it was obvious enough that Diana was the new woman in his life.

On August 14, Kelly held a press conference in LA, where she announced that she was taking legal action against Dodi for breach of matrimonial contract. Her asking compensation price was £340,000. Of course the suit, General, lapsed automatically with the demise of Dodi in that Paris underpass on August 31, 1997.

Although Kelly did produce evidence of her engagement to Dodi in the form of a pricey and spectacular engagement ring, General, Mohamed Al Fayed was adamant that she never was engaged to his son and that she was no more than a gold digger.

But it is all water under the bridge now, General: Kelly is happily married to a pilot and the couple has a daughter. Her hubby  may not be half as rich as Dodi potentially was but she is fully fulfilled anyway. Happiness, General, comes in all shades and does not necessarily stem from a colossal bank balance or other such trappings of affluence.

Pic Cap

THE SHORT-LIVED TRIANGLE: For about a month or so, Dodi Al Fayed juggled Princess Diana and American model Kelly Fisher, who sported Dodi’s engagement ring.  Of course one of the two had to give and naturally it could not be Diana, who entered the lists in the eleventh hour but was the more precious by virtue of her royal pedigree and surpassing international stature.

NEXT WEEK: FURTHER BONDING BETWEEN DIANA AND DODI

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EXTRAVAGANCE One of The Scourges in Society.

9th February 2023

Extravagance in recent times has moved from being the practice of some rich and wealthy people of society in general and has regrettably, filtered to all levels of the society. Some of those who have the means are reckless and flaunt their wealth, and consequently, those of us who do not, borrow money to squander it in order to meet their families’ wants of luxuries and unnecessary items. Unfortunately this is a characteristic of human nature.

Adding to those feelings of inadequacy we have countless commercials to whet the consumer’s appetite/desire to buy whatever is advertised, and make him believe that if he does not have those products he will be unhappy, ineffective, worthless and out of tune with the fashion and trend of the times. This practice has reached a stage where many a bread winner resorts to taking loans (from cash loans or banks) with high rates of interest, putting himself in unnecessary debt to buy among other things, furniture, means of transport, dress, food and fancy accommodation, – just to win peoples’ admiration.

Islam and most religions discourage their followers towards wanton consumption. They encourage them to live a life of moderation and to dispense with luxury items so they will not be enslaved by them. Many people today blindly and irresponsibly abandon themselves to excesses and the squandering of wealth in order to ‘keep up with the Joneses’.

The Qur’aan makes it clear that allowing free rein to extravagance and exceeding the limits of moderation is an inherent characteristic in man. Allah says, “If Allah were to enlarge the provision for his servants, they would indeed transgress beyond all bounds.” [Holy Qur’aan 42:  27]

 

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “Observe the middle course whereby you will attain your objective (that is paradise).” –  Moderation is the opposite of extravagance.

Every individual is meant to earn in a dignified manner and then spend in a very wise and careful manner. One should never try to impress upon others by living beyond one’s means. Extravagance is forbidden in Islam, Allah says, “Do not be extravagant; surely He does not love those who are extravagant!” [Holy Qur’aan 7: 31]

The Qur’aan regards wasteful buying of food, extravagant eating that sometimes leads to throwing away of leftovers as absolutely forbidden. Allah says, “Eat of the fruits in their season, but render the dues that are proper on the day that the harvest is gathered. And waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters.” [Holy Qur’aan 6:  141]

Demonstrating wastefulness in dress, means of transport, furniture and any other thing is also forbidden. Allah says, “O children of Adam! Wear your apparel of adornment at every time and place of worship, and eat and drink but do not be extravagant; surely He does not love those who are extravagant!” [Holy Qur’aan 7:  31]

Yet extravagance and the squandering of wealth continue to grow in society, while there are many helpless and deprived peoples who have no food or shelter. Just look around you here in Botswana.

Have you noticed how people squander their wealth on ‘must have’ things like designer label clothes, fancy brand whiskey, fancy top of the range cars, fancy society parties or even costly weddings, just to make a statement? How can we prevent the squandering of such wealth?

How can one go on spending in a reckless manner possibly even on things that have been made forbidden while witnessing the suffering of fellow humans whereby thousands of people starve to death each year. Islam has not forbidden a person to acquire wealth, make it grow and make use of it. In fact Islam encourages one to do so. It is resorting to forbidden ways to acquiring and of squandering that wealth that Islam has clearly declared forbidden. On the Day of Judgment every individual will be asked about his wealth, where he obtained it and how he spent it.

In fact, those who do not have any conscience about their wasteful habits may one day be subjected to Allah’s punishment that may deprive them of such wealth overnight and impoverish them. Many a family has been brought to the brink of poverty after leading a life of affluence. Similarly, many nations have lived a life  of extravagance and their people indulged in such excesses only to be later inflicted by trials and tribulations to such a point that they wished they would only have a little of what they used to possess!

With the festive season and the new year holidays having passed us, for many of us meant ‘one’ thing – spend, spend, spend. With the festivities and the celebrations over only then will the reality set in for many of us that we have overspent, deep in debt with nothing to show for it and that the following months are going to be challenging ones.

Therefore, we should not exceed the bounds when Almighty bestows His bounties upon us. Rather we should show gratefulness to Him by using His bestowments and favours in ways that prove our total obedience to Him and by observing moderation in spending. For this will be better for us in this life and the hereafter.

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STRESS TEST

14th December 2022

We have come a long way from the 19th century, when mental un-healthiness was not recognised as treatable. In those days mental health problems were viewed as a sign of madness, warranting imprisonment in often merciless and unhygienic conditions; and with that backdrop you would think twice before calling in sick because of stress or admit feelings of hopelessness or depression but that’s changing. That may sound like good news but it’s not.

Reasons why employees don’t show up for work can vary, but one thing is for certain; an organisation relies on its staff to get things done and when employees don’t show up for work it disrupts organisational plans, takes up the valuable time from management and lowers the company’s productivity. It’s always been that people miss work for several reasons, some understandable and legitimate and others less so but it’s important that we know the reasons so that such situations can be better managed.

Today stress is one of the most common causes of long-term absence and is especially prevalent amongst office-based staff. This is also related to absence due to depression or anxiety. Is this indicative of where we are as a society, a sign of the times which is that people are constantly pressurised and have less work-life balance?

The British Museum houses a tablet which provides a peek into work-life balance in ancient Egypt. It documents how many sick days and why 40 workers took time off from their workplace in 1250 BC. All sorts of fascinating reasons have been given for why people were away from their work, including a note about someone named Buqentuf, who needed time off for embalming and wrapping the corpse of his dead mother.

There were other reasons like some workers, such as a man named Pennub, missed work because their mothers were ill.  Others had causes that we wouldn’t expect to hear as often today, such as men who stayed home to help around the house due to a “wife or daughter bleeding” – a reference to menstruation. But no mention of mental health, not because it didn’t exist, but it wasn’t labelled thus not reported.

What was reported was a person such as Aapehti who was said to have been ill on a regular basis and also took time off when he was “making offerings to god”.  Workers also took days off when they had to perform tasks for their superiors – which was apparently permitted in moderate amounts. For example, Amenmose was allowed time away from work when he was “fetching stones for the scribe:  And what about other employees who had to excuse themselves from work to brew beer, an activity which was associated with some of their gods and rituals.

All fascinating stuff which provides insight into life at that time. But what insights can we gather from today’s sick leave records? One study recently undertaken gives us insight into the UK police force’s absenteeism. Figures obtained through the Freedom of Information Act from police forces in the UK showed that the number of days absent due to mental health problems increased by 9% in one year, from 457,154 in 2020 to 497,154 in 2021.

And here is the shocker. Police have taken a record 500,000 days off due to mental health issues. Zoe Billingham, a former police inspector, suggested there was a greater prevalence of mental health issues among emergency services, due to what they faced during the pandemic of coronavirus. “Police and other frontline services have protected us during the pandemic,” she said. “The pandemic was a great unknown. People were really scared of dying and coming into contact with the virus, and a lot of people did.”

It is a ‘mental health epidemic’ among police. Alistair Carmichael, Home Affairs spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said: “Frontline police officers do an incredible job serving their communities. But we know that the stress of policing can take a heavy toll on the mental health of officers, in some cases leading to burnout.

Let’s look at another group. A poll by Gallup reported that in the last three years, 75% of young adults aged 18–22 have left their jobs because of stated mental health reasons. This study showed that employees (millennials and Gen Z) want employers who care about their wellbeing. Contributing factors to mental health stress centre around increases in uncertainty and include: Hybrid work environments and the side-effects: no socialization, no end time, no feedback, caring for others; changing rules around work often with poor communications & clarity;  inconsistency & incompleteness of rule implementation:  Uncertainty from these and other factors leads to anxiety and depression.

 

The real story here is not that burnout, stress, depression and anxiety are becoming the number one reasons for absenteeism but that for a large part they are preventable. We have the data telling us it’s the problem but still organisations are doing very little to proactively manage it. Sure, we have counselling services for staff who are struggling and wellness days to reinforce feelings of wellbeing, but this is not enough.

If we start caring and developing work cultures that do not create unintentional stress through how work gets done, that will go a long way to change the status quo. Simple things like ensuring your culture doesn’t thrive on fire drills and heroics to get things done and that emails do not come with expected responses after hours or over the weekend. If we can stop managers bullying, yelling or losing their cool when there is a performance or customer issue and begin giving people more control over their work – all of these are the kinds of stuff that contribute to weakened mental health and absenteeism.

To sum up, your staff’s stress levels are directly proportional to your business’s absentee levels.  Ergo, lowering the former, will also reduce the latter.  Stress down, productivity up and everybody wins out.

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Contributing factors to mental health stress centre around increases in uncertainty and include: Hybrid work environments and the side-effects: no socialization, no end time, no feedback, caring for others; changing rules around work often with poor communications & clarity;  inconsistency & incompleteness of rule implementation:  Uncertainty from these and other factors leads to anxiety and depression.

 

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