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Rethinking Botswana Politics in the 21st Century: What’s to be done?

Teedzani Thapelo

Researcher, historian and award winning writer, Teedzani Thapelo* situates Botswana politics in the context of Western anxieties about public life, security, and happiness, and asks the critical question: in the world of Trump, Brexit, mounting terrorism, and climate damage, how should we do our politics? How best can we secure our public goods, and future? Should we allow BDP to continue creating commitments, and connections, that work against the people they represent; monstrous entanglements that work against the public interest, and the future of the country? How best can we handle our external relations? Bad politics, Thapelo says, can only lead to ruin, and it might be time students, intellectuals, and workers, started seriously taking it upon themselves to equip the public, and politicians, with ideas necessary to survival in our time.

  

 

I must point out I have only ever worked as a herd boy, researcher, academic and writer. Politics is something I am just drifting into as I enter the evening of my life. This, I suppose, is only natural. People my age worry about the future of their children, and this concern generally manifests in several ways, principal among which is the direction the country, and its public affairs, are taking.

The security, and success, of our children, is contiguous with that of the country they live in, grow in, prosper in, and eventually die in. This is something that old timers like me understand perfectly well. This, I suspect, is the reason why it is so easy for political parties to take old people to polling stations. Serious political parties understand our fears, and concerns. After years of taking personal responsibility for those you love, it is hard not to love the country they live in as well. There really is not that much difference between your country, and your home.


Any harm that comes to your country is likely to hurt you at home as well. We also know the damage people inflict on children at home eventually spills out into society in one way or the other. Nobody needs Freud to understand this simple fact. The other thing, of course, is the simple fact that as elders we are also driven by an abiding sense of nostalgia, and gratitude;

the exasperating wish that no matter how bad the odds, no matter how hard life becomes, no matter how complicated things get, and no matter how confusing the circumstances of our fragile human condition, we have a moral duty to preserve, and, improve that which gave us so much happiness, and excitement to our fading lives, and the oppressing regret, that we did so little with the possibilities open to us to build a better country, a better society, for our children.

It is not an easy thing to be a man my age. We have experienced so many things, seen so much, we know so many things, it is hard to contain all these things in the bosom of weakening hearts, and aging brains; oh, life, oh, life. Old people are great philosophers, and perfect psychologists. As we grow, we learn things along the way; the real world is our finest university. Only a few fools fail to realize this obvious fact. But I have never suffered fools in my life. Interest in politics presupposes one thing; concern about public policy.


I really do think politicians should understand this connection. Most of them don’t, and this is frequently reflected in the emptiness of their political rhetoric, and diatribes. Politics derives substance from two sources; human interaction with the natural world, and human experience of reality. I don’t want to go deeper than this but I must point out that good politics adds great value to community, and social life, and to the confidence, strength, and quality of national life. It is a recipe for great good in society.

Yes, many politicians are just greedy villains, but politics is essentially an art of conscience; a terribly fascinating art. It is through politics that we learn first-hand the complexity, and ambiguity, of both social systems, and human nature. Politics is both literature, and human life, writ large, both drama, and reality; it is the font of human existence, and both rich, and poor, worship at the same shrine in politics. This explains the origins of the parliamentary system; even democratic culture itself.
 

I sincerely do believe that politics can be a force for tremendous good, and that it has the potential to enrich everyone in the world. But I draw the line at arbitrary, and often disingenuous, efforts to internationalize the mantra of globalized political federation, especially when it comes to poor, small, and young, republics like Botswana. There are universal political values that we all admire, and adhere to, but all of us articulate, and domesticate, them differently.


There is nothing wrong, per se, with international standards, and expectations in politics, but everything wrong with applying the same haphazardly, and imperiously, on all and sundry, to the exclusion of local contexts, and concerns. Politics is, by nature, a very dynamic social and psychological force. It is the driving energy of social and national life. It should never be conceived as a universal abstract concern, for the simple reasons it is not.

We have different cultures, and religions, and we live in completely different natural habitats. Our politics can never be the same all the time, and all over the world. In conceptualizing politics, ecological, and behaviour, contexts matter a great deal. I am speaking to the real world, and the solutions, it daily proposes for its troubles. As a historian and enlightenment advocate, I seriously doubt the necessity to radically rethink the global political system as it has evolved since the end of the war in 1945. We tried this with the cold war, and failed. In other parts of world, such efforts have led to terrorism, and wars;


especially in the Middle East. Besides, this system, particularly its human rights, and environmental justice cultures, has benefited humanity spectacularly. It is also important to note developments, like Brexit, and the election of Trump, have just added more anxiety about this revisionist posturing; what the media calls the rise of native populism. My concern is with small countries, Botswana, in particular. How should we do our politics in the twenty first century?

How should we do our economics? What is best for us? What is likely to harm us? What is likely to benefit us? I think we should enter this debate from this direction. Let us not blindly copy what other people are doing elsewhere. This just will not get us anyway. Let us do things our own way. Some may say but, Teedzani, this is exactly what we have been doing, but I beg to differ, vociferously.
 

Let me explain. The dawn of the previous century, thanks to the failure of internationalism, was bathed with blood, and mass deaths, right from the beginning, and some of us were born at the height of its most puzzling madness. That is now behind us. Our own age opened with both great hope-thanks in part to the controversial workings of globalization-and serious crisis, thanks again to the mixed blessings of the same phenomenon. Politics has never been more fascinating.

This is not surprising, given the number of people now allowed to have a voice in the art of politics; close on five billion human souls, a most staggering human experience in history. For all the past centuries, politics was largely a closed art, the preserve of way less than 1% of the number of people who lived on planet earth.

Just imagine that! By the end of the nineteenth century little Britain alone controlled three-quarters of our earth, possessing colonies, and dominion subjects, in every continent in the world, and where the British flag flew in the skies only propertied, well-educated British males voted, and everybody else, man or woman, black or white, young or old, obeyed British imperial diktat without raising a voice every day of their miserable lives on earth.
 

In less than a hundred years we have managed to bring more than 70% of earth inhabitants into political life. Is it any wonder politics itself is now rapidly changing as an art of managing human and environmental affairs? I think not. The people shocked, at the recent political experiences in the America of Trump, Brexit, Islamic terrorism, and the frightful political horrors in Africa, are people who have no sense of history, no knowledge of modern human experience. Look at the financial crisis of 1997 and 2008;

both of which eventually engulfed the whole world. Look at climate change. Look at the coming of freedom to African peoples. All these things have happened before but they happened in a different world, a fragmented and much smaller world, a world though occupied by many people, remained nothing more than isolated pockets of human islands, most of which knew nothing about each other.

Today thanks to integration of global markets, rising education standards, low communication, and transportation costs, the wide opening of political markets, the world has become completely different, much more complex, and sophisticated, and though in many ways still a small world, the expectations of all who live in it are now more pronounced, and the resources are becoming more strained under the pressures of ballooning populations; and this is a world we are still trying to figure out how best it can be managed. Is it any wonder our political lives are so turbulent?
 

In past centuries three subjects obsessed mankind; philosophy, theology and science. In our own time science, unsurprisingly, retains its place in the minds of scholars because broadly it is the source of all human life. God has failed so many people it really is no surprise theology is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Politics, and economics, both of which descend from philosophy and history, have now conquered human imagination.

It is these two disciplines that presently have the force to either help us create paradise on earth, or drive the entire human race, and planet earth itself, to ruin, and extinction. The sad thing is, not many politicians, and economists seem to realize this. Yes, technology, and nuclear science, are just as potent, but if they are going to ruin, and end human life, that would be the result of political decisions made by people who should have known better. It is not the first time in history that human beings have possessed weapons of mass destruction. In the end, it is how we use them that really matters.
 

Politics on the other hand is a different phenomenon altogether. If I had my own way, nobody would go into politics without a firm grasp of the potential for politics to either build, or destroy, societies. But then we live in changing times, and democratic culture, which so many clamour for, and so few really understand, dictate that all must have a say in their fates, and destinies. I really have no problem with that. What bothers me is the ignorance that characterizes political discourse, and practice, especially in Africa, and more troubling here in Botswana.

What I am going to say in this article will, no doubt, shock many in this country, and please a few. But I don’t mind sticking out my head for the truth. The subject of contention here must set a lot of minds to great reflection, and I have no doubt, it will generate a lot of debates. That is good for our democracy. To succeed as a nation, and a people, we need to be honest with ourselves. This is what the New Politics of our time is all about; raw truth, and honesty.

Good education, travel, television, internet connectivity, and cellular phones, now assure that billions of people have first-hand knowledge of how the real world works. The world of research is now wide open to billions of people. In much of the modern world ignorance is now a matter of personal choice. Things are still, of course, different in Africa were millions are struggling daily to get into school, to put food on the table-if they have one-and just to make it through the day. Such experiences abound here in Botswana as well, but in all honesty we are doing much better than other Africans.


As a matter of fact, we really could be doing excellently by now, but both our politics, and economic lives, are rotten, and for that we only have ourselves to blame. The fact that we openly admit our mistakes, and failures, I take to be a sign we are ready, and willing, to correct them, to put things right. People in opposition politics are clearly prepared to take this road. At BDP they are still in denial. They see themselves as national heroes, and heroes don’t make mistakes, heroes don’t fail.


What a load of nonsense! The reality is that people at BDP are scared shitless. They fear not only for their future lives, but also for the promises, and commitments, they have made to others, to outsiders, and worse, the crimes they have committed against the people, and the state. They fear enemies they invited, and continue to bring, into the republic. In life we are free to choose our friends. If such friendships eventually hurt us, then we have only ourselves to blame.
 

But people who hold political office by public mandate have no right to create friendships, and political commitments, and connections, that work against the people they represent; monstrous entanglements that work against the public interest, and the future of the country, things that may completely change the face, and spirit, of Botswana, as we know them today, to the detriment of not only Batswana, but the entire land as well.

Batswana gave BDP the privilege to govern but not destroy Botswana, and Batswana. This much I must make clear. Good governance has the potential to benefit everyone in the country. Bad politics, and misguided economic policy, on the other hand can only accomplish one thing; national ruin. BDP rule needs to be radically rethought. The way we are governed is very troubling. I lived in Britain under the premierships of Margaret Thatcher, John Major, and Tony Blair, and every time a serious economic or social issue threatened public lives, and national security, you would be excused to think bees were trying to create their hives throughout England.

Every time reform was proposed in education, social security, transport, labour, wages, nationalization or privatization of public utilities, even bankruptcies of large private employers of labour like multinationals, or mergers of the same that might threaten workers, and public welfare, and safety, there would be a great deal of buzz, and intellectual, bellowing throughout Westminster, the City of London, Oxford, Cambridge and the Midlands.

Students and professors equipped with terrific ideas would march in the streets prescribing solutions. Workers would join them, armed to the teeth with their own fantastic solutions, and politicians, all of whom have offices stuffed with the finest researchers in the land, would have a hard time just trying to be heard by any side of the protagonists. Political constituencies would rise in revolt, demanding to be heard, and every hour or two freely sweating politicians from both sides of the House of Commons would be forced to appear on TV channels desperately defending their positions on the issue. Voters in Britain always voice their concerns on all public issues.
 

In the end a solution would be found, probably not suitable to everybody, but I always noted people were satisfied they had been heard, and if the solution recommended turned out to be too costly, unworkable, or even more of a threat than was expected, it would be brought down, torn to pieces, and another road taken. I know how democracy functions in civilised society. I have since lived in Canada, South Africa, and Sweden, and here public issues arouse just as much interest, and debate.

But in Botswana, well, I don’t even know what to say. Try to talk to a politician about bankruptcy law, or educational reform, and he will refer you to his permanent secretary, who in turn will refuse to talk to you, or refer you to a foreign consultant whose advice they frequently seek, and the latter will appeal to confidentiality clauses; you just can never get anywhere. Such matters only interest a few unionised workers, and journalists, who, in reality, are the only people daily engaged in democratic process, and struggles, in this country. The rest of the population cares not what happens so long as they have food to eat.
 

Many laws, and reforms, in public life, pass unchallenged because the majority of Batswana do not think it their business to engage in public affairs. Most of the time a few words memo from the president-acting alone-is enough to propose a solution to a complex issue like privatization of national assets, and transference of national symbols to the direct ownership of foreigners, and the matter ends there, and everybody goes out to drink beer, enjoy sex, and snore till kingdom come. Isn’t this shocking?

Worse, not one of these so-called government policies has really ever worked! It is easy to blame opposition politicians, but these committed men, and women, are terribly under-resourced, in fact they depend entirely on their brains to get any work to be done at all. They have no really well trained researchers, competent legal advisors, and their workload is alarmingly huge, comprising as it does, not only parliamentary business, but constituency services as well as family commitments.
 

In other countries brilliant university students, and professors, volunteer their services in opposition offices, or accept work as interns, helping to considerably reduce this burden, and open political, and research, careers for themselves in public life through such opportunities. But here university teachers with no knowledge of public life at all and no highly specialized, and internationally acclaimed, research background on matters of national interest, expect to be picked from their small perches in academia, and be appointed directly to parliament, or worse, cabinet. Is it surprising that many of them have failed so dismally; read Sheila Tlou and other BDP PhD holders?
 

Do Batswana know any famous researcher who has been turned up by Government Enclave? Do you know any famous Botswana researcher who comes from the University of Botswana? Why is it that all solutions to the serious problems facing our country never work? Isn’t the answer obvious? We never research our problems! We never seriously think about them. We never seriously talk about them. People just take it everything written on paper will work out in the real world. Are we really that foolish? Now here is where we err most. Two things corrode our ability to deal with national problems, even when we have resources at hand; ideology, and politics.

All my life I have noticed that decisions to deal with problems are made because of politics, and ideology. Such actions, of course, never solve the problems at hand. BDP likes doing things this way because such actions perfectly fit the beliefs, and interests, of the people in power. In short, they make policies for themselves, for their own benefit, as a political group, and the entire nation sees nothing wrong with this; the attitude is: if you can’t beat them, join them, and meanwhile, everything throughout the country goes to ruin and waste every hour of the day. Just what kind of citizens are we?
 

French intellectual Pierre Bourdieu has suggested that politicians must learn to behave like scholars, to engage in scientific debate, to look for evidence before they can engage in actions for the solutions of national problems. Well, I suppose this might work elsewhere. Probably that’s how governments now do things in their countries elsewhere.

But here where not one politician knows the meaning of the word research, and given politicians spend most of their time with witchdoctors, bathing in piglet, and chicken blood, trying to divine the least costly ways of doing away with their opponents, within, and outside, the party, this sort of thing is never ever going to work. It’s not an easy thing to live in Africa. I know BDP often involves foreign professors in making policy recommendations but these routinely get politicized.

Frequently, even good policy prescriptions are bent to fit with the ideas, and expectations, of BDP cabinet ministers, and their Indian, and Lebanese allies. Batswana are always left out, including the majority of BDP members who live in rural areas that have seen their real incomes decline by more than fifty per cent in less than twenty years. I wonder what the witchdoctors, most of who live in rural areas, think about this. Isn’t it, perhaps, time they ditched these BDP hypocrites, and start taking the side of the suffering majority?

I don’t know what the success rate for these nocturnal mumbo jumbo services are, but I don’t suppose many Batswana would mind much if these fellows started helping us to divine the least costly ways of getting rid of our useless BDP politicians. A backward economy like Botswana can easily benefit from advanced and latest ideas in applied subjects like the economics of the public sector, development, and monetary policy. I am thinking here subjects such as bankruptcy; for we should expect many failures going ahead, corporate governance, and the openness of, and access, to information.

We really ought to know how to handle such transitional transactions before we can talk about things like privatization, before we can create a really working stock market, pass, and implement, effective competition laws, and other institutions, that add value to a small growing economy. We must always get our priorities right. Put resources where they are needed most, at the right time, and for the right reasons. As things stand right now, it is obvious the legal flatulence that assaults society every other day from BDP parliament is informed by nothing else but pure political greed, and the endless demands, and expectations, of crony capitalism.
 

This is dangerous given how poor the country is. Our markets are small, and not at all competitive. Our resource base is small. Our tax base is small, and contracting. How best can we really improve the lives of our citizens? This is the simple question that should exercise the minds of our politicians; not how best can we engorge till we bust. Good economic policies have the potential to really lift thousands of Batswana from extreme levels of poverty.

Our researchers must stop picking whole ideas and paragraphs from World Bank and IMF research papers, and start seriously engaging in local empirical research in the areas of market imperfections, and failures, so that we evolve theoretical work in economics that will make our markets work for us.

We need local research work that convincingly explain things such as differences in information between workers and employers, lenders and borrowers, the insurance companies and the insured. We need to lay firm foundations for more realistic theories of labour, and financial markets, we need to know why there is unemployment, and why those who need credit often cannot get it; just simple things like that.
 

Local economic expertise must inform World Bank, and IMF research findings, and not the other way round. IMF researchers, for instance, only spend, on average, only three weeks here, reading rotten government documents, in their hotels, and then after they are gone, we turn to their stupid reports, always based on simplistic economic models, for information about how we should manage our economy. Isn’t that silly? Our own researchers live here all their lives and they need to do better than this.

Information economics, with its useful analysis of labour, capital, and product markets, is critical in the development of macroeconomic models that provide deeper insights into unemployment, and theories with strong policy implications for economic growth. We need theories which are in touch with the real world. I am just giving one example.
 

But in 2016 the Nobel Committee awarded an economics prize for contract law which means the world is really moving forward. We should be doing the same. Archaic economic models will not do us any good. We need social models that speak to the situation, and condition of Botswana.

Planet earth is changing, the environmental world is changing, global economic trends are becoming more complicated, and uncertain, and we really need to know ourselves well, to know our country, and appreciate our circumstances, and changing situation well, if we are to grow, and prosper, as a nation, and a republic. It happens, sometimes, that models developed in other developing nations may work here, but most of the time, home grown is better, and more rewarding. Stop those silly wasteful benchmarking trips, and start educating yourselves, about your own needs, and possibilities for success. That is the way forward.
 

Teedzani Thapelo*, is author of the Botswana novel series Seasons of Thunder, Vol. 1(2014), Vol. 2 (2015) and Vol. 3 (2016) and forthcoming books; Battle Against the Botswana Democratic Party: the beginning of the point of departure, Politics of Unfulfilled Expectations in Botswana: a dangerous mess, Philosophy of Death and the Ruin of Selibe-Phikwe: abandonment and revolt, The Argument Against the Botswana Democratic Party: an intellectual inquiry and Khama Presidency and Vanity Fair in Parliament: an African political tragedy.

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A “Virgin” Conceives

2nd March 2021
IT’S THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS, STUPID

Princess Mary falls pregnant only one month after her betrothal to Prince Joseph

To put the lineage of Mary the mother of Jesus in context, General Atiku, it is in order that we begin with her grandfather Yehoshua  (Jesus in Greek) III.

Mary was offspring of two royal lines, the Davidic line and the Hasmonean line. Yehoshua III was the Herod–appointed High Priest of Israel between 36 and 23 BC.  He had no sons, only three daughters namely Joanna, Elizabeth, and Anna, all of whom he organised dynastic suitors.

Elizabeth would be married off into the House of Aaron, the legitimate priestly line, and Joanna and Anna would be married off into the House of David, the legitimate kingly line. That’s how Elizabeth became the wife of Zechariah of the tribe of Levi and in due course the mother of John the Baptist.

Mainstream Israel up to the level of the Sanhedrin had recognised Anna as the eligible mother of the future King of Israel and not the sitting impostor Herod (it is not clear what happened to first-born Joanna but she probably passed away before she got married). Anna was accordingly married off to Alexander III, a Davidic and Hasmonean prince who was best known as Heli as indeed the genealogy of Luke clearly attests.

Heli and Anna too had no sons. They only had daughters, the firstborn of whom was Dorcas, whose was born in 26 BC and whose titular name was Mary.  Mary was orphaned early in her childhood when her father Heli was killed in 17 BC at the orders of the increasingly paranoid Herod and when her mother Anna died a year or so later.

Since she was a dynastic heiress, it was likely that Herod would come after her. The Essenes thus secreted her somewhere in remote Galilee. It was actually in Galilee that most members of the Davidic royal line were concentrated not only to keep as far away from Herod as possible but to also enjoy the protective custody of the Zealots, who were the secret military wing of the Essenes and a thorn in the side of both Herod and the Romans.  Joseph was also officially based in Galilee although both he and Mary were in truth based at Qumran in the Judean wilds.

JOSEPH CALLED TO “DUTY”

Dynastic marriages are often more politically strategic than spontaneous, General. For example, the union of Prince Charles and Princess Diana was motivated by the need to fuse the Windsor genes with those of the Stuarts as the Windsors, being predominantly Reptilians, were finding it increasingly difficult to maintain their human form.

The Stuarts, the clan of Diana, had by far more human genes than Reptilian and they too were an aristocratic family. That’s why once Charles had produced a  “heir and a spare”, he completely sidelined Diana, who he had never loved, and devoted himself to his real love – Camilla Parker-Bowles.

The marriage of Joseph to Mary, General, was equally strategic. Although both were from the tribe of Judah and of the royal Davidic line, they were from different branches.  Joseph was a descendant of Solomon, whereas Mary was a descendant of Nathan, Solomon’s elder brother. The line of Solomon, as we once underlined, had been tainted by the Jeconiah curse.

The line of Nathan was clean. Since the son of Joseph and Mary would be the future King of Israel, it was important that he not be compromised by the baggage, rightly or wrongly, of the Jeconiah curse. Hence the desirability of the union of Prince Joseph and Princess Mary.

Now, both Joseph and Mary’s clans were Essenes. As such, their marriage process, formalities, and protocols had to strictly adhere to Essene dynastic rules. The Essenes were in ranks. Amongst the higher echelons were the two great dynasties, the Davids and the Zadoks, who had been the high priests and kings of Israel respectively before the destruction of the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC.

The Davids and Zadoks lived a strictly holy life, typically in a monastery at Qumran, the reclusive headquarters of the Essenes. They were sequestered there so that they did not fall prey to the machinations of the bloodthirsty King Herod though officially their address was Galilee.  In fact, the major reason the Essene movement had come into existence was to preserve and safeguard the Davidic and Zadokite lines, the religio-politico haunt of Herod and the Hasmoneans initially.

According to the Essene code, General, the Zadoks and the Davids were not to engage in sex for recreational purposes because it was regarded as defiling: it diluted holiness. The only times they were supposed to do so was when need arose to produce heirs. In 8 BC, it was now opportune for Joseph, the David, to produce a heir and so he was excused from a life of chastity.

At this point in time in fact, the Essenes were focused on two dynastic figures. These were Joseph and Zechariah. The two were expected to produce the Messiah of David and the Messiah of Aaron, that is, the future King of Israel and the future High Priest of Israel.

According to Essene rules, the David had to marry at age 36, so that by the time he was 40, he had already sired a heir. The new heir had to be born when the David was 37. If the child was a daughter, she could not inherit, and so the David had to set about the procreation of a second-born, who hopefully would be a boy (copulation to that end was allowed only when the daughter was 3 years old).

The Davidic heir had to be born not in any other month but in September, the holiest in the Jewish calendar. In order to conform to these parameters, a betrothal ceremony was held at the beginning of June. During the betrothal period – the three months from beginning of June to end of August – sexual relations were not permitted.

Then at the beginning of September, a First Marriage was held. This was the beginning of the marriage proper as now the couple were allowed to become intimate. However, the intimacy began only in December, with a view to delivering a heir in September the following year. At the end of March, the Second Marriage was held for it was hoped that by that time the spouse was three months pregnant if there hadn’t been a miscarriage. With the Second Marriage, the wedlock was permanent: divorce was never allowed whatsoever.

Meanwhile, General, if the spouse hadn’t conceived in December, sexual relations were suspended till December the following year. The husband would then leave her spouse and return either to the monastery at Qumran or embark on a tour of duty elsewhere in furtherance of the Essene cause.

A BINDING ENGAGEMENT

According to the Dead Sea Scrolls, General, the Essenes were not only a spiritual, revolutionary, and philosophical movement. They were also ardent believers in astrology. They meticulously studied the stars and the movements of planets to read what they portended about the future.

Thus the reason a Davidic heir had to be born in September was not only because this was the holiest month of the year: it was also in recognition of the fact that September was ruled by the constellation Virgo. In other words, September was astrologically the month of the virgin. That was what Mary was.

Mary was both a virgin physically and a virgin titularly. A bride of the future king was required to be a virgin. As an Essene, Mary belonged to the Order (not the tribe) of Dan.  This was the Order of Nuns, or virgins, both legal and physical virgins. Thus in the Order of Dan, a woman was not a virgin only before she slept with a man: she was a virgin until she was six months pregnant. In the case of a dynastic spouse like Mary, this was up to end of June.  From then henceforth, she was promoted within the Order to the first stage of a Mother.

Joseph’s betrothal to Mary took place at Qumran in June 8 BC. Now, in our day, betrothal simply means engagement to be married. In ancient Israel up to New Testament times, betrothal was part and parcel of the marriage contract. It was definite and binding upon both groom and bride, who were considered as man and wife in all legal and religious aspects, except that sexual relations were not permitted.

For example, in 2 SAMUEL 3:14, King David refers to his betrothed woman as “my wife”. Also in DEUTERONOMY 22:24, a betrothed woman is referred to as “his neighbour’s wife”.  In the betrothal formalities, dowry and bride price were included. If a bride and groom for one reason or the other wanted to opt out of the betrothal after the betrothal ceremony, they had to seek a formal divorce.

Since the betrothal took place in June, General, Joseph and Mary were not supposed to make love till December, that is, six months after the betrothal ceremony and three months after the First Marriage ceremony in September. Just one month after the betrothal ceremony (that is, at the beginning of July 8 BC), however, Mary became pregnant. Was it Joseph, General? Was it rape by a Roman soldier called Panthera as some contemporary records suggest? Or was it simply the supernatural act of the “Holy Spirit” as Christendom holds?

THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS

Those who hold that the circumstances of Mary’s pregnancy were supernatural, General, can be excused. This is because the language employed therein smacks of ethereality – Holy Spirit, Angel Gabriel, Son of the Most High, etc. To those who have read and rigorously studied the Dead Sea Scrolls, however, such terminology is well within the temporal context.

That is to say, it does not carry spiritual connotations as such. True, the idea of an angel speaking to Joseph and Mary in their sleep may seem supernatural but the dreams are theological interpolations, inserted into the gospels in onward editing to fit a contrived agenda – what Karl Marx called the opium of the masses.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are so named because they were discovered in caves around the Qumran plateau of the West Bank (about 40 km east of Jerusalem), at the northwest corner of the Dead Sea, in March 1947. The discoverer was a Bedouin shepherd kid who was looking for a lost goat. The scrolls were found hidden in jars.

The 1947 find was the initial discovery: more discoveries were made after further excavations on the same site spanning 11 years in a series of 11 caves. Altogether, 972 texts were   turned up. They are written in four languages, namely Hebrew (the majority), Aramaic, Greek, and Nabatean, mostly on parchment. Other texts were inscribed on papyrus and bronze.

Most of the Dead Sea Scrolls are fragments. Fragments of all the Old Testament books have been found save for the book of Esther. The only complete book is Isaiah.  There are also apocryphal books (those arbitrarily excluded from the Old Testament canon by the Constantine-convened Nicene Council of AD 325) such as the Book of Enoch and the Book of Jubilees, and sect-specific writings that embody rules and beliefs of the people who compiled them.

The latter include commentaries on the Old Testament, paraphrases that expand on the Law of Moses, rule books of the community, war conduct, thanksgiving psalms, hymnic compositions, benedictions, liturgical texts, and sapiential (wisdom) writing. These texts have been given appropriate titles such as the War Scroll; Manual of Discipline; the Community Rule; the Temple Scroll; the Copper Scroll; etc.

The Dead Sea Scrolls were written/preserved by the Essenes between 168 BC and 68 AD. We know this because Pliny, the first century Roman historian, wrote that, “On the west coast of Lake Asphaltitis (the Dead Sea) are settled the Essenes, at some distance from the noisome odours that are experienced on the shore itself.

They are a lonely people, the most extraordinary in the world, who live without women, without love, without money, with the palm trees for their only companions.”   The Essenes stashed away the scrolls sometime in 70 AD, when Roman General Flavius Titus overran Jerusalem and laid waste to the Temple following a catastrophic Jewish uprising – led by the Zealots, the military wing of the Essenes – that began in 66 BC.

This they did in heed of JEREMIAH 32:14, which says, “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Take these evidences … and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may continue many days.” The Dead Sea Scrolls have given us invaluable insight into the beliefs, customs, rituals, politics, philosophies, and traditions of first century Palestine.

NEXT WEEK: THE PANTERA INVOLVEMENT

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A crash course in publicity

2nd March 2021

The rivalry between luxury German automotive marques Mercedes-Benz and BMW is legendary. Both brands offer high-end, high-priced desirable models, always at the forefront of cutting-edge driving technology and excellence. And in the annals of the advertising world, a campaign between the two rivals is equally legendary and it happened on our own doorstep.

Many of you will be familiar with the coastal road out of Cape Town called Chapman’s Peak. It is a beautiful, sightseeing attraction, the road winding through spectacular coastal-mountain scenery, with cliffs sinking into the  Atlantic ocean on one side, and steep mountains towering over the road on the other. However, the road is also notoriously dangerous, with its 114 sharp, meandering bends . It’s reputation is well-deserved . Several years ago, when a major coastal cleanup campaign was launched, a helicopter pulled a total of 22 wrecked cars out of the water adjacent to Chapman’s Peak and it was one such accident which prefaced the notorious marketing battle. The story is thus:

In 1988 an Irish businessman lost control of his Mercedes Benz when driving along this road, plunging 100 metres down the cliff. Miraculously, he not only survived the accident, but crawled out of the wreckage with hardly a scratch on his body.

When Mercedes heard the details, the marketing department decided to base a new advertisement on the story to promote the safety features and stability of the brand. In the video ad they intentionally drove an identical model off the road in the exact same location, having it plunge off the edge of the cliff, the driver stepping out similarly unscathed, proving the phenomenal survivability and strength of Mercedes Benz.

When the marketing suits at BMW saw this ad, they took a bold and ingenious decision to mimic it but with a twist. Only a week later, whilst the first ad was still fresh in the public’s minds, they shot their ad showing a BMW driving along the exact same stretch of road in the rain. However, when it reached the point at which the Mercedes plunged off the cliff, the BMW negotiated it safely, and continued driving along the road.

The catchphrase of the ad was “BMW beats the bends” . Or was it? It was cunningly recorded so that it could equally have been ‘beats the Benz’, implying that their cars had superior cornering and stability to their rival, Even more sneakily, they launched their campaign on a Saturday, mindful of the rules on competitive advertising in South Africa, safe in the knowledge that no objectionable actions could be taken till the new working week.

Mercedes-Benz wasted no time on Monday in issuing an injunction, the ad was swiftly pulled but the damage was done and the dog had had its day. The ad campaign ranks high in the history of advertising and can still be found online to this day. Meanwhile the rivalry between the two automotive greats goes on.

I reference this piece of marketing history in the light of this week’s horror crash by golfing great, Tiger Woods. Driving from a luxury holiday resort in California to a nearby country club Tiger Woods lost control of his vehicle on a downhill stretch of the road, smashed through a road sign, crossed over the central reservation and rolled his car several hundred feet. He had to be cut out and pulled to safety through the windscreen and the vehicle was so badly damaged, the attending police officers said he was ‘lucky to survive’.

The vehicle Woods was driving was a rented Genesis GV80 SUV. If you are unfamiliar with the brand that is not surprising since it is a relatively new spin-off from the South Korean Hyundai marque. The Genesis utility vehicle, not available locally yet, retails for around $50,000 or half a million pula, placing it in the higher end of town and country SUVs in the USA.

The model has certainly been widely publicised in the media coverage of the high-profile sportsman’s accident and I suspect that if asked to comment, Hyundai/Genesis would disagree with the police assessment, putting Woods’ survival down to build quality and in-built safety features such as crumple zones, anti-roll bars and airbags, which were deployed in the crash and would most certainly have played their part cushioning the effects of the rolling and ultimate impact. There is , of course, no suggestion that the manufacturers will capitalise on Woods’ survival but certainly it will have done the brand no harm that he did indeed emerge with recoverable injuries.

Comparing the two accidents, the driver of the Mercedes driving along Chapman’s Peak was, of course, an ordinary member of the public whilst Tiger Woods is a household name. That said, in humanitarian terms each tale of survival carries equal weight but the fact remains that the former was just another local story of yet one more victim of a notoriously tricky stretch of road whilst the latter went round the world in an instant because of the fame and name of the driver.

There is also no evidence that that stretch of Californian urban highway carried any inherent risk. His appears to have been just a loss of control and a freak accident. However, in the event that Hyundai/Genesis should consider making capital from that accident, a note of caution needs to be sounded.

In the advertising world, the use of celebrities to promote a product is a fall-back stance to sell anything from washing-up liquid to whisky but statistics have shown that it can be a double-edged sword in that yes, the ads are memorable and the public love them when the celeb is popular and personable. But…..what is often remembered is the name of the famous promoter, not the name of the product. In other words, they sell themselves far better than they sell the item.

In golfing terminology Hyundai/Genesis are not ‘out of the Woods’ yet and maybe they should go with a completely different Driver!

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Pact with the Devil

2nd March 2021
THE LORD’S GREAT GRANDMOTHER

How Jesus’s grandfather sold his birthright to megalomaniac Herod

If you were to ask a Christian to name the main Jewish sects, General Atiku, he would no doubt begin with the Pharisees (because Jesus had innumerable slanging matches with  them according to the gospels), followed by the Sadducees.  Yet there was a third, equally momentous sect – the Essenes.

Although there’s not a single, one mention of the Essenes in the Bible, General, the New Testament is filled with Essene-type language as anybody who has read the Dead Sea Scrolls would readily recognise.

In point of fact, it was the Essenes who produced Jesus as well as the infamous Jewish band of freedom fighters known as the Zealots. Furthermore, almost all the New Testament writers were either Essenes or champions of the Essene cause as is apparent in their language and the drift of their overall philosophy.   The Essenes have a palpable presence in the Bible, albeit a cloaked one.

The Essenes, General, were the most popular, the most esteemed, and the most influential of the Jewish sects. The Jewish historian Philo (20 BC-50 AD) devotes 90 percent of his description of the Jewish sects to the Essenes. He wrote that the Essenes  “dwell in many cities of Judea and in many villages and in great societies of many numbers”.

Hyppolytus of Rome (170-236 AD) devoted nine-and-half chapters to the Essenes and only one to the Sadducees.     The Essenes are the authors of the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, which were discovered in 1947 in Israel at a place called Qumran and which have given us even greater insight into the happenings in the first century than the Bible itself.

How did the Essene movement come about, General?  The Essenes, meaning “puritans of the faith”, were the Jewish sect that was the most loyal to the Davidic dynasty. They set themselves apart from the mainstream Jewish community circa 175 BC and established their headquarters at Qumran,  about 40 km from Jerusalem.

Since the Jewish nation revered the Davidic royal line, the only legitimate and rightful rulers of Judah in their view, they rallied to the Essenes en masse. And because the Essenes were disparaging of the Hasmonean rule (140 BC to 63 BC), the mainstream Jews also took a dismissive view of Hasmonean rule too.

The Essenes were so highly regarded because of their virtue and spirituality. The legendary Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (37-100 AD) writes thus of them: “They are more mutually affectionate than the others (Pharisees and Sadducees). Whereas these men shun the pleasures as vice, they consider self-control and not succumbing to the passions virtue  … Since [they are] despisers of wealth –  their communal stock is astonishing – one cannot find a person among them who has more in terms of possessions.

For by a law, those coming into the school (that is, the Essene fold) must yield up their funds to the order, with the result that in all [their ranks] neither the humiliation of poverty nor the superiority of wealth is detectable, but the assets of each one have been mixed in together, as if they were brothers, to create one fund for all.”

In time, the Essenes, General, became quite influential even with occupying powers. For instance, when the Greek General Pompey installed Hyrcanus II as ruler of  Palestine in 63 BC,  he sought the opinion  of the Essenes. The Essenes recommended that Hyrcanus go by the titles High Priest and Prince, not King, to which Pompey paid heed. In  142 BC, when Simon was installed by the Seleucids as ruler of Palestine, the Essenes had insisted on the same titular style. To the Essenes, everybody who occupied Israel’s seat of authority was simply holding fort for the real deal – the Davidic  King.

In 37 BC, when Herod became King of Palestine, the potential Davidic King was Jacob-Eliakim – the father of the Joseph of the gospels – who was an Essene himself. It was in order to win the blessings of the historically popular Jewish royal family that Herod sought to curry favour with the Essenes.

JACOB’S PACT WITH HEROD

About the time Herod came to power, General, there were three citizens of considerable stature in Palestine – Hillel, Menahem, and Jacob-Eliakim, the grandfather of Jesus. Hillel is by all accounts ancient Israel’s greatest teacher and scholar.

He was the foremost spiritual sage in the development of the Talmud and the Mishnah, the most authoritative religious references of the Jews which are second only to the Old Testament in esteem.   The renowned “Golden Rule”, which is invariably attributed to Jesus, was actually coined by Hillel. It is not certain whether Hillel was an Essene but his teachings did have a profound influence both on Essene philosophy and that of Jesus, who was an Essene too.

It was Menahem, however, who was an incontrovertible Essene. The Essenes were of two main branches, General. First, there were the puritans, the Palestinian Essenes. Then there were the liberals, the Diaspora Essenes, who sneered at the Palestinian Essenes’ dogmatism and rather strict views on morality. Menahem was the leader of the  Diaspora Essenes.

He was also privilleged to be advisor to King Herod. Herod did hold Menahem in very high regard. Josephus relates that when Herod was a school-going lad, Menahem had patted him on his back and said to him, “one day you will be King young man.” Since the prophecy came to pass, Herod had a certain, atypical respect both for Menahem and the order of Essenes.

Jacob-Eliakim’s significance was by virtue of his pedigree. He was of the royal line of David and was therefore the uncrowned King of the Jews. Now, as we have already indicated, Herod had his own grand designs about rulership of the world notwithstanding the fact that he was in reality a vassal of Rome.

When he made overtures to the trio, they didn’t mince words: they told him that in the new Israel, the Israel that would rule Earth once the Romans had been toppled from the pedestal of world power, it was a Davidic King who would reign. Herod took very strong  exception to such a prospect. Herod was neither a full-blooded Jew nor of Davidic stock but he was royalty in his own right.

His father, Antipater,  had been the governor of Idumea and in due course Judea in  the Hasmonean government and was in fact the real ruler of the entire Palestine, with John Hyrcanus being a  mere figurehead king.  When he (Herod) was only 25 years old, his father had appointed him governor of Galilee.   Herod thus had strutted the corridors of power from the day he was born and he wasn’t going to give that up easily either for his own sake or that of his descendants.

As such, General, Herod maintained to the trio that in the new, overarching Kingdom of Israel, he was going to be the emperor and would be based in Jerusalem. Just like the Greek empire of Alexander had been a triarchy (a kingdom divided into three governments), the global Kingdom of Israel (“Thy Kingdom Come” in the Lord’s Prayer) was going to be likewise.

There was going to be a ruler in the east, a ruler in the west, and a ruler in the centre, that is Jerusalem, under the oversight of Herod himself. Hillel would rule in Jerusalem; Menahem in the east; and Jacob-Eliakim in the west. If these three happened to have disappeared from the Earthly scene by the time the Kingdom of Israel came into being, their descendants would observe the same setup.

The pecking order would thus be like this: Herod as the emperor; Hillel as the senior king; Menahem as the second-ranked king; and Jacob-Eliakim as the junior king. Put differently, Herod had by the stroke of a pen reduced the Davidic dynasty from foremost to least important as it posed the most serious threat to his office. Meanwhile, the three kings-in-waiting would go by the names of the Old Testament patriarchs.

Hillel would henceforth be called the Abraham, or the Father (or Papa, which later morphed into Pope), since Abraham was the Father of the Jewish nation; Menahem would be called the Isaac (Abraham’s son); and Eliakim the Jacob (Isaac’s son). Half a loaf was better than nothing at all and so Jacob-Eliakim meekly accepted this arrangement.

When Jesus later said, “Many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the new Kingdom of Heaven (MATTHEW 8:11),” he did not mean an afterlife kingdom: he referred to the Earthly setup proposed by King Herod.

FALLOUT WITH ESSENES

Those days, General, the Davidic heir used the title “Jacob” rather than “David” as the latter title was very risky, particularly under the Hasmonean government. Given that Joseph was the most beloved son of the Old Testament Jacob, the next in line, that is, the firstborn son of the Jacob, used the title “Joseph”.

In September 44 BC, a son was born to Jacob-Eliakim. As the crown prince to the Jacob, he was given the titular name Joseph, the name by which he became best-known.  Like his father Jacob-Eliakim, Joseph was a missionary. But he also had a trade. He was a carpenter, a boat builder primarily, and a master of his craft. The word translated “carpenter” in the Bible is the ancient Greek word “ho hekton” which means a master artisan or craftsman.

In 31 BC, Qumran, the Essenes’ Judean wilderness bastion, was struck by an earthquake. The hermitic Essenes had no choice but to trek back to Jerusalem, from where they operated indefinitely at a place they called the Essene Gate. Then in 23 BC, Herod struck again. He had Jacob-Eliakim killed on trumped-up charges of sedition, his motive simply being a continuation of a systematic purge of  the Davidic “pretenders” to his throne.

The Essenes were wroth. They now set about promulgating to the Diaspora Essenes that Herod would have no part to play in the coming Kingdom. Instead, the overall King would be Joseph, the son of Jacob-Eliakim. This, General, was the beginning of a permanent rift between Herod and the Essene sect.

THE SAGA OF JOSEPH

The prospective global world, General, was subdivided into ten provinces to facilitate governance and tax collection. Palestine would have two provinces, Judea and Samaria, the latter of which would include Galilee. Asia Minor (largely present-day Turkey), where the bulk of Diaspora Jews were concentrated, would have five provinces.

The last three provinces would be Babylon, Rome, and Alexandria in Egypt. The future capital of the West was not Rome: it was Ephesus in Asia Minor. Having been allocated the West, it was in Ephesus and Alexandria that Jacob-Eliakim spent most of his time evangelizing to fellow Jews about the future Kingdom of Israel. This was the beginning of the New Covenant, whereby Jews who converted to the ideal of a new Kingdom of Israel were baptised by immersion in water.

To mainstream Palestinian Jews, General, Jacob-Eliakim was a sellout. Herod had demoted his pedigree but to somewhat placate him, he gave him the honorary title of Patriarch or Prince of Jerusalem. By subordinating the Davidic throne-in-waiting to Herod, Jacob-Eliakim had  gone against what the nation of Israel’s God, Enlil, the Bible’s main Jehovah, decreed – that every King of Judah had to be a descendant of  David. So when the unpredictable Herod had him killed in 23 BC for “sedition”, as part of a pogrom against the line of David, there was very little sympathy for him.

In 44 BC, Joseph had been born to Jacob-Eliakim. Joseph was a title: it was not his real name. At the death of his father, Joseph became the Jacob. However, he preferred the title “David”, the more apt one historically. Joseph would become the father of Jesus. When Joseph attained 30 years of age in 14 BC, his uncles and the Essene sages sent him to Rome and Alexandria to do his part in missionary work, which was simply about promulgating to the Diaspora Jews the future Kingdom of Israel in which a Son of David, that is a descendant of King David, would rule.   Egypt was also a special place because Joseph’s maternal relations were Egyptians.

Jacob-Eliakim, General, had two wives. The one was called Euchariah, a Jewish princess, of whom very little is known, and the other, the dynastic wife, was an Egyptian princess, a daughter of Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt and Julius Caesar. Jacob-Eliakim and this princess had three sons: they were Joseph, the father of Jesus, and the twins Cleopas (after whom James, Jesus’ immediate younger brother, whose given name was Cleopas, was named) and Ptolas. Joseph was thus the Davidian Prince of Israel as well as contender to Crown Prince of Egypt. Despite pretences to the contrary on the part of the Jews, Egypt and Israel have always had ties of monarchical kinship.

In 8 BC, General, Joseph was required by Essene custom to return home and fulfill his obligations for a dynastic marriage. A wife-to-be had already been chosen for him by his uncles  and other patriarchal Essenes. This was Dorcas, better known today by her title name Mary.

NEXT WEEK: HOW HEROD MINIMISED THE HOUSE OF DAVID

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