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Re-conceptualising Politics and Private Investment in Botswana

Teedzani Thapelo

Award winning writer, and researcher, Teedzani Thapelo*, takes a provocatively disturbing look at BDP solutions for underinvestment in the national economy, and argues, by inviting Arab petro-dollar princes, Indian nabobs, and dodgy Lebanese gangsters, to fill this void, BDP is making a terrible mistake. Are we prepared for the politic-cultural ramifications of this madness? Would it not be better to court the devils we already know well, our former colonial rulers? All over the world, Thapelo argues, countries are debating these issues, the choices that should be made about their modern world, the civilizations they should embrace, the limits to tolerance in public life, the type of politics they should cultivate, the way nationhood should be crafted, and protected, and the cultural values that should prevail in society. These debates are taking place in countries that are older, richer, bigger, more developed, more sophisticated, more educated, more resourced, and more secure than Botswana. Why should we act differently? Let’s talk about these things in our own ways. Let’s hear what the people think, what they feel. BDP, alone, should not dictate what road we should take into the future.
 

Poverty is a terrible thing. Yes, Batswana, as a nation we are still poor, in many ways still as backward an economy as backwardness can ever be. Forget fancy expressions like Lower Middle Income Country, rapid high rates of growth, high per capita income, and enduring macrostability that BDP spews out incessantly on radio and BTV. These have their uses, in some esoteric offices elsewhere. Ugly facts on the ground, in the real world, daily contradict these fancy figures. Let us be real. In the general order of things we are just a small country, a poor nation. In fact, to much of the world, we are regarded as nothing more than just an obscure geographical expression. Botswana? What is that? A wild animal? A bird? Country? Where? Really? You mean a real country like ours? How amazing? I didn’t know, pass the salt.
 

This is what Batswana who travel the world often have to deal with; trying hard to convince the strangers they meet out there that they come from a country called Botswana. I would not be surprised if of the almost eight billion that live in this wretched planet only 0.01 per cent of people know us. There are just about 200 hundred countries in the world and can you believe that there are still countries where not one person knows us, where the word Botswana has never been mentioned on television, perhaps never been taught to kids in school? But that is a fact. Hard to believe isn’t it? Like most people throughout the world, and throughout history, we take too many things for granted, and that is a dangerous thing, something we should all guard against but there is one thing that will always work against even our best natural instincts; ignorance, sweet, innocent ignorance.
 

Ignorance has killed many people in human history. It has killed many nations. The most shocking thing about human nature is our amazing penchant for fooling ourselves, our partiality to self-delusion, our mistaken believe that we know everything, and that we can deal with anything, that we are men, and women, of the world, and nothing can defeat us. It is only when things start going wrong, when things start horribly going wrong, that we start wringing our hands in confusion, crying, and praying to dead gods, regretting our arrogant self-possession. Sad thing is, by the time we start vociferously remonstrating against ourselves, great damage has already been done; in most cases, irreparable damage. It really is not surprising that almost all human beings live with guilt; a thing that biblical scholars understood well, and made a central part of creation genre in the bible, and the foundation of Christian salvation philosophy.
 

Still we refuse to learn. Habit is always; we should start by doing wrong, and then live with a guilty conscience all our lives. This happened with our historical ancestors who in many ways allowed white rule in Africa, and then spent generations, and centuries, fighting against it. Had everyone one of them killed, on the spot, the first pale person they saw entering their villages there probably would never have been colonial rule. Of course, this is a counterfactual fallacy. We will never really know what would have happened anyway. My point is that we never learn, and if we do, we learn things badly. More than two billion people profess to be Christians but I’d bet my last coin if the real devil materialized out of nowhere and started loudly arguing we should allow him to speak, hear him out, give him a fair hearing, and all that nonsense, most of us would, driven by that greed for knowledge; curiosity, give way.
 

Let us hear the devil out, folks. After all he is already here. Yes, we are a democratic and civilised people. Let him speak. We are used to human speech. There can be no harm in just listening to him, and asking a few questions. The UN would convene, and a resolution would be taken to admit him; to give him a hearing, a fair hearing…and yet our entire Christian civilization rests on the premise that it is this fellow who stands between us, and salvation, the fellow who stole our immortality, the greatest rebel against God, the Antichrist Absolute. Still, we would, I am sure, throw caution to the wind, and sit down to converse with the devil; to hear his side of the story, forgetting that by betraying God, we destroy Heaven, our only place of eternal life after death; the Last Home. That is human nature for you. We are our own greatest enemies. We always find ways of bringing misfortune, unhappiness, and suffering into our lives, and if no excuse presents itself, we invent it.

If we fail to invent good ways of destroying ourselves then we go a mile further, we start doing what other people are doing…just to hurt themselves. They are doing the same thing in America, why can’t we do it here? We are never happy doing things the right way; no, it’s boring. We must always suffer for our mistakes. We must die in style. Man, man, man. This is how we always behave. This is how we have always behaved in history.
 

Now Batswana can someone tell me what the Arab petro-dollar princes are doing here? Yes, I know you call them businessmen, billionaires, to use another facile expression; that infuriatingly alluring definition by numbers; didn’t the great writer Balzac won us behind every great wealth there is theft, and crime? Have we not learnt, as Africans, that behind every great wealth there is blood and suffering? But we are not going to accept this sad reality are we? We have a good excuse. We live in a globalized world, and everybody is welcome to do business here. We are an open economy. We need their money, and expertise. We must do all we can to attract foreign investment. There is nothing like clean money. We cannot pick and choose. We must create jobs for Batswana. We are poor…bah…bah…black sheep.

It’s a most disturbing thing; this endless need to justify bad behaviour, a terrible disease; something we really ought to talk about. But BDP is not going to allow that. No, instead they are going to do things for us…on our behalf…behind closed doors, and like good children we must all eat our peas and shut up. Oh, really? I have a story for you. This is bad business. We are getting ourselves into trouble, big trouble.
 

Of course, we have done business with Asians before. There are Indians in business here. We have the Chinese. No, I don’t accept we are brothers and sisters! Indians are Indians. We are Africans. Chinese are Chinese. It’s as simple as that. As for the Arabs, well, I have a lot to say about these fellows. But before we go on, I have a simple question to deal with: what are we doing inviting all these people to flood our small country and economy so fast, and in so short a period of time? Is this a problem of economic anxiety, or political necessity, on the part of BDP? Is this the right thing to do at this point in time? Are we doing business with the right people, and for the right reasons?
 

Both our country, and our economy, is run by BDP. The private sector is still too nascent to bleat. We must remember that inviting Indians, Chinese and Arabs to invest here means one thing and one thing only; we are committing ourselves to sharing our natural resource exploitation with them. We are giving them more than a stake in our economy, we are, in fact, giving huge parts of our country to them to use as they like, for generations to come, we are ceding to them part of our national soul, and once these people make it good here, many of them will not return to their countries. They will choose to live, and die here. They will ask for more land, more rights, and more entitlements; and they will start inviting more of their friends, and relatives to move in, and share their wealth with them.

There will be a Chinatown in every city, and gigantic mosques with glistening minarets, in every town, and village, right from Ghanzi. throughout Ngamiland, to Tswapong, Francistown, and down south to Gaborone, and all this radical transformation of society, and the physical landscape, may take as little as twenty years given the low costs of transportation and communication, and the stupendous amounts of money these foreigners have, and will happily invest here if things go their way.
 

No, they are not going to learn our cultures, and speak our languages. If anything our children, and their children, are going to have to learn, and speak, Mandarin, Arabic and Hindi, Tamil and God knows what else; perfect trauma. We already have that problem with whites from Europe and America, and remember there are only 2 million Batswana. The population of China alone is almost frightfully huge; billions, and India more than 1 billion. China is not just the second largest economy in the world; it has well pronounced imperial designs on Africa as a whole. Batswana we are playing with fire. Already Indian business is the backbone of many sectors of our economy; especially commerce, and manufacturing.

Already Indians have too much corrupting influence on the BDP, on Government itself, and public policy in general. Indians make decisions that directly affect our lives on a daily basis; in fact they run both the economy, and government. Up to now mining has been in the hands of white Europeans, and already we now know De Beers was closely involved in decisions that affected the lives of Batswana on a daily basis for fifty years through their secretive private dealings with characters like Louis Nchindo.
 

If you are a public figure, a national hero of sorts, and you depend on other people for money and the comforts of life, it is not surprising those who fund your success in life will influence your management of public affairs, in one way or the other. People go into business for money; not friendships. If you become their friend, they turn you into an instrument, a working tool, a prop for making more profits; a stooge. Never think they love you, and if suddenly something goes wrong, they will drop you like a hot potato, denounce, and humiliate you even; this was the fate of poor Nchindo. But all this is common knowledge.

What we don’t know is the damage this did to us as a nation, and a republic, and before we can reassess our relations with foreigners, we are already in bed with people from another part of the world, through the same bond of corrupting influence; the Botswana Democratic Party: Indians, Chinese, and Arabs, people whose histories, cultures, religions and languages we don’t even know. Batswana, what are we doing?
 

We took our chances with people we thought we knew; former colonial masters, and lost, badly, and emboldened by that humiliating adventure, we are now doing something even weirder, sleeping with strangers proper. Is this the way to run national affairs? Why are we so stupid? Would it not be better, perhaps, to stick with the villains we know? Yes, I am unapologetically Anglophile, and yes, I do believe the future of our country is with the Western world, and civilization.

We have made, and, we continue to make, our own contributions, to that world, and its civilization, in our own small ways. But that is not the point. What worries me most is what these Asians have done, and are continuing to do to their own people at home, what these Asians have done to Africans in East, and North Africa, what these Asians have done in history, and world politics; the things these people, including the richest, most brilliant, most educated, and most worldly among them, are capable of, what I would call the horrors of Asiatic imperial domination, from African slavery, through centuries of stoning women to death, to the rise of modern terrorism.
 

Are Batswana capable of living with such things? Do we want those who come after us, our own grandchildren, and great grandchildren, to live with these dangers and horrors? BDP hates debates over these things. They fly against their personal and economic agendas. They are too patriotic. But that’s their business. They have their own reasons for doing things the way they do; mostly their singular infatuation with food, and sensualist exhibitionism. We should not go their way. BDP politics, we all know, has little to nothing to do with civilization, and the rest of the world.

Their politics is not only empty but lacks any respect for political procedure. Their habit is to instrumentalize trifles. They have demonstrated they have no courage to face the future by recklessly, and irresponsibly, turning their back on the African agenda, and African solidarity, refusing point blank to help fellow Africans use purely African values to engage and redress purely African problems. This is what the Khama presidency is all about.
 

At home their politics stubbornly refuses to respond to voter’s concerns on a daily basis. Now strangers, to intuitive political reasoning, their failure to modernize the party have devastatingly compromised all that was constructive in the past. BDP is a historical anachronism. No sensible person should bother about the things they say. Let us only worry about what they do, and do the best we can, to minimize the damage, till a political alternative is found. Meanwhile we must engage with international issues that will no doubt define our domestic politics throughout this century. I worry about Botswana, and those Batswana who, like me, love their country; people who care deeply for the future of this country, a small beautiful country that few outsiders know about, but a country that is home to the most decent ordinary people I have ever known.

It would be sad, I think, perhaps even a sin, if those of us who have had the opportunity to travel the world, and learn things, and grasp the cruel ways of the world, could just lie down, in their homes, and enjoy great literature, from all parts of the world, letting a bunch of unprincipled, and uncaring politicians, ruin this beautiful haven, the only home we have, the only country our children, and their own descendants will ever have.
 

All over the world countries and nations are debating these issues, the choices that political leaders should make about their countries in the modern world, the civilizations that populations should embrace, the outside influences that people should guard against, the limits to tolerance in public life, the friendships, and types of politics, nations should cultivate, the way nationhood should be crafted, and protected, the cultural values that should prevail in society, the best ways to build, and sustain, local communities, the way public money should be spent, who can control which sectors of the economy, how and why, who can get into their countries, who can stay in their countries, and for how long; in short every country wants to articulate with global society is its own terms. These debates are taking place in countries that are older, richer, bigger, more developed, more sophisticated, more educated, more resourced, and more secure than Botswana, countries with historically enduring civilizations, cultures and religions, countries like America, Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden, among many others.
 

Why should we act differently? Let’s talk about these things in our own ways. Let’s hear what the people think, what they feel. Let’s do things together as a nation, a people, and a republic. That’s the only reason I am writing this article, the only reason I am provoking this debate. I have no agenda against anyone. I only want what is good for Botswana, and Batswana. Oh, boy, I am beginning to sound like Trump. But what can I do? We live in a strange world. We live in a most peculiar age. This is a political dissertation, and not just some bland orthodox ideological statement. A counter argument is most welcome. I am quite sure in the great boulevards, streets, corridors of power, parliaments, and even villages of China, India, and the whole of the Arab world, people are talking about nothing else but these very same issues.

They are asking themselves how they should accommodate Africans in their cultures, and societies, what attitude, and policies, they should take against Donald Trump. Fact of the matter is that global political discourse, and culture, are changing, and established political truths, and taboos, are crumbling, giving way to different political dialogues, and narratives, in the political philosophy of modern society. People are redefining themselves, and their societies. We are all taking different paths into the world of tomorrow, and I really do think, little, and poor, as we are, we, too, have a perfect right to do the same. We have the right to force the world to accept us on our own terms.
 

Let us not do what the BDP is doing. As a country, and a nation, let us do things our own way. The world will respect us for that. Just because you are small, and poor, does not mean everybody can, or should, ride roughshod over you. Botswana belongs to us. As citizens let us start doing things the right way, guided by no principle than the simple fact if we don’t stand up for ourselves, who will stand up for us?
 

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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