Don’t Know Much About History

If you’re a denizen of today you’re going to think Moses had it easy when growing up in the Royal palace in Heliopolis – a home where he would become a spoiled brat, a cynosure of all the grown-ups there, who everyday would coo and coddle him from sun-up to sun-down; from moonrise to dawn.

Actually, Moses had it tough. Other children lived in the palace too. They were the sons and daughters of the many Royals and their minions who made the palace their home. Moses therefore had lots of classmates who kept him becoming too big for his sandals.

Moses’ school curriculum was exacting, being the best education in the world of that time – 3500 years ago. He had, first of all, to learn to read and write – the foundation of any education worth its name. In the matter of writing, which had to be excellent, Moses had to learn to write Hieratic – the shorthand version of the hieroglyphic script. And he had to learn to write the Babylonian cuneiform script, which the diplomatic language of the Levant was written in. Only after Moses had mastered writing, could he begin to study the heavy stuff – mathematics, astronomy, theology, foreign languages, geography, history, music, law, literature, and philosophy.

The educational curriculum of Pharaonic Egypt also required its Royal graduates to speak in public well. This was important for the survival of the Egyptian ruling class, which needed to develop in its future leaders the gift of the gab to enable them to keep mellifluously persuading ordinary Egyptians of the virtues of the Egyptian Way and the divineness of the Pharaoh. To this end, Moses had to learn to speak well, and mellifluously, too.

As well as developing the minds of young Royal Egyptians, Pharaonic Egypt also required them to develop their bodies, the better to hone their athleticism – part and parcel of being well-rounded, and therefore truly educated. Hence Moses’ education included lots of sports. He played field-hockey and handball, did archery and gymnastics, weight-lifting and the high-jump, participated in tugs-of-war and tugs-of-hoop, threw the javelin, fished, boxed, wrestled, swam, rowed, and ran marathons.

The physical and athletic part of the education of Moses, and of Royal sons generally, also naturally prepared them to be officers in the Egyptian army, for, as the leading power in that region, Egypt had many enemies lurking on its borders who every so often persuaded themselves they were the equal of any Egyptian, and so would kill any Egyptians they came across. Egypt therefore needed a large army to remind these upstarts every so often who was boss. Egyptian military campaigns into the territories of these upstarts were therefore the norm.

Moses, as a future officer, was therefore trained in the military disciplines, which, in addition to the usual marching and saluting, included how to wield expertly the weapons to kill upstarts efficiently – slings, maces, spears, battle-axes, bows-and-arrows, swords, scimitars and daggers. He also learned horseback riding and charioteering.

Moses, with all this education and training, as well as the good looks and charm that had so beguiled Hatshepsut and the Pharaoh, was likely to attract lots of girls who might distract him from his earthly mission. How he dealt with them is still to be told……..

– Exodus 2
Women in Scripture
Bible Archeology
– The Perplexing Historical Moses

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16 Responses to Don’t Know Much About History

  1. Mathilda says:

    Would that today’s high-schoolers were as highly and as comprehensively educated as Moses apparently was.

    His curriculum shows that a good education has nothing to do with sophisticated technology, particularly of the sort we have today. Pencil, paper, (or papyrus), and access to learned books, are all you need to be highly educated, as any auto-didact will attest.

    Whether we are more enlightened (or better educated) today, than were Moses and his ilk of 3500 years ago, would make for a lively discussion.

    • Christopher says:

      People coming out of higher education today are “trained”, rather than “educated”. Hence they graduate knowing more and more about less and less, and so can’t hold an intelligent conversation (or have intelligent views) on any topic outside their professional bailiwick.

      Is this why we’re in such a mess today? This, too, would make for a lively discussion!!

  2. manofroma says:

    I think bad education is a big reason why we are in such a mess today, although not the only one. Another reason might be that we have to upgrade as a species, as Yuval Noah Harari eloquently tells us in his books.

    By the way, I have read Homo Sapiens and almost finished Homo Deus. Excellent books, you were right. I will write a post on them, although it is not easy, the scope is vast.

    • Christopher says:

      Compared with me, you’re a fast reader. It took me ages to get through these two books. I’ve a mind to re-read them soon, for they are so filled with fascinating and provocative notions and ideas for just one reading.

      I noted particularly in “Sapiens” that the happiness of the ordinary peoples in the mighty nations of the past is nowhere written about in history books. This omission passes in our societies as sane, and so says as much about the unimaginativeness of our beliefs and values, as it says about the narrow-mindedness of historians.

      I was taken by the discussion (this time in “Homo Deus”) about the idea that humanism is now for all intents and purposes a religion – a religion in which humans (we) have collectively replaced God as the supreme entity. We have become Homo Deus.

      Hence our notions of what’s good and what’s bad are based on how they affect our (ie Homo Deus’s) feelings and self-esteem, rather than any considerations of whether what we do pleases or angers God.

      The new Religion of Humanism would also explain why, despite the collapse of the old religions and their gods, our collective morality didn’t collapse as well, as might have been expected. The opposite has instead happened. Our notions of acceptable behaviour are kinder and gentler, so that we are more tolerant and understanding of individual and cultural differences, and less tolerant of killing.

      Despite all the bloodletting, wars and institutionalised cruelty in today’s world, they are far less than in the past, and becoming lesser still. For this we can, perhaps, thank the influence of the new religion of Humanism.

      • manofroma says:

        I’m not a fast reader, it’s just that when I read something that interests me a lot I get obsessed with it and can’t stop. I have come to the pages, in Homo Deus, where he begins to examine humanism, so I cannot add much to the topic. I got though quite interested in his reference to Rousseau – I have recently read Les Confessions by R, a formidable work -, to his Emile and R’s tendency to stress feelings, quite revolutionary at his time: follow your feelings, not what God commands! Very humanistic. Rousseau, by the way, more than Voltaire, I believe was a powerful factor in the French Revolution.

        I will summarize the ideas that in my opinion seem important in Yuval Noah Harari’s books.

        Basically, the central point of the two books, Homo Sapiens and Homo Deus, seems to me the fact that Sapiens, appeared 150,000 years ago (or a bit earlier), and that he was not a winner compared to other species, but a loser. Then 70,000 years ago something happened – the cognitive revolution – and we were suddenly able to invent shared stories / myths etc. which allowed collaboration within increasingly larger groups of Sapiens who were therefore able to get at the top of the food chain. Thence the extinction of megafaunas wherever Sapiens arrived and, at later stages, agriculture, cities, empires, the industrial revolution, the scientific revolution up to today’s digital revolution and AI, nanotechnology, genetic engineering and so forth.

        So collaboration, to me, is the central element of Harari’s ideas, collaboration made possible by shared rules, myths, religions, ideologies (which are nothing but religions). Science, by the way, being an example of massive collaboration.

        The comparison between chimpanzees and men in a stadium is funny and sheds light on this central idea. If a stadium is filled with chimpanzees chaos arises because they don’t know how to collaborate except within very small groups. Fill it with Sapiens and all will run smoothly (apart from a few cases) since spectators, referee and players respect shared rules and little matters if these rules are only in the imagination of the people filling the stadium.

        Sometimes I got a bit bored while reading the second volume because Yuval Noah Harari devotes a lot of space to his theory of rules, myths and stories already extensively dealt with in the previous volume. But in reality he actually explains this better, and makes it more plausible. Perhaps after the release of the first volume some criticism of his ideas ensued so he felt the need to defend this central element of his. I don’t think btw that his ideas are just his own, I imagine him as a voracious reader, therefore, again, his ideas being a fruit of extensive collaboration.

        The two books, so thought provoking, were a very interesting read. Thank you very much for your advice, Christopher!

        • Christopher says:

          I apologise for your comment not appearing sooner. It came in as “spam”, so I only noticed it now.

          You make some some interesting points, that I’ll respond to in the next day or so.

  3. Christopher says:

    In the matter of shared stories, they constitute a shared culture that – in the form of religion – is the foundation of any civilisation. So, absent religion, there’s no culture and therefore no civilisation.

    This is what ardent atheists forget when they say all religion should be abolished. Societies crumble when their gods are destroyed.

    I agree that mass collaboration and organisation are the keys to technological and scientific discoveries. Hence just because the “West” is currently the richest, and the world’s leader in science and technology, doesn’t mean individual “Westerners” are smarter and more enterprising than individuals in “backward” and poorer societies.

    Ironically, it’s likely that people in “backward” and poorer societies are on average smarter and more enterprising than “Westerners” because they have to develop the drive and skills to overcome so many more impediments to survive.

    And it’s entirely possible that your average “Westerner” – not having to do much to get by – is becoming stupider with each generation, despite the “West” continuing to achieve ever greater feats of technological and scientific wizardry.

    • manofroma says:

      **In the matter of shared stories, they constitute a shared culture that – in the form of religion – is the foundation of any civilisation. So, absent religion, there’s no culture and therefore no civilisation**

      I believe that to be true, if by religion – Harari I guess would say – we mean not only traditional religions but any shared ideas such as capitalism, neoliberalism, communism etc..
      In other words, I do not believe that we need traditional religions to mass collaborate. The West is secularizing itself and yet everything continues as before.

      • Christopher says:

        “……by religion……we mean not only traditional religions but any shared ideas such as capitalism, neoliberalism, communism etc……….”

        I agree that Capitalism Neoliberalism and Communism can be seen as religions. But they are secular religions, that appeal only to the intellect, but not to the inner spiritual person.

        These secular religions, that imply we’re nothing but an accidental collocation of atoms in a cold and meaningless universe, speak only to our outer material selves.

        They are also very evanescent. No-one, for instance, believes in Communism any more, little more than 100 years after its birth. As for Capitalism and its its offshoot, Neo-liberalism, they are now already cracking at the seams, soon be replaced by some other “ism”, which will turn out as ephemeral as the “ism” it replaced.

        Another religion, come to think of it, is Atheism, whose current High Priest, Richard Dawkins, proselytises for it as dogmatically as any old Hellfire and Damnation preacher.

        Although Yuval Noah Harari disparages religion, he does practise Vipassana meditation — including a 60-day silent retreat each year. So he’s in effect practising religion, a religion that attends to his inner spiritual self.

        You said, “…..The West is secularizing itself and yet everything continues as before……”

        Yes… does……well…….at least so far. Remember, though, the West’s secularisation is relatively recent – dating really only from the end of World War 2. I think it’ll take the cycle of at least one complete generation, or even two, to see the long-term effects.

        • manofroma says:

          It is very difficult to reply to your comment, since it regards transcendence, metaphysics. Personally, I feel at ease in a secularized Weltanschaung. Years ago, one year, more or less, before I stopped blogging in English, I went through a sort of religious crisis, but then all was gone (long before I read Harari) and I have finally reached a position similar to that of Bertrand Russell, without hating religion though and not being an atheist. Most atheists are fanatics, it appears to me.

        • Christopher says:

          Désolé de prendre si longtemps pour répondre. Je prends de courtes vacances de ce blog. Donc je ne suis pas connecté sur ce site depuis peu de temps. J’ai besoin de ces petites vacances de blogging parce que mon énergie créatif s’évapore, et j’ai besoin périodiquement de me réapprovisionner!!!

          “…..I have finally reached a position similar to that of Bertrand Russell, without hating religion though and not being an atheist. Most atheists are fanatics, it appears to me……”

          Je pense que c’est une attitude très raisonnable. The fanaticism of so many atheists is borne, I think, out of a repressed insecurity as to the truth of what they believe.

          To believe only in a world that can be felt and sensed by the (five?) senses, and to say that our individual consciousness are extirpated upon our physical death, is to willfully ignore all the many signs that this secular Weltanschaung simply isn’t true.

          Although not “religious”, I believe, for what it’s worth, that we live in a multiverse of many parallel universes that intersect with ours, and that when we die, we, in the form of our consciousness, continue in one of these parallel universes.

          Incidentally, as an apparent secular person (like me), you might find the book, “Science Set Free” (or “The Science Delusion” as it’s titled in some countries), by the biologist, Rupert Sheldrake, to be of interest.

          Showing that the 10 basic dogmas of science are, in fact, unproven beliefs, and postulating that our individual consciousness and memories exist “out there” somewhere as “morphic resonance” in what I’m assuming is a parallel universe, ce livre a contribué à façonner ma propre Weltanschauung. Donc je te le recommande!!

  4. Pingback: Yuval Noah Harari: Homo sapiens potenziato dall’immaginazioine | The Notebook

  5. Christopher says:

    I wish to add further thoughts about the fact that our societies are held together by the stories we well each other (our fictions) and our shared beliefs.

    That we are held together by them, makes human societies extremely fragile. Which is why these fictions (beliefs) had to inculcate the sorts of behaviour that would enable human societies to create the wealth and develop the ideas that enabled them (us) to ascend to the dizzying technological and cultural peaks that make us humans seem like transcendental visitors to earth from another galaxy.

    These fictions (beliefs) are so crucial to human ascendance that deviations from them cannot be tolerated. Hence the intolerance of any ideas and beliefs that, should they become widely accepted, would cause the downfall of the existing order and power structure that holds the society together.

    Which is why in the olden days we burned heretics at the stake, and in later times threw them in jail. Today we simply shame and ridicule them – by calling them “conspiracy-theorists”, “climate-deniers”, “fifth-columnists”, “terrorist- sympathisers”, or simply “mad”,

    This is usually enough to convince heretics of the unwisdom of their beliefs, and to return to the safety of the sheep-pen of conformity.

  6. manofroma says:

    Sorry, Cristopher. My terrible, unpardonable, delay is due to the fact that I don’t feel like writing these days, my mind being blank. My last post on my blog was just recycling old stuff.
    A tempi migliori, amico. You kept me good company in questi mesi di discussioni.

  7. Christopher says:

    Take comfort that your current “writers block” is only temporary. Your mind is simply re-replenishing itself. Soon, words will spill forth from your pen, that you’ll wonder where they came from.

  8. Pingback: Dialogo con Christopher su Homo sapiens e Homo deus | The Notebook

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