What is the point of philosophy in a contemporary capitalist world dominated by destruction and where humanity has been pushed to the edge of the abyss? Ideologues of capitalism create an illusion that the ruling relation to reality is based on a certain way of thinking, that it has a rational nature. Philosophy has become a “rational” echo of destructive capitalist irrationality. It is but one of the humanist masks of an inhumane and destructive civilization and, as such, is advertising for capitalism. It provides and strengthens a way of thinking that, like religion, is deprived of critical self-reflection and prevents man from becoming aware of the tendencies of global development and the objective possibilities of liberation that through subjective practice (political struggle) can turn into real possibilities for freedom. At the same time, “philosophizing” is reduced to the creation of a network of formally and logically consistent concepts that are supposed to mediate between man and the world. Philosophy has become a means for confusing reason and distracting it from the crucial questions. Contemporary bourgeois philosophers disqualify reason as the most authentic and most important human means for ensuring survival and freedom. It is reduced to an instrumentalized ratio and has become the means for mystification of the existing world and for the destruction of a visionary consciousness that offers a possibility for overcoming capitalism and creating a new world. Philosophy has become a technical subject and, as such, is a means for turning concrete existential and essential questions into abstract theoretical questions. Instead of a revolutionary concept, the dominant concept is that of conformism. Instead of a fight to eradicate the causes of non-freedom and destruction, a theoretical discussion about consequences is being imposed. The bourgeois theory offers a critique of capitalism which does not question it and which seeks to “perfect” it. “The essence of capitalism” acquires an idolized dimension and becomes the basis for criticizing capitalist reality. Thus the mythologized past becomes the basis for criticizing the present. Everything that might and should happen has already happened. A struggle for the future becomes a struggle for the past. The bourgeois intelligentsia multiplies the “field of research” by creating numerous “grey areas”, primarily to expand its space as much as possible. It acts like the market: it produces increased quantities of intellectual goods with ever-lower quality, which are sold in the form of books, lectures, studies, and reports.
Max Horkheimer came to the conclusion half a century ago that serious philosophy was nearing its end and that society was becoming an anthill. Philosophers contribute to that state of affairs by not developing a philosophy that is grounded in the emancipatory legacy of civil society and national cultures, they rather adapt to a ruling order that, rather than a wise man, needs an stupified consumer. Philosophy becomes an entertainment skill and, as such, is a part of show-business, while philosophers become the “jesters” of capitalism. The philosophical mind is being integrated into capitalism by the destruction of its emancipatory potential and by turning philosophy into another commodity in the marketplace of consumer society. The amount of the commission fee becomes the “measure” of the quality of the philosophical thought. Even when significant matters are communicated, they are expressed in such a manner as to lose their political dimension and obtain an entertainment or clownish dimension. Philosophers like Slavoj Zizek and Bernard-Henri Lévy are typical examples of “Coca-Cola” intellectuals. Their “reflections” are being tailored to provide “philosophical” legitimacy to the ecocidal and genocidal activities of the stakeholders in the “new world order”. Their thought represents a philosophical merit badge on the chests of the capitalist executioners who obliterate nature and humankind. At the same time, the leftist bourgeois intelligentsia, headed by Jürgen Habermas, Oskar Negt and Oskar Lafontaine, create an illusion that capitalism could be “brought to reason” by means of enlightened thought. It does not address the workers, but an abstract “citizen”, a petty bourgeois who has been degenerated by the consumer way of life and who can not be bothered with radical social changes that might jeopardize his consumer’s standard of living. “Bringing to reason” does not imply the development of combative sociability and the nullification of the capitalist order as it is reduced to the “pacification” of workers and the technical development that implies the obliteration of man as a social being and of nature as life-generating entirety. Even when the ruling political circle (alienated from the citizenry) is being threatened by an insistence on the necessity of the direct participation in political life of the largest possible number of citizens, this is performed in a manner that does not stand for an appeal to the citizens to fight against the ruling order. The “social peace” needs to be preserved at all cost in order to prevent economic crisis and the ensuing social crisis – without which the petty bourgeois consciousness and its “consumer society” cannot be eliminated. At the same time, a critique of capitalism is increasingly present. But it is of an academic nature and is deprived of any political, change-creating dimension. It does not address the destructive nature of capitalism and is not moved toward a vision of the future based upon a radical step away from the capitalist world.
The purposefulness of philosophic thought is determined by whether this thought poses concrete historic questions. Today, in a world that faces an ever more realistic possibility of destruction, that principle means concrete historical questions might be the last questions posed by man. It is this quality that makes a difference between today’s concrete historical questions and all earlier such questions. The development of capitalism as a totalitarian order of destruction imposes the question of survival as the most important concrete historical question. Actually, by bringing humanity to the brink of destruction, capitalism ”has answered” all crucial questions. Bearing in mind the intensity of the capitalist destruction of life, all questions come down to one: what can be done to prevent the destruction of humanity? The only meaningful thought is of an existential character, that is, it creates the possibility for a political (changing) practice that will prevent the world’s destruction. In that context, philosophy is meaningful as a critique of capitalism and a visionary projection of a future world. There is a need for creating an integrating critical and visionary thought with an existential nature, which will contain the emancipatory legacy of civil society and national cultures. Humanity will again appreciate the importance of serious thinking when people return to the basic existential questions. The seriousness of those questions will make people serious: crucial existential issues will eliminate any trivial ways of thinking and direct the mind towards the essential issues. Riding the wave of the French bourgeois revolution, classical German philosophy shaped the self-consciousness of modern man. Today, the humanist intelligentsia should shape a thought that will guide the last revolution in the history of mankind. It is not the hoot of Minerva’s owl in the twilight, but the war cry of a man who has been awakened and who is ready not only to liberate humanity from oppression, but to prevent its destruction. Ultimately, what is philosophy if it is not capable of answering the questions that are of vital importance to human destiny?
The 1854 letter from the Chief of the Seattle tribe to the American President Franklin Pierce indicates the important limitations on modern philosophy with respect to basic existential issues. It is a sobering fact that modern man does not turn to the greatest thinkers of the modern age to find solutions to the critical existential issues but, rather, to someone who, by the predominant criteria for evaluation, is considered a “savage”. The Indian Chief’s letter indicates that all modern Western thought has gone astray. It depicts the true nature of capitalism, and the basic tendency of its development, better than all the philosophical and sociological thinking of the 19th and 20th centuries. The Chief’s letter, at the same time, indicates that the question of being, as one of the central “traditional” philosophical questions, can no longer be viewed at the essential level. Being, as a symbolic source of authentic humanity and the mirror in which man can see his authentic human image, above all, is the affirmation of man’s life-creating powers acquiring a concrete historical dimension with respect to capitalism as a totalitarian destructive order. The fact that the letter was written in the mid-19th century is of primary importance as it refutes the claim that at that time it was not possible to see the ecocidal nature of capitalism. The words of the Indian Chief not only show the limitations of Western scientific and philosophical thought, but also that it is not necessary to have science and philosophy in order to recognize the true nature of capitalism. The truth that capitalism is an anti-existential order is based on immediate empirical evidence. This was the guiding thought of Fourier when, in the early 19th century, he questioned (capitalist) “progress”, suggesting that it is based on the destruction of forests, fields, sources of water, climate…
A specificity of the contemporary historical moment, that is, a specificity of capitalism as a system of destruction, also conditions the specific view of the past. The ruling ideology sterilizes the libertarian and change-oriented charge of philosophical thought and reduces it to a lifeless “history of philosophy”, which becomes a vehicle for the destruction of the libertarian and life-creating power of reason. Critical theory, based upon existential humanism, needs to create the possibility for “reviving” the creative and libertarian spirit of our ancestors by engaging it in the fight for survival and for the creation of a new world. In the struggle for humankind’s survival, the thinking of the past has to realize its own humanistic, i.e., existential and libertarian, potential. The deepening existential crisis forces man to focus on the basic existential issues and, in that context, to integratethe libertarian and cultural heritage of humankind and to rid it of any “tails” that only weaken it in combat and drive the mind astray. The “fullness of humanity”, in the sense of perceiving man from a historical perspective, is conditioned by increasingly dramatic existential challenges. The libertarian past needs to become a source of man’s life-creating energyin the struggle for the survival of humankind. A “return” to the mythological past is justified only if it is to revitalize libertarian and life-creating myths. Otherwise, it amounts to driving reason astray and has, regardless ofpersonal motives, an anti-existential nature.
What provides a certain thought with a concrete historical dimension is the actual historical position toward it. Only a life-creating critique of the existing world, from the point of view of a future (humane) world, can “revive” previous thoughts. Bourgeois thought does not revive but sterilizes the legacy of reason in an analytical, mythological or some other form. It exterminates its effective historical potential, which deprives it of its mutative charge and turns it into a lifeless thought. A typical example is the position of Leszek Kolakowski toward Marxist thought (Main Currents of Marxism). His analytical approach to the development of Marxism does not open up but rather closes down the horizons of the future. The “balance” principle, which he asserts as the starting point of his theoretical (political) analyses, is formally logical, of abstract nature. What sort of “balance” could be offered to capitalism if it has already become a totalitarian destructive order? Kolakowski’s “balance” has no existential and, in that context, no libertarian nature, but, rather, it has a politically compromising and, therefore, an anti-existential nature. Kolakowski’s contradiction between “skeptical” and “utopian” philosophy is of a formally logical character. It represents an obvious example of the failure to perceive phenomena in the context of their actual historical development and of the creation of an abstract reflective stance toward reality. Kolakowski does not comprehend that the concrete idea of the utopian is conceivable only when related to the ruling capitalist order with its destructive nature, or in other words, that turning capitalism into a totalitarian destructive order preconditions the nature of the utopian as a political confrontation with capitalism. The utopian does not merely imply the creation of a new world, but also the preservation of life on the planet. Kolakowski opted for the “objectivist” critique of Marx, which is based on the bourgeois ideology within which “democracy” does not have a concrete historical nature, but rather a mythological nature. His point of departure is “democracy”, which represents just one of the ideological forms in which capitalism presents itself, and not the actual nature of capitalism. He also insists on a false antipode: “democracy” v “totalitarianism”, which counterfeits the actual historical antipode: capitalism v humane (communist) society. In that context, he fails to indicate the emancipatory and life-creating potential of the Marxist thought with respect to capitalism as a totalitarian order of destruction.
The gradual deviation of the civil thought toward the right well suits the development of capitalism which, by the means of the “consumer” way of life, has integrated a majority of workers into its own existential and moral orbit. At the same time, in order to impede the class-based organizing of workers and the ensuing class struggle, the bourgeois intelligentsia has adapted the “nature” of capitalism to the political project for which it advocates and has thus hindered the development of an adequate critical consciousness for a political struggle against capitalism. Bourgeois philosophy is a form within which the mind is alienated from man and made to serve as an intermediary between man and reality. It blurs the image of the world and creates an optical distortion that keeps man from perceiving the truest course that leads toward the future. Bourgeois thought is a theoretical form of ideation within which capitalism suppresses or annihilates the political struggle of the oppressed and their endeavors to prevent the destruction of the world. The bourgeois intelligentsia has been, and still is, a mace in the hands of the capitalists, a weapon wielded for the elimination of the libertarian and visionary consciousness of the working class. It neuters the mind as a force in the political struggle against capitalism and pulls it off its historical course. In that way, it buys some additional time for capitalism and contributes to the destruction of the world. When capitalism turned into a totalitarian order of destruction, bourgeois thought became an anti-existential thought, and the bourgeois theorists became the horsemen of the apocalypse. The obliteration of the emancipatory possibilities of bourgeois society also implies the destruction of the emancipatory potential of the civil thought. By annihilating the effective historical nature of bourgeois society, capitalism sterilizes bourgeois philosophy and turns it into lifeless thought. Capitalism marginalizes the bourgeois intelligentsia and turns it into a “cleaner” of its own bloodstained crime scenes. Capitalism, thus, devours its own (spiritual) children.
In becoming a totalitarian order of destruction, capitalism has imposed the necessity for a new (possibly a final!) historical “reading” of the philosophers whose thoughts have defined the contemporary epoch. The authentic humanistic potential of their thinking stands in stark contrast before an increasingly gloomy background of capitalist nothingness. It seems as if great thought no longer exists. What currently is nonexistent is any political movement capable of providing a great idea with an appropriate practical (change-creating) dimension. However, the deepening existential crisis created by capitalism conditions the inception of such a global political movement as would be capable of eliminating capitalism and creating a new world in which “spiritual riches will be the measure of human wealth” (Marx). The true historical quality of the critical thought is represented by the width of the aperture it opens on reality.
In relation to man, the capitalist world has become a totalitarian and destructive power to such an extent that it has lost any need for scientific knowledge, and it has become, in the hands of the capitalists, an anti-humane and anti-living power. At the same time, an escape from knowledge becomes an escape from any responsibility for the world’s survival. The realization that a group of capitalist fanatics can in an instant destroy the world, along with an awareness of the increasing possibility of environmental destruction and, thus, the end of humanity, itself, bring man, mired in the quicksand of “consumer society”, to the brink of madness. An escape from knowledge is a “natural” defense mechanism. The predominant science reduces the reality of capitalism to certain “facts” that enable a “scientific view” according to which there is no alternative to capitalism, that all “problems” can be “overcome” by capitalism, itself, through technologically “perfectioning”. The capitalist vision of the future has a “scientific” character. The myth of the “omnipotence of science and technology” has become a means for the creation of a capitalistically degenerated religious consciousness and, in that context, the image of the future. The vision of a “paradise”, in which the “souls of the deceased are reunited in God”, is replaced by the vision of a “perfect technical world”. Everything is mediated by money; everything acquires a trivial dimension – including the individual’s relation to death. Ideologues of capitalism promise man (the rich “elite”) “immortality”, which will be provided by creating technical devices that will enable the “revival” of frozen corpses. Scientists have become the capitalists’ contract killers and the driving force for the destruction of the world. A vast majority of scientists are engaged in the production of weapons of mass destruction, devices for mass control, the genetic distortion of man, the destruction of nature, the manipulation and idiotization of people… Scientific knowledge has been deprived not only of its human purpose; it has acquired an anti-existential motive.
Since manipulation of peopledoes not proceed only in the realm of ideology but, more importantly, in the psychological sphere, art, reduced to a technique of using images and symbols for manipulation, becomes of the utmost importance. Its primary role is not to create a “cultural” decor for the ruling order, but to distort man and all the symbols by which he can reach his libertarian, creative, life-creating and social being. Capitalistically degenerated art mutilates the human being with an “artistic” form given a spectacular dimension. The “spectacle” does not only serve to deceive – it does not only prevent man from seeing the important – but it kills in him his humanity and, thus, any possibility of ever seeing the important. A blind man is not blind. Blind is the man who cannot see humanity in the other. Capitalism eliminates from culture the esthetic criteria for an evaluation based on traditional forms of artistic expression and the emancipatory legacy of civil society – the traditional need to confront formalism and the destruction of the human. Instead of something new, a variety of the same old same-old is offered. Instead of ideas opening a space in the future, new techniques are offered that destroy man’s need to fantasize along with his visionary consciousness. Capitalistically degenerated art has become a spectacular kitsch. Its value is determined not according to esthetic value but to market impact: so, the success of an advertising campaign sets the “value” of a work of art, while depriving money of any value equivalent. As for the “globalist culture”, how can universal cultural values be ascertained if the legacy of national cultures is discarded? The emancipatory legacy of national cultures is not only the source of people’s esthetic heritage, but also of their libertarian and life-creating consciousness. The superseding of national cultures by a universal human culture is possible only through the development of the emancipatory legacy of national cultures. As to the relation between universality and collectivism, there need be no counter-opposition here if collectivism, rather than being based on “the masses”, is based on emancipated personalities. Universal human values should be the basis for collectivism, whereas collectivity should not mean the elimination of individuality, but, rather, the establishment of a community of emancipated human beings. At the same time, universality cannot be the privilege of individuals who perceive themselves as an “elite”. It is, in actual fact, a class principle, but veiled by a “struggle for the individual”. A typical example is found in Nietzsche, who speaks of a “Superman” as the anthropological manifestation of “a new nobility”, of a new ruling class (plutocracy). Walter Benjamin believed that technical means can obviate the elitist character of art and bring it closer to the workers. A capitalistically degenerated technique has deprived art of its elitist exclusivity by depriving it of its humane essence. It has destroyed man’s creative being and thus does away with art’s aura, that human emanation, which contains the emancipatory heritage of humanity and suggests what has not yet been but might come to be. The development of an “esthetical sense” has been achieved by destroying the sense of the human. It turns out that there is no point in making art as a means for changing the world if it is not an integral part of a comprehensive political movement seeking to create a new world. Thus a distinction should be made between a false (capitalistically degenerated) art and a libertarian and genuine art. The role of libertarian art is to unmask the true nature of capitalism; to create a vision of the new world; to indicate objective possibilities for the creation of a new world and, most importantly, to develop man’s need for his fellow man – as the basis for a genuine socialization without which no political movement can save the world from destruction. As for art as a reflection of human misery, which is, as such, an alienated form of de-alienation: a vision of life appears as an artistic act where man’s social being realizes his libertarian and creative being.
Translated from Serbian by Vesna Todorović (Petrović) and Svetlana Đurić. English translation supervisor Mick Collins
In conversation with Manasi Gupta about Hues of the Mind
Manasi Gupta is a social entrepreneur and an engineer by profession. At the age of nineteen, she founded Huesofthemind, a nonprofit organisation to provide mental health services which have impacted 50,000 beneficiaries with its initiatives. She is a mental health advocate and wants to make mental health resources more accessible, affordable, and available.
She often reiterates the importance of taking care of oneself and encourages mental wellbeing through her workshops, delivering 50+ talks worldwide at the University of Nairobi, Delhi University, and NIFT Mumbai, to name a few. She is also a published author of the book, Hues of You, which raised funds for mental health resources.
She has been conferred nationally for her team’s efforts by the former Health Secretary of India and interviewed by The Times of India. She will be representing India in the upcoming One Young World Summit and is one of the 28 Applicants to receive 100% scholarship from 50,000 applicants worldwide.
What has the overall impact of your work been like?
More than ten thousand beneficiaries have directly been impacted by our workshops, conferences, and events. These beneficiaries are of varying age groups, ranging from eight-year-olds to thirty-year-olds. These sharing spaces have been in different locations, ranging from India to the United States of America, Nepal, South Korea and more.
We raise awareness on our social media platforms, which have witnessed more than a hundred collaborations for content, campaigns, and live social media events. Our social media platforms on Instagram, Linkedin, and Twitter have a cumulative reach of an average of five thousand users virtually.
Other than that, our multiple initiatives have impacted more than ten thousand users and subscribers. Our newsletter HuesLetter has had nearly forty successful editions, reaching more than a thousand subscribers. Huesofthemind’s podcasts in Hindi and English have reached more than a thousand listeners. Our virtual repository that helps people connect with professional help has received an average of a thousand users per month since its inception in June.
Our team has also been interviewed by The Times of India, the National newspaper of India, and by AIESEC, the world’s largest youth-run organization, thereby inspiring thousands more.
Hence, we’ve nearly impacted close to fifty thousand beneficiaries worldwide.
What other projects do you plan to undertake in the near future?
Educating, engaging and empowering communities, especially the youth, is crucial. Access to affordable healthcare services is a right of every human being, and awareness is the primary step in receiving the right healthcare services. Non-judgemental sharing spaces, focused on expression, are crucial to mental well-being. My mission is to foster these spaces with the funding I receive in the program.
I have seen a dire lack of education when it comes to mental health, thereby contributing to the stigma around it. I also believe that technology can significantly elevate the depth and breadth of the impact one can have. HuesEd by Huesofthemind is an interactive interface that would help shed light on the various aspects of knowledge in the realm of psychology & mental health education. This interface would inspire our audiences to know more about common misconceptions and hardly known yet essential concepts that require more awareness, given their gravitas
What is your illustrated book all about?
We published our illustrated book, Hues of You in June 2021. Our team has worked relentlessly to create this wholesome coffee table book. The proceeds we receive go towards making therapy more and more accessible to everyone around us.
Sharing is cathartic
Carrying this vision forward, we, at Huesofthemind, crafted a book with research-backed articles, self-help resources, our journeys- in prose and poetry & so much more.
People have found our spaces ‘life changing’, which has motivated our team to empower many more lives. I firmly believe that we are glistening with the potential to brighten our lives and those of others.
Which all conferences have you attended so far? Any advice for people who want to attend more conferences?
ECOSOC Youth Forum
One Young World
For me, the key values that really shine in any individual & their respective work are,
Authenticity, passion & courage.
Any specific programs or fellowships you are planning to join in the near future?
Not at the moment
Anything else you would like to share?
Access to the correct information regarding healthcare services is a right of every human being. My vision is to make that come true. Awareness is the primary step in receiving the right healthcare services.
The presence of misinformation is a challenge that our present world faces, and access to educational resources from reliable sources can help combat that. I also truly believe that the inclusion of education in the curriculum with the help of a top-down approach involving changes in public policy can support this vision come true. I have seen a dire lack of education when it comes to mental health, thereby contributing to the staggering stigma around it. Education can assist an individual in being more aware, informed, and thereby help them make the right decisions.
Along with physical health, access to mental health resources and services should not be a luxury. I also believe that technology can significantly elevate the depth and breadth of the impact one can have. This idea involves the use of wearable devices to track vital information and ideas to improve the overall wellbeing of a person.
Ups And Downs of Women’s Property Rights
In the English speaking world during the first part of the 19th century, women were considered either too frivolous or even weak-minded to be entrusted with their inherited wealth, control of which transferred to the husbands upon marriage.
It wasn’t until the 1848 Married Women’s Property Act was passed by New York State that women got the right to keep their own wages and to own property in their own name. Some other states began to pass their own acts along the same lines and by 1900 all of them had done so.
Across the Atlantic in England, the Married Women’s Property Act of 1870 allowed them to keep earned and inherited property. This was later superseded by the broader 1882 Act which also served as a model for British territories abroad.
Again, it might surprise people to learn that until the mid-1970s financial institutions like banks routinely denied married women in the U.S. loans or credit cards in their own name. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act, signed by Gerald Ford into law in 1974, finally put an end to this kind of discrimination.
Beware however, that women’s rights have had ups and downs throughout history. As an example, consider Ancient Egypt where women enjoyed a legal status of equality with men. They retained their property even after marriage, and property jointly acquired with husbands belonged one-third to the wife. They could dispense with their wealth as they wished.
An example is the will of Naunakht (Writings from Ancient Egypt by Toby Wilkinson – Penguin Classics) drawn up in the third year of the reign of Ramses V. Thus it has been dated with precision to 1147 B.C. She had fourteen witnesses signifying the importance of a will and perhaps also to preclude any contesting of it.
Naunakht married twice, first a scribe and then a tomb workman named Khaemnun. No children from the first marriage but four boys and four girls from the second. Naunakht makes it quite clear she wants to dispossess three of her children and leave her property to the five who have looked after her in her old age. However, she cannot prevent the three she disinherits from inheriting their father’s property.
About a year after the will was made, the whole family had to appear before a court for a second legal hearing to confirm that they would respect the terms of the will.
In her declaration, she lists those to whom she has left her property and in one case additional gifts of a bronze washing bowl and ten sacks of emmer. She also lists the disinherited ones, noting that “they shall not share in the division of my one-third, but they shall share in the two-thirds of their father.”
Anyone going back on the agreement would be subject to a hundred blows and be deprived of the property. Contesting wills was clearly hazardous.
As for the rights of women, consider the millennia it has taken to get us in the West to where the Egyptians were with regard to women’s property rights.
A Glimpse of The Middle Class in Ancient Egypt and its Lesson
It is a tidy fact that history is written not of the common people and their circumstances but of the rulers, their families, their intrigues, their courtiers … and nobles and their intrigues; in short, the squables of those who rule us and the machinations in pursuit of even more power … also in consequence, wealth.
So an encounter with the life of a middle class minor official (“Writings from Ancient Egypt” by Toby Wilkinson, Penguin Classics) and his vicissitudes from the mundane to the important — as when he addresses his superiors — affords an eye opener if only to the extent that life goes on as much the same whether now or in Egypt around 1147 B.C. Three thousand years and human behavior remains human behavior.
Heqanakht, the official, was obliged to travel frequently in connection with his duties and he writes to Merisu, his steward, on matters like the proper cultivation of his land, rental agreements, quality of grain, and finally on matters connected with his household.
One can imagine the toilers of the Nile wetlands working incredibly hard to coax out a crop of which a portion was paid to the landowner as rent. Each step required exertion as feet sank into the wet mud. The practice of paying landowners a portion of the crop still prevails and in the US midwest it is commonly a third. On the other hand, if the soil is particularly rich as in Indiana, the tenant might be willing to pay more.
Our friend Heqanakht also has other concerns: his wife has complaints about being bullied by Senen, the new housemaid. If Heqanakht is hectoring in tone, irritable and bossy, often including terms like ‘Watch out’ or ‘Don’t ignore it’, he appears to have a tender side in his regard for his mother, Ipi, and his clear fondness for his son Sneferu, his ‘pride and joy.’
The extended family in his care is reminiscent of Asian families to this day, particularly on the Indian subcontinent, and the resident mother-in-law is still around even in the West if she hasn’t been shunted to an old folks home.
In another letter, Heqanakht writes to his immediate superior, the Overseer of Lower Egypt. The tone here is altogether different. He opens the missive with the words, ‘Your condition is life itself, a million times. May … all the gods act for you … sweeten your heart greatly with life and an old age’. He addresses him as ‘Your Honor — Life, Prosperity, Health’ and adds the very same well-wishing three words every time he refers to him in the letter.
To Merisu he says, ‘Greetings to my mother Ipi a thousand times, a million times.’ About his son Sneferu .. ‘Now didn’t I say that Sneferu, my pride and joy, a thousand times, a million times. Watch out for Anubis and Sneferu. You live by them and die by them.’
‘Have that housemaid, Senen, thrown out of any house — see to it — on whatever day Subathor (the messenger) reaches you … act: You are the one who lets her do bad things to my wife. Look, how have I made it distressful for you? What did she do against you to make you hate her?’
‘And have a letter brought explaining what is collected from those debts of Perhaa. See to it. Don’t ignore it.’
Business must go on and life goes on with its attendant problems. Have things changed much?
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