2016, through all of the abysmal things that have happened during that time, has me thinking a lot about Ma’at lately. We’ve lost so many cultural, artistic and historical icons in this year, any of us would be hard-pressed to name them all without referring to a list. This year has been a crippling blow on a lot of levels, but it is not the end by any stretch of the imagination. That is not to say that it’s been any less trying.
I won’t beat about the bush. We are all about to head into unknown territory in 2017. For some, that prospect is terrifying. Given some of the more recent events that have occurred in the world and the attitudes of those who were supposedly elected to help us face them, we probably should all be on alert. We are facing several global crises of epic proportions and our elected leaders are staying mostly silent about them. The media is of no help either. Between the fake news and the apathy of mainstream media attempting to dumb us all down into complacency and obliviousness, it’s pretty damned obvious we’re on our own.
First on the list is that we are facing climate change at a much faster rate than what was initially estimated by climate scientists. While the rest of the world wrings its hands in fear of what calamities might befall us if we continue at this pace, the president-elect, and his appointed ministers deny it’s a problem. They thumb their noses at it, and continue on their breakneck pace of looting and pillaging all that is left of both our country’s natural and monetary resources for their own gain.
Let’s get this out, and state it at the outset: None of those people the POTUS-elect has appointed to his cabinet gives a bloody damn about any of us. Please allow that to sink in. A corporate oligarch who fancies himself a king has been appointed to lead our nation down the long pathway to Hell. This failed businessman was not elected by the majority. That much is proven, and he was put there with the blessing and complicity of the current Congress, a largely bamboozled electorate, and the assistance of a foreign government that is historically hostile towards us. Deny it if you want. I only ask that you continue to watch what is going on in the world and then ask yourself what’s really going on. The most important thing is to be honest with yourself when assessing every situation.
I will make the unfortunate prediction that the safety net as we know it will most probably be dissolved. If the GOP has its way, you can kiss your Medicaid, your Social Security, educational funding, and any other government subsidies goodbye. It doesn’t matter how long you paid in as a taxpayer – the GOP will make a diligent effort in legislating them all away under the guise of “privatization”. Privatization = Maximizing Profits for politicians, their friends, and contributors. Again, none of these people give a damn about you. If you get laid off because of outsourcing, or get sick or fall into bankruptcy or die because you have no medical insurance, or if you cannot afford your medications, or to feed yourself and your children or lose your home and anything else in the process, that’s not their problem. If you cannot afford to go to school to update your skills after being laid off from your job, they. simply. don’t. care. In fact, if you do, it means more profit for them, because as far as they are concerned, you are of little use to them unless you are adding to their bottom line.
I confess, this is a cynical and very bleak vision, and one that our forefathers never imagined would or could befall us. Let me ask a question: How are your survival skills? Do you know how to forage for food? Do you know how to make medicine, build a fire, or make do? Can you even begin to function without your wired devices? Will you go stir crazy without having access to the Internet? Have you thought about the benefits of following your crazy grandma’s example of stashing a supply of cash in the mattress? Your debit card may not work at one point or another and then where will you be when it comes time to purchase food, gas or something else that you are in dire need of? You’ll be forced to really live on your wits then and the question becomes whether you can or not.
So what does this all have to do with Restoring Ma’at?
In Ancient Egypt, Ma’at wasn’t just a goddess or an abstract concept. It was the absolute base of every pillar that their entire culture was founded upon. Ma’at is much more than a concept of Truth (with a capital ‘T’). It is about justice and fairness and right action, even in those times when it’s difficult. It is what Dr. Maulana Karenga described as serudj-ta – or repairing the world. In the coming days, perhaps for several years, we are going to have to collectively concentrate on the ideas of Ma’at and Serudj-ta in order to restore what has been or will be destroyed. We will all be tasked with raising up those things and people who are in ruins, setting to right the wrongs of racism and bigotry, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and all of the other ills that may raise their heads wherever we are. It is up to each of us to be the advocates for one another; to replenish that which has been diminished and to make things as beautiful or more beautiful than they were before. This is what each of us has been charged with right now. If we care about anything or anyone else outside of ourselves and our own sphere, then we need to face the reality that we each carry this responsibility. We must stamp injustice, hatred, and cruelty out wherever we see it and we need to not be complicit in our silence or our apathy.
None of what I describe is easy to hear and can seem an overwhelming thing to do. It’s probably all pretty frightening to consider. Even as I write this, Congress is attempting to pass legislation that will not allow cameras on the floor to let us see exactly how our rights are being slowly whittled away. Perhaps they imagine that the public won’t feel what we cannot see. Or perhaps they know that what they are doing is wrong and that the public backlash would be something that none of their careers could stand.
Our collective carelessness with our land, water, air and all other natural resources has wrought terrible things. We know, based on scientific evidence and even by simply paying attention to the natural world around us that we cannot keep on as we have in the past. While allowing the Dakota Access Pipeline would bring temporary prosperity for a select few for a short amount of time, what happens after the work is complete? Those “jobs” are gone and the and all the corporate interests need to do is sit back, turn on the spigot and gather up the profits. What we are left with is the incredible risk to not just the land and water of a few members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, but to millions upon millions of people who are dependent upon the water of the Missouri River downstream. Look at where it goes and then ask yourself, what happens if the pipeline bursts? Have we forgotten the tragedy of the Deep Water Horizon already? Don’t we remember the incredible tragedy of the Exxon Valdez? In both instances the consequences of spilled fossil fuels to the environment and to those whose livelihood depended upon those waterways was enormous. We have within our grasp, right now, the ability to get away from fossil fuels and push toward renewables. Other countries have pushed and shifted their economies around renewables, so it’s been proved that it can be done. The only reason why the US has been so reticent in the effort toward renewables is the incredible amount of influence of a few oil billionaires and the fossil fuel lobby. Deep in their guts, they know that their days are numbered. Our will to survive and to thrive as a planet must match and far outstrip their sense of corporate survival and maximizing profits.
So then, how do we create serudj-ta or work to further Ma’at? Each of us has an idea in our mind of what makes society work and what doesn’t. The vast majority of people in the world do have a strong sense of right and wrong. This goes beyond borders, national interests or origins, race, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or any other way we choose to parse out segments of human society. We each want a place in the world, the opportunity to be able to feed, clothe and house our families in safety and security and we all want a chance to do something meaningful with our lives. Those are basic human motivations. When we let greed, envy, and vindictiveness and break our human family into segments of “Us” vs. “Them” that is when the problems arise. We have seen this demonstrated over and over again with disastrous results. When we hold those ideas in our mind on a constant basis when dealing with anyone and in every situation, we are reminded of those higher ideals. We cannot individually fix the world. But does it really cost us anything at all to be courteous? How much do we lose and how much do we gain by exercising compassion in even the smallest of ways? Most of what I am talking about doesn’t have to cost money. It doesn’t mean a major inconvenience for any of us. It just takes remembering that any of us could be in a similar situation at any given moment depending upon circumstance. Sure you might get a warm fuzzy feeling after having done something nice – but that shouldn’t be the goal. The goal is knowing that something was right to do and to simply do it without an expectation of thanks or payment or anything else. The end goal, especially for we Kemetics, is doing our part in order to further Ma’at in the world – and absolutely nothing less.
“Ma’at: The Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt” by Dr. Maulana Karenga, 2004,University of Sankore Press, Los Angeles