Tuesday, November 07, 2006

against his-story, against leviathan! chapter 2; (Morgan's progress, the first cities with a Lugal) a few personal blurbs


the Syn Film Festival goin on now. it's all free, and i found the schedule at http://cincinnati.craigslist.org/eve/226450389.html

i broke my foot. again. in the same spot as before. Please share any money producing ideas i could pull off without hurting my busted foot.

if this were a personal conversation, you would at this point be showing extreme tolerance by letting me talk with a mouthful of dumper doven (diven? divine?) avocados and baked tortilla chips. i'm leading the good life!

and that brings me to another point: I am happily in an open/poly relationship now. even if i don't see anyone else, this feels much better. it's better than cheating, which is what one pal told me to do. i guess that's how most folks who get the itch do, but why go in for all the drama?

i just met the older brother of my partner, and he's a neat fella. he started this website, as well as the chaozation one: http://twentythree.us/moving/occulted.htm

and now, chapter 2 of Fredy Perlman's "Against His-story, Against Leviathan!"

An armored one asks: If the Age of Gold was so valuable, so beautiful, so pure, why did people leave it? If the Civilized remember it, why don’t they rush back to it? If it was so comfortable, why don’t farmers throw away their plows and return to digging sticks? (This same questioner also asks: If you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich?)

There are answers to these questions. But the questioner does not want to hear them. He already knows the answer. Humanity left the state of nature because Civilization is a higher stage. (Higher stage of what? The armored one will never tell. He quickly turns to something else.)

The theory of the higher stage is as old as Civilization itself. One of its more influential modern versions originated with a nineteenth century lawyer who lived in upstate New York, Lewis Henry Morgan.

A consultant to speculating businessmen, a Republican politician and a racist, Morgan nevertheless found time to do a study of his neighbors in upstate New York, devastated remains of once-numerous Iroquoian communities. Morgan’s racist predecessors Washington and Jefferson had insisted the Iroquoians were children but Morgan thought the Iroquoians had reached a stage between childhood and adolescence.

Morgan generalized his racism into a ladder, every rung of which gleams with racist polish. He made now effort to disguise his contempt; on the contrary, he flaunted it; such contempt was (and still is) a mark of refinement in America. He named the lowest run, the stage of infancy, Savagery. He named the next rung, the stage of childhood, Barbarism. And of course he named the tops rungs Civilization, the topmost American Civilization. On this topmost rung sat Morgan with the Great White Race. The professors of America were so flattered they elected Morgan president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The professors would later regret their vote. Morgan’s racist ladder was borrowed by the agitator Karl Marx and the revolutionary businessman Friedrich Engels. Marx intends to patch the ladder but never found the time. It was Engels who patched Morgan’s ladder. He didn’t patch much. He borrowed the ladder intact, with all the racist polish of Morgan’s nomenclature: Savagery, Barbarism, etc. Engels patched only the ladder’s summit. He renamed Morgan’s topmost rung, and he placed a yet higher rung above it.

Engels changed the name of Morgan’s Great White Race to Capitalist Class, and on the rung above it he placed the leaders and followers of Marx’s political party. And in this form, Morgan’s racist ladder became the official religion of the USSR, China, Eastern Europe and other lands where the names of the rungs are stuffed into the heads of schoolchildren as a catechism.

Of course as soon as the agitators got hold of the ladder, American professors didn’t want to be caught with their hands on it. They forgot Morgan. (This is easily done in places where memory is at the mercy of publishers of written words.)

But racism did not vanish from America, and Morgan’s ladder was too good a thing to leave to the agitators. The archeologist V.G. Childe, although himself a Marxist, gave the ladder an aura of respectability by filling its rungs with all the latest Positive Evidence. And the ladder came back to America, not quite as an official religion but more as a last resort, as something to use in emergencies. Reference to “the state of nature” always creates emergencies.

The ladder, the theory of higher stages, of course explains why people left the state of nature. That’s what it is designed to do. The title of Engel’s book is The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State. The explanation is simple, lucid, in fact mechanical, and can be taught in elementary schools. All we have to do is look away from living beings and concentrate on things. The ladder is a thing. So are its rungs. And the connection between lower and higher rungs are also things. They’re devices. Childe misleadingly named his book Man Makes Himself, giving the impression that his subject was a living being. For Childe, Man himself is a thing, a container of objects and devices; Matter is the core and Man the excrescence.

The device responsible for Man’s passage from the rung called Savagery to the rung called Barbarism is a gadget called the Material Conditions, or more fully, the Level of Development of the Productive Forces. This same device is responsible for the passages to all the higher rungs.

Marx and Engels, and also Morgan, lived at a time when the material conditions, literally the ground itself, slipped from under the feet of the former rulers, the hated barons and bishops: capitalist owners of mines and factories were buying up the lands of the aristocrats. Marx and Engels prognosticated that the ground would similarly slip out from under the capitalists, and they projected their wish to the first dawn.

In terms of this projection, Man exists for thousands of generations as a Savage. Then, three hundred or so generations ago, material conditions become favorable for something higher than savagery. These conditions include agriculture, metallurgy, the wheel, etc. Once he has all these things, Man is able to generate a surplus product, a margin. (Turner, too, succumbs to this part of the theory.) This surplus, this margin, is what supports, literally feeds, the brave new world that now becomes possible: kings, generals of armies, slavemasters, bosses of labor gangs. Man had always wanted rulers, permanent armies, slavery, division of labor, but he couldn’t realize these dreams until the material conditions became ripe. And as soon as they did become ripe, all progressive-minded Savages leapt unhesitantly to the higher rung.

(Reader: do me a favor and reexamine the theory of higher stages first. Then tell me if you still consider my caricature exaggerated.)

This theory of higher stages can be taught to small children because it’s a fairy tale. There’s nothing wrong with fairy tales. But the proponents of this one claim it is something else; they are contemptuous of fairy tales.

* * *

The so-called material conditions were nothing but aids to feasting, walking and floating. They were like cains to old men. Their variety and complexity attest to the ingenuity of human beings. But the centrality of such things to us is no proof that human beings in the state of nature revolved around fruits, nuts and canes. Little as we know of their great moments, we do know they were not industrial fairs, celebrations of new inventions, gadget displays. Things may have been useful, but they were trivia compared to the moments when one made contact with the beginning, the source of life, Being itself.

The trivia are ancient, and may have been more varied in the old days than they are now. When fruits matured on high branches, all kinds of hooked poles, ropes and ladders were devised to reach the fruits before monkeys reached them.

People knew themselves as cousins of animals. Many of their implements enabled them to copy the ways of animals. On the banks of rivers and lakes, people devised all types of rafts and canoes so as to float like ducks and swans. They stored nuts for winter use after the manner of squirrels. They scattered seeds after the manner of birds. They wove nets after the manner of spiders. They stalked deer after the manner of wolves. Wolves have strong teeth and jaw. People sharpened sticks and stones. (Our archeologists picture them chipping away, all day long, like zeks. We’re projecting again. Those people were not coerced by what Toynbee calls “impersonal institutions.” They had no reason to go on chipping after it stopped being fun.)

Modern diggers have even unearthed the remains of ancient cities at places in Anatolia and the Levant, places later named Shanidar, Jericho, Catal Hoyuk, Hacilar. At Shanidar the whole community shared a cave as a winter shelter; the cave dwellers used metals. At Jericho people caved themselves in by building a wall, probably to protect themselves from hostile interlopers. These people seem to have done little or no planting. To the north of them were people who planted seeds and herded animals but did not build cities or walls. And across the world from them were the ancestors or predecessors of the Ojibwa, who practiced metallurgy on lake Superior, making beautiful copper ornaments and implements.

None of these people developed “impersonal institutions.” They remained kin. They went on sharing all they had and all they experienced. The copper users of Lake Superior did not plant seeds or herd animals. Perhaps they could have, but they had no earthly need to. They did have dogs. Dogs apparently domesticate themselves, either because of an incomprehensible love for human beings or because of a parasitic urge. But what satisfaction could come from developing strains of parasitic, doglike elk or moose?

The material objects, the canes and canoes, the digging sticks and walls, were things a single individual could make, or they were things, like a wall, that required the cooperation of many on a single occasion. I would guess that the builders of the first Jericho’s walls ceased to be wall-builders the moment they were done; they returned to more important activities. I would even guess they built the wall in order to pursue the more important activities undisturbed.

As for the surplus project, the famous Margin these implements supposedly made possible: Sahlins and others have shown that communities with many implements and communities with few, in lush environments and in harsh ones, were all surrounded by surpluses. After all the people had eaten their fill, after all the insects and birds and animals had eaten their fill, there was still a virtual bounty that fell to earth and fertilized the next spring’s new shoots. Many animals and many people stored what they expected to use during an average winter, but no one hoarded more than that; free people didn’t need to.

* * *

Most of the implements are ancient, and the surpluses have been ripe since the first dawn, but they did not give rise to impersonal institutions. People, living beings, give rise to both. And it is not Man or Mankind who is responsible, but one isolated community, a tiny minority in Toynbee’s words.

Furthermore, this tiny minority does not give rise to such institutions in the most favorable material conditions, say in the lush woodlands around the Great Lakes or the abundant forests of Africa or Eurasia. They do it in the least favorable material conditions, in a fiercely harsh environment.

Diggers will actually unearth and decipher tablets which shed light on some of the first moments of impersonal institutions.

The tablets are in Sumerian, a language that may have originate in Central Asia. The authors are the first literate men. The villages where they live are called Erech, Ur, Eridu, Lagash. The villages are located in the valley between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The place will called a Fertile Crescent ages later, to explain why donkeys have tails.

The first tablets don’t speak of the place so favorably. They describe it as a hellish place and make one wonder why those people stay there. They are set on farming in a jungle. The rivers flood yearly, fertilize the valley and turn it into a swamp.

Women plant seeds. One year the flood is so violent it carries off the crop as well as the houses. The following year there’s not enough water, and the plants dry up and die in the burning heat of the sun.

Surely the villagers must start thinking of returning to the more favorable conditions of Central Asia, where they did not have to spend so much time and energy on mere survival, where they had time for more enjoyable activities.

But they are tenacious. The grandmothers call the old men to a council. These men have been dreaming. The women urge the men to dream of a dependable water supply, neither too little nor too much.

The men are undoubtedly offended at being called away from their mental transports for the sake of such trivia. They probably have to be called to a second council and then a third, this last during a famine.

The old men sluggishly respond. They may have seen how beavers assure themselves of a dependable water supply. They dream. They see that what is needed is a dam, canals and drainage ditches. But who is to build these? Certainly not the old men. They are not beavers. They call the young men together and explain the dream.

The young men have been doing nothing at all, so they are eager to show themselves willing and generous givers.

But no one knows how to proceed. The old men may or may not dream up the plans, but they certainly do not supervise the actual doing. They choose a strong young man, a Lugal; they tell him to go look at beavers. The old men then return to their more important philosophical endeavors.

The Lugal, which means strong man in Sumerian, may or may not learn from the beavers, and he may or may not do the planning. He certainly does the supervising. Wasn’t he designated by the elders?

When the ditches and canals are dug, the Lugal returns among his peers, proud but not yet haughty. Nothing has changed yet. Such cooperative ventures were infrequent but not uncommon in communities of kin.

But this is Erech, a place where the gods obviously don’t want people to live. A single flood carries the whole works into the sea. The women call the old men to another council. This time the elders choose a yet stronger young man and urge him to study the beavers more conscientiously or dream more profoundly. And this time the banks and dikes hold, at least initially.

But Erech remains a materially wretched place, and before long the banks begin to crumble. The experienced Lugal is called to repair the banks and dikes. The Lugal and his cousins complain that they should have called a moon sooner, when the banks were still repairable; now they have to build the entire works. This happens twice, at most three times before the Lugal insists on having a seat in the council of elders, so as to have a say in choosing the time to repair dikes.

Springs pass and winters pass, filled with feasts, festivals, dances and games.

The elders of Ur, and even those of Lagash, designate Lugals to go study the irrigation works of Erech.

One elder of Erech and then another die of old age; they are replaced on the council by newcomers.

By now the Lugal is a more experienced elder than the newcomers, and he expresses himself about other things than dikes. He becomes haughty, and his cousins stand behind him. He and they, after all, are the ones who provide Erech with a dependable water supply. The Lugal even dares to tell an old grandmother where not to plant her seeds.

One day the Lugal is found dead, murdered by a deity, a deity known to be in close contact with the insulted grandmother. A new Lugal is chosen, a less haughty one, and the elders are more careful to keep him out of their council.

There is no positive evidence for any of this. The fact is that the Sumerian tablets are mysteriously silent about the deeds of the women and elders at the time of the first Lugals. And as time goes on, the tablet-scribes help people forget that Sumerian women were important, that elders once sat in council, that there was age before the first Lugal.

* * *

But I’ll return to my story.

The people of Ur and those of Lagash have completed their water works. These grow more extensive every year.

One year the drainage ditches of Lagash overflow into Ur’s canals, flooding and ruining Ur’s works.

This so infuriates the Lugal of Ur, called Urlugal, that he leads his spear-armed cousings against those of Lagash. The enraged youth of Ur destroy their neighbors’ water works and pursue fleeing Lagash people to the desert. In their rage they murder several foreigners, desert nomads whose paths they cross.

When at last the besieged Lagashians beg for an end to the violence, the victors, Urlugal at their head, impose a fiendishly heavy burden on the defeated. The man of Ur demands reparations from the Lagashians, who are to rebuild their own waterworks and those of Ur as well. Lagashians unwilling or unable to support such a burden are invited to bring large gifts to the man of Ur, at specified periods.

Urlugal is determined to keep track of all the tribute gifts owed to him, for he’s as tenacious as those ancestors of his who did not abandon the Fertile Crescent. To keep track of the gifts and givers, he sends one or two of his cousins to Erech to study the marks some of Erechlugal’s men have been making on clay tablets to keep track of the best times to repair dikes. Urlugal’s men soon make clay tablets of their own, and onto these tablets they chisel wedge-shaped marks to signify the names of those in Lagash who still owe tribute gifts, and the amounts.

All these events do not happen within a single Urlugal’s lifetime. Urlugal is only one of the names of Ur’s Lugals. The Sumerians have hundreds, perhaps thousands of Lugals,, and the scribes invent yet more names of Lugals to fill the time between themselves and the first dawn. For the Sumerians, the interval between themselves and the Beginning is not as brief as it will later become for Christians. The tenacious Sumerians reckon in millions.

I latched on to Urlugal because of his telling name, so I’ll stick with him. He’ still collecting tribute from Lagash. His nephews are still having a ball supervising the canal work of their neighbors instead of doing it themselves.

Now alarming news arrives. Some of Urlugal’s cousins went hunting, perhaps in the forests of Lebanon. One of them returns, with barely enough life in him to tell the tale. The hunters were attacked by spear-armed nomads; all were killed but the teller. The attackers are probably kin of the foreigners killed by Urlugal’s men during the foray against Lagash.

Urlugal immediately prepares his strongest cousings against the murderous foreigners. The elders try to cool the hotheads, suggesting that the foreigners were avenging the victims of Urlugal’s initial raid, and another raid will only lead to more reprisals. But the hotheads will not be stopped.

Urlugal and his cousins, still flushed by their victory over Lagash, set out towards the Lebanon forest. They actually find a camp of foreigners. They raze it to the ground and murder most of the nomads. On their way back with the captured animal herds, the men of Ur are attacked by another band of foreigners. The forest seems to teem with foreigners.

Urlugal and many of his cousins are killed. The survivors abandon their loot and flee back to Ur in disarray.

All Ur is in a rage. Someone reminds the angry crowd of the elders’ prediction and he’ immediately killed. The survivors and their cousins clamor for the appointment of the strongest and most determined among them as Lugal. The victors over Lagash will not be bested by mere foreigners, they will not be flies to spiders who live in no cities and plant no seeds. The council of elders, beset by the entire town’s rage, hesitantly appoints the new Lugal.

The enraged warriors set out against the foreigners. They send scouts ahead so as not to be trapped in another ambush. They transport their supplies as well as Lugal himself on wheeled carriages; the Lugal can thus save his strength for the actual battle, and the men from Ur can move faster than any foreigners. They find several camps of nomads and raze every one to the ground.

They return to Ur- this time not only with captive herds but with captive foreigners as well. The returning warriors are embraced by their worried kin. For a fornight all Ur is taken up with feasts, dances, celebrations. The elders, men and women, prepare generous offerings to the spirits and powers who made victory possible. Special offerings are made to the Lugal’s deity.

When the celebrations end, the flushed warriors, the heroes, are not about to return to repairing the canals. The stint of the Lagashians is about to end. In fact, the Lagashians are complaining that they’ve already done more for Ur than they ever agreed to do. Who’ll do the repairing now? The Lugal’s cousins had long been supervising defeated Lagashians and they’re not pleased by the prospect of replacing the defeated.

The captured foreigners are put to work on the canals. Each of the Lugal’s cousins is now a Lugal, a supervisor. The Sumerian word is Ensi. This is a sub-Lugal, an assistant to the Lugal, a boss but not the boss.

Nomads continue to harass Ur’s hunters and travelers. But news of their raids is no longer alarming. The Lugal leads frequent expeditions against the unintelligible Semitic-speaking foreigners.

The elders no longer object to these expeditions, prudently confining themselves to visionary and philosophical activities. Occasionally the Lugal consults an old man or woman about the likelihood of victory, but otherwise he keeps a respectful distance from them.

The Lugal now looks forward to these expeditions, for each new raid brings new foreigners to Ur. There are now enough foreigners in Ur to repair canals in every season. Soon the captives from the earlier expeditions are recruited to expeditions against new raiders.

Now foreigners do not only repair dikes. They also repair the houses of old men and women. They do the Lugal’s chores and soon the chores of Ensis.

Sumerian women still give birth to the plants in the field, but now they do this by maintaining close and continual contact with Earth and with the spirits responsible for nurturing the plants. The actual scattering of seeds is done by captured foreigners.

And who are these foreigners? Surely we can recognize them as the first zeks! They are workers, proletarians, full-time laborers. The Sumerian language comes from another age. Just as it has no word like King, Ruler, Emperor, President, it has no word like Zek, Worker, Slave. Sumerians continue to call the lugal Lugal, and they continue to call the foreigners Foreigners. But in an incredibly short time, Ur abandons the exotic world of seers and visions.

* * *

I’ve been using the present tensej. Ur is Now. It is not exotic at all. It is our world.

What happened?

I’ve already disposed of the Marxist explanation. Favorable material conditions did not give rise to the first Lugal of Erech. Material conditions remained what they were for generations, and the people of Erech had no access to the best of them. Material conditions begin to change only after the first Lugal, and from then on they change fast.

Pierre Clastres will say there was a revolution- not a material but a political revolution. This is a good way to put it, but it is true only in retrospect. The Sumerians obviously undergo a great change; we can call this a revolution, but they do not experience it as one.

From the standpoint of the Sumerians, nothing changes. In a sense they never leave the state of nature. This is probably what accounts for the exoticism that will continue to cling to what we will call “early civilizations.” The Sumerains haven’t become zeks. They’re still possessed. Sumerian women still give birth, not as machines for the production of soldiers and workers, but as living beings in close contact with the sources of Being. Sumerian men, especial oder ones, still seek contact with the spirits of the winds, the clouds, even of the sky itself. In fact, they devote themselves to their searches more completely than they ever could before. Now all their energies are devoted to the dances, festivals and ceremonies. They no longer have to concern themselves with the trivia of material survival. The trivia are all done for them.

Furthermore, the Lugal and his men bring far more generous gifts to the spirits than could ever be given before. The Lugal’s men have even built permanent shrines to all the spirits and powers, incredibly beautiful shrines, and around the shrines they’ve placed gardens and filled them with all the creatures of the deserts and forests.

Never before have people show such homage, such respect, to the beings responsible for life. It is true that the Lugal builds the greatest shrine to his own deity. This is obviously presumptuous on the haughty Lugal’s part, since he cannot know that the spirits accecpt the hierarchic arrangement into which he places them. This is a type of revolution. But the Sumerians are not now going to turn against the Lugal for his haughtiness. They’ve gotten used to it, and instead of irking them, it now makes the smile with a certain pride. It is thanks to him that they can devote themselves so completely to the wellbeing of their city.

I have to admit to my questioner that the Sumerians would not part with a single of the new implements. They do not long to return to the timeless Golden Age. They are in the Golden Age, more so now than ever before.

But the golden Sumerians are no longer all of Sumer. In fact, in some later scholarly accounts, the golden Sumerians will not even exist. They will be dismissed with a single word. The word is Temple. The devotees of Inanna, the loving daughter of the Moon; the communicants with Anu, the spirit of the sky, are not the users of the new implements. They are not he administrators of the irrigation works, the builders of the great palaces, the heroes of military encounters. They are what we will cal Priests and Priestesses, oracles and diviners. All that is left in Sumer from the state of nature has shrunken to what we will call Religion.

Perhaps some of the women who no longer scatter seeds, perhaps some of the men who now longer hunt or herd, feel some nostalgia for the old days. But there is no evidence of a “back to the land” movement among the Sumerian clergy. The scribes who chisel the tablets are the Lugal’s hired men; they are not hired to record the nostalgia of the clergy. The only clues we have are the gardens which the Lugal’s men build and fill for the Temple’s residents.

These Temple gardens are mysteriously lush for small towns surrounded by non-urban vistas and in walkin distance from forests and mountains—and the Sumerians are such good walkers. Could it be, as Turner will suggest, that the world outside the city is already becoming a wilderness?

We should look carefully. The world outside Ur is not the wilderness our word will designate. Their wilderness clearly is not the forest or desert, the plants or animals, since the nature-loving Temple residents have all these brought into the city.

Could it be that their wilderness is the wilderness created by the Lugal and his men: the battlefields surrounding all of Sumer’s towns, the setting of raids and counter-raids, the scenes of torture, slaughter and capture? A priestess who wanted to commune with the Moon by a forest pond would have to set out with an armed escort. It has become more practical to bring a shrunken pond and forest into the precincts of Ur.

If the former free community has shrunken to a Temple, an excrescence of that community has grown extremely large, for the Temple is now surrounded by a bustling city, almost modern in every way except in its relgion—perhaps not altogether modern but at least perfectly intelligible to us.

There are rich and there are poor, since the families of Ensis are no kin of the foreigners and share nothing with them. There is a market, since the well-to-do no longer gather grow or hunt their own food. There are generals and their soldiers. There are record-keepers and there is even a school for scribes. And it all runs like clockwork.

Let’s look more closely. If the people in the Temple are golden, those outside are of baser metals.

The Semitic-speaking members of the labor gangs, married and with one or more children, not quite Sumerianized yet, remember better days. It might not be altogether insane to suppose that these first zeks love their Ensis no better than later zeks will love theirs. Some of the victories celebrated on the tablets are against foreigners already in Sumer; in other words, they are victories over rebelling zeks.

The foreigners are maltreated, overworked and despised. They are neither free nor whole. They are the dispossessed. Some of their children might face a brighter future, especially those who go to war and butcher other foreigners bravely enough. The Sumerians have not yet progressed to the higher stage of hereditary misery. Even so, the lot of the Sumerian zeks is in no sense golden.

Rousseau, and before him de la Boetie, will wonder about situations like these. In any given labor gang, there are many zeks and only one Ensi. What keeps the zeks from ganging up against the Ensi? Why do people reproduce a miserable daily life?

Let’s glance at the Ensis. They are materially well off. But they are beset by fears, and at least on Ensi is paranoid. He’ afraid to be murdered by the zeks in his gang. He has already executed several conspirators. He’ afraid word of his incompetence might reach the LUgal. And, the gods forbid! He suspects someone in the Temple nurses a grudge against him.

There’s something else about the Ensi. His zeks aren’t free or whole. But neither is he. Except when they rise, or gang up against an Ensi, the zeks are not determined by their own nature or being, by their own choices or wishes. The tasks they spend their days on are not their own. But those tasks are not the Ensi’s either.

The Ensi knows of a work gange whose supervisor was murdered by zek conspirators. The murdered man was replaced by a man with a different outlook and altogether different interests. Yet once he was supervisor, the new man did the very same things as the murdered supervisor, and in almost the same manner.

Strange thoughts come to the Ensi’s mind. Could it be, he wonders, that the only man in Ur who is his own man is the Lugal? Now he wonders if even this is true. He has heard of a town whos Lugal was killed along with most of his Ensis in an uprising of zeks. When the Ensi first heard the story, he wasn’t surprised that there was an uproar, that many of the activities which emanated from the Lugal’s will came to a standstill. But now he remembers that very few activities came to a complete halt, even during the interregnum between Lugals. He even remembers that no council of elders replaced the dead Lugal; the elders stayed in the Temple and locked its gates. Many of the town’s activities, important ones and that, went on as before, like the clockwork of the Ensi’s descendants.

Yet stranger thoughts come to the Ensi. It seems to him that the town has a will of its own. But he knows it doesn’t. The only one in town with a will is the Lugal. The Ensis only execute the Lugal’s will. And if the zeks have a will at allk, it is a will to break out. The Ensi concludes that it is pointless to think. Thinking is the job of priests and oracles.

One of the Ensi’s distant descendants in a much later Ur, a scribe called Thomas Hobbes, will know that the Ensi is trying to understand Civilization with the ideas that come from the state of nature. This Hobbes will know that Ur is no longer in the state of nature, it is no longer a community of self-determined human beings.

* * *

Hobbes will know that Ur is no mere city. Ur is a State, maybe even the first State. And a state, Hobbes will say, is an “artificial animal.” It is something brand new, something neither Man nor Nature dreamt of. It is “that great Leviathan called a Commonwealth, or State, in Latin Civitas, which is but an artificial man.”

Like the thinking Ensi, Hobbes will know that this artificial man has no life of its own, and he will ask, “may we not say, that all automata (engines that move by themselves by springs and wheels as doth a watch) have an artificial life?”

The Ensi cannot yet visualize a watch. The more advance Hobbes will no longer be able to visualize nature or human beings. He will ask “what is the heart, but a spring; and the nerves, but so many strings; and the joints, but so many wheels…?” In a world of watches, the Leviathan will not appear as strange to Hobbes as it appears to the Ensi.

Hobbes will picture the Leviathan as an artificial English man: masculine, blond, with a crown on its head, a scepter in one hand and a sword in the other, its body composed of myriads of faceless human beings, zeks.

Hobbes will insist that the Leviathan has the head of a man. He might agree with the yet later poet Yeats that the beast has “a lion body and the head of a man.” But he will insist on the mans head. He will know that the zeks are headless, that they are the springs and strings that operate the body. He will think the monster contains one free and whole man, the Lugal. Hobbes will be able to call the Lugal a King, Monarch, Rulter and other names besides, because his language will have been enriched by the intervening proliferation of Leviathans.

The philosophical Ensi already knows better than Hobbes that the beast has neither the body nor the head of a man, whether English Sumerian. The Ensi knows that even the Lugal, the freest man in Ur, cannot go hunting in the morning, fishing in the afternoon and dancing at night, as his own spirit moves him. He knows of a Lugal who went off huntin only twice, and the second time, while the Lugal was in the woods, his favorite Ensi had replaced him as Lugal, and the former Lugal had to beg for asylum in the neighboring city. The Ensi knows that a Lugal who let himself be determined by his own spirit would quickly be overthrown by Ensis or even zeks, and that even the Temple would be in an uproar.

The Ensi, less advanced than Hobbes, is as yet more familiar with living beings than with springs and watches. He cannot envision the Leviathan wih either a human head or a lion body. He might use Hobbe’s first description and think of the beast as an artificial animal, but no an animal as graceful and limber as a lion.

He might think of it as a worm, a giant worm, not a living worm but a carcass of a worm, a monstrous cadaver, its body consisting of numerous segments, its skin pimpled with spears and wheels and other technological implants. He knows from his own experience that the entire carcass is brought to artificial life by the motions of the human beings trapped inside, the zeks who operate the springs and wheels, just as he knows that the cadaverous head is operated by a mere zek, the head zek.

Among the speculations this Hobbes will give us as offerings to his Ur will be the claim that the zeks actually contracted themselves to imprisonment within the carcass, or as he will put it, that the head made an agreement with the body, if not in Hobbes’ Ur then at least in the original Ur.

The philosophical Ensi, who has by now retired to the Temple, already knows better. He knows the zeks are foreigners who were brough to Ur by force before they even understood the Lugal’s language; the zeks agreed to no contract then, and they haven’t done so since.

The Ensi even remembers that the defeated Lagashians who contracted themselves to repairing Ur’s canals made this agreement only at the point of spears.

Furthermore, no Lugal ever advanced Hobbes’s claim; he would have been laughed out of office. The Lugal knows that the elders didn’t appoint him, since the elders no longer do any appointing; they take care of the shrines. The Lugal claims that his power comes to him from the violent spirit who lodges in the Ziggurat or artificial mountain. This sprawling man-made phallus shape is the read head of the Leviathan, and it made no contracts.

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