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Ancient Egypt: A pyramid scheme that worked

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The “failing state” pandemic that has engulfed the Middle East for many years now appears to be spreading to some of the wealthiest and most technologically advanced societies in the world.

The latest country to enter the fray of frailty is the United States. The fragility of the American state is evident in its disastrous handling and failure to minimise the human cost of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also apparent in the political shambles that followed the expensive political circus that passed for an election, as well as the increasingly vicious tribalism devouring its societal bonds and institutions.

This sorry state of affairs has triggered doom-laden predictions that the US, like its former superpower rival, the Soviet Union, is on the verge of a spectacular collapse.

Although there is some hope that the incoming Biden administration could undo the damage done by Trump during his catastrophic presidency and pull the country back from the brink of collapse, there is little doubt that the US is in the midst of decline and decay. Not only have other powerful states narrowed the geopolitical and economic gap between themselves and the country once seen as the “sole dominant global power”, America itself seems to be unravelling.

This means that America’s rise and decline were spectacularly fast.

This is not how it was meant to be. The founders of the US intended to build a political system that would stand the test of time. They communicated this desire through Ancient Egyptian iconography and symbology. From the colossal obelisk erected in the capital to commemorate George Washington, to the pyramid on the reverse side of the Great Seal of the United States, the early rulers of America widely used Ancient Egyptian symbols to signify the strength and durability of their young state. Washington, DC, would even have an actual pyramid today, if a certain John Pope’s ostentatious design for the Lincoln memorial had been approved by Congress.

There was a logic to their use of Ancient Egyptian symbols, and especially pyramids, to convey longevity – the first pyramid in Egypt was constructed nearly five millennia ago and is still standing. Meanwhile, the Ancient Egyptian civilisation which constructed the aforementioned pyramid had a recorded history of some three millennia (from the early dynastic era before 3000 BC to the fall of the Ptolemaic dynasty in 30 BC).

Egypt undoubtedly went through several periods of transition and became briefly divided during those 3000 years. However, the Egyptian civilisation did not enter a “dark age” even during these so-called intermediate periods. Instead, it became more localised, with a decentralisation of power, greater economic equality and more social mobility. Moreover, even the foreign conquerors of Ancient Egypt, such as the Macedonians, Persians and Hyksos, adopted Egyptian ways rather than imposing their own.

To put this long history into perspective, the pyramids........

© Al Jazeera

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