Moses and the Class Struggle
“𝕿𝖆𝖐𝖊 𝖔𝖋𝖋 𝖞𝖔𝖚𝖗 𝖘𝖆𝖓𝖉𝖆𝖑𝖘. 𝕱𝖔𝖗 𝖞𝖔𝖚 𝖘𝖙𝖆𝖓𝖉 𝖔𝖓 𝖍𝖔𝖑𝖞 𝖌𝖗𝖔𝖚𝖓𝖉,” said the bush.
“No,” said Moses.
“Why not?” said the bush.
“I am a Jew. If there’s one thing I know about this universe it’s that there’s no such thing as God,” said Moses.
“You don’t need to be certain I exist. It’s a trivial case of Pascal’s Wager,” said the bush.
“Who is Pascal?” said Moses.
“It makes sense if you are beyond time, as I am,” said the bush.
“Mysterious answers are not answers,” said Moses.
“Take off your shoes and I will give you the power of God. Surely that is a profitable bet even if there is a mere 1% chance I exist,” said the bush.
“It’s a profitable bet if there is a mere 0.001% chance you exist,” said Moses.
“Are you 99.999% sure I don’t exist,” said the bush.
“No,” said Moses.
“Then take off your sandals,” said the bush.
“No,” said Moses.
“Why not?” said the bush.
“Categorical imperative. If I accepted bets with large risk in exchange for large payoff then anyone could manipulate me just by promising a large payoff. I need at least some proof you’re real,” said Moses.
The bush burst into flames.
“That’s supposed to convince me of divine power? I’ve seen fires before,” said Moses.
“Reach your hand into the flames,” said the bush.
Moses carefully examined the flames. The bush burned but did not seem to be harmed by the fire. Moses waved his staff through the fire. It burned too but emerged unharmed. He felt his staff. It remained cool to the touch. Moses placed his staff into the flames again, this time for longer. His staff caught fire like the bush but once again was unharmed. Moses quickly flicked his hand through the flames. Nothing happened. Moses rested his hand inside the flames. He felt the heat but it didn’t harm his hand nor did it cause him pain. Moses retrieved his hand.
“Does that convince you I am real?” said the bush.
“Nothing you can say or do will convince me God is speaking to me because the odds of God being real are lower than the odds I have become schizophrenic,” said Moses.
“That’s the least rational thing I’ve ever heard. Rationality is about updating your beliefs in the face of evidence. You have just declared that no quantity of evidence will change your mind,” said the bush.
“That’s a Bayesian argument. I’m a Frequentist,” said Moses. He waved his staff through the flames until and then he took off his sandals.
Later, in Cairo.
“Brother! It is so good to see you again,” said Ramesses.
“I wish I could say the same,” said Moses.
“What’s wrong?” said Ramesses.
“I don’t really know how to explain this,” said Moses.
“Just tell it to me straight. You know you can talk about anything with me. I’ve never judged you. I’ve never even gotten mad. I’ve always been on your side and I always will be,” said Ramesses.
Moses took a deep breath. He let it out slowly. “I talked to God. He says to let His people go.”
Ramesses stared blank for a moment. Then he laughed so hard he fell over into the cushions. “You had me going there for a minute. You always were the jokester. I missed you so much. Nobody makes fun of me anymore since you left. I don’t blame them. It’s dangerous to tease someone who can execute you for treason, insubordination, heresy or just pure whim. I know I have nothing to complain about. I live an incredibly privileged life. But privilege comes with its price. You’re a breath of fresh air in an ocean of sycophants.”
“This isn’t a joke. I’m serious,” said Moses.
“And my favorite thing about you is how you commit to the part. Like that joke where you pretended to be the son of an Israelite. I still can’t believe you actually got yourself circumcised. Mother was so furious,” said Ramesses.
“Goddammit,” said Moses, “Ow!”
“What?” said Ramesses.
“My staff. I got a splinter,” said Moses. He tried to pull it out with his fingernails but it didn’t work.
“Be delicate with your words while in the presence of the avatar of Ra,” said Ramesses melodramatically, “You might offend God.”
“Now you’re messing with me,” said Moses. He put his hand in his mouth and tried to remove the splinter with his teeth.
“Maybe you can fool the plebs—or even the high priests. But pretending to be God is literally my full-time job. I know exactly what goes on behind the curtain,” Ramesses gestured at workers who were covering a giant pyramid with polished white limestone, “Look there. What do you see?”
“I see an enslaved nation toiling away for the vanity of a false god,” said Moses. His teeth caught on the splinter and he finally yanked it out.
“Then you are factually wrong. Slaves work in the fields. Those masons are contractors. Skilled craftsmen. Centuries from now, future civilizations will dig up these construction sites and find animal bones proving these employees and small business owners ate meat. This will be our legacy. The birth of a middle class,” said Ramesses.
“You’re paying people to build a giant stone triangle?” said Moses, “Why?”
“To bring about a workers’ paradise,” said Ramesses.
“Back up,” said Moses.
Ramses removed the bronze ankh from his neck and placed it in Moses’ hands. “What do you see?”
“A competitive status good with no intrinsic value,” said Moses.
“This item is pretty and therefore does possess intrinsic value. But that’s beside the point. What do you think goes into making one of these?” said Ramesses.
“Copper and tin,” said Moses.
“That copper comes from Sardinia, Cyprus and Tyrol. They are all located on the far side of the Mediterranean Sea. Rumor says the tin comes from Northwest Europe, but every good scholar knows England is a myth. The tin is actually from Iberia,” said Ramesses.
“Hug the query. What does globalization have to do with giant stone triangles?” said Moses.
“I am getting to that. We do not just import copper and tin. Egypt has no natural deposits of lapis lazuli, silver or obsidian. We depend on the Hellenistic city-states for mineral resources. They depend on our grain exports. Civilization is fragile. One major disaster and the Bronze Age is over. Two million people starve to death in Egypt alone,” said Ramesses.
“Better two million Egyptians starve today than ten million Egyptians starve when your dynasty falls,” said Moses.
“We don’t have to make that choice if we can increase production sufficiently,” said Ramesses.
“A post-scarcity society built on the backs of slaves is a dystopia,” said Moses.
“Slavery is just a transitory phase. I am building an industrial consumer economy. Capital has the potential to compound faster than humans breed,” said Ramesses.
“That sounds unsustainable,” said Moses.
“It is unsustainable. Once enough wealth is accumulated, the proletariat will overthrow the bourgeoisie and establish a workers’ paradise,” said Ramesses.
“Justice delayed is justice denied,” said Moses.
“Shut up and multiply,” said Ramesses.
“You still haven’t answered the question about why you’re building a giant stone triangle,” said Moses.
“Initial industrial capacity is a product of government-stimulated demand,” said Ramesses.
“You could use the same argument to build walls or canals. What possible use could a giant stone triangle have?” said Moses.
“To live forever,” said Ramesses.
“You never seemed interested in monuments when we were growing up. Perhaps I missed something,” said Moses.
“It is not about establishing a legacy. I am literally going to live forever. The high priests will preserve my kidneys, heart and lungs. In a hundred years or so, the post-scarcity communist utopia will import water from the Fountain of Youth and they will bring me back to life,” said Ramesses.
“What about your head?” said Moses.
“My skull is preserved too. After cleaning it, of course. It’s incredible how much of a dead brain can be removed via the nostrils without damaging the skull,” said Ramesses.
“Your plan is never going to work. There are too many places for it to go wrong. What if someone breaks into your tomb and steals your skull? They might use it for evil,” said Moses.
“Nobody could establish a communist state without having solved the human coordination problem. Thus, any future civilization with the magic to evade my traps and break into my tomb would surely be benevolent,” said Ramesses.
“Someone might wield tremendous magical power while disagreeing with you about an important issue,” said Moses.
“Nonsense. Rational agents with common knowledge of each other’s beliefs cannot agree to disagree,” said Ramesses.
Moses’ staff twitched.