Friday, September 08, 2006

The Living, Living-Dead (the sasha), and Dead (the zamani)

I am prone to lament "Where are men like Thomas Jefferson? Or George Washington? Or Abraham Lincoln? Or Benjamin Franklin?" It sure seems that given our current stock of leaders that we are missing something. But I have developed a theory that we (as a species) tend to deify noteworthy people from the past. Surely, some of the U.S.'s founding fathers would not pass the discretion of modern morality. Jefferson owned slaves (and apparently had at least one affair with one), Washington and Franklin were womanizers, and even Lincoln was rumored to be gay. So, why is it that these men (whom I still believe were exceptional leaders) end up being almost deities? Certainly they are treated that way in American history books.

I'm reading a history book right now that takes a more detailed view of what we think of as traditional history. One chapter is called "Down the Memory Hole: The Disappearance of the Recent Past.

This chapter explains a Kiswahili (Swahili) concept of dividing humans in to three categories, the living, the sasha, and the zamani. The living is self-explanatory, but the sasha is a unique concept. The recently departed whose time on Earth overlaps with other living are the sasha. The sasha "live on" in the memories of others (friends, relatives, co-workers.)

A person passes on to the zamani once the last person dies who knew that person. At that point, first hand knowledge of that person (0r I guess historical events) is no longer accessible. At some point, a historical person's blemishes fades away, a good man becomes a great man, and a great man becomes a deity.

History is controlled by the present.

3 Comments:

At 7:32 AM, Blogger toneroo said...

What's the name of the book, it sounds like an interesting read.

 
At 4:11 PM, Blogger Jake said...

I also am wondering what the name of the book is.

I just read a book called The Brief History of the Dead which referenced this concept, and I'm

 
At 12:21 PM, Blogger grayd said...

The name of the book is "Lies my teacher told me"

 

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