Social authorities and their policies (pt 1 of 2)

Social authorities tend to respect the potential for hysteria in the general public. The following is a story from the Book of Numbers in the Bible (which is also in the Torah but as far as I know is not one of the stories about Moses that is in the Koran).

When Moses organized the Israelite army to invade the Midianites, the primary rallying cry was that the Midianite women were so sexually enticing to the Israelite men that it was disrupting marriages and weakening traditional family values, like that a man could have lots of wives as long as none of them were Midianites. (I was joking there. In fact, the first wive of Moses was a Midianite.)

So, the Israelites launched a surprise attack and slaughtered the entire population of Midianite males of any age, plus all of the Midianite females except for 24,000 young virgin girls. The Israelites captured those girls and distributed them amongst the soldiers and priests. They also kept all of the cattle and sheep and donkeys and thousands of shekels of gold that they collected from amongst the corpses of Midianites.

In other words, instead of allowing these sexy Midianite females to continue to disrupt society, Moses saw the prior disruption, however great it was, as an opportunity. There was an organized and structured policy for including the sexy Midianite females in to the Israelite society. They were taken as child brides or sex slaves.

They were systematically integrated into society. Instead of ongoing disruption, Moses not only massively increased the wealth of the Israelites by taking all of the wealth of the Midianites, but also created a structured distribution of Midianite girls. Since it was the central social authority that was distributing the girls, those girls did not destabilize the central social authority, but were used to increase the power. (What is on your wish list that you would like for Santa to give you for your obedient behavior?)

It is similar to a government handing out free education for free healthcare or even free housing or living expenses. However, unlike later programs of National Socialism and Communism, the program of Moses was more like your average instance of piracy or imperialism. He initiated a military draft and forced the young males of the Israelites to go fight and kill all the Midianites except for the virgin girls, then the government took all of those virgin girls and the gold shekels and the cattle and sheep and donkeys.

There is no mention in the Bible of how many Israelite soldiers died in this process, but it seemed quite effective at increasing the devotion of the Israelite masses to their warlord. A fraction of the “bounty” (or booty) was also delivered to the Tabernacle of the Lord God.

So, is that story from the Bible one of the most widely mentioned ones about Moses? In my experience, many people have heard of Moses and even know the details of a few stories, perhaps the ones that were featured in movies in the 20th century. However, the Bible is a thick book and if I only had 180 minutes of length for a movie, I would have to leave out lots of content and emphasize certain story lines, right?

Which stories do we want to present to the masses to program them with awe and gratitude and devotion? Do we want to stir critical thinking and intelligent conversation, or do we want to polarize the masses in regard to the specific details of parting the waters of the Red Sea? Do we want them arguing about one emotionally provocative detail? Do we want to “tip our hand” in regard to the principles that we use to rule what they pay attention to and how they relate to themselves and other people? Do we want to rule them effectively (which may involve cultivating certain specific hysterias and controversies and scandals) or to make a point to avoid stirring up hysterias?




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