When Dr. Jay Samons came and spoke to the Brigade a few days ago he remarked, “If you want to know what a society cares about, listen to their songs.” In a similar vein, one can and rightfully should consult the Egyptian Book of the Dead to see what the ancient Egyptians valued as a society. The document outlines in great detail what one should tell Osiris, the god of death and the underworld, as they enter into the afterlife so as to appease him. This processes of appeasing was meant to allow the ancient Egyptians the opportunity to convince Osiris that they deserve a happy afterlife as opposed to a less-than-pleasant one.
These admonitions cover a wide range and variety of sins that the ancient Egyptians could have (and often) committed. The most interesting notion about these admonitions, however, is the fact that many of them state that the speaker has not tampered with agriculture or land use in any way. This signals to historians just how important agriculture was to the ancient Egyptians. Two more entries read, “I have not obstructed water when it should run. I have not cut a cutting in a canal of rating water.” The Egyptians relied on the reliable flooding of the Nile River to irrigate their crops. This was their livelihood. If one were to obstruct another’s water or otherwise steal from it, they would be directly affecting that person’s livelihood. Such a transgression was seen as so severe that the transgressor was not worthy of a happy afterlife.
All of this begs the question: what would a modern American Book of the Dead contain? If we can look back at the Egyptian version and ascertain their values, what modern day American values would make the cut into the American version? A list could tentatively look something like this:
I have not been the proprietor of Fake News.
I have not discriminated against anyone based on race, sexual orientation, religion, or economic status.
I have not cheated on my classwork.
I have not committed adultery.
I have not killed another human being.
I have not made a cringe-y TikTok.
I have not been a fan of either of the Paul brothers.
I have not enjoyed a Twilight movie.
I have not laughed at an Amy Schumer joke.
I have not broken bread with anyone in the Army.
While many of these admonitions seem jovial or satirical, they still hold truths for what our modern American society values. Historians and anthropologists of the future could look back at a list like this and ascertain the values that modern Americans hold in high enough regard to proclaim innocence of them in order to reach eternal paradise. Unlike the ancient Egyptians, Americans don’t have to worry about physical sustenance in everyday life. Modern America is concerned with the unabated flow of information rather than water. Perhaps that is what this hypothetical Book of the Dead would communicate to generations thousands of years into the future.
–T. C. Fuselier
Word Count: 505