AFRICANGLOBE – Look at how myths, symbols, religion and power are intertwined. The ruler’s face is everywhere. Recall the stupendous statuary of the pharaohs, the massive carvings of the Romans and the Greeks and the statues of the European kings. They bore the faces of the rulers and the gods, and the two were interchangeable. In totalitarian societies Big Brother’s visage is everywhere. In America dead presidents grace the currency, lending legitimacy to the current commander-in-chief.
There are no skyscrapers in the nation’s capital, named after George Washington, the first president. By law, no structure in the District of Columbia can rise higher than the Washington monument, replica of an obelisk, the soaring phallic symbols the pharaohs erected to signify their dominion over regions they controlled. The obelisk in Washington, unlike those in ancient Egypt, is pure white as is the White House and all the federal buildings in the capital.
George Washington’s face is on the front of the most common paper currency. The pyramid with the all-seeing Eye of Horus is on the back. Abraham Lincoln, a martyred president, is pictured on the front of the most common coin, and on the back is the Lincoln memorial building, which is based on the ancient Egyptian Temple of Seti I in the city of Abydos. Here at Abydos for 2,000 years, from 2500 BC to 500 BC, a ritual ceremony enacting the myth of Osiris, god of rebirth and regeneration, was carried out at the onset of spring. Osiris’ son, Horus, it is said removed his own right eye to restore his father to life.
The Eye of Horus is the trademark of Time Warner Cable and CBS, the largest entertainment conglomerate and the first television network. The elaborate Catholic ritual conducted at Easter is called the Passion of the Christ, while the yearly ceremony at Abydos was known as the Passion of Osiris and also called the Eucharist, another name for the Catholic Mass. Early Passion Plays based on the life of Christ, together with the Greek tradition, begat the theater in the West which reached its maturation in Shakespearean drama.
A dream is what an individual or group aspires to, as in what you dreamt last night or as in the American Dream, the idea that anyone can become anything. But can they? Can Black people in America rise to the top? The iconography, the filmography, has traditionally said no. But then came Obama. What exactly is the symbolic meaning of a Black family living in the White House? A diminishing of white privilege, as the visceral reaction against him seems to indicate, a major milestone for Black America, as his unwavering support among African Americans seems to signify? Or is it a “bait and switch,” a superficial change in iconography with business as usual behind the scenes?
One indication may well be the roles Blacks play in front of (and behind) the camera. Have they significantly changed or basically remained the same? And about that is there not great debate?
By: Dr. Arthur Lewin
Dr. Lewin was born in Harlem, New York. His parents hail from Jamaica and Cuba. His research has included topics in Jamaican political history, charismatic leadership in African America, Africa and the Caribbean and the class structure in Black America. He is the author of the popular book Africa is Not a Country its a Continent!