We are a nation of suckers

Thursday, March 14th, 2019

Dunlap got to know Egypt and its people while stationed there:

Of course the souvenir angle crept in, and every other Arab on the street was a hawker selling something. Anything and everything was sold by these peddlers. Persistent to the point of suicide, they pestered us until we hated to step out of a vehicle on a side street. Naturally, they planned on retiring on what they were going to make from the Americans. Undoubtedly some did, too. We are a nation of suckers.

[...]

But all of them expected baksheesh, meaning a present over the tip class. Most of the population wanted and asked loudly for baksheesh, constantly.

[...]

Only a small middle class exists and that only in the cities, as shopkeepers, civil servants and agents of all types. These are nearly all fairly well educated and it is they who clamor for progress.

[...]

The poor man, whom the English and we called “Wog,” is a small husky brown character, frequently lousy and in the majority of cases with inherited syphilis, who seldom has more than the galabeah on his back and a coin or two for his daily meal.

[...]

Although technically a Mohammedan he isn’t too devoted—or well fed—to pass up a piece of pork or a drink.

[...]

He is uneducated, unbathed and unbothered.

[...]

He is an Arab and his language is Arabic; the ancient Egyptian race is dead.

[...]

He has no shame and no morals whatever. He is dedicated to trying to chisel his way and cheat everyone possible, in such a childish and open manner he seldom succeeds.

[...]

The Wog is an inveterate smoker from the age of five, though he seldom can afford more than a few at a time. He would work harder for a few cigarettes than for money equivalent to their cost in town. Not just American cigarettes, prized throughout the world, but cigarettes of any kind. If he gets a few piasters ahead he’ll gamble or perhaps go to a native cafe for a go at the hubbly-bubbly, the familiar water-pipe. Here he will get a load of hashish, so cut and adulterated it does not really cause much trouble beyond a dream or two.

[...]

The commercial districts are not too different from those of southern American cities outwardly. In fact, they look better as a rule; the department stores and luxury establishments are grade A by any estimate.

[...]

As more Americans arrived and began the customary overpayment for trifles, things went up.

[...]

In the fall of 1942 I bought a beautifully carved little ivory elephant for the equivalent of 60¢. A year later the same item was priced at approximately $5.00.

[...]

Any Cairo architect should be able to make a fortune in the United States, particularly in the West and South, for they can make their creations acceptable to the eye far more so than any of our own “Modernistic” designers.

[...]

Traffic did not even pause at night. It took us quite awhile to get used to the idea of people driving in the dark. Cairo has more traffic than any place I have ever seen except the Chicago Loop during rush hour.

[...]

[Y]ou locate two parallel streets, it is an accident.

[...]

The true native sections are only a little improved over their condition of past centuries. Most of them have no sewage system in the modern sense, as does the metropolitan and modernized section; no water system from house to house; nor electricity.

[...]

Streets are often a page straight from Kipling, with camels, beggars, money-changers, and roving entertainers pushing through narrow passageways.

[...]

I liked the shop sections of the quarter, where men ran lathes with bows and loose thongs, holding their work with their toes and doing good jobs at woodturning. The coppersmiths and brass workers had incredible stocks of pans, pots, trays, candlesticks and other items, some so huge I wondered how they could be lifted and used.

[...]

These mud affairs sometimes reach four stories in height, looking as if they will fall any minute. Do not confuse them with thoughts of adobe structures; these are just plain mud, slapped on a flimsy framework of branches and wooden timbers.

[...]

One of the screwiest aspects of Egypt is the way buildings look as if they had just been tagged with a small bomb. Something is always missing. The secret is that there is—or was, at any rate, shortly in the past—a ruling that no building could be taxed until it was completed. Therefore no one ever completed a structure. Occasionally a magnificent villa or tall apartment building will be seen with a halffinished balcony or a corner of the upper cornice revealing beams or steel and stone.

[...]

Egyptian money is based on the millieme unit: 10 milliemes equal one piaster, 100 piasters equal one pound Egyptian, worth $4.14.

[...]

The lower classes wear the galabeah, like a loosesleeved nightgown, usually made of light-colored striped material, very like that of some barber’s cloths in this country.

[...]

A few Panama-style straw hats are seen and a few felts, but ordinarily the men go hatless or wear red tarboosh, what we have called the fez; like an inverted flower pot.

[...]

The women wear either black gowns and veils covering them completely, or very up-to-date dresses and makeup. Usually only the poorest women wear the traditional Moslem clothing and veil. And if she is good looking the veil gets very thin or lost completely.

[...]

West of the river is a cultivated area of the Nile Valley, and when it comes to farming, an Egyptian fellah can make a Japanese gardener look like a lumberjack raising cotton in a stone quarry.

[...]

Cattle are seldom seen, because they need feed and land is too valuable to use as pasture. The work animal is the donkey, small, white, strong and tough.

[...]

The fellahs, or farmers, are about the only class in Egypt who can go in for the four wives allotted by the Koran, since all four can work and earn their keep.

[...]

Papa would walk at the donkey’s head, leading him. On the flat-topped two-wheeler would be all four wives, a couple of mothers-in-law, a half-dozen or so kids, all of whom would be shouting very disrespectful comments and doing continuous back seat driving. The old man never had a chance for they outnumbered him and were just as big as he was. Any ideas regarding harems and the position of the lord and master we had received immediate revision.

[...]

Conversely, the Sphinx, down the hill two or three hundred yards and a little south, is much smaller than you have been led to believe by pictures. It does not sit majestically out in the desert. It peeps out of a sort of unfilled swimming pool, over the sandbags holding up its chin.

[...]

Being unromantic but practical, what sank in on me deepest was the condition of the mortar in the Great Pyramid at the newly-uncovered base. Good as the day it set, not a grain of sand can be brushed off; somebody knew how to make cement back then, as well as push around large chunks of rock.

Comments

  1. Bill says:

    From Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad (1869):

    “As we rode into Magdala [Syria] not a soul was visible. But the ring of the horses’ hoofs roused the stupid population, and they all came trooping out—old men and old women, boys and girls, the blind, the crazy, and the crippled, all in ragged, soiled and scanty raiment, and all abject beggars by nature, instinct and education…. and out of their infidel throats, with one accord, burst an agonizing and most infernal chorus: “Howajji, bucksheesh! howajji, bucksheesh! howajji, bucksheesh! bucksheesh! bucksheesh!” I never was in a storm like that before.”

    “The population of Jerusalem is composed of Moslems, Jews, Greeks, Latins, Armenians, Syrians, Copts, Abyssinians, Greek Catholics, and a handful of Protestants… Rags, wretchedness, poverty and dirt, those signs and symbols that indicate the presence of Moslem rule more surely than the crescent-flag itself, abound. Lepers, cripples, the blind, and the idiotic, assail you on every hand, and they know but one word of but one language apparently—the eternal “bucksheesh.””

  2. Bruce says:

    “Cement as good as the day it set, not a grain of sand can be brushed off.”

    Hmm. Well, it has been sandblasted for three millennia. And I think it’s lime gypsum, not Portland. Still, impressive.

  3. Sam J. says:

    “Cement as good as the day it set, not a grain of sand can be brushed off.”

    It’s extremely likely that this is not cement but Geopolymer. Prof. Joseph Davidovits came up with this. There’s a vast amount of evidence he’s cataloged that the pyramids were built of geopolymer on the outer casing and most of the upper portion.

    https://www.geopolymer.org/

    https://www.geopolymer.org/faq/faq-for-artificial-stone-supporters/

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geopolymer

    Geopolymers readily explain a lot of strange vases, statues and other objects in Egypt made of super hard Diorite and quartz stone that seems almost impossible to carve but could be easily cast with the stone bonded with Geopolymer cement.

    I would say the best evidence he’s right is the extreme hardness of some of the artifacts in Egypt with very fine inscriptions, thin sectioned vases and other objects that would be easy to cast or mold like clay but almost impossible to grind down to shape. The second most impressive evidence is the pyramid casing stones made of limestone have shells in them that are jumbled up in all different orientations. In normal limestone the shells of sea creatures are all laying flat on their sides. The casing stones have no spaces between them and have varied shapes. It is just not possible to have a perfect fit with varied shape but casing would make this easy.

    A lot of the volume of the pyramids is rough cut blocks but the finished surfaces are probably all geopolymer.

  4. Kirk says:

    Sam,

    Interesting site. I’ve been hearing stuff like this since I first started seriously trying to understand the world, and I’m left sort of ambivalent over the whole thing.

    The more contrived you have to make your explanation for things, the less seriously I can take it. For examples, the hypothesis that the Egyptians floated the pieces of the pyramids into place using water shafts. It looks good on paper, but when you consider that the whole thing is predicated on having something that would substitute for modern penstocks and the like, one wonders just how the hell the Egyptians would have managed it all… With the materials that we know of, it’s seriously unlikely that they were doing this.

    It’s a hell of a ride, though, watching the videos:

    https://youtu.be/C1y8N0ePuF8

  5. Sam J. says:

    Kirk,

    I have two of his books and have read a load of the stuff he and others wrote. It’s an extremely simple explanation for something not easily explained. I can not see any way at all that they could have carved some of the super hard rock in Egypt to make many different articles. That’s why people start talking about UFO’s, which I don’t believe in. These type stones are all over the planet, so the recipe may have been found many times and lost. There’s also many different ways to make these.

    Geopolymers are a ready explanation for the tight fitting, dressed stones on the sides and interior chambers. Here is an explanation for how they moved the rough cut blocks. I think you combine these two and it fairly well covers how they did it.

    Gerard C. A. Fonte, Building the Great Pyramid in a Year, An Engineer’s Report.

    He shows that semi-circles found near the great pyramids could be used used to roll square blocks. Here’s how you roll square blocks. You can roll these just as easily as you can roll a large round stone weighing tons. The key is the center of gravity is not raised or lowered as it transverses the ground.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMw7XR1kMXQ

    He’s a construction engineer and planned large construction schedules. He added up all the time to do this using these semi-circle tracks and using interior ramps built into the pyramids as it goes up. He actually built some of these tracks and rolled concrete blocks to show it could be done. There’s evidence for these interior ramps from thermal and cosmic ray studies. He says the whole thing could be built in a year and shows the schedule, work needed and hours for each function in the book. It’s a good read and is not as dry as it sounds.

  6. Kirk says:

    Sam, Fonte makes sense. Geopolymers and the floating thing… Not so much.

    My issue with the idea of geopolymers is that a.) it’s got to be a fairly simple technique, if it works, and b.) there’s no modern equivalent that can produce anything even near the sort of thing those guys talk about. So, if that was the technique used, vs. brute force or Fonte’s rollers, the question is, why is nothing like that known today? They talk about somehow dissolving stone and then reforming it somewhere else, and the question I have is “How?” Show me a chemical process that works, and don’t hypothesize some now-extinct magical plant that produced the amount of latex-like substance necessary to build even one of the pyramids.

    The place where that whole geopolymer idea falls down for me is the lack of evidence, and the scale of the thing. Fonte? Yeah; he makes sense, and I think he’s got the best explanation going. The rest of them? I just can’t take the ideas seriously.

    Other stuff that’s equally hard to comprehend is the sort of thing that’s in evidence down in South America at the site near Lake Titicaca called Puma Punku. Friend of mine is an experienced stone worker, and has done work on a bunch of really well-known public monuments, carving and placing the stuff. He was brought in as a half-ass consultant by one of those skeptic organizations, and asked to go down on an “expedition” to try and debunk a lot of the crap that gets put out about those sites. Now, there was a lot of stuff that he looked at with them, and which was easily refuted as being signs of “extraterrestrial” construction techniques. However, as he put it “…huge ‘effing comma…”, there was a bunch of stuff that he looked at that was “inside baseball” for stoneworkers, and which he saw no way to duplicate even with modern machinery and technique. He couldn’t even begin to figure out how they’d done what they’d obviously accomplished, and that was with him having access to all sorts of resources about ancient stoneworking techniques. There was a bunch of stuff that he looked at that simply wasn’t at all easily worked-out, as to the “how” they did what they did. And, another thing–The alignments between sites. There were specific alignments that they’d built into things for astronomical phenomenon that only showed up every once in awhile, and he was completely at a loss at how they’d done it. Even with laser survey equipment, he was hard pressed to figure out how he’d do it.

    So, the thing I think we have to accept is that there’s a bunch of stuff about the ancient civilizations we simply don’t know enough to figure out. Occam’s Razor means it was probably people that did it, but… How?

    Another thing that is a mind-bender is Gobekli Tepi. I can wrap my head around building a monumental structure like that over the course of generations, but the idea that something caused the descendants of the builders to spend just about as long burying the damn place…? That’s an enigma–Building it was about like building a cathedral or a pyramid. But… Burying the damn place? What on earth motivated that, over the generations it had to take? It must have been more than a simple “loss of faith” in whatever religious structure that had led to it’s construction, because people worked for generations to bury that place after whatever it was happened.

    Give me access to a time machine, and that’s one of the first places I’ll go, just to answer the question of “Why?”.

  7. CVLR says:

    Kirk, Maybe I’m just in the minority here, but when I see something that seems to have been made by people with technology beyond ours, I assume that it was made by people with technology beyond ours.

    Sam, have you taken the Great Flood pill yet?

  8. Kirk says:

    Or, that we’re just so disconnected from the realities of the milieu that those ancients lived in that we refuse to accept that they could have done it on their own…

    I don’t discount anything, or have a particular brief for a particular theory. Show me how they did all that stuff at Puma Punku with the then-current technology, and I’ll buy that they did it. Until then, knowing what I know, I’ll just file that whole thing under “WTF, Anomaly”.

    There are a lot of things that just don’t make sense. Weird one I want the answer to is a friend of mine who was a big-time rock-hound and geologist wannabe. He grew up in Appalachia where they did all the strip mining, and he used to walk up and down the railway lines collecting weird stuff that fell off the trains hauling coal.

    Now, when and where he grew up, there was also a lot of interest in picking up Indian arrowheads and the like, so when he’d be walking along the tracks, he’d occasionally find pottery and other things that he took for Indian artifacts. Had quite the collection…

    It wasn’t until he was taking college classes with me in the Army that the timeline issues clicked with him, and he started wondering where the hell those artifacts came from. He described them and sketched them for our instructor, who was like “That looks like nothing I’ve ever seen, coming from the American Indian…”. And, given that this stuff was falling off of coal trains coming out of strip mines in the Appalachians, well… Yeah. You can see the issues that come to mind.

    Unfortunately, when he went home on leave and was going to take pictures and bring those artifacts back to our instructor, he made the unfortunate discovery that his mother had sold everything in a yard sale…

    That’s something I wish I knew the answer to, because the stuff he described finding along the train tracks sure as hell didn’t sound like anything I’d ever heard of.

    There are an awful lot of things out there that we don’t know about because we haven’t kept an open mind about them, or paid attention to the things we’ve actually found. “Oh, this can’t possibly be a Coelacanth… Those are extinct…”. Yeah, guess what, baby… They’re not.

  9. Buckethead says:

    CLVR, your Great Flood pill link seems to be just a pic of a bearded guy in front of a bookcase.

  10. Bruce says:

    I think Gobekli Tepi was a slave pen. Bunch of cells with one opening at the top apiece, surrounded and overlooked by walls. If the inmates got out they might have been mad enough to bury the place.

Leave a Reply