Namaste: If Not Now, When? Chapter 3 Ma’at And The Golden Rule

Author’s Note: This is chapter 3. It appears out of order because I neglected to post it here when I wrote it. Sorry for the confusion. With this exception, the first 9 chapters are posted here in order with the most recent (chapter 9) at the top. Page down to find chapter 9 and the others. Comments are welcome.


By the Way, as Jerry Garcia said, “Nobody plays perfect sets.”

Chapter 3

Ma’at And The Golden Rule

The Ancient Egyptians believed that the universe emerged out of chaos and they perceived an underlying beauty, harmony, balance, and order to the universe that they regarded as holy. They attributed these qualities to a goddess they called Ma’at, whom they worshipped and experienced in their lives as a vital living spiritual force. Isfet, goddess of chaos, was her opposing force and they viewed the universe as a battleground between them.

The Ancient Egyptians believed Ma’at manifested externally in their lives by regulating the weather and the changing seasons as well as the movements of the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars. They believed she manifested internally in their consciousness as a code of moral and ethical conduct that required speaking the truth and treating others with honor and respect in the spirit of fairness and justice.

Ma’at is the earliest known version of the Golden Rule. As an expression of divine wisdom, Ma’at is reminiscent of St. Thomas Aquinas’s notion of natural or moral law. For example, he believed that the “standards of morality are in some sense derived from, or entailed by, the nature of the world and the nature of human beings.” The Ancient Egyptians believed Ma’at trumped manmade law and their emphasis on reaching conclusions that were consistent with Ma’at, or the spirit of the law, stands out in marked contrast to the rote application of the most relevant rule in a lengthy and detailed list of rules as is more typical of Jewish law.

Ma’at prevailed over Isfet for at least a thousand years beginning no later than the time that Menes unified the Two Lands of Upper and Lower Egypt in approximately 3,000 BCE until the fabled Old Kingdom passed into history at the end of the 6th Dynasty in approximately 2186 BCE with the death of Pepi II. He died at the age of 92 outliving all of his heirs. His death also marked the beginning of the First Intermediate Period, a time of declining central authority and civil war between the rulers of various powerful city states within the Egyptian empire. Eleventh Dynasty Pharaoh Mentuhotep II of Thebes eventually restored Ma’at when he reunited Egypt in 2025 BCE by seizing Herakleopolis, the capitol city of the rival 10th Dynasty. This marked the beginning of the Middle Kingdom and the shift of power from Memphis (modern day Cairo) to Thebes.

Ma’at was depicted on the walls of temples and tombs performing one of her most sacred duties at the Weighing of the Heart ceremony in the Hall of Two Truths in the Duat, or Egyptian underworld. She is depicted as a young woman holding a scepter with one hand, carrying an ankh with the other, and wearing an ostrich feather tucked into her headband. Known as the feather of truth, she would remove it from her headband and place it on one plate of a scale to counterbalance the weight of a recently departed person’s heart, symbolizing the soul. If the soul were lighter than the feather, it would achieve immortality and accompany Osiris to his home in the constellation of Orion and be reborn as a star. If the soul outweighed the feather, it would achieve eternal restlessness after dying a second time devoured by Amit, depicted as a female demon with a body part lion, hippopotamus, and crocodile.

During the Old Kingdom, the pharaoh’s primary role was to maintain Ma’at in society. Known as the Lord of Ma’at, he was said to decree with his mouth the Ma’at in his heart. This was an extremely important responsibility because the natural order and cosmic harmony would be disturbed, if someone violated Ma’at and pharaoh failed to restore it by making sure that justice was done, or if pharaoh violated Ma’at by his own conduct. Eerily similar to what we modern humans call the butterfly effect, the Ancient Egyptians believed that such disruptions would unleash ever more unpredictable and serious consequences reverberating throughout the Two Lands, including droughts, floods, pestilence, starvation, blindness, epidemics of disease, and accidents resulting in serious injury or death. Indeed, the First Intermediate Period often is described as such a time in the literature of that time.

As I ponder President Obama’s incomprehensibly inept and corrupt policy of “looking forward, not backward,” I cannot help but gasp at how offensive it is to our collective sense of justice, or Ma’at as the Ancient Egyptians would have called it, and wonder what will be the extent of the damage it causes. Our republic cannot survive our justice system officially transforming into a two-tiered system with one set of rules for you and me and another set of rules (no rules) for the rich; yet that is exactly what is happening.
On November 8, 2010, the five-year statute of limitations expired forever barring the prosecution of Jose Rodriguez, the CIA official who deliberately destroyed the 92 CIA torture tapes in order to prevent the prosecution of the CIA agents and two psychologists who did the torturing. Attorney General Michael Mukassey appointed First Assistant United States Attorney John Durham three years earlier to investigate and prosecute the person or persons responsible for destroying the tapes and despite an ironclad case against Jose Rodriguez, a CIA agent who admitted deliberately destroying the tapes to prevent them from being used against the torturers, Mr. Durham waited until the day after the statute of limitations expired to have one of his assistants announce that he had decided not to charge anyone. No further explanation was provided regarding the basis for his decision.

Half a continent away in Vail, CO, District Attorney Mark Hurlbert decided not to prosecute Martin Erzinger, who manages more than $1 billion in assets for Morgan Stanley in Denver, for a felony hit and run because Mr. Erzinger would be fired, if he were convicted of a felony.

According to court documents, on July 3, 2010, Dr. Steven Milo, a 34-year-old liver-transplant surgeon from New York City, was bicycling eastbound on Highway 6, when Erzinger allegedly veered onto the side of the road and struck Dr. Milo from behind with his black 2010 Mercedes Benz sedan, knocking him to the pavement. Mr. Erzinger then struck a culvert and fled the scene without stopping or calling 911 to report the accident. Fortunately for Dr. Milo, a passing motorist, who saw the accident, stopped to help him, called 911, and provided a description of the vehicle.

Mr. Erzinger drove all the way through Avon, a nearby town, negotiating its roundabouts, and stopped in a Pizza Hut parking lot on the other side of town where he called the Mercedes auto assistance service, reported damage to his vehicle, and requested a tow truck. When Avon police officers spotted the Mercedes sedan in the parking lot a few minutes later and stopped to investigate, they found Erzinger placing the front fender and passenger side mirror in the trunk of the car. When they questioned him about the accident, Erzinger told them that he did not know he hit anyone.

Dr. Milo sustained spinal cord injuries, bleeding from his brain, and damage to his knee and scapula.
Although Mr. Erzinger was initially charged with a felony hit and run, Eagle County District Attorney Mark Hurlbert agreed to drop the felony in exchange for Mr. Erzinger pleading guilty to two misdemeanor traffic offenses and agreeing to make full restitution to Dr. Milo. He explained his decision to the press stating that he decided to drop the felony because a felony conviction could jeopardize Mr. Erzinger’s job.
Harold Haddon, Dr. Milo’s attorney, filed an objection to the proposed plea agreement stating,

The proposed disposition is not appropriate given the shocking nature of the defendant’s conduct and the debilitating injuries which Dr. Milo has suffered . . . He will have lifetime pain. His ability to deal with the physical challenges of his profession — liver transplant surgery — has been seriously jeopardized.

Dr. Milo also wrote a letter to the District Attorney objecting to the plea agreement. He said,

Mr. Erzinger struck me, fled and left me for dead on the highway. Neither his financial prominence nor my financial situation should be factors in your prosecution of this case.

Nevertheless, despite Mr. Haddon’s and Dr. Milo’s objections and substantial public criticism, the District Attorney refused to change his mind. Defending his decision, as if Mr. Erzinger were a man of limited financial means and there were no such thing as auto insurance coverage for personal liability or the existence of civil remedies in tort, Mr. Hurlbert said,

The money has never been a priority for them. It is for us. Justice in this case includes restitution and the ability to pay it. Erzinger is willing to take responsibility and pay restitution. Felony convictions have some pretty serious job implications for someone in Mr. Erzinger’s profession, and that entered into it. When you’re talking about restitution, you don’t want to take away his ability to pay.

As a retired law professor and former criminal defense attorney for thirty years, I can say with absolute certainty that the District Attorney’s decision and his explanation are 100% bullshit. Keeping in mind that the District Attorney never claimed that he would have difficulty proving his case against Mr. Erzinger, no prosecutor I’ve ever known would have seriously considered dropping the felony, if the defendant were a regular person named John Smith, whether employed or unemployed, insured or uninsured.

The outcomes in both of these cases are offensive because just as there is no doubt that Jose Rodriguez and Martin Erzinger would have been convicted of felonies and sentenced to prison, if the prosecutors had done their jobs, there is no question that ordinary citizens like you and me would never have received the same deferential treatment accorded to them. Such outcomes are destroying public faith and confidence in the prosecution and judicial system (Ma’at). Vigilantism, disrespect for law, and citizen disorder are the inevitable result (Isfet) when the prosecutorial and judicial systems are corrupted.

To express the idea in Ancient Egyptian terms, President Barack Obama destroyed Ma’at with his policy of “looking forward, not backward.” We must restore Ma’at and with it all of our invaluable civil rights.

If Not Now, When? is my intellectual property. I retain full rights to my own work. You may copy it and share it with others, but only if you credit me as the author. You may not sell or offer to sell it for any form of consideration. I retain full rights to publication.

My real name is Frederick Leatherman. I was a criminal-defense lawyer for 30 years specializing in death-penalty defense and forensics. I also was a law professor for three years.

Now I am a writer and I also haul scrap for a living in this insane land.




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