On Sunday, the Christian world will wake up to the paschal mystery of Easter celebrated about five weeks after a period of “cleansing” and “reflection”. Where the Christmas festivities focus on anticipation of a birth starting with the Feast of the Annunciation celebrated in March, Easter celebrates death and resurrection at almost the same time.
It focuses on resilience of the human race. In Palestine/Israel where this mystery is rooted, this is reflected in the turbulence over the years of a relatively small group of people, the Palestinians and the Jews and their affinity to a relatively small piece of land.
In fact, one wonders whether the same level of conflict could have arisen in a vast empty land like the Sahara, the Australian outback or the Western plains of the United States covered by millions of acres of forest and rugged terrain. Visitors to the Holy Land, however, appreciate the relatively sophisticated development that marked this part of the world and the fact that this development occurred much earlier than elsewhere.
The Holy Land was a more elaborate development than singular city states of Rome and Athens even though these city states still carried much heft as colonial centers.
One thousand years after Christ’s death, man egged on by communal living began drawing designs not on the hinterland, but across the seas. The reasons are easy to understand. First it is much easier to trade with people across the water than to move goods and people across the vast hinterland.
The Sahel region, for example, remains empty due to the great risk and cost of moving over thousands of miles overland. Even continental United States with a relatively well distributed population in more than 1,000 metro areas, has a concentration of people and wealth on its eastern and western coasts.
Hilary Clinton’s failed 2016 bid for president produced three million votes over Donald Trump’s winning tally which covered 90 per cent of the United States. Mr Trump prevailed in a convincing electoral college tally over Ms Clinton first by capturing the two fastest growing states, Florida and Texas, while his opponent captured California and New York, which reflect a much slower rate of growth and in the case of New York are suffering from a steady depopulation.
Older states gripped by anxiety like Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania slipped from Ms Clinton dominated by the kind of economic worry in the Middle East over scarce resources, food and water.
In the developing world where high levels of mortality are a more recent occurrence, the celebration of Easter is a human triumph reflecting man’s better fortunes with advances in science and technology. While the older history of the world is dominated by great reversals due to disease and famine or other natural disasters like earthquakes, more recent history is marked by even more intense disasters like global tsunamis yet the net effect of the older reversals was felt for many more years.
The regions that are dominated by these natural disasters are some of the fastest growing in the world, India, the Far East including Indonesia and the rest of the pacific rim. In a few years, India, for example, will surpass China in world population and with it will rise its economic fortunes becoming a top five global economy, currently it is sixth.
The real Christ, his trial, execution and burial in a simple tomb is an anti-thesis from cluttered modernity dominated by physical infrastructure. A backlash against a grandeur populated by transfer of resources (through slave trade, etc)has a new movement advocating for a simpler world.
When Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan environmentalist, a non-conformist who lived her entire 65 years battling the establishment died in 2005, she chose what amounted to a cardboard box to serve as a hearse compared to the “oak coffin” favoured by our establishment types. Easter gives us a chance to reflect on this simplicity.
Mr Ssemogerere is an Attorney-at-Law and an Advocate. [email protected]