Y’all have probably heard of the ancient Sumerian peoples and their penchant for spooky burial rituals and books like the Necronomicon Ex Mortis, which was penned in human blood and has the ability to raise the dead. But did you know they also cared deeply about liberty, freemarkets and private property rights?
Or at least that’s what the Liberty Fund, a libertarian moneybag outfit that bankrolls all sorts of Koch-linked youth-oriented baggertarian propaganda projects, would have you believe. In what must go down as the mother of all cuneiform-malapropisms, the Liberty Fund appropriated a weird looking Sumerian cuneiform symbol as its cult-logo, in what appears to be an attempt to prove that libertarianism is not just an ideology thought up by a bunch of rank 20th century oligarchs, but rather comes from an ancient small government tradition older than even Jesus. It goes back back to the dawn of civilization itself!
If you go onto one of the Liberty Fund’s project websites, the Library for Economics & Liberty, you’ll find this ancient cuneiform symbol at the footer of the home page:
The Liberty Fund-backed website goes on to explain that the significance of the amagi symbol goes deeper than just the word “liberty.” It represents the first popular struggle against big government tyranny:
Lagash was the site of the first recorded social-reform movement. Once considered a relatively free society of farmers, cattle breeders, boatmen, fishermen, merchants, and craftsmen, the Lagashites found that a change in political power had stripped them of their political and economic freedoms and subjected them to heavy taxation and exploitation by wealthy officials.
Sumerian historians believe that at this low point in Lagash’s history, Urukagina became the leader of the Sumerian city-state of Girsu/Lagash and led a popular movement that resulted in the reform of the oppressive legal and governmental structure of Sumeria. … On the tablets of the period is found the first written reference to the concept of liberty (amagi or amargi, literally, “return to the mother”), used in reference to the process of reform…
There’s only problem with Liberty Fund’s lesson in Sumerian history and language: the real meaning of the amagi cuneiform isn’t about abolishing “big government” or abolishing the Fed–nope, it’s about abolishing debts to free citizens from debt slavery. What the history-failures at Liberty Fund hilariously mistranslated was that the term “return to mother” is Sumerian-speak for “jubilee”–as in “debt forgiveness” or “freedom from debt.”
Here’s how David Graeber explains it in his brilliant book Debt: The First 5,000 Years:
Faced with the potential for complete social breakdown, Sumerian and later Babylonian kings periodically announced general amnesties … Such decrees would typically declare all outstanding consumer debt null and void (commercial debts were not affected), return all land to its original owners, and allow all debt-peons to return to their families. Before long, it became more or less a regular habit for kings to make such a declaration on first assuming power, and many were forced to repeat it periodically over the course of their reigns.
In Sumeria, these were called “declarations of freedom”—and it is significant that the Sumerian word amargi, the first recorded word for “freedom” in any known human language, literally means “return to mother”—since this is what freed debt-peons were finally allowed to do.
So in other words, amagi’s not about “freedom” from government interference at all–it’s about welching on your debts and sending Sumerian deadbeats back home to mooch off mommy. “Moochers,” “deadbeats,” “debt welchers”–Now that sounds more like the true face of libertarianism!
Despite the misunderstanding—or maybe because of it—the amagi symbol has become all the rage with baggertarian youngins’ all across the USA, many of whom have been known to get their pasty white hides branded with “deadbeat 4-ever” tats en masse at Koch-sponsored Free State campouts.
So does this make them moocher-bashing moochers? Or maybe closet-freeloader freeloaderphobes?
We’d like to thank Koch operative Peter Eyre for taking the time to maintain an up-to-date bagtard tat page, which includes a big collection of Sumerian deadbeat tats, as well as a nice range of other freemarket groupie ink. Eyre’s got himself branded a “deadbeat” in 2007, back before it was considered cool:
An amagi – one of two tattoos (the other being a quote on my left forearm) I got during a break at the Free State Project’s 2007 Liberty Forum. Months before the conference I researched tattoo shops in the area and had scheduled my session. The amagi appealed to me as the oldest written word/symbol for liberty as it shows these ideas are universal and that rights are not contigent on where one happens to be born but inherent in each individual. Done at Gothic Tattoo in Concord, NH.
Here are a few deabeat tats from Eyre’s ink page:
Deadbeat #1: This guy’s name is Daryl and he’s running for President 2016…
Deadbeat #2: Nothing says sexy like “deadbeat moocher chick” in Sumerian…
Deadbeat #3: Some libertarian dude who thinks wristband tats are macho…
Deadbeat #4: Freeloadin’ Assistant Professor of Economics at Loyola… Totally, brah!
Update: The libertarian “moocher-4-life” campaign has made it across the Atlantic. The official journal of the Hayek Society at the London School of Economics is called “ama-gi,” and sports the awesome Sumerian “freedom for deadbeats” cuneiform. Which is a fitting for a man like Hayek. After all, we here at the eXiled were the ones who first outed Freddie von Hayek as a socialized medicine queen, who sucked on America’s Social Security teat with blessings from his patron and master, Charles Koch.
Want to know more? Read Yasha Levine’s account of LAPD’s appalling treatment of detained Occupy LA protesters…His other Occupy LA coverage…And LA Weekly’s writeup of his arrest.
Yasha Levine is an editor of The eXiled. You can reach him at levine [at] exiledonline.com.
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