Peasant Autonomy
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Story 1

Egypt – around 2050 BCE

The poor peasant and the magistrate

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(Photo: Adam Heissen)


“It is your duty to defend justice. But what are you doing? You allow injustice, you let it spread. It doesn't matter to you that a poor man is robbed. You represent the law, the administration, but you bring shame upon our beloved Pharaoh Nebkaure. I know quite well that you can have me whipped. But still I will not be quiet.”
Infuriated, the peasant is shouting in front of the magnificent official residence of the district magistrate. Two guards with lances look dispassionately straight ahead. A few passers-by stop to watch. Some are smiling, but most of them look serious and nod: the local rulers mess things up, and the poor are the victims.

for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: Baumfan)


A few days ago the poor peasant Khunanup has come to the city, Heracleopolis, to buy barley for his family. At home he has loaded up his two donkeys with everything from wine, salt, edible roots, beans, mint and anise, to a few pigeons and some wolf and jackal pelts to sell in the city.
At one point Khunanup walks on a narrow path between two barley fields. Some clothes are laid out to dry on the path. He asks the man sitting on the ground nearby to get them out of the way, since he can hardly walk through the barley with his donkeys. While Khunanup is trying to persuade the man, one of his donkeys takes a few bites of the grain. That's just what the man is waiting for. He jumps to his feet, and takes the donkeys from the peasant along with all his belongings on them, allegedly 'as compensation for the damage.' When Khunanup protests at the top of his voice, the man beats him. After that, the peasant goes to the magistrate Rensi to complain. However, he turns a deaf ear to him.

“Magistrate Rensi, son of Meru, why do you hide in your nice house? A just official would come to me, look in my eyes, and listen to me. He would show understanding, would put that hoodlum in custody, and restore justice. But you are no more than a crocodile, swimming in murky water, seeking your next victim. You disgust me.”


The Eloquent peasant (around 1850 BCE), from an anonymous Egyptian writer, is a powerful, age-old story about injustice and protest.

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'The forest is large enough for a secret army' - Nottinghamshire, England – 1195, story 2.
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