Monday, January 7, 2008


Now that we are watching the political selection process in the USA – and are well aware that it is usually the wealthy who run for the highest offices, I am reminded of what Voltaire wrote --

“All great wealth begins with a crime.”

That particular quote has remained imprinted in my mind. It opened my eyes and more importantly my ears, as to the means employed in the creation of the great fortunes of members of my family, those who comprised the clan, and as is often the case in the Orient, blood kin of other blood kin.

I can’t remember how old I was when I first read Francois Marie Arouet – Voltaire, in my family’s library. Indeed we had two libraries. One had all the leather bound books and manuscripts. The books were wall to wall and floor to ceiling, in which rare Philippine narra wood (mahogany) served as shelves. An autonomous generator kept the room at a constant temperature. Typhoons struck the Philippines every year, many of them vicious and pitiless. They devastated the islands. My grandmother Esperanza reasoned that the rest of us living in Santol Mansion could do without electricity for a few days if the 150-mile an hour winds knocked out the power lines.

"The books must always be kept alive because Knowledge is as important as the breath of Life,” she would always remind us.

The second library was equally portentous. It housed many books written in the 19th and 20th centuries. We used to have copies of most of the books. The Blasco Ybanez first edition, or Ezra Pound or Thomas Hardy was covered in thick brown paper. The uncovered book with the cover exposed was the one you could read.

Naturally, the most fascinating books appeared in the Forbidden Index – a list of works by authors of every nationality condemned by the Holy Office of the Catholic Church. I am almost certain that all of Voltaire’s works had been worthy of this distinction. The library housing the books of Forbidden Knowledge was kept under lock and key.

My parents and Grandmother relented when I showed them a paragraph out of historian Will Durant’s book on France and the French Revolution. It described how the erudite courtesan Ninon de Lenclos, in her late eighties gave her formidable collection of books which numbered in the thousands to the son of her notary Monsieur Arouet ‘’In the hope that the young Arouet who seems to have an incurable passion for books will make the fullest use of them.”

The world would know the notary’s son simply as Voltaire. And that was how the gates of Knowledge, Information, Dissent, and Revelation were unlocked for me, for which I thank my Grandmother Esperanza as the Master of Santol Mansion and my parents, Camilla and Edmund.

So as I think back on what Voltaire said – and look through the annals of history, it seems to me that there are many examples where this is the case, which may explain why people are doubly suspicious of most politicians.

The first Super rich family must have been Egyptian. At first I thought he had to have been a Ruler, then I learnt about Imhotep, the Architect and builder; Advisor and Councilor to the Pharaoh Zoster; Astronomer – Astrologer - Alchemist; probably High Priest and Sorcerer and Healer as well. He remains one of the most extraordinary individuals who ever walked the earth. Indeed, Imhotep became a God. He needed qualities beyond the norm to achieve so much. He was a Master of intrigue and deception. His acquisitive itch for gold-wealth doubtless led him to be ethically if not morally reprehensible at times. According to the high order of the Cosmos, would these not be considered crimes? True, lawyers would reply, “Well, technically not.”

I once saw a golden chariot attributed to King Sargon of the Assyrian-Babylonians in the British Museum. Alongside it was a tall inscription in cuneiform, which described his exploits in one military campaign. One hundred thousand skulls of his slain enemies had been stacked forming a perfect isosceles triangle. His astrologers and mathematicians had ensured that it be so.

I cannot quite condemn King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, not completely. The Old Testament accords him a cruel verdict. He was millennia ahead of his time with his splendid and sustainable hanging gardens on the roofs of his entire palace complex. But he imprisoned the Prophet Daniel. When will the high and mighty learn not to mess with holy men? Daniel was a fearsome and fanatic prophet and he brought the wrath of God upon him, so we are told.

King Solomon was a Big Spender. With his harem of 900 women and megalomaniac views on the Temple it taxes my credibility to believe him a wise man. Yet both the Torah and the Q”uran revere him as such. The Song of Songs is attributed to him. Most probably they are a collection of songs and canticles by different cantors and poets. I have seen a rendering of his shock and awe temple thanks to expensive graphics by computer. It is magnificent, but looks suspiciously like a Babylonian inspired immense Ziggurat. Was the Judaic faith already contaminated?

There’s the Trojan empire with the city of gold, Troy as its capital. It must have been tedious for Helen to live with valiant and just attractive Greek King Menelaus; when there was drop dead gorgeous young Paris who never tired of coupling. Homer adores Helen and he makes no secret of that. We know that she had three or four husbands before running off with Paris to Troy. Thanks to the cunning Odysseus, the Greeks finally win the war after ten grueling years in which there was no clear winner. Five thousand years later as a humble reader and observant of the Iliad and the Odyssey, I note that Homer kills off all the most extraordinary and brave warriors, Achilles and Patroclus on the Greek side, Hector and Paris and the entire dynasty of King Priam of Troy except for the warrior Aeneas who manages with the assistance of Venus to escape the atrocities. Odysseus men and lovers are all eliminated. Helen returns to her husband ten years older but is she any the wiser?

The Julian Dynasty founded by Julius Caius Caesar comes to mind. His name remains today. Czar, Kaiser, Kezar (for the Mongols and the Chinese) As a military genius he ranks highest in the Pantheon of Warriors, because he remains undefeated, even in this Millennium. He had two uncles who taught him the political art of survival, the dictators Marius and Cornelius Sulla. They used to be partners in power, but who can truly believe that anyone in his right mind would willingly participate in a deal to share POWER? Caesar amassed an immense fortune, which he used to pay his legions. We can then safely assume that his Legions were highly trained professionals. As with political leaders today, he made money by skimming off the top, by accepting huge bribes to pass laws, which benefited the few, and by taxing the rich. Please note. He was generous with all of his soldiers, in particular his centurions. His order to burn over one million hectares of forests in Gaul during his Gallic Wars may be the first recorded environmental destruction by man on a massive scale in Europe. Probably millions of Teutonic and Germanic tribes perished, all in the name of civilization.

“We Romans are a civilized people. We do not sacrifice human beings to the spirit of an oak tree and allow their blood to fall on men and women who engage in sexual acts directly beneath them.”

Sixty-three people had prior knowledge of the conspiracy to kill him. I am going to delve into that in another essay. Many of his aphorisms are still with us today. Iacta alea est is one of them. Let the dice fly.

End of Part I: To be continued.

1 comment:

  1. I am fascinated by your stories, the unique characters, the details of what life was like in Asia. It is great narration and dialogue. No one alive today writes like that. James Michener, Scott Fitzgerald, Joseph Conrad and Karen Blixen. Isabella Vacani has the grandeur of those writers. I would like to read more.

    Marco Brega


Isabel Van Fechtmann

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