Our Ancestors understood Nature to be a Supreme Being. Possessing capacities of utmost complexity beyond the rudimentary imaginations of any ordinary human being. Nature does not make mistakes.

In Nature, nothing is useless. Everything has a purpose, though generally that purpose is unknown to man who is only capable of accessing twelve percent of his fallible brain. Therefore man, when governed by nothing except his self-interests, constructs concepts that are in contradistinction to men who have lived before and even some who live now. This is precisely how the modern formation of waste has come to occupy the consciousness of everyday life.

Waste is a recent western invention. It is an artificial, social construction. This philosophy of waste was developed in direct opposition to our Ancestors’ way of life that shows respect for the environment and the natural world. In many parts of the west, waste is meant to denote the action of using or expending carelessly, extravagantly, or without purpose. Materials that are labeled wastes are considered unwanted or unusable. Grounds that are called wastes are barren, uninhabited, uncultivated, or unused. Capitalists say that waste is a by-product that can be eliminated or discarded once a process is complete.

Under the laws of Nature, all of these definitions are nonsensical. None of them hold any weight under a microscope. The Ancestors would cringe at a definition that aims to split the natural world into useful and useless things—they know only the existence of the former.

More, these definitions are peppered with ideology. The books, dictionaries no less, are written by man and laden in them are man’s agenda, one that is usually anti-altruism toward Nature and mankind. When man calls grounds wasteful if they are uninhabited by him, uncultivated by him, or unused by him, he thrusts himself to the center of every equation. His ideology claims to give life to the land; ironically he ordains himself as master and maker over that which preceded him. (Much like his books that controversially argue that some form of man decreed the presence of light, the sun, the waters, and the earth—essentially, Nature—to join him on the planet.)

With his ideology, man declares he gives all life and purpose. However, man as usual overstates his importance.

Regardless of man’s presence or absence, there is nothing without purpose in Nature. There is nothing unwanted or unusable.

If you look in Nature, nowhere will you find waste or destruction, or lack of purpose. The Supreme Being Nature has designed the world such that everything is usable, such that no natural processes that produce waste, such that the very notion of waste is irrational.

Waste cannot exist when every thing boomerangs back into the cycle of life. Limes, after the juice is squeezed, can be rubbed under armpits as a fragrant deodorant. The peels can be used as a repellant for insects. Dried sheaths of sugar cane can be used as firewood.

Likewise, our human and animal bodily “wastes” are not products lacking use and needing to be discarded. Urine and feces occupy a place in the cycle of life. Due to its acidity fresh urine is a topical anesthetic for some infections, such as with acute haemorrhagic conjunctivitis, while feces act the role of the world’s natural fertilizers. Human bodies, rest their souls in peace, disintegrate into the ground and enrich the soil, as do trees or animals that are fallen.

Nature is the first, and perhaps only, genuine self-cleaning machine. The ecosystem of the earth is unprecedented in its mastery of balance, which is what our Ancestors aimed to achieve in socio-economic and political life through the practice of Ma’at.

Accordingly, the earth has a way of taming anything unnatural that enters its atmosphere. So long as one leaves a river alone, for instance, it will eventually filter out man-made wastes that pollute it, through rocks forming a natural sieve that allows for safe drinking and cleansing with well waters. The scales of balance are also why we can fuel our bodies with junk and still function (though admittedly not at full capacity).

The way the concept of waste is thrown about nowadays is demeaning to Nature, the Supreme Being. Now people take waste to be a given, as if waste has always existed and will never leave the planet. However this taken-for-granted assumption leaves invisible the intentions and ideologies of man underlying his creation of the concept of waste.

Situating waste in a seemingly benign and normal place in the order of life, man permits himself to be the architect of environmental destruction. He conditions others to become familiar with wastes and “taking out the trash” to normalize his extravagant and careless uses of the earth’s resources, as if there are some which should be preserved and others which should be discarded. Man creates a false dichotomy between that which is useless and that which is useful, contrary to Nature’s law wherein uselessness is stranger than fiction.

The real conflict with Nature is modern man’s non-biodegradable concoctions. He has created modern waste materials: plastics, harmful chemicals, hazardous and nuclear wastes. With these toxins, man has poisoned real rivers and suffocated real tilapia and exposed real human beings to injurious radiation.

Though some are beginning to fault the ways of the wasteful and realize the true nonexistence of waste. They are using would-be-discarded food items as compost–putting them back into the earth where they belong and not piling them into landfills.

The rest should not be cajoled by the sly fox. When he wishes to eat a vulture, he calls it a guinea fowl. Whatever it is he wants to do, he changes it so that it can be done. So it goes with the conniving man who goes around and tells the world the story of wastes, landfills, and trash collectors. He invents wastes so that he can generate them and impress upon the earth his pollution footprint.

To err is human. Nature, on the other hand, does not have the same relationship with blunders. Its utility is unparalleled, down to its minutest component. The invention of waste only suits its makers and would be scoffed at by our African Ancestors.

10 COMMENTS

  1. The puissant effect of ideology in our lives remains incontrovertible. Nefetiti tackles the concept of “Waste” and the machinations underpinning its widespread acceptance in economic and social theory. Nefetiti’s brilliant asseveration drives at the core of the misnomer that is the neocolonial and neoliberal thoughts on what it means to produce “waste,” or to identify what is “waste,” and or to discriminate between what is “useful” and what is not – waste.
    But as always, Nefetiti’s own words echo more resounding prose than I can attempt an introduction. The more I write, I spoil it, I believe. Enjoy, and as always share your views.

  2. I find it very convincing that waste is an unnecessary and ideology-ridden concept. But I guess this idea would anger economics-worshipers who cling to measures like productivity, utility, and such. Some would say that if they are not allowed to waste and waste extravagantly, then it is a violation of their individual rights. Though it is in our collective interests to be responsible consumers and producers.

  3. I find this essay completely mesmerizing. The most powerful passage for me is this: “Nature is the first, and perhaps only, genuine self-cleaning machine. The ecosystem of the earth is unprecedented in its mastery of balance, which is what our Ancestors aimed to achieve in socio-economic and political life through the practice of Ma’at.”

    There’s absolutely no way I could have rendered that idea any better! The whole idea of Ma’at is based on a study of the nature of Nature! In fact, that is to say that our Ancestors strove to accomplish in sociopolitical life what the Universe had accomplished and continue to accomplish in nature.

    Therefore, to act as though our Ancestors had no understanding of the universe is absolutely false; in fact, our African Ancestors had this supreme and sublime understanding of the Universe in such a way that reflected the beautiful simplicity of their thoughts and outlook. Nefetiti, your mind is a gem!

  4. What is fascinating here, for me my dear Narmer Amenuti (and help shed some light on this), is that the idea of the balance of Nature itself (Ma’at) seems in complete agreement with the laws of thermodynamics.

    Take the first law of thermodynamics: the law of conservation which says that energy can neither be created nor can it be destroyed. Now it seems so obvious that to preserve and maintain a system for a long time (perpetually), one needs to put that system in equilibrium in order to balance the transfers of energy at all times. However since this perpetual transfer is impossible, the universe opts for the tendency of natural processes to lead towards spatial homogeneity of matter and energy, and especially of temperature in the second law, in order to attain another level of equilibrium.

    In effect, our Ancestors believed in quantum socio-political moves – one that always seeks to establish a new equilibrium with nature at higher and and higher levels by recalibrating the ground state (by invoking the zeroth law of thermal equilibrium) as the total entropy of the creative energies of the universe increases according to the third law. Rather than see the theories of Ma’at in economics and the social science as conservative, one must rather see them as progressive in nature.

    Taken together, it seems Ma’at then is the totality of the laws of the universe! It sums up the fast expanding universe but within which instantaneous perpetual states (quantum states) are achieved in equilibrium with the whole.

    What Nefetiti has done here then is to elaborate on the very essence of this confounding observation of the Universe (nature) as far as the western “(non)-ideologies of waste abound” and she has succeded in showing how, within the space of a thousand words, the Ancients, as intelligent as they were, were able to capture that essence of Ma’at in their religious and socio-political lives. I think your ideas of a Maatocracy (Narmer) coupled with the godly sublime asseveration of Nefetiti embody a unifying theory of socio-economic endeavor that is worth further investigation.

  5. Dade Afre Akufu, where did you learn stuff like that? Lol. Although I concur with every single part of your higher learning, I must provide an alternative view of the ground states. Instead of the system establishing “a new equilibrium with nature at higher and higher levels by recalibrating the ground state,” I would opt for a slight change in language. I would say: the system achieves alternative ground states irrespective of the order (high or low) of the former.

    But your analysis is indelibly intriguing. As far as a unifying theory goes, perhaps you can provide some insight at your spare time?

  6. Hehehehe…. my God! Dade Afre Akufu and Narmer Amenuti, what are you doing? Lol.

    Why do I see the equilibrium of the fractal parts of the universe mount towards the constantly creative whole of the universe?

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