“Certainty? In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.” – Benjamin Franklin
Some Things Never Change
Because human nature is to seek greatest gain for least effort, there will always be opportunists among us.
The first human civilization began along the Euphrates River, in what is modern day Iraq. Large groups of Sumerian tribes converged to build farms upon the river’s fertile flood plains. A better life, with less risk, would have been inviting.
For a crafty few, this would yield an even greater opportunity.
The Sumerian Priesthood invented the first human calendar, along with the concept of a year. They noticed that the sun moves northward in the sky for about 180 days, and then reverses direction, south, for another 180 days. By tracking this cycle, they could predict the when the next flood would occur.
This was powerful knowledge for a people whose prosperity was so closely tied to mother nature’s timing. As the keepers of this knowledge, this bestowed the Priesthood with a power that would allow them to rule unopposed.
The common people, unaware of this sorcery, would dread the long absence of the flood. Without it, there would be no harvest, and they would starve. The anticipation could lead to fear and panic.
The Angry Gods Must Be Appeased
To calm them, the priests would deliver a message:
The gods are angry, the floods will not come, but worry not! They can be appeased with great sacrifice.
Naturally, the needed rituals were far too arcane for the people to handle themselves. They would need to collect from each adult, an offering of value: coin, food, or material resources. Anyone who refused to contribute their share was branded a heretic and subject to severe punishment.
The priesthood would make examples of the unfaithful, perform the sacred rites, and miraculously, the flood would arrive on time. Civilization was saved from destruction each year, and the theocracy could count on the people’s yearly gift to the gods. The people stayed busy, working hard to ensure a plentiful sacrifice for the following year.
Did I Say Some Things Never Change?
Like many ancient rituals, tax collection has survived to the modern day. Like their prececessors, the modern rituals are indecipherable to mere mortals. Lower-tier priests, called attorneys, assist with these as liaisons. The proceedings themselves are dictated by their higher-tier brethren, known as politicians.
Non-believers are punished by the angry gods, whose anger shall certainly return the following April.