And as with the Nile, there have been those who've sought to harness this river of humanity for power and personal gain.
In ancient days, the pharaohs of Egypt and the priestly classes were adept at transforming inert stone into monuments to themselves and their worldviews. But even they were impotent in the face of the Nile's surging life force.
And so, to convince their subjects that they alone controlled the universe, these fabled rulers used their closely guarded knowledge of the stars -- particularly the rising of Sirius, which invariably proceeded the Nile's annual flooding -- to appear to command the sacred river to yield up its fertile mud and silt. Thus did they supposedly assure an abundance of crops that kept workers' bellies full, and, more importantly, secure the pharaonic power structure for millennia.
It's quite possibly the oldest scam in the world -- jump in front of the elephant and pretend to lead it.
If you're quick enough, and a clever enough actor, you might just be able to convince some wretched fool to give you all his money -- or his beautiful daughter, or his land -- before you both get trampled. And if you're exceptionally smart, or perhaps astonishing lucky, and you're able to work this scam enough times, the elephant just might begin to obey you.
The pharaonic power in these parts is Donald R. Diamond. The "R," of course, stands for rich -- some say he's currently worth as much as $700 million.
For nearly 40 years now, Diamond has more or less appeared to preside over the no-holds-barred, helter-skelter growth of this once uniquely beautiful Sonoran Desert valley.
No land developer has had more staying power, and certainly no single private individual currently wields more influence in Arizona business and politics. Powerful government leaders kiss his royal butt at every opportunity. A former Tucson city manager once requisitioned a police department helicopter to ferry Diamond and himself over one of the great man's many development projects. Presumably the forces of evil were commanded to take the morning off.
In the process, Diamond has contributed to many good works, including providing substantial support for the Jewish Community Center, which is open to all, as well as countless other charities. As the most successful beneficiary of Tucson's unique geography and irreplaceable environment, it's only fitting that he perform such depurations.
But our pharaoh, like his supposedly divine brethren of the ancient millennia, represents far more than mere largess and power.
For thinking Tucsonans, Diamond has come to personify Growth. And it is Growth -- not the Ra of ancient Egypt, nor the Jehovah of our waning Judeo-Christian era -- that is most certainly Western civilization's primary god as we head into the next 1,000 years.
The brightest among us may worship Science, while others -- the stupid and vacuous -- may worship Youth; but in modern man's glittering pantheon, Growth reigns as the ultimate creator, the father of all our gods.
And what has this meant for the average Joe or Jane Tucson of the now-defunct 20th century?
Above all, it has meant hope. For us -- the average, the poor, the powerless, the insignificant -- Diamond is Growth's messenger of hope.
We hope for better lives, and he shows us that all is possible -- be it a fresh apartment in the thick of the latest urban sprawl for someone newly arrived from Ohio. Or an exclusive Rocking K "academy lifestyle" for a retired professor not yet wholly brain dead. Not to mention pleasant enough "affordable" housing developments and exclusive foothills "executive" homes for all the rest of us in the middle course of our lives here in this stark and unforgiving desert.
All encompassing, oh Pharaoh, is your embrace. Great, oh Pharaoh, is your power to subdue the hostile desert and its poisonous creatures and plants that bring only pain. Yea, though the unbearable sun scorcheth the burnt lands in summer, drying up the waters of the earth, we shall not fear. For thou provideth us air-conditioning for our fevered skin and thou bringeth CAP water to our sand-papered tongues. Thou maketh the governor and her minions bow down to thine sizeable campaign contributions.
In roughly the first decade of the new millennium, Tucson's population is expected to surpass a million souls. The mighty Nile, it seems, flows on and on. And Diamond has already locked up the right to plan for this overflowing surge -- he and his priestly class will control how Tucson grows over 12 square miles on the southeast side. It will be a fitting monument to our Pharaoh of the Land of Many Fairways, our Great Son of the Desert Sun.
And who's to say what his legacy might be?
A thousand years hence, with the melting of the polar ice caps from all of humanity's growth-fueled industry, will the bones and stones of Diamond's reign lie buried under the sands of time in a deserted corner of the world, baking under a merciless sun? How much water do we have, really, to grow on and on?
Will some future descendant, wandering and lost, gaze upon the faded letters "DRD Development Co." and wonder at the misguided king whose madness condemned a whole civilization?
Or, will this desert evolve into a lush and thriving population center, home to millions upon millions of our children's children? In such a case, Diamond will surely be hailed as a leader of great merit, a seer and a sage beholden to no one but the great god Growth.
In such a happy future, as in our own time, it will undoubtedly behoove one to avoid the many steaming piles of elephant crap, not to mention the distinct possibility of being trampled to death by unthinking hordes.
Hail, Pharaoh! And happy new millennium, Tucson!