Cultural Decadence By Teodros Kiros

January 14th, 2011 Print Print Email Email

A young man reports to his friend with teary eyes, that his lady of many years, to whom he gave his heart whole and pure, had been dishonest to him and went as far as secretly marrying a lover whom she had kept in secret, and now he finds himself, nursing a heart, that he knows is beyond healing. He repeated to his friend that he cannot and will not love again. (more…)

A young man reports to his friend with teary eyes, that his lady of many years, to whom he gave his heart whole and pure, had been dishonest to him and went as far as secretly marrying a lover whom she had kept in secret, and now he finds himself, nursing a heart, that he knows is beyond healing. He repeated to his friend that he cannot and will not love again.

He told further that he had shared with her everything he had, loved her family, that he ignored all her shortcomings including her illiteracy, thinking that love would overcome all their differences, that he closed his ears to all that he heard about her past.

His embarrassed friend tells him that this is our culture and that everyone he knows, is walking with a broken heart. He explained further that in the practices of ethnic x, a woman has a lover, suppliers and service provider, and that this is a common practice. The woman does all this with the full knowledge of the lover, whom she has promised to marry, the suppliers, and her family. The only one, who does not know, is the one who has given her his soul. His friend concluded by noting that both men and women are doing it to each other and justifying the actions as custom, which is unique to their ethnic groups.

A second Ethiopian reports bitterly that it is pointless to go to churches any more, because they are framed by ethnicities and that the congregation does not listen to the priests, and that some of the priests themselves have skeletons in the closet, and that they are not spiritual exemplars but rather politicians.

What angers the friend the most is that he hears church goers plotting to break marriages, contaminate friendships by conspiring to put their best friends behind bars by fabricating stories about their sexual lives, spreading rumors which never happened, if their friends are perceived to be supporters of the existing tyranny.

A third tells of a story at a party about a friend of thirty years who used him profusely and then betrayed him. He had nursed this friend when he was sick, he had fed him when he was hungry, and he had found him a job when he lost one. His friend used him and then abandoned him.

These heart-wrenching stories are emblematic of cultural decadence and I know hundreds of them, which I am compiling for a future book.

I also know my readers know thousands more.

The above stories, however, are representative samples. These examples are manifestations of decadence. By cultural decadence I mean an utter moral disorganization of the self.

In the stories above, not a single example is reflective and other regarding.In all the stories the inadvertent abuse of the other is the shameless preoccupation. Each person is advancing his own interests. The ends are shortsighted. The actions are justified by tradition and treated as natural.

Classical Ethiopian culture, however, was not so callous. Our greats wrote about love because they have loved, and also because they can love. Some of our ancestors were deeply religious and honored the sacraments of marriage and the depth of loving a person.

Modern cultural decadence has produced a population, who does not read, who ridicules the learned by openly insulting them. This is a generation who seriously asks, what love is, and wonders if there is such a feeling, such an emotion. This is a generation who cannot and does not read our great poets and writers, although our literature is replete with this dreamer/thinkers.

One way by which to correct this deadly cultural decadence is to engage in thinking and attending to the fundamental condition, of our souls, that I suggested in my recent article, “ Regime change without cultural transformation is empty” (Ethioquest, Ethiomedia, Ethiosun, ECAD, Addis Voice, Ethiosun, Tecolahagos.com and Ethiopian unity Diasporaforum.com)

That question is; what is the condition of my Soul? I strongly suggest that we examine this question, every single day.

This question can be engaged only in the absolute stillness of being alone, away from our ethnic circles, from our contaminated churches, but always in the company of the Transcendent (God). Attending to our souls is a commitment, a moral duty, an attempt at organizing the self with the passion of knowledge, and the will to be educated.

Cultural decadence is addicting us to hate those outside of our ethnic and religious circles.. The commitment to knowledge will help us to overcome our addictions. There are certain steps that we must follow when we are seeking to know one another.

While attending to our souls we must make a commitment to ourselves that when we meet fellow Ethiopians at public spaces, we must smile at them and engage them in a conversation. Should we find out that they did not speak our language, let
us make an attempt at founding a common language. They may not reciprocate. That is fine. Your moral task is to try and leave an imprint in their minds. It is like the love situation. One does not love in order to be loved. One simply loves. The rest is destiny. So is the firmament of any encounter. We must smile without being smiled at. We must see without expecting to be seen.

Attending to our souls is the task for us. It is an excercise in the care of the self. It is an attempt at purifying ourselves for the world, so that the world could be a better place for it.

The Ethiopian world requires this particular attention from us. When we attend to our soul, other Ethiopians may be inspired to do the same. Sometimes, the world learns by examples.

We must not assume that we already know other Ethiopians by the ethnicity of their names. At the minimum that is shallow. Instead let us approach any other Ethiopian that we meet as a mystery, as someone who might enrich us, if we get closer to him/her lovingly, openly and curiously.

My forthcoming articles, inspired by private response of many readers will be a careful dissection of cultural transformation. I will develop steps of overcoming cultural decadence.

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