Untimely Power: King of Anger II and His Bad Game By Fisseha Tadesse Feleke
Power is bad, if it is untimely. And, to want to stick to an untimely power is sheer insanity. What could be worse than a game played with an insane person, especially when that person happens to be “king of anger” who wants to be the one and only one law of the game?
The term “king of anger” may prima facie seem to point to an “angry king” (ብስጩ ንጉሥ). But in traditional Ethiopian scholars’ usage, “king of anger” (የብስጭት ንጉሥ) refers not necessarily to an angry king but to a king, angry or not, set by an “angry God,” untimely! The first such a king recorded in the Bible was Saul. In the words of Ethiopian scholars: “ሳኦል የብስጭት ንጉሥ ነው። አኹን ለአንዲት ሴት ብዙ ልጆች ይኖሯታል። ኹለቱ ሦስቱ መጥተው ‘እኽል አቅምሽን’ ይሏታል። ‘ቆዩ ወንድሞቻችኹ ይምጡ’ ትላቸዋለች። ይዘበዝቧታል። ሞታቸውን ሳትወድ ‘እንኩ ይነቃችኹ’ ብላ እንድትሰጣቸው፤ እስራኤልም ‘አንግሥ ለነ ንጉሠ’ (ንጉሥ አንግሥልን) እያሉ ቢዘበዝቡት የብስጭት ንጉሥ ሳኦልን አንግሦላቸዋል።” In what follows I shall first draw a possible parallel between Saul and our own contemporary King of Anger. I will try then to describe the kind of game the later seems to have been playing. My intention in this is not to belittle anyone but to help understand our situation better by reminding and interposing, both thematically and methodically (as I always try to do), an integral aspect of our culture that has sadly sunk into oblivion—or almost, I think!
The Bible tells us that “to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” When it is the right time, therefore, we should just get up and do whatever is the right thing for us to do, instead of wailing on and on and on, while excusing ourselves saying “ማቄን ጨርቄን.” We can even implore God Himself (በለመድነው እግዚኦታ) so that He would help us accomplish what otherwise would have been impossible for us to attain; as the Psalmist urges: “It is time for thee, Lord, to work.” In the wrong time, however, even what could in fact be thought of as good may turn out to be bad.
But how do we know that which is the right thing to do and when it is the right time to do it? How do we recognize “the moment of vision,” the timeliness of a purpose? This indeed is not an easy question and the answer to it lies not necessarily in a simple formula such as this: just like so-and-so, here or somewhere else, back then-and-then or right now, could do it in-such-and-such a manner, so also we, here and now, can do it in the same way. Rather, discerning what is right and determining when it is the proper time to carry it out in practice involves certain subtleties that would render our decisions as tough to make as crucial. I believe this is a problem in its own right and hence shall leave it at that so as to proceed for now with the story that I think is analogous to our situation, bearing nonetheless in mind that readers may detect for themselves if the analogy can indicate something relevant about the urgent need of our time, as Ethiopians, that is.
[The story relates an event that happened in the beginning of the Age of Kings of the Old Testament era, or rather, in what could be considered as a period hinge (should I say: a transition?!) between the Age of the Princes (ዘመነ መሳፍንት) and that of the Kings (ዘመነ ነገሥት)].
Although it was in God’s plan for Israel to set up a king, from whose seed even the King of heaven and earth was to be born, Israel seemed not to know the right time for that to happen. They immaturely demanded for a king. The motivation for their demand, we are told, was partly jealousy and partly fears. Namely, the Israelites were jealous of the gentiles around them for having their own kings; and they were also worried about a very difficult situation, which situation they thought Samuel, the old priest-prince, would not do to overcome. (“አንተ [ሳሙኤል] እንዳትመግበን አረጀኽ፤ ልጆችኽም በሕግኽ ጸንተው አልኖሩም፤ መማለጃ በሉ ፍርድ አጎደሉ። ይኸውም የቤት እንጕርጕሮ ነውና በቻልነው ነበር። ይልቁንም በኢያቢስ ዘገለዓድ ባሉ ኹለት ነገድ ተኩል ወንድሞቻችን ናዖስ አሞናዊ ቀኝ ቀኝ ዓይናችኹን ገብሩኝ ብሎ በጠላትነት ተነሥቶባቸዋል። ያን የሚያጠፋልን ንጉሥ አንግሥልን።”). Their fault in this was that they had completely forgotten to consider the role of God—the Holy of Israel—who created them as a community and guided them throughout their history, the success of which He assured from the get-go (they should have prayed first: ተዘከር ማኅበረከ ዘአቅደምከ ፈጢረ… Angry about but nonetheless yielding to their demand, therefore, God gave them a king in the person of Saul, “a choice young man and goodly” indeed, but who would eventually suffer from jealousy, fear and madness—qualities that would instill a lasting image of his in the minds of later time Rabbis: “a weak branch.”
To cut the long story short, God in the right time had then David, the shepherd, anointed king for them, and that with great pleasure (ብእሴ ምእመነ ዘከመ ልብየ ወረከብክዎ ለዳዊት ገብርየ!). But more than a couple of decades had to elapse before David actually governed Israel. This period had proved, more than anything else, the growing jealousy, fear and insanity of Saul who, however hard he tried to keep David away and stay himself in power, nonetheless ended up in a suicidal death and left the throne for David.
So far for the wax; let us now see the gold. (እስከዚህ የዐተታየ ሠምዓዊ ምሳሌ ነው፤ ቀጥለን ወርቃዊ ባለቤቱን እንመልከት)
I think we have to admit that the revolutionary movement in our country had in some sense been invested with an immature demand. Although there might have been good reasons to have felt discontented and hence to have required change, it is hard to assume that ours was a purely just motivation that did not involve some sort of jealousy and a rather ungrounded anxiety. On top of that, the process (was it of progression or of transgression?) went not with mere forgetfulness of God, the creator of our community and the sustainer of our history; rather, it was accompanied by a direct attack against Him. The madness of all has been the cooperation of the Church in such a clearly “deicidal,” “historicidal” and “patriacidal” process, both then and now! Hence, the angry God—ፈጣሬ-ኵሉ፣አምላከ-ኢትዮጵያ—has given us not one but two kings of anger successively. (I only hope there is no third one in His store!). And, needless to say, however long have we been waiting for him, we have not yet seen the “modern,” the timely, David—that is to say, in the current vocabulary, the “by-the-people-for-the-people” thing.
As the first king of anger has now gone for good (I hope he would never return—though he still is alive and we have lately heard his voice on one radio), I want to talk about the second one whose genius seems to have been coupled with such insanity that he has been playing the worst of games against Ethiopia and Ethiopians while arrogating to be their very premier. The circumstances surrounding Saul and Meles may warrant a fairly long list of parallels. However, I would like to focus on their similarity that I hope will shade some light as to why the later plays the kind of game he has been playing: namely, on their similarity in “jealousy, fear and madness.”
ሺሕ ገዳይ King, እልፍ ገዳይ Hero
There is no greater folly than thinking one is indispensable before God. Because, how could God be God if He were not able, as our Lady Holy Virgin Mary taught us, to have “put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree” (እመ-ኢክህለ ነሢቶቶሙ ለኃያላን እመናብርቲሆሙ፤ ወአእብዮቶሙ ለትሑታን)?
The archetype of all those who think they are indispensable is Devil. In the words of Ethiopian scholars: “…የዚህስ ነገር፦ ዲያብሎስ ቀድሞ ሊቀ መላእክት አኀዜ መንጦላዕት እንደነበረ ስማኝ ልንገርኽ፦በስሕተቱ ከቦታው በወጣ ጊዜ፤ ፍጡር ነኽ ቢሉት ፈጣሪ ነኝ ባለ ጊዜ፤ ቀድስ ቢሉት ቀድሱኝ ባለ ጊዜ፦ከሹመቱ ተሻረ ከልዕልናው ተዋረደ። ነኽ ያሉትም ኹሉ ከርሱ ጋራ እንደርሱ ወደቁ።… [ከወደቀ በዃላ ስንኳ በጥፋቱ ተጸጽቶ ንስሐ እንደመግባት፤] በትዕቢቱ በትዝኅርቱ ዐስቦ ‘ወይም እንጂ ወይም እኮን…ወደቀደመች ማዕርጌ ሊመልሰኝ ይወድ ይኾናል’ አለ። [‘ኢየሩሳሌም ሰማያዊት እንደኾነች የተፈጠረች ለኔ ነው፤ ማንን ሊያስገባባት ይችላል? ወዶ ነው? በግዱ ይመልሰኛል--I am the indispensable inheritor of the Heavenly Jerusalem, He shall needs restore me to my position’ እንደማለት። ትዕቢቱን ያወቀበት አምላክ ግን፤ ኢየሩሳሌም ሰማያዊትን ያወርሰው ዘንድ] አዳምን [ከመሬት አንሥቶ] አከናውኖ በመፍጠሩ፦ [ዲያብሎስን] መዝለፍን ዘለፈው፣ ማሳፈርን አሳፈረው፣ ማስዋተትን አስዋተተው።” Likewise, when Saul started to think that he was indispensable for Israel’s survival, God brought to the scene a young boy—a shepherd—who was soon to prove himself to be ten times better suited for the purpose than Saul…
Meles’ folly lies in that he thinks of himself as indispensable for Ethiopia (while, paradoxically enough, working primarily for those who chose to cut themselves off from her, a fact that people like Abrha Belay have kept reminding us). Although Meles was proud to have been made of “iron” and “gold” (machine gun and money) God has thus already created the Opposition out of mere pen and paper to take his place. Rest assured that this has already been ordained and would be realized soon! More than anything else the two demonstrations in May 2005 have been clear indications of this. The hero has already scored ten times more than the king.
The effect, in each case, would have been good, had the persons involved took the message in the right way to acknowledge their limit and take serious the possibility of dispensability. Who knows? Even after Adam was created and David raised to the level of a hero, God could have provided useful places for Satan as well as Saul, had they repented. After all, “እስመ ባዕል እግዚአብሔር ወየአክል ለኵሉ ዘጸውዖ።” (the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him). Unfortunately, however, the result in the case of Saul as well as of Satan was jealousy followed by a serious attempt at destroying those whom they were jealous of, Adam and David (ቅንዓት ብቻ ሳይኾን፤ የቀኑበትንም ሰው ለማሳት እና ለመጣል መጣር።). About the “መውዱቀ ውዱቅ” Satan (ራሱ ወድቆ አዳምን ስላሳተው ዲያብሎስ), our tradition has it that: “…የራሱን ክብር በአዳም ላይ ኾኖ ባየ ጊዜ፤ ቅንዓት ባመጣው ድቀት ወደቀ፣ ቅንዓት ባመጻው ድንጋፄ ደነገፀ፣ ኀዘን ትካዝ ባመጣው ቅንዓት አዘነ። ተስፋ ቆረጠ።… ‘ወይም እንጂ ይመልሰኝ ይኾናል’ ብሎ ነበርና፤ አዳምን ከፈጣሪው ትእዛዝ ያወጻው ዘንድ፣ አዳምን ከሚያስትበት ግብር በቀር፣ ከያዘው ከረዘዘው የቀረለት የለም።” As for Saul, the Bible says: “ዳዊትን ‘እልፍ ገዳይ’ አሉ፤ እኔን ‘ሺሕ ገዳይ’ አሉ። ወይምኮ መንግሥት ለርሱ ትኾናለች።” [ብሎ የምቀኝነት ንግግር መናገር ብቻ ሳይኾን] “ከዚያች ቀን ጀምሮ ሳኦል ዳዊትን አድፍጦ ይጠብቀው ጀመር።” Was it any different in Meles’ case? Meles has sure been dethroned from the hearts and minds of Ethiopians (if he had ever been enthroned in the first place???). He clearly knows this at least since May 2005. And he has ever since been jealous of the honor of those who have won the hearts and minds of their fellow Ethiopians, beating him, that is, two million to one. Therefore, nothing has been left for him ከያዘው ከረዘዘው except to work hard for their downfall anytime anywhere. And yet, there is hope even when they seem to have fallen; for “ስብዐ ይወድቅ ጻድቅ ወይትነሣእ [ስብዐ]።” (a just man falls seven times, and rises up again)!
Sauline Fear Twisted
We are accustomed to imagine Scheol as a dark place (and time!), a million times darker and longer than the night we know here and now. And yet even Satan—her first resident and everlasting king—is not allowed to slumber there, not for a twinkling of an eye. But the question may arise: how does he manage to stay awake? Does he make use of some Peruvian Herb, Meth or Yoga? No! The pill he has once for all swallowed to help him stay awake is called fear—fear born of the knowledge of nothingness which he has always already become. In one particularly significant interview, Ato Meles says that “it has always been fear” that keeps him awake at night. True enough. And I believe him. But what I doubt is whether it really was “fear born of hope” that keeps him awake at night. For what we read in the record of facts about him clearly tells us that, let alone a filial kinship, Meles’ fear seems to have no vicinal proximity with hope (የአቶ መለስ ፍርሃት ከተስፋ ጋራ ስንኳን የልጅነት ዝምድና ጭራሽ ጕርብትናም እንደሌለው የገዛ ኾዳቸው ያውቀዋል።). In fact, if not equal to Satan’s, his fear seems to be no better than Saul’s; however hard he tries to twist it, it is essentially a Sauline fear—fear born of greediness to power, to power that I guess even he himself knows has always already been untimely and thus been taken away (if not actually, potentially).
In the Meantime, Sing and Die: A Message from an Evil Spirit
Initially, Saul knew that he didn’t even deserve to be king over Israel. His humility invited God to come to his help and let him achieve some resounding victories. However, once he felt he had established himself as a strong leader, he started to go on his own. He became indifferent to the people and took their history so lightly as to arbitrarily change it, for instance, the way it was prescribed for him to deal with their enemies. He stopped listening to the prophet. He stopped obeying God. For which reason, God did not want to help him attain any goal anymore. He took His Spirit away from him and thereby left his mind purposeless. Although he wished to stay in power until he would be succeeded by one of his own sons, Saul knew deep down that that was not going to happen. Because it had been plain enough by then that the time had come for the prophesy to be fulfilled, for the prophesy that says: “ኢይወጽእ ምስፍና ወምልክና እምአባሉ ለይሁዳ።” (The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet). Due to the departure of the Holy Spirit, and the lack of any purpose whatsoever, Saul’s mind had thus invited a new company: evil spirit! A company that would stay until the time would come, or rather, a company that would hasten Saul to bring forth by himself the time for him to leave power and die at once!
I think the consciousness of the irreparable wrong he has done against the country that he pretends to lead but has in fact difficulty even to call her name once in a long while with ordinary ease, because he has not been endowed with the spirit of Ethiopianity, on the one hand, and the realization of the utter impossibility of creating at her expense a new country whose “golden” name he would have been happy to recite every now and then with great pride, on the other, have created a void of purpose in the mental space of our premier; which void, I believe, is filled with evil spirit.
The consequence of this for us has in the meantime become an unbearable burden: this evil spirit that possesses our prime, or, which is to say the same thing, our prime who is possessed by this evil spirit, is urging us to sing and die at once, just as Saul had besought David to play harp in his palace but tried to kill him right away. This means, in terms of party politics: Meles seems to want to have opposition parties around him; he sure needs them very badly, but only to sing around whenever the evil spirit disturbs him, especially during election time, when he is agitated at most. Then after, he does whatever is in his and his evil spirit’s power to make sure they would collapse immediately. This is too obvious to need any elaboration.
Yet indeed, as David prevailed even while fleeing from mountain to mountain like a bird (አዐይል ውስተ አድባር ከመ ዖፍ), comforted as he was with the knowledge that “እግዚአብሔር የሐትቶ ለጻድቅ ወለኀጥእ። ዘሰ አፍቀራ ለዓመፃ ጸልአ ነፍሶ። ይዘንም መሣግር ላዕለ ኀጥኣን፤ እሳት ወተይ መንፈሰ ዐውሎ መክፈልተ ጽዋዖሙ።” (The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup), so also: scattered or gathered, weak or strong, in exile or at home, we see there still persists Opposition to Meles. Sad is, however, just as Saul’s sword—though not capable of killing David—had slaughtered 85 souls for the simple reason that only one of them was said to have given David and his men some loaves of bread on their flight away from Saul, so also Meles’ sword—though not capable of silencing opposition—has killed and tortured hundreds of innocent Ethiopians and wants to continue to do so, for the only reason that they feed their fellow citizens with their ideas of how freedom, peace and justice, unity and equality could finally reign in our beloved country.
I think the Meles syndrome which is worse than Saul’s needs yet to be thoroughly scrutinized—in order not only to get rid of him as soon as possible but also to make sure that no one in our country or anywhere else will ever be tolerated to play the kind of game he has played on us. Particularly, the game that demands a millennia-old history be multiplied by zero: to render thereby in a silly kind of ተጨፈኑ ላሙኛችኹ method, our First Millennium: የተበላ ዕቁብ፣ the Second one: የባከነ ጊዜ፣ and the Third: ላም አለኝ በሰማይ!
To be continued… even if the game may be over in the coming days or weeks!