A “Neo-Retro Game” to Leave Us with a “Lost Millennium” Part I By Fisseha Tadesse Feleke
“Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts.” (ቀላይ ለቀላይ ትጼውዖ በቃለ አስራቢከ = ቀላየ-ኤርትራ እና ቀላየ-ዮርዳኖስ በሻሻቴ (በፏፏቴ) ቃል ሲጣሩ (ሲጠራሩ) ተሰሙ።) እስራኤልን ኤርትራ ከኹለት ተከፍላ እንዳሳለፈቻቸው ከተወሰነ ጊዜ በዃላ ዮርዳኖስም እንዲሁ ቀጥ ብላ አሳልፋቸዋለችና፤ መዝሙረኛው ዳዊት ኹለቱም ቀላዮች በተለያየ ጊዜ አንድ ዐይነት ተግባር እንደፈጸሙ እጅግ በሚጥም ቅኔው እንዲህ ገልጾታል። ስለዚህ በኹለት የተለያዩ ጊዜያት ተመሳሳይ ነገር ተፈጽሞ ሳገኝ ይኸ ጥቅስ ትዝ ይለኛል። ዛሬም ይኽንን ያስታወስኹበት ምክንያት፦ አቶ መለስ በቅርቡ ለኢቲቪ ሰጡት የተባለው “ጥልቅ” ቃለምልልስ እና ከዚህ ቀደም ለታይም መጋዘን የሰጡት “ጥልቅ” ቃለምልልስ (እወንዝ “እየጠለቀ” በመንደፋደፉ “ወንዘረጭ” እንደሚባለው ወፍ) “የወንዜ” አስተሳሰብ ውስጥ “ጠልቀው” የሚንደፋደፉት ርሳቸው፤ “የባከኑት ሺሕ ዓመታት” እያሉ በሚለፍፉት ሻሻቴ፤ ሲጠራሩ በመስማቴ ነው። Deep ETV interview calls unto deep Time Magazine interview at the noise of Meles’ fuss about “the lost millennium.” How so? I hope the following lines will explain this.
An Interview turned to Monologue turned to Documentary
Back in 2005 or a bit earlier, I remember seeing a cartoon in one of the popular newspapers that portrays someone carrying on his shoulder a 10 thousand Birr worth TV and bidding anyone to take it for a less than 10 Birr worth copy of a private magazine (“ቴሌቪዥን በጋዜጣ የሚለውጥ?” እያለ የሚዞር ሰው). Because, what ETV had then been producing (as it is now) was nothing but lie and the only source of truth in Ethiopia has been the Free Press.
One of the tools with which ETV fabricates its lies has been interview and the smartest interviewee ever appeared on it is none other than the PM (or rather: PL). Again, I remember once upon watching an interview on Ethiopian Television in a small cafe in Addis Ababa, one of those usual interviews, that is, where the prime liar outsmarted his rivals, someone appreciatively exclaiming: “See! How smart he is? He cuts them down to their size (ልክ ልካቸውን ነገራቸው።). Proud be his mom (እናት ወልዳለች)” In truth, what Meles actually did on that particular interview was, as he usually does, just subtly evade the matter at hand (because he obviously had no proper answer) and unjustly blame the Opposition for all the problems he himself has created; but no one would dare to ask him for clarification. So I was really upset about the appreciation but in fact said nothing other than facially express my feeling.
Later on, when I shared the incident to a very knowledgeable person who I believe cares very much about Ethiopia as he does about me, he rather curiously looked at me and astonished me by saying “Yes, Meles indeed is smart!” But he was quick enough to add, before any doubt about my confidence with him crossed my mind, the remark: “You know what though? ባገራችን ‘ብልጥ የለቱን፣ ብልኅ ያመቱን፣ ጋብና(?) የዘላለሙን ያስባል’ ይላሉ። in that sense and only in that sense, Meles sure is ብልጥ! But if you get upset like that, you better not watch ETV, especially in a place where you think his dogs could possibly be sniffing around.” What an apt proverb and a sensible advice! So did I stop paying any close attention to any interview Meles gives on ETV; all the more as I have been trying to avoid direct involvement in politics, for I believe it would be better for me as for the cause I stand for to occupy myself with civic matters.
However, neither as a politician nor as an activist of any sort, but precisely as a mere “civic-thinking” Ethiopian, and above all, simply as a sentient creature (a human being) who essentially is concerned with sense-bestowal/meaning-giving, I was outraged when I came across a particularly significant interview Meles gave to Time Magazine on the Eve of the New Millennium, in which he once again disclosed the completely arbitrary sense/meaning he has all along trying to give to our past and future, as Ethiopians, that is, while he him-SELF is obviously NOT an Ethiopian SELF at all! At the time, for some reason I could not react the way I wanted and at the level I was indeed able to react. But I had at least the following to say, though under nom de plume and just in passing:
ነቢዩ “አንሣእከኒ ወነጻሕከኒ” [አነሣኸኝ፤ ጣልኸኝም] እንዳለው፤ አገራችንም ኾነች ቤተክሲያናችን በረጅም ጊዜ ጉዟቸው የተነሡባቸውና የወደቁባቸው ዘመናት እንደነበሩ ኹሉም እንደዐቅሙ የሚያውቀው ቢኾንም፤ ይህንኑ በሺኛ ቤት ከፋፍሎ ለማነጻጸር የሚሻ ሰው ግን ጥልቅ የታሪክ ዕውቀት እንደሚያስፈልገው ግልጥ ነው። ስለወደፊቱም ለመናገር አኹን የሚገኙበትን ኹኔታ ከገናኛ ዕድላቸው ጋር አጣጥሞ የማስተዋል ጥበብ አለዚያም መንፈሰ-ትንቢት ያስፈልጋል። በበኩሌ ይህንን ለማድረግ የሚያስችል ዕውቀትም መንፈሳዊ ሀብትም የለኝም። መያዣ መጨበጫ ጸጉር በሌለው የውሸት ቁርበት ተጠቅልለው፤ ከገዛ ራሳቸው መሸሽ ይችሉ ይመስል ከአንዱ ሽንገላ ወደሌላው ሲንከባለሉ የምናያቸው “ስዱድ ዘበሕሊና” ጠቅላይ ሚንስትራችንም ቢኾኑ እንዲህ ያለው ጥልቅ ዕውቀትም ኾነ ሀብተ-ትንቢት ሲያልፍ የነካቸው አይመስለኝም። እሳቸው ግን በተለመደው ድፍረታቸው የመጀመሪያውን ሺ ዘመነ-ክርስትና በጎነትና የኹለተኛውን መጥፎነት ነግረውን ሦስተኛው እንደኹለተኛው ሳይኾን እንደመጀመሪያው ሺ እንዲኾን ምኞታቸውን ገልጸዋል። (see note 1 below)
And now after good four years, we see the Time Magazine interview being repeated as a little more contextualized Amharic interview, or rather, turned into a “monologue” ( as Yilma Bekele has aptly dubbed it) to be used in turn as the animating precept for a documentary that was aired on ETV. What Meles wants to do in this interview/monologue is instruct us in Ethiopian history. In fact ETV wishes that we take the monologic lecture as a dialogical interview with questions supposedly asked by one of its staff and answers by “ቆራጩ መሪ፣ ተጋዳላይ የነበረው፣ አኹን ደግሞ የሕዳሴ አስተማሪ!” In this interview/monologue we see Meles trying to achieve certain overambitious goals, none of which, though, can ever be accomplished. Because, fact is that, despite the length of time he stayed in town, he is only a guest speaker—an uninvited enemy-guest at that—and has no legitimate mandate to command Ethiopian history.
A Note on the Unsaid: Atse Yohannes and Tigray
I do not remember exactly since when but I have developed the habit of looking for the unsaid in the said. Indeed I am not alone in this. Lately, I heard one historian, who aptly described the whole interview/monologue in question as “የተንሸዋረረ ወይም የተዛባ የታሪክ ትንታኔ,” wondering as to why Meles exempted Atse Yohannes from his harsh criticism of the great leaders of “modern” Ethiopia. In fact, this probably young but brilliant historian has not left us without answer, he has already alluded to one possible reason: “ታሪክን የማጣመም ዝንባሌ… ታሪክን አጣሞ የራስ ጥቅም፤ ወይም ደግሞ ታሪክን ከመጣኽበት ጎሣ አንጻር መተርጎም።” This assessment may in itself be correct. But the question is: which one is Meles’ gossa from whose perspective he would interpret history so as to make Atse Yohannes immune to criticism? Does he really, really care about Atse Yohannes and his gossa? I don’t think so.
Standing to be corrected, I would say Meles was not exempting Atse Yohannes from criticism. Nor was he advantaging in any way the Atse’s imperial or ethnic gossa. Quite to the contrary. The way I see it, Meles did worse to Atse Yohannes than to the other two Atses he tried to openly criticize. What do you think he was doing when, while discussing the period in which Atse Yohannes too reigned, he even never mentioned his name? I think he is rather systematically erasing Atse Yohannes—and his gossa (Tenben), if you like—from history! Why? Why? How could it be the case that he doesn’t care about Abba Bezbiz Kassa of Tenben? The answer, pure and simple, is this: Atse Yohannes and Meles are not of the same gossa (unless, that is, we fall prey to taking gossa and language as synonyms) and hence the two cannot belong together except on the basis of Ethiopianity. Don’t be deceived by nearness or farness of physical distance: Adwa could be as close or as far to Mekelle as could Akusm be to Ankober (I would even dare say: there may be a sense in which Akusm can be considered way closer to Ankober than Adwa is to Mekelle)!
One may insist and ask: what about on the basis of Tigrawayenet? My rejoinder would be: neither of them is a Tigraway—neither Atse Yohannes nor Ato Meles, neither! Although he was born in Tenben and even if he moved his palace from Gondar to Mekelle, there was no time when Atse Yohannes thought or spoke of himself as Tigraway so as to feel far from Gondar but close to Adwa; he has always already been an Ethiopiyawi who gave his life not for a particular gossa but for his beloved country, Ethiopia! On the other hand, although he is from Adwa, that very historical town of ETHIOPIA where Ethiopia’s flag run high up and displayed the sovereignty of the country to the whole wide world, we have learnt enough that there was no time when Meles Zenawi has really shown to have thought and felt being Ethiopian, let alone sacrifice his life for her! Ever since, that is, he had started his alleged liberation struggle. Not only that. Even with respect to Tigray, once the Tigray-Tigrign dream has come to naught, it has never been clear as to where Meles stands: does he stand beyond Mereb or this side of it?!
Indeed we all know the old adage: “ዘር ከልጓም ይስባል።” But if, my mistrust of such a saying notwithstanding, I allow myself to think for a moment along this line; rather than settling in the old adage, I may even have to coin a new byword that would fit to Meles’ situation: “ደም ከዘር ይጎትታል።” Because, had it been seed (ዘር) that pulls him back, once he realized that the Tigray-Tigrign dream has become impossibility, Meles should have either given it up altogether and stand for Ethiopia or at least should not have stood up for Eritrea at the expense of Tigray to the extent of killing, incarcerating and disfunctionalizing such heroes from this side of Mereb, from Tigray, as Hayelom, Seye, Gebru, etc.. Yet, as he was pulled more by blood (of his mom who came from beyond Mereb) than by seed (of his dad who stems this side of the Mereb), so I think, he has ended up becoming a mercenary! (This I said, though, compelled by the harsh reality of the day which I hope and do pray will change soon. Otherwise my abiding view on Eritrea is different: I can’t help but continue thinking of and loving her as part of us! I do long and pray for the time when I can feel entirely at home in Debre-Bizen as in Debre-Hayq or Debre-Libanos, in Zeqwala or Debre-Asbo, cherishing with no limit the blessings of our Qeddussan. Because, ultimately, ከዘርም ከደምም ይልቅ የመንፈስ አንድነት ይጸናልና። ወዳጆቼ፦ የእውነተኛ ፍቅር መንፈስ ከወላጅ ስንኳ ለይቶ አንዱን ከሌላው ያስተሳስራል’ኮ፤ እንደዮናታን እና እንደዳዊት!)
I dwelled so much on the unsaid when there is a lot to consider from the said. I guess I better quickly show how the “monologue” is only a little more contextualized version of the interview and hasten to consider some of the sensitive issues it raises.
We had already learned from the Time Magazine interview (see note 2 below):
1) Ethiopia is in the midst of a profound transformation… On the eve of the millennium, we are beginning to see the impact of the start of the transformation of the country.
2) this great nation… may be on the verge of total collapse.
3) this great nation… was great 1,000 years ago but then embarked on a downward spiral for 1,000 years… [as we learn now from the monologue: emperors Tewodros and Menilik are responsible for that!] this new millennium will be as good as the first one and not as bad as the second one.
We hear now in the monologue (see note 3 below):
1) [አንድ ትውልድ ታሪካዊ መመዘኛዎቹ…] ካለፈው ትውልድ የወረሰውን ኹኔታ ቀይሮ… ይኸው የለውጥ እንቅስቃሴ… [ሚሊኒየም… የሕዳሴ ጅማሪ…] ሕዳሴው ተጀምሯል፣ በሕዳሴ ጎዞ ላይ…
2) [ያለፈውን ትውልድ ስናነሣ…] ለረዥም ጊዜ የዃሊት ጉዞ ነው ወዳንድ ሺሕ ዓመታት የሚጠጋ… ያፄ ቴዎድሮስ… ማስገበር… የዐፄ ምኒልክን በምናይበት ወቅት… ድኽነቱ እየተባባሰ እየከፋ ኼዶ…
3) …የመበታተን አደጋ… ወደጥፋት ጫፍ ላይ አድርሷት…
What is in here? What are we to make of such an appraisal that seems to want to learn from the past two millennia and to set about the possible problems of the new millennium? What is being at once unconcealed and concealed in there? One possible key word that would lead to the answer may be “transformation.” I would rather opt for the word “renaissance” which Meles explicitly highlighted when playing his “neo-retro game” in the Time Magazine interview together with the phrase “lost millennium” that he implied in both the interview and the monologue; with only these as my keys, I shall attempt to unveil that which Meles desperately tries to veil. However, since I believe this to be the crux of the matter, for me at any rate, I would like to discuss it in a separate article (because this one is already too long). For now, let me close this part with my reaction to one of Meles’ song that, instead of Tedi Afro’s Yastesereyal, he wants us, the new generation (whose minds he erroneously thinks to be mere tabulae rasae on which he may inscribe all his lies) would listen to over and over again.
“On the Verge of Total Collapse”: A Bogeyman’s Song (የአያ ድብልብሌ ማስፈራሪያ)
“On the verge of total collapse = የመበታተን አደጋ!” Can any Ethiopian in his/her right mind ever think “ጦርጦራው ንጉሥ” Tewodros and “እምየ” Menilik being responsible for landing us “on the verge of total collapse”? “ግዛኝ ብለው ለመሸጥ ዐሰበኝ” አሉ። I don’t really have the right word ready to describe such insolence beyond any imaginable measure! But anyways, let me address this paragraph to Ato Meles himself.
Ato Meles: you know we know and we know you know that you came in the palace of Menilik uninvited! As a punishment to our own sins, you have been there for more than two decades now, unbeloved (not for your ነገድ though, but for your thoughts and deeds)! Although you seem to have realized that your age-old dream to destroy our country could never be fulfilled, you still seem to think you can stay there playing a bogeyman song that goes like “on the verge of total collapse,” so as to scare the young generation away from receiving their tradition out of which only they can make their own history in unity; that is, in unity that was established for them by the relentless efforts of their forefathers, among whom we may proudly mention Emperors Tewodros, Yohannes and Menilik. I tell you, you the nasty child and the bogeyman in the same person: your plan won’t work anymore. If the “Sack Man” really comes, it is not us the good children of Ethiopia that are “on the verge of total collapse” so as to be kidnapped and thrown in his sack. It is you that is in danger, Mister Prime Sleepless, who refused to stop playing the worst of games against our country even after 7:00 o’clock in the evening; it is you that the bogeyman would come from under your own bed to lock you in a basement! (ውድ አገራችንን ሳላጠፋት አልተኛም ብለው በውድቅት ሌሊት ሳይቀር ነገር የሚሾርቡ ርስዎ እንጂ፤ እኛስ አያ ድብልብሌ ቀልቀሎው ውስጥ ይጥለናል፣ ጉድጓድም ውስጥ ይቆልፍብናል ብለን አንፈራም።)
Mr. Prime Bogeyman: I can tell you this in the name of the young generation: we have grown too old to be scared by a bogeyman. You better beware this: ነቅተንብዎታል አያ ድብልብሌ፦ ጠሏትም ጠሏትም፤ እነሆ ኢትዮጵያ ጸንታ ትኖራለች (አነዋወሯ እንደጊዜ-ግብሩ/ዱብ-ዕጣዊ ቢኾንም ቅሉ)! Despite your bottomless hatred, Ethiopianity ‘essences,’ i.e., it holds sway (if only as venture)! Trotz Ihrem bodenlosen Hass, Herr Premier Butzeman, da ‘west’ das Aethiopische (wenn doch nur als Wagnis)! እመ ኢትሠምር አንተ ሊቀ-መደንግፅ፤ ነያ ትሄሉ ኢትዮጵያ (እመሂጓ ፍና-አረቦን ህላዌሃ)!
ነያ ትሄሉ ኢትዮጵያ!!!
To be continued…