A “Neo-Retro-Game” to Leave Us with a “Lost Millennium” Part II By Fisseha Tadesse Feleke
“የኢትዮጵያ ሥጋውያን ዐርበኞች እግራቸውን ለጠጠር ደረታቸውን ለጦር ግንባራቸውን ላረር ሰጥተው የኢትዮጵያን ጠረፍ አስከብረው እንደኖሩ፤ እኒህ መንፈሳውያን ዐርበኞች ሊቃውንትም እንዲህ መላ ዘመናቸውን አንገታቸውን አቀርቅረው መጽሐፍ በመመልከታቸው በሚያገኙት ምስጢር ፩ አካል ፩ ባሕርይ በምትል ኦርቶዶክሳዊት ተዋሕዶ ሃይማኖታቸው ዕንቅፋት ሳያስገቡ ጠብቀው ኖረዋል።” (ሊቀ-ሊቃውንት መሐሪ ትርፌ፤ ዃላ፦ አቡነ ጴጥሮስ)
[ስለኾነም፤ ገድላቸውን የመዘገቡላቸው ታሪክ ጸሐፊዎች እንዲህ ይላሉ፦]
“ወኀደገ ሎሙ ስመ ዘይጼውዑ ቦቱ = የሚጠሩበትን ስም ተወላቸው። (He left them behind a name that they will (proudly) call/be called by” (ገድለ አቡነ ተክለ ሃይማኖት)
“ሆን ተብሎ በልጅነት አእምሮአችን ውስጥ የጀግኖች ገድል እንዲቀረጽና የእነርሱን ፈለግ እንድንከተል እንዲያደርጉ፤ የታዘዙ ይመስል፤ የመንደር ሽማግሌዎች እርስ በርሳቸው ሲጨዋወቱ ከአባቶቻቸው በፊት የነበሩትን ጀግኖች ስምና ዝና እያነሱ መጣል ያዘወትሩ ነበር። በቴዎድሮስ፣ በዮሐንስ፣ በምኒልክ ዘመነ መንግሥት፣ በማይጨው ጦርነትና በአርበኝነቱ ወቅት የነበሩ ታማኝ ጀግኖች ዝና፣ በኢትዮጵያ ተወልዶ ያደገ ሁሉ የጭውውት መጀመሪያ መሆኑን ያውቀዋል።
“ገና በልጅነቴ ወራት በመንደሬ ሽማግሌዎች አንደበት የንግግር መጀመሪያ ከሆኑት ጀግኖች አንዱ አሉላ አባ ነጋ ነበሩ።…
“ታላቁ አሉላ፤ ከዚህ ዓለም በሞት ከተለዩ በኋላ ቁጥራቸው በትክክል ያልታወቁ ወላጆች ልጆቻቸውን “አሉላ” እያሉ ስም ያወጡላቸዋል። ይህ ገናና ስም፣ ወንዝና ጋራ ጐሣና ሃይማኖት የማይገታው በመሆኑም ከኢትዮጵያ መልክዓ ምድር ዐልፎ ባሕር ማዶም በፈጠረው ነጸብራቅ ከተማረኩት የታሪክ ሊቃውንት ሚስተር ሪቻርድ ፓንክረስት የተባሉ እንግሊዛዊ ልጃቸውን ‘አሉላ’ ብለውታል።” (ማሞ ውድነህ)
[ስንኳን ያርበኞች፤ የማንኛውም ወገናችን ኅልፈት በባህላችን እንዴት እንደሚታይ እና ገና በትኩስነቱም እንዴት እንደሚስተናገድ ደግሞ፦ ]
“በባህላችን ለቅሶ ይከበራል፡፡ ሙታንን እንደ ኢትዮጵያዊያን የሚያከብር ሕዝብ የለም፡፡ ከ3 እስከ 7 ቀናት እያለቀስንላቸው እንቀመጣለን፡፡ በ12 እና በ3ዐኛው ቀናት በቅዳሴ ግዜ ምልጃ ይሰማላቸዋል፡፡ በ4ዐኛው ቀን ሰፋ ባለ ዝግጅት ይታሰባሉ፡፡ ለሙት ዓመታቸው ፀበል ፀዲቅ ይዘጋጃል፡፡ የሚችል፣ ሰባተኛውን ዓመት ድንኳን ጥሎ እየፀለየ፣ እየበላና እየጠጣ ያስታውሳቸዋል፡፡
“ይህንን ሁሉ እንደኋላ ቀር ባህል የሚቆጥሩት እንዳሉ አውቃለኹ፡፡ እኔ ግን አልስማማም፡፡ ለሚወዱት አይበዛም፡፡ ከእኛ ኋላቀርነት ይልቅ፣የፈረንጆቹ ጭካኔ ነው የሚሰቀጥጠኝ፡፡ቀብረው በነገታው normalcy ወደሚሉት መመለስ ነው፡፡ የሰውነትን ዋጋ በእጅጉ እንዳሳነሰ ባህል እቆጥረዋለኹ፡፡ እነሱ እኛን እንጂ፣ እኛ እነሱን ስንመስል ማየት አልሻም፡፡
“…በባህላችን ለቅሶ አይደፈርም፡፡ ይከበራል፡፡ ደመኛ እንኳን ፀቡን ያበርዳል፡፡ በመንገድ የሚያልፍ አስክሬንን፣ ሕዝብ እጅ ይነሳል፣ ወታደር ሰላምታ ይሰጣል፡፡…” (ዠግናው የሰላም አርበኛ እስክንድር ነጋ)
[ያለፉትን ማክበር ተጨማሪ ፋይዳም አለው፦]
“…የቀደሙ፡አባቶችንና፡እናቶችን፡ታሪክና፡ገድል፣ሥራና፡ሟያ፣ዠብድና፡ድንቅ፡ማስታወስ፣ማክበርና፡ማፍቀር፥ለዛሬውና፡ለመጪው፡ትውልድ፡በአርኣያነቱ፡ እንዲበጅም፡ነው።” (ወሌ ነጋ)
Some of you may deem the above excerptions to be mere tales of the past irrelevant to our current situation and hence may consider them as not worthy of attention. Please do nonetheless keep them in mind and continue to read what follows. For as soon as you notice the level of discourse at which I am trying to follow up on the matter at hand, you will definitely get the point for which I invoked these words, whether or not you may eventually change your judgment with respect to them. They are quite random selections though, and I am not calling attention to them for the purpose of establishing a fact or demonstrating a theory on their basis; what I am trying to do is indicate, by way of illustration, to a crucial aspect of the historical sense/meaning involved in the succession of generations in our country, if only roughly.
Running the risk of being charged of chauvinism, I would even like to recommend that, as you read these excerpts, you may do well to listen to some “shelela” and “musho” lyrics or just summon them from memory into your imaginations. You may want to consider also few more songs of the genres “fanno,” “tezeta” and the like. Not only may this give you a nostalgic vibe that captures the feeling of belonging (both in good and bad times) to the great nation we call mother Ethiopia, but more importantly will it provide you, I believe, with an almost unmediated access into the cultural milieu we inhabit.
Manifestly, while thus helping you to familiarize or re-familiarize yourself as the case may be with the background practices of most Ethiopians of past and present generations, it will simultaneously keep you also, at least for a moment, from the noise of American and European secret psychic weapons such as jazz. Those of you who do not want to listen to any secular music will definitely find spiritual hymns of deeper sense from the richness of Yaredawi Zema or Bilalawi Menzuma.
To avoid some possible misunderstandings as to what urges me to think and write in the way I do, let me reiterate once more: primarily, mine is not politics, either real or textual. What principally motivates me to opine in this way is a particular perception of the resourcefulness of our tradition, which resourcefulness warrants a call for adopting a point, a particular standpoint, a trans-ethnic national standpoint (“አገራዊ” ምቅዋም) founded upon and directed by a ground-motive (መሠረተ-ነሰሕሳሕ) that I believe is supposed/ought to be shared by all Ethiopians across the board and throughout the generations! Describing the real substance of that which this ground-motive, this standpoint, this call, this resourcefulness actually expresses, is however beyond the scope of this article. Obviously, volumes of books need to be written if such a task was to be set before us.
With a quite loosely written piece such as this, I will be more than satisfied if I could stir up interest in some well-meaning Ethiopians to address the pressing need, as I have pointed up elsewhere, for a useful restoration of “the manner in which authentically independent and truly self-conscious Ethiopians had been accustomed to bringing their own specific points of view on any particular issue such that their views could automatically be identified with, or better, as the most basic transethnic national outlooks… [in order then] to establish a characteristically Ethiopian position over against any foreign standpoint within any historiogrphic matrix—be it modernity, postmodernity, post-postmodernity/neo-retro-modernity or whatever.” If this nonetheless smells political, let it do.
The Crux of the Matter: Meaning
“ምንተ ይበቊዖ ለሰብእ ለእመ ኵሎ ዓለመ ረብሐ ወነፍሶ ሀጕለ። = በነፍሱ ከጠፋ (ማን-እነቱን ካጣ) ዓለሙን ኹሉ ቢገዛ ለሰው ምን ይረባዋል። = For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself.” This is one of the cardinal maxims of the Bible. Philosophers also come close to it when they say: “Meaning is man’s life-breath. Take it away, obliterate its source, and there is no human being left.” For they hold that, whether or not one believes in God, the human as spiritual being is “the grounding ‘where’ of meaning.” This was so much true for one first rank thinker of our age (who, although lived in as late as the last century, and despite the great defect of his personality, has already been counted among the classical philosophers) that he named human being as such with the term “being-there” (“Dasein”), i.e., the t/here of (openness to) being/meaning!
Should we believe in the above mentioned biblical maxim or assume the philosopher’s ontological account to be veracious for a moment and try to draw the ontic import of it with particular regard to ourselves, it will at once become crystal-clear that: if we take the meaning of being Ethiopian away, and obliterate the source of Ethiopian nationality, there can be no Ethiopia or Ethiopian left. However, is this not precisely what Ato Meles—while arrogating to be the Prime Minister of Ethiopia—has all along been trying to do? That is to say, has he not been using such a decisive position as he occupies in her state (PM!) to take away from Ethiopia as much sense/meaning of being Ethiopian as he could? Has he not been applying all his wits to obliterate the sources of Ethiopianity?
For instance, who else did tell us upfront but he that Ethiopia was only a hundred years old (or rather, young!) and her flag was but a rag (ታሪካችን የመቶ ዓመት፣ ባንዲራችን ጨርቅ እንደኾነ፤), who else did bring us straight off but he to “a verge of collapse, ለመበታተን አደጋ,” forcing our minds by gun and dragging our hearts with chain to misunderstand ourselves as mere aggregates of ethnic monads that could go apart with a blast of that infamous drop of ink in the fake constitution he authored for our country (Article 39), and so on and so forth… I should not go any further here; for I believe most readers can fill in the details better than I do. Indeed, it can never be emphasized enough how Meles and his acolytes would, if left unchecked, eventually cut the country short of breath, of spirit.
Development: A ግንጥል ጌጥ
Lest we should be duped by the rhetoric about “development,” so many qualified professionals have already taught us a lot as to how Meles’ propaganda does not square with the facts on the ground. Not only that, even if we want to consider his talk just remaining on the plane of theory, his is at best a haphazard application, or rather misapplication, of well-defined theories—well-defined, that is, by others. Let me explain this with a paragraph or two.
By the way, traditional Ethiopian scholars have a name for what is called paraphrase or indirect quotation. They call it “ለውጦ ማንበብ።” In Andimta Commentary, the original source of a paraphrase is traced and reported in the form: “እገሌ (i.e., ዋናው/ተጠቃሹ ምንጭ) “አ” ያለውን፤ እገሌ (i.e., አኹን እየተረጎሙት ያለው/ጠቃሹ ምንጭ) [“በ” ብሎ] ለውጦ አነበበው።” Example: reading Matthew 2:23 where it says “And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene (…ዘተብህለ በነቢይ ከመ-‘ናዝራዊ ይሰመይ ወልድየ’”) our scholars comment: “እንዲህ የሚል ወዴት አለ ቢሉ፦… በኦሪቱ ‘እስመ-ናዝራዊ ሐዲስ ውእቱ ለእግዚአብሔር’ ያለውን እንዲህ ለውጦ አነበበው።” There is nothing wrong in such a practice though, insofar as the person using the ideas of a previous author is not shown to deny his/her indebtedness to his/her source. A problem arises only if a writer or a speaker deliberately tries to obscure the sources of his/her ideas, or if he/she copies someone else’s work and ventures to present him/herself as the author of what is thus copied—(plagiarism). When Ethiopian scholars happen to encounter such a theft of ideas they would embarrass the thief by asking him/her: “ቅኔኣቸውንስ ሰማን/ዐሳባቸውንስ አነበብን፤ ለመኾኑ የኔታ እገሌ [የቅኔው/የዐሳቡ ባለቤት] ደኽና ናቸው?” For instance, had a traditional scholar gotten a chance to meet ex-ambassador Tesfaye Habisso, he would have mortified him by asking: “[ርስዎ ሰርቀው መርበብት ላይ የለጠፉልንን] ጽሑፎቻቸውንስ አነበብን፤ ለመኾኑ እነ ኮሊን ዳርች፣ እነ ጄምስ ፔትራስ ደኽና ናቸው?”
If there is any positively noteworthy in the theory of development that Meles pretends to have advanced himself, I have been able to trace the main trust of it in Messay Kebede’s “Meaning and Development.” However, I would not want to embarrass him by inquiring about the wellbeing and whereabouts of professor Messay, saying, “ታኦርያቸውንስ ሰማን፤ ለመኾኑ የኔታ መሳይ ደኽና ናቸው?” That is to say, I will not go as far as accusing him of plagiarism. Yet, I definitely take Meles’s central statements to be but pointers of an indirect reference to Messay’s articulations of what he (the later) calls an “anxiety-producing” theory of development, a theory that suggests to deal with the problem of underdevelopment by turning poverty into an existential question. Which reference leads me to say indeed: “ዐይናማው ሊቅ መሳይ ከበደ ‘national shame… endangered order… threats and the quest for salvation, etc.’ ያለውን፤ ብልጣብልጡ ሚኒስቴር መለስ ‘ውርደት… ቊጭት… አደጋ… ለከፍተኛ ሀገራዊ ተልእኮ፣ ወዘተርፈ’ በማለት እንዲህ ለውጦ አነበበው።” Doesn’t he?
I am not criticizing Meles for using Messay’s ideas, though, unless he comes out to openly deny his indebtedness to the scholar whom he has brutally put to exile so that this brilliant philosopher, whom I dare to count among the very few “crisis thinkers” of our continent in our age, has now been nurturing in Ohio the somehow already satiated American minds while the souls of his compatriots back home have been starving to death. In fact Meles should be encouraged to read Ethiopian thinkers. And yet, in this particular case, I should point out that in the process of copying Messay’s ideas, he missed a crucial point that he could and should have learnt from the very title page of the book: MEANING! Hence, even as theory, his idea is bound to remain a ግንጥል ጌጥ…
Let me leave Meles on this note for now, until I shall return with a third and hopefully final part to deal with his pretension about “renaissance” in the interview/monologue I mentioned earlier, the subtext of which I have captured with the phrase “lost millennium.” But before I close this piece,
A Question to Professor Messay
Next to Professor Getatchew Haile, you are the second Ethiopian scholar whom I take seriously ever since I read one of your works in 2003, a book that gave me much food for thought. You remember my reaction to one of your statements in that book and our conversation thereupon via email. As a young student I have had greatly benefited from your advice and encouragement to think even against you! As I stated in my review on amazon.ca of your second last work, I have gradually come to consider you as one of the very few philosophers that are engaged in thinking seriously about the crisis we find ourselves in. So, as long as I have the time and necessary resource, I follow up on what you have to say regarding Ethiopia, nay, to be honest, regarding anything. And I agree with you for the most part. (I haven’t as yet read your latest work, though.)
In fact, when it comes to politics, I should confess that I am unlettered as yet and hence may make incorrect statements and/or pose wrong questions. I do hope nonetheless that it would not be improper to ask the following with respect to your recent insistence on “grand coalition”:
As for most well-meaning Ethiopians (including you, I believe), Meles has already been found wanting—not just in certain aspects of political leadership (such as in how he goes about the aporia of violence) but in the very stance with regard to ETHIOPIANITY as such, and with regard to HUMANITY as well. When do you think thus we should be justified to say of him, in unison: “ጠዋይ ኢይክል ረቲዐ፤ ወሕጹጽ ኢይክል ተኈልቈ = That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered”?
To be continued…