Speaking of history..

May 14, 2008 at 11:45 am 6 comments

I will try to make this post as short and inoffensive to my religions friends as possible. But I can’t promise anything! Seems to me, the only way you can make [an unpleasant] history pleasant is by re-writing it. And re-writing history isn’t something you can do with pen. With guns, perhaps! With blood, most definitely! On a blog, not so much! Try to also overlook the angry tone and editing problem. Will get to them when i have more time.

Anywho…… [as I mentioned in my comment earlier] I was reading about ‘Gragn Ahmed’ (Or “Gragn Mohammed” as I used to think his name was) yesterday when I came across the part which talks about him destroying the relics and manuscripts of the Debre Libanos Monastery. A part, in short, that reminded me something I realized in my “Survey of Ethiopian Literature” class 4 years ago. How religion has done more harm than good to further Ethiopia’s literature (something that still eats the abesheet soul more than anything else in her country’s history).

Now, one of the things I hate about fanatic religious people, one that I hold against them like none other [coz I recognize being a believer takes more guts than being a non-believer does, especially in such times as now, and coz I am a huge fan of the “feriha egziabher” concept] is how they discourage you from knowing anything about anything non-religious!! Used to go to a protestant church, so I know what I’m talking about! Where “Alemawi” movies and songs were not only frowned upon (even if you happen to be one of those amiable creatures who keep the remote control within reach in case a “zefen” comes on the screen) but openly, & sometimes violently, preached against. I remember the commotion a couple of kids who were “zemaris” at a protestant church here in Addis joining an “alemawi” Band created more than a decade ago. Their ex-pastor (or a colleague of his) said they were “eating what the ‘zendo’ is spitting” and the kids, who were still in the faith but weren’t making anything out of it (it seems), were heart-broken. Heavy shit, don’t you agree, coming from a Man of God?!. Pretty vicious!!

And reading “alemawi” books was something you wouldn’t wanna be seen doing by anyone from your church, coz it not only raises the eye-brows but comes handy whenever your good brothers and sisters “in the Lord” felt like putting you down and pointing how you were ‘the wrong’ kind of Christian. Yep! Happened to me all the time! My only comfort, and fortress, in those days was the book of proverb. Where the word “Senefoch ewQetin yinQalu” was written, loud and clear, for all to see. Infact, now I come to think of it, most of the things people do in churches these days seem to be the exact things King Solomon, the “wisest dude” to have surfaced, called ‘foolish’. And not the type of foolish Paul referred to in his message to either Romans or Corinthians! No, these were the ugly types of foolish. The kind, in short, that made a wise colleague of mine exclaim “enkuwan Egziabher yeAdwa Lij Alhone”! (For isn’t that what the whole sweatin-it, and sometimes “ilQit”, all about? Having the almighty on your team, just in case ;-)?!)

*raps the table and calls the post to order*

Now, we all know “Gragn” wasn’t the only General to have raised in the mother land and destroying relics and manuscripts assisted, it seems, in making Ethiopia’s literature hundreds of years behind younger, newer nations! Although I have seen some try to make it ‘appear’ that way (just the way they are trying to make “Aste Yohannes” seem the only king to make shady dealings with foreign powers. While history tells us how Menelik’s diplomacy, something he’s admired for nontheless, was based on and full of such under-handed transactions! (There, Dr. Ethiopia, one of the reasons why I think politics is dirty).

Everybody has given it a try. Yodit Gudit! Aste Yohannes himself! And, only 20 years ago, Dergue Issepa!. Isn’t it true, anyway, how when it comes to Ethiopian politics, religion and relationships.. destroying the past (with it’s irreplaceable “metasebias”) seem to be the first thing every ruler/leader/partner does?!

Still, my present grievance focuses mainly on & around the Ethiopian orthodox church. Because if any one organization could have used it’s power in playing a huge role to further it, that body of power was the “Tewahido BeteKristian”! I am well aware it/they did it because they believed it was the right thing to do. To save our souls, even! And I agree reading Count de Sade’s exploits won’t do anyone any good. For “sin” (or atleast rebellion) is indeed a seed that is planted casually and, more often than not, innocently! Sometimes in the form of a simple ‘free to be you and me’ background music on a Disney cartoon.

However, I also feel (unoriginally, perhaps) there was more to these teachings than mere ‘protecting the herd’ from ‘wolfish teachings’. More selfish and mortal agendas, that is!. Agendas related to the fear of losing material ownership (of “merret” and “demoz”) and other less “solid” benefits that has certain connection to ‘wearing long robes and saying long prayers’. So we can’t simply write it off as a ‘history past’. I.e. something unethical [for us] to judge the motives of with today’s mind! It not only has a “now” root, a “human element” that makes us read books written by long-gone people, but it hasn’t been two years since the Ethiopian orthodox church threatened to “meGeZzet” Teddy Afro for the unwise use of the word “Elohe Elohe” in one of his songs.

(Tell me, also, why is it religious people who are always quick to judge and name call, inspite of biblical teachings of acceptance and forbearance?! A question which must have fogged my favorite comedy writer of the 19th century, Rudyard Kipling, when he observed: “You may have noticed that many religious people are deeply suspicious. They seem—for purely religious purposes, of course—to know more about iniquity than the Unregenerate”)

“Haven’t these people destroyed enough?!” was my first reaction to the TeddyAfro vs. Ethiopian Orthodox church “eset ageba”! For it is this same church that burned Amharic bibles and preached wildly against it (and Tewodros II, the promoter) being translated to any other Ethiopian language thus putting out any flicker of hope for atleast one of our languages to grow in the right direction. Not to mention all the mostly successful influences it exerted until mid 20st century in delaying non-religious literature from entering the country. So much that even an Orthodox Christian lit. that wasn’t approved by “our Holy fathers in Alexandria” was considered “wuGiz keMearios”!. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it, if religion is a way we should try to figure out life with, or if life is something we try to figure out our religion by!

Correct me if I’m wrong!!

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Dr. Ethiopia  |  May 14, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Religion is an issue that is delicate for many to touch or discuss openly. Listen, in the old testament, God himself looked like a blood thirsty creator.

    He was punishing everyone, everybody, and everything. No bares were held back. It was just kill them and wipe of the planet.

    For example, Muslims and so many other religions believe in destiny that is predetermined by your creator, including death.

    Therefore, when someone dies, they say his/her day has come as it was willed by his God

    Give me a break. I don’t think God has decided for some folksto die over a horrific disease called AIDS. If God has pre-determined your destiny in life, you wouldn’t be sinner when you take someone’s life away, as God would have pre-determined THAT person’s life to be taken away by you, as the reason.

    Or, are you telling me if i make a personal choice of taking a bullet in the head and die, that wouldn’t make me a sinner?

    Which one is it? I never had a full explanation on this as i seem to catch most religious scholars off guard with this “predetermined destiny” thing. and so many other issues i could talk about. Religion is a tough issue, as i myself believe in my craetor. But my little brain which has been given to me by my creator cannot help it but ask some questions, and issues that is contradicting,

    Religion is i think something that has served society a great deal, in the same token, it has been used dangerously by some fanatics.

    In the end, most religions underscore the importance of peace and coexisting with other habitats in a respectful manner.

    Anything can be hijacked by the wrong people, and religion is not immune from this.

    My 2 cents.


  • 2. sewit  |  May 14, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    abesheet, my view is that when religious folk are really religious, they are so enraptured by the act of worship or study of sacred texts that they don’t bother to even look at how others are acting. It is the less devout ones who find time for judgment and ‘righting’ of other wrongs (perhaps to appear more worthy?). And this need to ‘protect’ is generally driven by need for consolidation of power. The love for that power overshadows everything. Jimmy Hendrix has this line “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”

    Dr Ethiopia. ye predestination guday is something I find fascinating. If one generally believes in an all knowing God (and some may not), it would mean that he would know when and how you will perish. Gin, does that knowledge make the act itself happen? It is like I know the sun will rise in the east tomorrow, but is it my knowledge of that event that makes the sun rise or …

    I’ll give you another Hendrix quote “I’m the one that has to die when it’s time for me to die, so let me live my life, the way I want to”

    cheers to both.

    abesheetye, I really enjoy your blog.

  • 3. abesheet  |  May 15, 2008 at 9:19 am

    Thank you so much guys, for being nice :-). I knew i was pushing it with this post but this was something I’ve always wanted to discuss, seeing that blames rest on only those who aren’t exactly “the champions of the people” in politics when whatever article is being writ!

    The way I saw predestination when i was a Christian was very much the way Sewit saw it. God knew everything, theoretically atleast, but you have every right to screw or right your life. I think most of the seemingly “humble” yet in reality unseemly statuses given to God are done by either fear, fanaticism or simple fan-dome.

    For example, Jesus said “My father is Bigger than me”. Christians protest he said that out of humility and not because his father was bigger than him. And i’m like.. wouldn’t that be making Jesus a liar?! Or atleast as showing false, and misleading, humilitry. Why not take the word at it’s face value, rather than try to read too much into it. Or is that our way of saying “we have your back”. A back, were we to believe his words, that has been had before the foundations for the world were laid!

    When we come to the question of Predestination (according to the bible): people seem to willingly forget that one of the first rules in the ten commandments is “if you want your days to be longer, honor thy father and mother”. So.. your days can be long or short. You can “meQechet bachiiru” for not honoring your parents, or if somebody decided to get drunk and drive through you, or if you .. as said.. put a gun to your head and fired. I don’t think you need to spiritualize it. Nobody said life made sense or it played fair. Jesus has gone so far as saying “in this world, you have tribulations! But not to worry.. I’ve over come it”. That’s the biggest “feTena”, i think. Overcoming the unfairness & the unknowability of life and holding onto your faith inspite of it all. That’s what i meant by real faith took guts. It’s a bold, trusting step into the unknown. Something you wouldn’t see this [weak, faithless] sister do in a million years :-).

    Here is where I am right now. I do not believe the God of the bible is the creator of life. And why should I?! The bible is one of those many books presecuted people who needed hope to survive wrote. Wiki it if you don’t believe me! There were hundreds of races who claimed they were “The choose People of God” and, believe it or not, Moses has copied ideas and even chapters from them. (Just the way Jesus was said to have studied Buddha’s manuscripts in the 3 years between his baptism and beginning of Service resulting in their teachings being so alike). No! No Jewish propaganda for me, thankuverymuch! But I believe we were created by something, so I am not entirely an atheist. And if that something is a male diety, I think he’s either really misunderstood, or something entirely above what our imagination can grasp, or we have been so screwed up that he’s given up on our world. Even if none of that was true, I don’t see God as the favorer of people who overrides everything fair & right just so he could cater for your individual need [mostly at the expense of others]. That is like the silliest, most selfish, most unrealistic and pretty Ethiopian [coz those who loves us would go twist the arm of the truth to give us what we want, don’t they?!] I might add, belief. There are bad people out there. And Shit happens. So do unexplainable things that might appear like a “miracle”. But that’s just it. Mostly, you reap what you sow, whether good or bad.

    Try being a writer, a writer who knows what s/he is doing, and you’ll understand what i mean. However much you love your characters, you neither twist people’s arm nor paint over reality to give them what they want, or to make them go where you want them to go. They live the way they see fit and make their mistakes. You hope they’d learn from them and if they don’t, too bad! You just look down at them, sometimes weeping your heart out, other times bored and irritated, until they found their way to the final period. Maybe that’s what happens in real life!

    Sewitye, glad to have you here!

  • 4. abyssinia  |  May 15, 2008 at 6:53 pm

    I personally think religious or any extremism and fanaticism are needless.

    We have been accusing Islam of being fanatic, intolerant, and so on… if we don’t tolerate muslim fanatic, so we also shouldn’t tolerate christian, jewish and any other religious fanatics.

    To believe in certain values, to live for them, to work for them, to strive for them is one thing but to be fanatic and spreading religious lies [protestant pasteru yetenagerew] is a complete other story! I think his preaching technique is extremely deceiving to say the least.

    Very fundamental to fanaticism is the violating of values, which have been accepted by humanity as its fundamental code of behaviour – respecting the difference, the rule of law, principles of religion and social justice.

    In my opinion, extremism and fanaticism are symptoms of our problem, not the actual cause. In order to eradicate these problems our long-term goal should be to eliminate the underlying social and political causes which breed them.

    As for religious people, they become judgmental or hostile coz they feel uncomfortable hearing your views and/or mainly because they are not open-minded. However, it’s easy discussing religion and clarify your views with those that attempt to convert you to alemawi…from my personal experiences!

  • 5. abesheet  |  May 16, 2008 at 6:08 am

    Amen to all that Abby. Very mature and very perceptive.

  • 6. RasX  |  May 19, 2008 at 6:46 am

    History, if I could go back in time and change it, what would I change? Who would I warn that something bad was going to happen to them? That they were going to get back stabbed by these people. To make a long story short. I really liked this post from you. What a display in knowledge of history. It was almost like a time machine. I like stuff like that. Really!

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