Speaking of history..
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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