Cry, if it helps

September 22, 2008 at 1:35 pm 8 comments

I have a Rasta neighbour. He’s a fresh Rasta, which you can tell by his tiny dreads; by the fact that he wears nothing that has no Ethiopian flag on it (even his kitchen window has a lion of Juddah for a drape) and by the many (Fresh Rasta, Fresh — man) friends he has over every night, who refer to him as “Negro” while talking loudly to eachother [in English] and listening to Bob Marley’s “No woman, No cry”.

I’m not familiar with just how bad the weeping Jamican woman’s situation was when the King of Raggae made that song. But I fancy neither his song, nor his notorious bed-hopping, nor the advent of time helped lessen her tears by a centimeter.

Why am talking shit about Bob all of a sudden?! Because of an email a reader sent me the other day that brought bitter tears to the abesheet eyes. This man is a philosopher. A deep thinker. He knows what he was talking about and how to best convey it. 14 pages went without the sister stopping for breath, when anything more than two paragraphs demanded of her the kind of will power that would let a nobler man say unto this mountain, “Remove hence to yonder place”. After complimenting the sister for disrobing herself of that heavy, skin-tight suit we all wear – False Pride, he said that he’d had the impression she was an Ideologue and asked if she was. A question that embrassed the sister in the same way her instructor calling her out and ordering her to sit in front of him (away from probbing eyes) on her Syntax exam Friday evening.

If only he knew, she mused..

(How she didn’t even know what Ideologue mean and that she’d leave 4 questions, worth 22/60 points, unanswered).

I wrote back saying he reminded me of what I could have become were I allowed and that perhaps one day I’d grow old enough to reply, in kind. Afterwards, ofcourse, I cried. With the same thirst that made me cry upon reading Zadie Smith’s first born. “How I wish I was born a man” I lamented “[Or in England]. Instead of a woman who sees all that’s wrong with the world, but is as good as paralyzed when it comes to lifting a finger to change it, or even calling it by it’s correct name?!”

It felt I was being punished for a sin I have no part in committing. Except the sin of being born a woman, in africa, – the classic!

Then I started fantasizing how wonderful it would have been if I could moonlight as a man. See how the other half (the better half) lives, so to say. The half that doesn’t need to be “choosen among women” to make the list & whose every word would count whether it knew what it was talking about or not. The half that doesn’t need to work harder and go the extra-mile to get where its opposite-sex compatriots did — all the while repressing, being patient & smiling more; all the while dealing with emotions, biological clocks, the ugly businesses of Menustral cramps & “periods” every 28 days, with pregnancy, giving birth, breast-feeding, stretch marks, raging menapusal hormones and other women (your mother, among them). That half that isn’t expected to weather all the problems and carry the burdens of it’s family on it’s back but takes the blame for everything that goes wrong in/with it. The half that always gets half the punishment when found erring, whose sins are forgiven and forgotten by either the viture of being a male or because there is always a mother/sister/girlfriend/fiancee or wife making excuses for him. The half who can say, be & live the way it saw fit without having to throw stones at vehicles passing by or going half naked. And still be thought the better for it.

Would be nice, I said wistuflly, sleeping in a bed with sheets, dealing with humans [for a change] and be “more equal” than others from time to time. Unless..

It was at this point of meditation that a knock came to my door, and the door-handle turned. It was one of my colleagues coming to give me the usual good morning kiss we [girls] exchange while inquiring after the sew, the keBt, the maSSa. A kiss that makes my dread coming to the office every morning more than the crap I gotta deal with while there. I got up .. smiling…

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If Degu were alive.. To my favorite clown

8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mazzi  |  September 23, 2008 at 4:05 am

    I hear you Abesheet. You will never know how much I can relate to what you wrote about … wondering what it would be like to live like the other half, the privileged half. I have always thought my life, as I know it, would have been much easier in so many different ways if I had all the privileges men have, privileges they take for granted, and unfortunately privileges they award themselves sometimes at the expense of their women folk. “No Woman No Cry” is actually my most favorite Bob Marley’s song, and I too have wondered whether that song has ever brought any woman in Bob’s life any comfort….given his life style. I found it easier to always imagine that it was another average man singing this song to some deserving average woman, meaning every word in it. That way, I learned to love and appreciate the song for what it is :-).

  • 2. abesheet  |  September 23, 2008 at 5:50 am

    Lol Mazzi. Yeah, that’s one way to look at it. I sometimes wonder just how famous Bob would have been were he not cute. U know, half white. I think that’s part of the anger behind most of his hate songs against “those crazy baldheads”, and ofcourse his drug addiction. Daddy not being around! Couldn’t have been easy for him. I remember an ex-ex boyfriend, who worked with the Marley family on their first concert, telling me about all these awesome Reggae singers way before Bob that nobody in Ethiopia seems to have heard of. Not to mention the silly mantra that Haileselassie still lives. Kind of like Obama, i guess. Only the other day a PR officer of a famous NGO, somebody you’d have thought knows better, was telling me why she loves Obama. “He’s the first black man to get this far” she said, and i was like “Poor Rice & Powell, i guess it takes more than mere being there to make people notice ya”

    Nice to see you again, by the way Mazzi. You’ve been sorely missed!

  • 3. Ellis  |  September 23, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    I couldn’t help but leave a short comment…

    Whatever your opinion is about Obama, i thought it was very interesting that you compared him to Rice and Powell. Maybe the woman you talked about does know better. Neither Rice nor Powell, have left an impression on the political system of the United States as Senator Obama. This man is one who will leave a legacy for generations to come. It’s not even a question of him being the presidential nominee of the democrats; it’s him having inspired millions of people, who for years have been distant from politics, and lost the hope of ever changing the situations they live in. And this he did has a black man, standing up for ALL citizens. Rice and Powell may have had high positions (Even though some may argue that being the president of the United States might be a bit higher in position – if position was what you were referring to and also if he wins…) Getting “this far” is not simply what level of the political ladder a person is at, its what impressions they make on the way.

    Even as i type these words, countless of young people who would not have even dreamt of the possibility of, not necessarily being president, but being somebody have been inspired and have been made to believe that anything is possible.

    Well, i do enjoy reading your blog, especially since i’ve found myself disagreeing with you a couple of times. I guess that’s one of the reasons i do enjoy your blog 🙂 It’s always refreshing to hear a voice such as yours.

  • 4. abesheet  |  September 24, 2008 at 5:20 am

    Lol, Ellis. That last line felt “laden with meanings” 🙂 . However, I admit you have a point there. The only impression Powell has left on the sister is that dude might have a skin disease. Obama, i’ve always seen as “the right man on the right time”. I doubt he’d have enjoyed so much celebrity if America (and the rest of the world) wasn’t fade up by Bush’s mad foreign policies and looking for a Change “they can believe in”. And you know that thing about people wanting Change, they’d take anything they can get. Ethipians, unfortunately, have a story or two to tell you about that. Still, i’m calling my friend and asking if she meant her other day’s comment position or influence wise. I know she looked surpised when i mentioned Rice, Powell and Martin Luther King Jr. as if she didn’t know they existed. Care to share your stand on MLK Jr.?

  • 5. Mazzi  |  September 24, 2008 at 8:34 pm

    I still check out your blog often even if I am not commenting by the way, and still enjoy your posts.

    By the way, I always thought Peter Tosh from the Wailers was just as deserving for his reggae music skills and messages (Ethiopians are not as crazy about him), but as you said Bob Marley was celebrated more for various reasons. It must not have been easy for Bob to be anti establishment (i.e. anti white system of government) while having a white father even if he never raised him.

    I too always found the whole “Haileselassie is a god, and still alive” mantra extremely silly even if I knew it grew from the desire Rastas have to link themselves with what they thought was one of the oldest black civilizations. But every time I meet die hard Rastas who speak of such myth like THE truth, and also preach it, I am tempted to laugh. But I respect that it does something for them, so I will give them that. Just don’t sing the mantra to me coz I ain’t buying it.

    As for what Obama represents to the American public now a days, all I can say is I can’t wait for you to come to this side, experience first hand race relations in this country, on top of what you already know. This society has a very loooooong way to go, regardless of whether we end up having a black president in the White House come election time. I hold my breath for Obama for the mess he will be inheriting, if elected, though I would not rule out McCain winning. Never underestimate the conservative voters in this country. They voted Bush TWICE (did I say TWICE!!). Enough said!

  • 6. Ellis  |  September 24, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    I do believe that your friend might not have had an idea about Rice or Powell. It’s rarely surprising to find people being driven by the crowd regardless of where the crowd is headed or why it’s doing so… sort of just to be part of something bigger, no matter what that represents. I guess that’s why blogs like yours are necessary to make people constantly think and question.

    In regards to your believe that Obama’s possibilities might not have been so great if it wasn’t for the fact that he is coming after Bush does have a point. I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to read his books, but what you see in there is ’straightforwardness’ and a ‘truthfulness’ that is rare, especially in the world of politics. I believe he has the integrity to play it as cleanly as possible. And if he wins ( even though we should never underestimate McCain and the republicans of this nation) he will represent something broader, a step forward for millions of millions of minorities, especially for African Americans. Issues of race in the US is very real, it’s something many struggle with in a day to day basis, so to see a black man ( even though Obama is many things, and the color of his skin being among the least of them) in the White house represents a step forward. Given the fact that he turned out to a bit different of the ‘usual Washington politicians we are use to’ is an enormous plus.

    On regards to MLK jr – well many things can be said about the man, but every time i think of him, i wonder if he isn’t turning in his grave given the current African American situation in the US. There is a saying in economics ” there is a third world in every first world and vice versa.” The third world of the first world is mainly concentrated with Blacks, Latinos and many other minority groups. I doubt Obama’s presence will have a transforming effect, but it will have an effect, no matter how meager we may see it to be at the moment. I believe though, he is carrying with him that dream that the king had in mind and it’s all of our responsibilities to contribute for the dream to keep going.

    As for me, i clench more to the thought of the republicans being in the white house than a white man in the White house. We shall see…

    Well, I’ll be tuning in to all your posts 😉

    P.S My ‘refreshing’ comment was genuine, maybe you’ll be one of the women, who’ll start leaving cracks in the Ethiopian glass ceiling. There is nothing more refreshing than an open-mind, and to have that we should be able to know what our opinions are to start with…. and you sure got that! Thank you.

  • 7. abesheet  |  September 25, 2008 at 6:56 am

    *blushes*

    Thanks Ellis & Mazzi. I guess we will all be waiting “with breath that’s bated”, as they say. It’s true, if the Republicans were an Ethiopian Party, they’d have been all sorts of wild stories flying hither and tither on their last two election successes. And “DiGimt”, no doubt, would have made the top 3. I don’t know much about the Democrats but i’ve always liked their nominees. Was even disappointed a little when AlGore lost, taking my 10 birr bet with him.

    Well, good luck to Obama, although, like Mazzi said, he’s more to be pittied than envied if he won. There won’t be much sleep in his quarters, even if his head hardly wears the crown. And No, Ellis, i haven’t read his book. When my husband, a big fan of his, offered to send it to me i said “I’d rather have America: The book thankuverymuch”

    Speaking of American politics and elections, here is my favorite (very very favorite) short short funny story on it by Dave Eggers (another writer hero of mine) on The GuardianSleep To Dreamier Sleep Be Wed. There is Sleep to Dreamier Sleep be Wed II & III. I’ve read them all without being registered. But if it gives you trouble, give it an hour and check back.

  • 8. Mazzi  |  September 26, 2008 at 12:03 am

    Thanks for the link to the “Sleep To Dreamier Sleep Be Wed” short story. I really enjoyed reading it. Amusing, but terribly scary and so true! I wonder how/if it is going to be any different for this coming election. The majority of the American voting masses are terribly uninformed or ill informed, and the decisions they make based on that can have severe consequences to global politics. That, in a nutshell, is what scares me. If ever you get a chance to read any of Obama’s books (ask your husband to send them to you), I think you will enjoy them immensely. Despite a difficult background, that man has a solid head on this shoulders, and he might just bring much needed hope to this country if the already existing political and economic mess do not drown all his efforts before he even starts!

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