Points to ponder
Solomon Deressa is one of Ethiopia’s most significant poets and critics. In an interview with January, 2004 issue of Zega, a now defunct Amharic magazine, he talks about his newly published collection of poems, Zebet Elfitu and his thought on larger political and social issue. I have translated excerpts.
We were great people, we still are great now and we will become even greater. But let us remember that it is not for us to harp on this. Let us leave that for others. Our task is rather asking, “In what regard are we lacking?” Having washed my face, should I make a virtue of this by telling everyone that my face is clean now?
Why, washing my face is what I should do.
We are incorrigibly suspicious to the extent that we fear not just people but life itself. We seem to have serious problem. This is the demon haunting us. Where as we ought to celebrate the ethnic and linguistic plurality, we let it haunts us like a nightmare.
Once when we were discussing with some female friends, I remember one of remarking “It is high time the task of administrating nation of Ethiopia be left to the women.” I totally agree with her. I think we have been inept about it. Because we have been unwilling to admit our cowardice, make peace with our compassionate side, because we are embarrassed to admit that we are soft-hearted, we have been boasting and swaggering about our heroism for the last three thousand years of our history. How one can persist in one’s old way after falling down stepping on the peel of banana twice?
I think this obsession with macho mentality has been a burden we need to shake off.
I have traveled widely, have lived and worked among diverse people. Life has taught me a lot. I am not taking pride in the fact that of my being Ethiopian but I can declare confidently so far I have not come across a people endowed with so much intelligence as Ethiopians. It is this that makes our misery all the more poignant.
I have traveled the breadth and length of the country, Wollega, Shoa and Arsi. One thing that never fails make a deep impression on me that the remarkable readiness Ethiopians of every hue have to earn respect by respecting others, their capacity for warm-heartedness and sharpen of intelligence. But remarkably we seem to be lacking in one faculty, I mean imagination
The readiness to take risk appears to be our Achilles’ heel. We don’t take the step ourselves from stairs. Even if God assure us “I will support you won’t break leg. Throw yourself.” We are afraid to do so. It is because we lack imagination. I can’t go all the details now. There are many factors but I believe it has largely to do with the way we were brought up.