Tuesday, June 25, 2024
HomeOpinionThe Woes of Courting Exceptionalism

The Woes of Courting Exceptionalism

Ethiopia Judaism
From Social Media

By Samuel Estefanous

(estefanoussamuel@yahoo.com)

Parroting exceptionalism has been in vogue in this country for decades. It is some kind of character weakness most of us succumb to easily. We all know how Afro-centric local intellectuals have found it exceedingly tough to have their continental wide ideas take root in the hearts and minds of Ethiopians.  

Worse still lately some aging intellectuals in the twilight hours of their lives are contending that we are the last true surviving race of a lost Hebrew tribe.  In these wild fantasies one can detect a measure of self-loathing and blatantly denying one’s own African identity. In all honesty ordinary Habeshas (even educated ones) don’t understand how even the Falashas are singled out to be known as Betha Israeli. Worse still be identified as Jews. Not in so distant future I am certain some studies might surface debunking all the theories attributing a Jewish identity to the Falashas. I would rather accept them as converts to Judaism.  

I mean as an Old Testament Nation the whole of Habesha is heir to Hebraic antics in religion and culture and the Falashas aren’t any different. We are a little embarrassed to admit or say it but we all know that regular folks (in some instances even College Professors) assume that the Israelis are the true original Christians. I bet if a polling agency were to conduct a sample study to determine how many Ethiopians consider the Israelis to be bona fide Christians the outcome would make the whole wide world laugh at us.       

Perhaps that is why some local Pan Africanist writers like Tsegaye Gebremedhin almost bent backwards to dislodge the myth of the Israeli descent and localize African agendas. Professor Haile Gerima assigned himself a herculean task of trying to understand Ethiopian contemporary issues through an African kaleidoscope.  The last Emperor and the heads of the military Junta epitomized the struggle for Pan Africanism. The late Premier tried to chart out the fate of Africa independently of Western models curved out “to fit Africans”. However, this enduring state level policy hardly trickles down to the ranks of the regular folks.

 1- Sithed Siketelat( ስትሃድ ስከተላት)

It had been nearly two hundred years since the British had set themselves a grand ‘mission civilisatrice’ to abolish slavery. You see, even prior to the adoption of the Slavery Abolition Act of August 1834 by the House of Commons, there was a large grassroots vocal anti-slavery movement in the whole of the British dominion. The Brits were actually patrolling the high seas to search, apprehend and prosecute American, Spanish, Portuguese and Arab slave ships all over the Atlantic and Indian Seas. Those notorious patrol ships used to terrorize the monstrous blood sucking fat vermin sneaking slaves into the United States, Central America, the Caribbean, Brazil and the Arab Gulf Emirates. 

But these past two hundred years though the shackles are broken and the body is set free the African diaspora is yet to break free from the vice-like spiritual grip of slavery. Adopting the generic name “X formerly known as…” wouldn’t do any good. Going by the African tribal names added nothing but ridicule to the cause. The blanket cultural assumption of an Arab identity made the African diaspora a laughing stock.  If you chance on the name Karim Abdul Jabar and feel like only half the name is spelled don’t blame yourself as the name belongs to an Afro-American. Apparently Afro-Americans didn’t know about the larger and longer Arab slave trade that had dominated the East coast of the African continent from the gulf of Mozambique in the South to the Egyptian ports in the North East.  In their effort to flee the slavery legacy and bloody scene of crime they anchored at another shore of a former thriving slave market in the Arabian Peninsula.     

What is more, this incapacitating spiritual slavery is making huge dents into the Continent itself on an unprecedented scale. We are witnessing enfeebled up start well to do families training their kids to speak “broken” Amharic like second generation hyphenated Ethiopians do in the wider Diaspora. The funniest thing is they try to parade the walking monsters in a bunch of cheap TV talk shows programs that are defiling the airwaves.     

Equally, in the face of the impassioned Afro-Caribbean advocacy to understand native African civilization by redefining and broadening the relevance of the Ge’ez alphabet and the nativity of the three Abrahamic faiths of revelation to the Continent, the rest of urban Africa is predominantly Western in almost all aspects of modernization and development. One can always detect that slight sense of superiority in the eyes of the African Diaspora in Addis towards the locals- solely on account of having the impression of being better ‘appended’ to the West.    

2- The Sudden Rise of the Abigails and the Aarons 

We are raising a new generation of kids with all sorts of odd sounding obsolete Hebraic names. In under three decades it would be difficult to come across regular Christian names such as Gebremariam and Woldmichael in Passport last names. They are certain to be phased out. 

At this one time, a local comedian who has perfected rural Amharic dialect noted in passing “the kid had a Private School name”. It was then I tried to observe the sudden invasion of Hebraic names in the town.  It looks like parents are loath to give their kids local regular names as it suggests a lifestyle suspended in the lower rungs of the Nation’s social station. This urge to jump out of one’s skin sometimes assumes a comical turn. In one of the provincial towns I was granted an audience with the local chief with the weirdest sounding first name-Johansson.  At first I assumed he was an adopted son of a Nordic family and timidly inquired about his given name. No, that is it! Johansson is his first given name. Rather a name he had given himself.

In this connection I remember reading a funny quip made by the late Tesfaye Gebre-ab. He was bemoaning losing touch with the generation coming of age around the turn of the Century. He wrote that in his prime the hottest girls were named Eskedar, Meskerem and Hilina, now we are having some difficulty training our vocal cords to pronounce names like Mariamawit and Arsemawit. Not in so many words but just about. I wish Megabi Hadis Eshetu Alemayehu were to enlighten us regarding the legitimacy of such names from a canonical perspective.

God Bless. 

Editor’s note : Views in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of borkena.com 

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