In for a Bumpy Ride

It is never been clear to me why New Year and Christmas are different holidays. Even in the Gregorian calendar, there is about a week-long discrepancy.

If every year counts down Jesus Christ’s age, and if it is New Year that marks the beginning of the ensuing year, does not that make the holiday His official birthday?

Of course, New Year – known as ‘Enkutatash’ or ‘Kidus Yihuannes’ here in Ethiopia – does come at a crucial point during the Earth’s orbit around the sun. It denotes an acute change in season, and so in theme. We have just had four months (including ‘Puagume’) of rain, and this unique vibrant holiday commences the sunny summer season. This is an apt metaphor for the aphorism that it is always darkest before dawn. And so, more than Christmas itself, New Year does truly seem like the inception of a whole new year.

It does not seem to be the case this time around though. Only a handful of days since the holiday, there didn’t seem to be anything different about the year except for the 2008 calendars being tossed away for that of 2009. Local girls did go house to house singing the traditional ‘Abbayosh’ song, families did decorate their houses and flowers did bloom. But the only thing that served as an honest metaphor were the slaughters, who go house to house slaying and chopping up sheep into several pieces.

That is a grim outlook, but it is also the easily discernible mood of the country. A mood growing more apprehensive as the school year kicks into motion. With several urban and rural cities exhibiting some form of public unrest, parents are uneasy about sending their kids away, however much the country might need an educated populace.

And I can only imagine how the students themselves feel. Add to this a possible exasperation – when the youth congregate at a time of such political upheaval, small events get exaggerated, the truth gets confused in the shuffle and bad things happen.

Politics directly affects the economy. Recent news confesses that buildings, factories and vehicles have been burnt. Whom this directly hurts and whom it benefits may be an argument without a clear victor, but one thing is for sure – the already fragile economy, which is the economy of all developing countries, will suffer. And not only through loss of property, but through altering how people generally spend and work. In times of disquiet, people tend to spend as little as possible, so as to have a cushion in case things get muddier. And the Paradox of Thrift warns – when too many become thrifty, a country’s economy will be distressed.

How many days of work will be missed, and for this reason, how much will go undone?

The country is not the type that can afford to have its workforce slacken. Few work as it is. Infrastructure depends upon these people. There are roads, buildings and water supply systems that have to be finished, in order to tolerate not just the savagely rising population of the country, but the youth influx into urban cities. Far to the West, there is an ambitious 4.8 billion dollars dam that one day will harness the massive powers of the ever elusive Blue Nile.

And if the country’s planned infrastructural visions somehow do come true, and if public services and systems do withstand the upheaval, then I wonder if the tourism industry can. Western countries have already issued information to their citizens against traveling to any area where there has been civil unrest. And unrest, if not physically, echoes in the mental states of everyone in the nation. That is why this New Year was so gloomy. Even if a tourist ignored the caution and marched into any one of the country’s cities, the usual eclectic, ecstatic celebration Ethiopia is known for the world over wouldn’t have been discerned.

The most important matters are probably societal, though. The economy – even given the growing negative effects of Global Warming – could in time be realigned through communal hard work and perseverance. And there are not any political problems that could not be solved through mature, fair conversations between concerned parties (whether or not these types of discussions can be hosted is another matter).

But a lesson history communicates unambiguously is that any type of antagonism that might be wrought between ethnic groups will be deeply afflicting, and the problems they cause, abiding. In a country like Ethiopia, where there are a lot of ethnicity, the core of a society is the ability to look beyond each other’s skin. Any damage done in this regard are irrevocable, unless the injured party is ready to forgive without prerogatives.

In times of such desolation, we should look on the bright side of things. And 2009 might cause great pain, and even despair, but it could also be a very interesting year – one that promises lots of change and awareness. It is a very crucial time that will define who we are and what we stand for.

Yesteryear, the prequel, started out ordinarily, and no one could have anticipated the violent turn of events that took place. This year, on the contrary, is predictable in its unpredictability. And for a dozen months to come, I am sure, whether in a newspaper, TV, Radio, social media or just with friends, we will continue to chew it over (however hard to swallow it may be).

Not surprisingly, it rained on New Year, and it continued to rain over the ensuing days. It usually does, of course – the New Year is not a light switch that completely shuts down the rain. But it is hard to overlook the heavy symbolism – we may be in for a bumpy ride, for which we should buckle our seat belts.

By Christian Tesfaye
Christian Tesfaye is a film reviewer whose interests run amok in both directions of print and celluloid/digital storytelling. He can be reached at christian.Tesfaye@yahoo.Com

Published on Sep 20,2016 [ Vol 17 ,No 855]



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