Ethiopian & Rastafari
by Aster Sellassie, Millennium Ed.
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"An Ethiopian Boyhood"
2004 & After
"Fatefully in December 1934 the issue between Italy and Ethiopia was joined. Each shrieked to heaven that a collection of mud huts called Ualual, located variously on various maps, had been subjected to agression by the other." (Man of the Year, Time 1935)History. Part II
(Notes for Chapter Eleven: 1935)The emperor appealed to the League of Nations Assembly in 1936. We remember the speech; we forget the silence of the West. It was the time when the West itself watched with horror the success of fascism. The future became unknown at the top of the Century of Reason. Reading newspapers H.S. couldn't see his return to Ethiopia coming. He lost. The world shaken by history lost interest in him. He was a historical memory, his only property. If Menelik made himself known to the world because of the victory, Hail Sellassie became a world leader because of his loss....
To all of you, who follow the recent confrontation between Eritrea and Ethiopia, to those of you, who still think that "Eritrean Problem" is a result of mistakes made by Haile Sellassie, to the people, who always see evil outside, to the minds, which believe that everything should have immidate solution.... read history. History is a long story and our problems have roots and serious reasons.
THE GOOD OF THE EVILWe will glorify war -- the world's only hygiene -- militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for woman. --F.T. Marinetti (Manifesto of Futurism 1915)
We are now reaching the point at which material development is a direct function of military development. (Virilio 44)
I. RADICAL MODERNIZATION: WARHe knew that the war was lost before the Italians approached the capital. H.S. knew that the war was lost before it began. Mussolini was looking for a country to conquer and claim the beginning of the new Roman Empire. He didn't have to look hard. Italians still remembered the humiliation of Adwa. -- "The battle of Adwa was fought between Ethiopia and Italy on March 2 in 1896 when Italy attempted to invade and colonize Ethiopia. Ethiopia decisively and unexpectedly defeated the Italian army bringing respect to blacks all over the world. `The most notable victory of an African over an European army since the time of Hannibal.' _The London Spectator_ March 1896."
In 1935 the 100.000 Italians came to the place where the pride of Italy was lost. Ethiopia was about to join the fate of Djibouti and Somalia, because Italy craved to have its colonies, to be an empire, equal to its European neighbors. And El Duce crushed the Lion of Judah; the ancient black stella from Axum was brought to Rome for all to see the Italian triumph over the kingdom of legendary Prister John.
The World War II had began. But the action took place in Africa and history had to wait till Hitler's invasion of Poland for an official beginning. Western Europe, the only Europe that mattered, didn't want to face its destiny. All nations are equal, but some are more equal than others. The young member of the international community of modernity, the ancient Ethiopia, has to learn new lessons of deals and intrigues. Haile Sellassie was trained in the art of court manipulations; now he had to deal with the world.
I, Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia, am here today to claim that justice which is due to my people, and the assistance promised to it eight months ago, when fifty nations asserted that aggression had been committed in violation of international treaties.
Fascism was a new social technology, a product of high modernism. El Duce needed a national ideology to inspire his Italians and the idea of a totalitarian state was a good enough concept. Something that the thirties everywhere experimented with -- Germany, Russia, USA, and even Ethiopia, where Haile Sellassie was building a centralized government, making the patch of ethnic kingdoms into one nation. Princes became governors, and Addis Ababa, finally, was the capital in the European way.
If wars are indeed economic politics carried out by different means (Marxism), they should be considered as "international" revolutions. Italy was testing the new technologies in Africa, transforming itself into a new nation. The traditional Italian division between North and South could be replaced with the new South, Africa. Ethiopia could be the answer, the blacks were about to unify Italy faster and more efficiently than antisemitism. Italy was the South of Europe and wanted to "the West," the real Europe, like her Northern neighbors.
The third, in name only, force in this tragic comedy of ambitions was the League of Nations. Even today "United Europe" is still a project; to dream of an European Union between the two World Wars was something of wishful thinking. The League of Nations was a child of day-dream diplomacy. Europe, the battlefield of modern history, was the last place to look for a peace-making initiative. Haile Sellassie, proud, the only African member, appealed to Europe for justice.
"If the Covenant of the League of Nations be law, then in law Ethiopia and Haile Sellassie are right and Italy and Benito Mussolini are wrong. The only trouble is that that portion of the white race represented by 44.000.000 Italians has opened hostilities and in the sphere of law Italy contends -- much too late for popular acceptance -- that under the League Covenant, membership in the League of Nations is barred to states in which slavery still flourishes, as it unquestionably does in Ethiopia. Therefore, argues Italy, the original mistake of admitting Ethiopia to the League should be corrected by ousting Ethiopia, after which Italy would have exactly as good a right there as Britain has in Egypt." (Time 1935)
Any "good" process we call a progress. New technologies of power have to be forced on us. Russia is probably the best known paradox of modernization through destruction of an outdated social technology. Germany took its socialist revolution of national transformation onto its neighbors. Napoleon did it with the French Revolution. The war-fire removes the old, cleaning the space for the new and better. We heard that even Devil serves God. Viva Satan!
Both direct contacts with Europe were wars, in 1896 and 1935, and they were of a national magnitude and re-enforced the direction of modernization of Ethiopian. Ironically, the Italians produced the most radical support for the policies of Haile Sellassie. The presence of an outside power forced Ethiopians to search for centralized government and to form a new national identity. Haile Sellassie's plea for changing the feudal structure of governing the country became obvious even for opponents. It wasn't a matter of eternal politics but a matter of survival. As a result the defeated Ethiopia reemerged as a new country-nation after five years of Italian occupation.
World history is a cruel business. Ethiopia's cultural
and commercial indirect contacts with Europe, the West and the
world were replaced by direct confrontational experience.
Ethiopian diplomacy was born, because Haile Sellassie was
searching for friends and allies. Ethiopia became a player.
England and USA, Germany.... Later it would become a player in the
Cold War, the stronghold of the Soviet Block in Africa. The
thousand years of Ethiopian isolation came to an end in 1935.
This military interaction of Italy and Ethiopia was a unique situation of meeting two different historical times: modernity and pre-industrialism, National Socialist Imperialism and Autocratic Feudal Imperialism. Haile Sellassie was an emperor, Mussolini was an elected leader. Both had absolute powers. Concentration of power in the hands of one is a strange paradox of the century. Hitler, Stalin, Mao -- all came to the top because of a popular movement. The masses proved to be an excellent producer of dictators. That's the first child of raw democracy -- tyranny.
As in most cases in the twentieth century, Ethiopians benefited more from their defeat more than Italians from their victory. This paradox is best known as the "Japanese miracle." Even today national sensitivity on both sides prevents us from acknowledging the fact that Japan benefited from its total capitulation and occupation. The previous socio-political structures were radically removed and replaced in postwar conditions. Cynically enough, the size of catastrophe is an indication of "progress" -- a potentiality of progress. The Italian revenge in 1935 was a triumph of western technology, a demonstration of advantages of being integrated within the world environment. The Italians did what Haile Sellassie couldn't afford -- to start the total war on his own country. It would be a civil war, which Ethiopia later had to experience in order to go through the experience of modernity. War is a revolution, a break, an extreme means of evolution.
Perhaps, the pride of Abyssinia was reborn in having the enemy. The outside aggression laid the ground for a unification of the country. One has to trust Lord's ways. The Emperor was gone but the country was left to resist: the people, the church, the local Abyssinian aristocracy. All are from the past...
In modern times we like to think that the past has no hold on us, only the present. We want to believe that the present is NEW, forgetting that even Marxist dialectic negation recognizes the inclusion of the past into the present. Should we say that through negation the past becomes invisible, i.e. gets stronger than even before? Isn't that how culture grows?
Culture is extremely conservative. How does one overcome the resistance of traditions? Not necessarily the high culture, but the customs and habits, national taste for food and music, sense of time and belonging, myriad of invisible links and myths. Nietzsche, futurists, Marxists and the rest of modernists worshiped the power of war.
The Patriots movement was born without much of propaganda and organization. Abyssinian warriors of the past, the ground forces, which Sellassie tried to control so hard from the capital, now were his supporters and last hope.
The Ethiopian Emperor was a place, reserved within the territory of traditional mind. Immanuel, the king of Italy, what was his place in modernity?
The North was stronger, in America, in Europe, in Africa. Africa never had such an opponent as the East. Africa wasn't even the South. It was another continent, farther from European capitals than America, India or China....
The trademark of the capital, the biggest church, has non-Ethiopian feature;
Addis Ababa's cathedral (St. George, Ethiopian main saint and heavenly general) was built by the Italian POWs. The biggest open air market in Africa known as Markato. Both times Italians left something for Ethiopians to be proud of.
Oh, Europe, why did you turn your face away? One third of the government's budget is American money. Drive through the city and try to find Americans. Is it possible that we buy Africa' silence with the foreign aids and loans? We don't know Africa, we don't understand it and we are busy with our own problems. No, I was wrong, Africa is a map only. If tomorrow Africa will disappear from the face of the earth, how would it effect you, humankind? I doubt that the news will stay on the sceen more than one week. ....
No, friends, trade contacts are slow. Peaceful exchange lacks energy of urgency. It has to be a matter of life and death. War is a state business; arm purchases become a priority. That's where postmodernists see a direct connection between war and technologies. According to Virilio, our super-technology with its hyper-speed of development is the new form of global war. We are forced to change our habits and traditions with every new wave of technological revolution. We think that our electronic age is a continuation of the Industrial Revolution, which was mastering the speed itself. The idea of engine brought us tanks and airplanes, computers -- the crown of electrification -- eliminated the space we lived in from the beginning of times. That's where modernity stops and the postmodern begins. The new electronic chronotope places us in a situation where we know no rest. Telephone knows no silence, only dramatic pauses. On-line reality is a position of war.
We moved from European to World History -- that was the result of WW II. North Africa became a "place" in global composition. The Horn of Africa had to rethink its geography. In fact, it was done for the people of the region by the world. Ethiopia still trying to answer the Eritrean riddle. There is another, the southern question is pending -- the Oromo nationalism. How far is Ethiopia
from a possible disintegration like its neighbor in the west, split in half Sudan, or its next-door neighbor Somalia without a central government at all? We like to preach that people of each country define their own future -- and in the same breath we talk about globalism. How serious are we in our commitment to the idea of self-determination?
Center and periphery -- the geometry and geography of modernity. Capital and provinces. The West and the rest. The Era of Grand Central Stations, roads and bridges. Ethiopia had nothing of it. The country of a single railroad owned by the French. Only after the emperor's return did the army get boots. Actually, only in the fifties did the country get a professional army, the Imperial Guards, who would try to overthrow him in 1960, and the army which deposed him in 1974. The military is the only modern organization Africa has. Even today the Central Bank has no computers, but each soldier has a sub-machine gun. The social geometry of modernity is based on the military principle.
They say that he always liked the Europeans more than his own people, the Ethiopians. Even Italians. They, the foreigners, were on his side, they were the future, where he wanted to take his slow empire. The emperor was astounded that in five years Italian built over three thousand miles of roads, ten times more than his government in ten years. And the bridges, oh, the wonder of engineering! Something to envy and to admire.
He got back his African empire with sleepy subjects....
"... he proclaimed to the nation that they should not fight evil with evil, but evil with good and allow the Italians to remain in Ethiopia if they so desired." (The E Church)
Liberation came too soon and Ethiopia now was destined to fall into African not European basin. Haile Sellassie lost his battle with Ethiopians. Now he again was the force of changes, the one to blame. In 1960 the military, his Imperial Guards, the best equipped and trained, revolted. In 1974 the army dethroned the
Emperor. The men of war still are the power-brokers in Africa. Perhaps he should start his own cultural revolution, Mao-style. Maybe he could be the first Marxist emperor.... It was too much to ask from an 80-year-old Ethiopian monarch.
Modern warfare asks for infrastructure. Phone, roads, electricity, oil... Militarization is the best friend of Industrialization. The Ethiopian Airlines, the first African air courier, was another product of the war. Haile Sellassie in 1935 learned the lesson of aviation. Saddam Hussein learned the importance of electronics in 1991.
Mark Twain in London wrote about the war to his friend the Rev. Joe Twichell in 1899:
I talk the war with both sides - always waiting until the other man introduces the topic. Then I say, "My head is with the British, but my heart and such rags of morals as I have are with the Boer - now we will talk unembarrassed and without prejudice." And so we discuss and have no trouble."The position of the West, including the League of Nations, was and is the same. The Restless West was superior in power and must be "progressi ve" a priori. Don't we have the same duality in thinking about Hiroshima? We can't doubt the value of progress. It works. And we work for it. What else do we have? What other model is out there to try?
"Violence is the midwife of history" (according to Marx) and the end of history comes with the this unnatural non-violent progress. Catastrophic measures of the past, introduction of the New to all, totality of experience of a gas attack, now replaced by "capitalist" production as a war. We have our new forms of civil war, our soldiers are consumers. But this is another subject all together.
The fifties were good in Ethiopia. Too peaceful, perhaps.
His official photo, H.I.M. in his navy uniform. And another PR photo, with African animals, the exotics.
There are more photos on the updated Sellassie WWW, see pages on 1930, 1935, 1984, etc.
He was a private and lonely man. Some say secretive.
When you are in power for that long, you learn to keep the distance.
I have to skip everything, but not the chapter on the 1960 coup (Lost Sons), and I have to start a new page to tell this story.
For History III go to the next page REVOLUTION
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