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“Bear with me, man, I lost my train of thought.”

It feels like it’s been a while. It has been a while. I’ve been trying to reconnect and it hasn’t been going well.

It’s not that writing feels like work really but that I’ve kinda become upset with the branding that has come with it. I have lost touch with it. I don’t want to do it. And it kind of sucks to see people who want to see me write become disappointed by the fact that I have given up something real to live this dream life and I have somehow managed to latch on-to a failure mentality before I’ve even started my career.

I have forgotten why it was so important to me to do this. Judge me all you want, I had forgotten why it was so important for me to read books or to listen to good music. It’s been a while since I’ve wanted to see an unpopular movie for the story. And the things that once inspired me kinda taste stale and stupid now. I don’t know if this is maturity or hormones or something else entirely. I once wanted to be an artist and now I kind of don’t know why it mattered so much.

There are some brave people out there who can show their real wounds to anyone who’ll see and get it licked by them. I can’t bring the courage to do that. And apparently that’s how the creative life is supposed to work. People are supposed to feed off of or relate to your bullshit life.

Some tell me to be brave and to write about things that scare me and hurt me the most because creating is a liberating thing. I once believed that too. I can’t quite remember why though.

I remember this thing I heard in a Les Brown video I was forced to watch by a friend some time ago. I might be paraphrasing because I don’t want to get up and find the quote. Nonetheless he said something like, “When you tell people about something unfortunate that happened to you, eighty percent don’t care and twenty percent will just be glad it’s you and not them.”

I don’t want my career to be me showing off just how much I can fail at being a normal person because as much as I can, I’m trying not to offend too many people because I don’t want to be alone.

There was a certain appeal to being alone. Like it was interesting because at the time I knew if I wanted it, there was a group of people I could return to. It’s different now. It’s not a choice anymore and I wonder if that pretentious artist’s life where I get to feel like I understand the meaning behind rainbows and clouds is worth it. I think maybe the beauty in creating was that I knew I was making something I liked and well…

I’ve kind of out grown trying to be the person who looks at stars and rainbows and tries to find the meaning in them. It’s a transition from Imagine Dragons and Panic! At the Disco to twenty one pilots and Arctic Monkeys’ The Ultracheese.

The heavy millennial duty of believing that I can do anything has been won by the idea that there are somethings I can’t control. More like there is very little that I can control and knowing it can always get worse.

I’m pretty sure I was going somewhere with this blog entry and I’ve been getting comments that some of my entries pretend to have big ideas and just stop smack in what seems like the middle.

I’m very sorry I dragged you into this.

Blog

Of Narcissism

Narcissus was a Greek hunter who was known to be very beautiful and handsome but like many of my former crushes, he was also kind of a douche. So, the goddess Nemesis, goddess of retribution (kind of like the karma goddess to assholery) cursed him to see the beauty others see in him in a reflection of himself in a watering pool. Narcissus saw his own beauty in the water and he was so mesmerized by it that he fell into the water and drowned.

Today ‘narcissist’ is just what we call people who won’t like us back.

On a more serious note, yesterday a strange idea was brought to my attention when I met up with a writer who felt that writing was such burden that she felt liberated when she eventually stopped doing it. She felt that writing was such a self-important act and once she stopped writing of herself and made it into an external career where she wrote about external things instead, she was able to feel a bit better about it.

As a blogger and professional over-thinker, you can imagine how much this fucked with me. I left this meeting with her and couldn’t stop myself from launching into a whole thing where I made a big deal of convincing myself that I wasn’t a narcissist.

I spent the afternoon trying to learn about types of narcissism and went home ultimately unhappy.

A modern psychological definition of narcissism would be: A grandiose view of one’s talents and/or physical appearance characterized by traits of lacking empathy, a sense of entitlement and the need for admiration.

One video says that there’s a certain limit where vanity and narcissism can be identified as self-confidence and simply a “positive view of oneself.” There’s something called Vulnerable Narcissism where one has the fear of not being admired as much as they should be, of being rejected and a certain self-victimization when not receiving praise. This is as opposed to Grandiose Narcissism where one will go into a proactive attack if you don’t appreciate them like they think they deserve.

I think to some extent everyone shows certain traits of narcissism and from what I see, it seems like a common millennial attribute where we’ve been raised being told that we have the power to do anything that we have come to believe we are incapable of failure, that we are all individually great, approval deserving people and that every tiny thing we do deserves a certain applause and attention. Many of the things I read say that if you aren’t showing extreme signs of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) to have been diagnosed by a doctor, that you don’t really have to worry.

I’m still worried.

I like writing and I like making things happen around me at my push influence and I sometimes get upset when someone else reaps the credit. I write of my life for reasons that I’m kind of not going to detail out anymore at this point. I’m on Social media and according to a Ted-Ed video I saw, social media is not really a tool to make people narcissists but kind of serves as a cornucopia for attention. One article says that about 0.5-1 percent of the population likely exhibits NDP at a given lifetime. The boost of dopamine and ego the number of likes gets us and sometimes what we are willing to do for them kind of eeks me out and the realization that I am unable to escape this has done a number on me.

I think sometimes we feel that calling ourselves out on it makes it better and it really doesn’t. In fact, I think it makes it worse because it makes us assume that we have reached a certain level of “woke-ness” the others haven’t reached. I think if we’re still feeding it while calling ourselves out on it, it’s like Nah! We’re still piranhas. And I wonder if this is kind of ironic because the girl called blogging complete narcissism and I kinda agree with her but I’m putting this out here with a presumption that my personal opinions matter to you. This time I’m not even saying this trying to mess with anyone. I genuinely think that the idea that we make things for ourselves and put it out for others to admire makes us, to a certain level, narcissists because, and I really hate saying this on anyone else’s behalf but, even when we say that we don’t care about the attention, it’s usually because we are complete mother fucking liars or because we know that we already have it.

So I’ve been thinking and I’m still anxious at this point not just about being a narcissist but also about letting something like what the girls said get to me at the level that it has.

I think all artists are presumptuous, self-important pricks by nature. Actually I think everyone is like that albeit in denial.  I don’t know if it’s always about attention however. The deprivation of attention can sometimes be demotivating but it can also make us see where we’re going wrong and where we need to stop and re-calibrate what we’re doing. I think it becomes a problem, a Vulnerable Narcissism kinda thing when it gets to us on a massive level that it makes us feel like we’ve been mistreated.

I have decided to not let it get to me and to come to terms with the fact that I am a little presumptuous and sometimes a self-important prick by nature as I put out some of my rosy ideas for you to read.

I’ll make this promise to anyone who cares to see it though. I’ll really try not to be.

Blog

About a Home Video

In times of bitter disillusion by loss and the need to get more modern into her life, my aunt threw out a lot of old stuff from our house. VHS players, Cassette players, Vinyl players. This becomes a problem for someone of my age because the first half of my life was of and recorded on such devices and now I’m left with these ancient artifacts that I can only see when I’m lucky enough to find a player.

I have a collection of home videos from when I was maybe a year old, videos of families gathering for holidays and doing holiday stuff. You see their attempt to be happy but you also get to see the cracks for people who are missing, you see a glimpse of who all these people who have influenced and shaped your life used to be when they were the ones trying to look and be cool, when they were hopeful enough to believe they would have big colorful futures.

I was there for some of it but it’s kinda like I wasn’t. I was too young to remember anything.

There’s one part in particular from the videos I saw that I keep thinking of. It shows me at not older than a year or two, wearing a white tutu holding a raggedy white long eared rabbit doll. someone is recording the video from behind me as I slowly, in my tiny white socks, climb with some scary wobbles but successful balance, a sofa by the window. I look out the window to call someone I assume is on the other side. I don’t know if it’s okay to include her name in this entry but just know I was calling it out the only way someone that young can. Zs and Rs replaced by vowel sounds and non-stop: just over and over. We can’t hear the response in the video but I keep calling and calling. It’s the cutest thing ever. They tell me that’s me but if I wasn’t told that, I probably wouldn’t know that fluffy thing in the window was actually me.

By the way God and I have a lot to talk about my glow up when we meet.

So I stop watching the video and I try to remember who in the hell this person I am calling is and I can’t remember. I ask my aunt and she said she was a relative of ours. When I was baby, she used to come to our house a lot and I liked her so much I carried her name on my tongue all the time.

For someone who meant this much to me back then, it kind of makes me think in wonder how I don’t really remember any of it or any of them. It makes me think about my little cousin who is also a child now, carrying everyone’s names on his tongue and perhaps in ten years, unable to remember any of it.

We don’t make home videos anymore.

Amharic · Blog

እንደዚህ ቀላል ነበረ?

ይሄንን ሰሞን አማርኛ አማርኛ ብሎኛል፡፡ ምን አይቼ እንደሆነ አላውቅም፡፡ ትንሽ ልቀላቅል ነው ስለዚህ ታገሱኝ፡፡

በዞሩበት ጠቅላይ ምኒስቴር ዶክተር አብይ አህመድን ርእስ ካደረገ ጉዳይ ጋር ፊት ለፊት እየተላተሙ ስለሌላ ነገር ማሰብ አልተቻለም፡፡ አሁን እኔም እንደመር ምናምን እያልኩ በአማርኛ ልፅፍ ነው፡፡ ይሄ ሰውዬ ያላመጣው ጉድ የለም፡፡

አይ አም ኤግዚቢት ኤ!

ፓለቲካው፣ ተያያዥ ጉዳዮች፣ ባለፉት ሁለት አመታት የነበረው ጣጣ ቀርቶ ሰውዬው ብቻ ደስ የሚያሰኝ ማይንድ ብሎዊንግ ኤክስፒሪያንስ ነው የሆነብን፡፡ ሰው እንደሆነ ሲያስታውቅበት እንኳን ደካማነት ያልመሰለበት፣ በአፉ ተናግሮ ሊባላ የነበረን ህዝብ እንደዚህ ላስታርቅ እያለ ስለፍቅር፣ይቅርታ ምናምን እያወራ ያፋቀረ ምን አይነት ኤሊያን ነው ይሄ?

ሀቁን እንነጋገርና እነዛ ናሽናሊዝም፣ ፓትሪዮቲዝም ምናምን የሚባሉት ቃላት ፊክሽናል እና አንዳንድ ግዜም ነውር እየመሰሉን እየመጡ ነበረ፡፡ እኔ ራሴ እንደዛ ሳወራላት የነበረችው ኢትዮጲያ ሳንታ ክላውስ ኢዝ ኖት ሪል ሲባሉ እንደሚደነግጡት ልታስደነግጠኝ ነው እያልኩ እንቅልፍ አጥቼ ነበረ፡፡ በሀሳብ ላለመለያየት ዝምታ ሲመረጥ አያየሁ ልፈነዳ ነበረ፡፡ ሰዎች ለካ እንደዛ ያስፈራሉ፡፡

ከዛ ደሞ እንደዛሬውም ይኮናል ለካ? ብወድቅ አያነሳኝም ያልኩት የኢትዮጵያ ህዝብ እንደ አብይ አይነት ተናጋሪ ብቻ ነበረ ያስፈለገው? ጠቅላይ ሚኒስትሩ ሲናገር ራስን በመነቅነቅ ኮንከሽን ስኬር ከማስነሳት ባሻገር አንድ እኔ ያየሁት ነገር እንደሚሰማው ማሳየቱን ነው፡፡ ጆን ግሪን እንዳለው፤ ‹‹ኬሪንግ ኢዝ ሶ አንደርሬትድ›› ጠቅላይ ሚንስትሩ ኬር እንደሚያደርግ አሳይቶ ነው ፍቅር ያስያዘን፡፡

እንደዚህ ቀላል ነበረ?

ፖስት ስክሪፕት፡- ዶክተር አብይ አጎቴ አይደለም፡፡ እንኳን ስለሱ አብረውኝ የሚኖሩትን ሰዎች አውቃቸዋለሁ ብዬ ስለእነሱ መፃፍ ይከብደኛል፡፡ ይሄ ጦማርም አይነቱን ቀይሮ ወቅታዊ ጉዳዮችን ሊተነትን እያሰበም አይደለም ግን ደግሞ ክብር ለሚገባው ክብር መስጠት አለብን፡፡

Story

Boy

His name is Yitbarek. He’s seven years old. His mother had seen the commotion on the way home from church, children drawing pictures on desks in the middle of the streets and grownups selling children’s books to adults. So she walked him over and asked a member of the organization to hand her son paper and some colors.

It’s a nice sunny morning. Music was playing and there were posters of his favorite Tv character everywhere. Morning light slick, beautiful and yellow falling on the garden guarded by concrete in the rising city. The grass had been trimmed nice and green all the yellowing of the Bega season gone.

The clouds have started to come in lately but this Sunday morning they looked just happy.

Yitbarek’s mother had fallen into conversation with one of the grownups. She wouldn’t want to leave soon. So Yitbarek looks back at the garden and is caught by the yellow of the sun having fallen on a flower. It looked to him like the petals had opened to wave to him, like it was smiling.

He put his pencil colors to half the A4 paper the woman had set in front of him and he drew the happy yellow flower, he drew the green grass too and the happy clouds in the blue Sunday morning sky.

His mother finally remembering her son comes over to his desk. “Have you finished?” she asks him.

Yitbarek moves his hands from the paper to show her his work and looks up into her face.

The mother looks around at what the other kids had done. The boys were drawing cars and houses. The girls were drawing strange flowers. She smiles at her son. “Well let’s go. Sign your name.”

Blog · Story

An Almost On Point Reenactment of Ethiopian Victory in a Ladies Spa Chamber feat. Me

The thing I’ve always liked about foreigners is the way they seem to go anywhere and be comfortably at home. We Ethiopians usually don’t have that quality. We always regard something that isn’t technically ours distantly and with caution. I like how foreigners will be careful around our cities but they don’t hold back on how much they get to kick back and enjoy themselves.

I’m about to tell you a story of a time it went a little too far.

About a month ago, my aunt and I were feeling fancy so we went to the Spa inside Harmony Hotel. It was a foggy day, I was late on my day’s schedule for a late-night event so I was a bit agitated (more than usual).

I spotted the woman as I was paying before entering the Spa. She was a short, stout, light skinned black woman in a white one piece swim suit, dragging her flipflops on the floors as she walked. At first glance, she just looked like someone’s mother from the swimming pool downstairs. You couldn’t tell that she wasn’t a native.

I’d imagine she was supposed to wait for the Cashier to finish with me to ask for her thing but she just stood there gesturing, waving her hands at the cashier.

“መዋኛው በዚህ በኩል ወደታች ነው”, the cashier behind the desk points to the woman thinking that she’d lost her way to the swimming pool.

The woman in the swim suit catches everyone off guard. In a thick African accent that in better days I find super sexy, she says rudely to the cashier, “Towel. Towel. I don’t speak de language. Give me ea towel.” She held out her hand expectantly with half her body turned towards the stairs. It looked like she was ready to just blast towards the stairs the moment a towel touched her hand.

The cashier was startled by the woman’s tone but she quickly composed herself and asked in fluent English, “May I see your receipt?”

“I’m in room. Room.” the woman yells and gestures again. I move a step away so she doesn’t take out an eye.

The cashier calls for someone to get the woman a towel.

She grabs her towel and flip flops away muttering profanities that got everyone looking at each other in alarm.

At that moment I’m thinking, “Oh the poor woman is completely misunderstood because she looks so much like us and no one can tell that she doesn’t know Amharic. It must have irritated the hell out of her.”

I was thinking that but the truth is there were several nicer ways to ask the cashier to speak to her in English. Minutes later an Asian woman asked for the exact same services with such courtesy and even attempted “amesegenalehu” to everyone’s delight.

So, my aunt and I finish making our payments and we enter the relatively full Spa. Almost all the recliners were taken but a staff member promised us that people were leaving so more would be free soon. She finds us two recliners by a corner and tells us we can switch to more preferable ones later. On the recliners she put two signs that, in large bold letters read, “RESERVED” so that if new people came in while we were going about, they would know the beds were taken and refrain from putting their things on it. This seems trivial but it’s really important. Trust me.

So my aunt and I settle in.

About half an hour goes by with me having a good time because I’d somehow caught up to my schedule for the day. Until I came out of the Sauna to see the rude African woman from earlier sitting on my recliner. I look at my aunt’s recliner next to mine and it still had the reserved sign. In fact it had two.

I compose myself, walk over and say to the woman in English, “Excuse me my dear. This bed was reserved. It had a sign on top of it.”

By now some women had left and others had come in but there was just one unoccupied recliner right next to ours.

“So?” The woman says.

“So you need to move to another one. This one is mine.”

She ignores me and takes a luxurious sip of water from her glass. I didn’t know what to do so I waited….and waited as she took that sip.

“Ma’am. You should ask the staff member over there to reserve one for you. My aunt and I have this one.”

“Where de the aunt?”

“She’s in the shower. She’ll be right out. Wasn’t there a reserved sign over here on this recliner?”

“Yes.”

“Did you move it?”

“Yes I did you stupid mother*beep* Just leave me you stupid *beep* and *beep* with *beep* and *beep* *beeeeeeeeeeep*”

(Yes I’m beeping out her curse words in writing because I don’t remember the exact ones and because that’s what I do now. I beep out curse words in writing like a moron)

I laughed. I was irritated all afternoon because I was behind schedule but receiving insults laced in beautifully thick African accent from a half naked fat stranger in a spa made me laugh and laugh and laugh. Let’s me be honest. I’m a confrontational person. I am sometimes violent. Don’t let my size fool you. Rage is a good friend of mine. It often gets me into all types of trouble but I don’t control it. That’s why I’m more werewolf than vampire.

This however, this day is one that I am proud of. Because I tried something different. Diplomacy. I called one of the spa workers and asked her to get the woman a recliner even with the insults still echoing on and on in the back ground. But one look at the woman and the spa worker panicked like she’d seen the woman before. She asked me to excuse her and she hurried away.

WTF.

By now I had an audience of the other women in the Spa.  None trying to help. Just silently watching.

I can’t stress enough on how new this territory was to me but I found the whole thing so very bold and amusing.  I could have just left the bed for her and taken the empty one beside it but there was the matter of principle. This woman had moved my reserved sign with complete disrespect and occupied a space that I’d paid for. She had flat out insulted me for reasons I couldn’t properly rationalize at that moment. I still had a schedule to keep.

So, I sat there on the next recliner and I started talking to her.

I was no longer trying to be polite but I didn’t resort to profanities and insults either. My mind started to question what in the hell this was. It felt like someone had come to my house to spit on me and take my John Green books. My mind went to places like, “This woman has a mental illness.” “Oh my God, Is this racism?!” “You could take her if you were wearing anything more than a towel.”

The foreigner kept the insults coming and very VERY slowly sipping her glass of water now and then. I started talking over her. “You could have just asked for a bed, you know. And I saw you earlier being super rude to the cashier out there. Where in the hell are you from?”

“Dat is non of yu beznes.”

“Okay. True. But something is definitely wrong with you. What is it that has irritated you this much? What is so wrong in your life? What have you been through? What is it?”

“Shut op! Shut op! *beep*”

I hope you’ve gotten my gist by now.

“No, I’m actually not going to shut up until you get off my fucking recliner. What is it? Was it your husband? Is he a dick? Is it work? Is work driving you crazy? Do you work?”

There were several facial huffing and puffing motions before her glass of water, that in this moment I would learn also had lemon in it, went flying into my face. The lemon burned my eyes.

I was still laughing.

She strutted out still yelling profanities, so very angrily. But I had won. I had talked the woman off my recliner! I was being so childish about it, I was basically giving her a raspberry.

Here one of the guests who’s been standing around watching asked me, “Did she hit you?” The Staff member from earlier came followed by the manager who apologized in such a professional manner it overwhelmed me. My aunt also finally came out of the shower, “What happened? What happened to you? Did you get in a fight again?”

***

I swear I have never been so angry yet so entertained by anything in my life ever.

I know nothing about what that African woman could have been going through. I don’t know what kind of day or life she must have had in order to justify how she gets to act the way she did. But after she had left, so many of the women started talking about how this foreigner came to our country and disrespected us the way she did.

The Asian Woman from earlier came in and took the one empty recliner beside the one I had just won back. The staff members smiled at her and offered her towels.

“Amesegenalehu,”

I lay back on my recliner and wondered what Atse Yohannes IV and Atse Tewodros and Atse Menelik would have made of me.

Blog · Review

Anon, Hank Green, Glossary of Broken Dreams: This entry ended up being one of recommendations

I saw the movie Anon today. Amanda Seyfried plays what I have decided is an equivalent of someone who does not exist on the internet. She therefore couldn’t be identified in the movie world where everyone is registered in a common database and the concepts of anonymity and privacy do not (or rather should not) exist.

It took me back to a funny video I saw on Facebook the other day of a girl who meets a guy IRL and then tries to find him online only to learn that he does not have Facebook or Myspace or anything and she freaks out. What kind of monster is he? It’s hilarious. Also, I get this girl. Subconsciously, I become a bit suspicious of people I can’t find on social media. I start to think, “Why are they hiding?”

I know many people who would meet people who are not online and are just fascinated by them like, “So how do you make friends?” “Where do your thoughts go?” “What if you see the most beautiful sun set and you are by yourself?” I have also met people whose diversion from social media seems to be like their branding rebellion against society therefore that single gesture of theirs means to them that they are better than you.

There are also those who are on social media under fake aliases or real aliases but with literally nothing about them in their profiles. I wonder if these people get offended when you don’t accept their requests.

At the end of Anon (which I will take the liberty of spoiling because you’re not really going to watch it) Clive Owen’s character echoes my own thoughts to Amanda Seyfried’s character asking her why she wants to stay invisible to the database, what is the big secret that she wants to keep hidden, and she says, “It’s not that I have something to hide. There’s nothing I want you to see.”

Anon isn’t like a great movie with a nice, big plot but this particular line has me thinking about what everything I have put out on social media is worth. All my photographs, poems, opinions, jokes etc… It has got me thinking about all the times I just want to take it all back and wish I’d never known about the compulsive demon called the internet. About the times I wish that nobody saw social media me.

It annoys me how little social media captures the larger, more complex idea I have of myself and yet it claims I am in charge so it is still me in there. All that is lacking is probably because of all the stuff that I haven’t shared to the internet for the sake of what is called privacy.

When I was done watching and contemplating Anon, I then put on the documentary Glossary of Broken Dreams, a funny explanation of big ideologies of our time, of terms like Free Speech, Privacy, Capitalism and the likes. It was recommended to me by a friend. It has weird Austrian folk music in the middle and it’s not really something I would watch on my day off but I put it on and I started multi-tasking, only giving it a very small portion of my attention…until the narrator started talking about what he called Bourgeois Privacy.

The cinematography for this part starts following a guy, the “modern subject” who hears the narrator’s voice and is startled and shy feeling like his privacy was being disrupted because he was being watched. But the narrator goes on to call the man “Big Brother” and he explains to him the history of Bourgeois Privacy, how the telephone and x-ray were once thought to be invasion of privacy and how The Right to Privacy became a thing.

He shows how privacy, especially of the cyber kind today, is becoming looser and looser these days and that even the authorities supposed to protect our private data always fail to do so. He says about the danger to our privacy,

“Privacy is not under attack by some evil outside forces. It is under attack by our own collective behavior. These trends could be stopped only by massive efforts. People wouldn’t be able to share stuff online. […] We would have to get rid of the internet as we know it. But you don’t wanna do that right? You’d make the right choice wouldn’t you, big brother? You wouldn’t sacrifice memes and porn for Bourgeois Privacy…right?

Our information is out there. It’s not by choice. It’s a necessary entanglement and it’s adding up to something big and beautiful- presupposing we take the right actions. If nice things are being made on the mass data collection and utilization, you should have those things…”

About a month ago, Hank Green uploaded a video titled Who is in Control where he highlights that Facebook and social media have become a necessity, tools that provide us with what we want to know about and see and he also talks about the down sides like how the system that provides us with our information online isn’t really a person but a selfish computer program that only cares about getting more and more income for its masters.

There will be a link to the Hank Green video at the end of this entry.

This idea of social media privacy, I think, is vast and significant to our time. If I fall into talking about it now I will not be able to come out. It’s going to get more and more complex as time goes on unless it blows over and we’ve seen the glorious times of social media privacy.

I personally don’t have much to hide. Unlike Amanda Seyfried’s character from Anon, I like to share nice photographs and thoughts on social media that I want people to see and care about because they’ve meant something to me. I like finding things I care about on the internet.

Cat Memes.

There will also be things that I do not share with the internet, not because they are hidden secrets but because when I see someone IRL whose intimate details I know from social media but do not really know in person, I feel weird. I feel like I have looked into this person’s secrets and like the Modern Subject in Glossary of Broken dreams, like somebody could be looking into mine.

P.S In spite of the weird folk music, I think maybe I’ll make time to finish watching the documentary. You should watch it too.

P.P.S We on telegram again FYI at Circling Qalat Telegram

P.P.P.S Hank Green Video: Who is in Control

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That Space and Time

Trevor Noah said in an interview with CNN a couple of weeks ago, “…When there is something to punch against, that’s when you truly flex your muscles. When you are a creative person and you live in a place where the seeds of oppression are being planted, that’s when you feel like the soil is most fertile to explore yourself and what you stand for…”

I’m using that as an excuse for not writing.

I’m not writing, and it is sounding like high time I just stop using the title for myself lest I just become a liar. I’m not oppressed. Life is just fine. But even when it isn’t, I don’t really feel like writing about it.

***

I was in Adigrat this weekend for some serious family matter. It wasn’t really a vacation but I was hoping it would give me a break from all my responsibilities at home.

While I was there, I got to see a lot of wide open spaces, a lot of country and mellow sunsets over naked green horizons, bare, wise rocks that have stories to tell if one bothered to stop and ask, a lot of subtle beauty that no camera can capture. There were moments where, sitting in the countryside, I felt like I had learned the sense of what complete peace and harmony feels like, what being totally and truly content is.

I saw some children keeping their cattle. There were three of them I think. Two girls and a little boy. They were just lying there in the shadow of a big tree, playing with the grass and I guess because they figured the cattle weren’t going anywhere, they didn’t seem like they had a care in the world. It seemed like even their responsibilities weren’t much of a burden that they had to let OCD related anxiety play a part in their lives. They played kerar in the wind and they just lived.

I’m sure they aspire to what they have been told are greater things and they probably think they won’t reach them. Money, the city, and to some, just nice shoes, and food.

I’m sure that it won’t make a lot of sense if I said that in a way I envy them. It’s not really a fair competition yet I wonder if in fact I would become better with all that vast space and time of theirs.

Now I’m back in the city, back in Addis and space and time need a lot of work.

 

 

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Pain, Choices and Lip Plates

During my first year of Uni, I went and got a nose piercing. One day my friend and I just up and went to the jewelers to get pierced. I told myself that this was a step to conquering one of my biggest crippling fears: needles.

There was also a hidden pro to this that I was looking forward to, but I wasn’t really telling anyone, that of looking interesting. When my more conservative friends asked me why I was doing it, I didn’t have the heart to say that I just wanted to look interesting. I tried to make it look like it was some profound move that I was making because I was such a liberal.

And the piercing did help with my fear of needles. In addition to the two piercings mom got for me when I was a baby, I now have two more on my earlobes that I got by choice. And I love them. Because now I only have a mild fear of needles.

I kept the nose piercing for two or three months though. My family wasn’t too happy with it. But that wasn’t what bothered me. I have an insanely strong nose cartilage, so it was very painful. The fact that my plan to look interesting worked didn’t really make me as happy as I’d hoped. Strangers stared at my nose a lot and the idea that they might assume I was something extraordinary just because I had an extra hole in my nose kind of made me feel like a fake. So, I took it out and let it heal.

I don’t really regret having done it. It was one thing I did with myself that allowed me to see certain things about life differently.  It was like Robert Ford’s idea in Westworld that some amount of suffering is always necessary to evolve. (use the term evolve loosely)

Yesterday, I was watching the most recent video from one of my favorite Youtube channels, Make Stuff, and it was about Black Panther and the importance of representation. The hype over Black Panther still hasn’t died, and I can’t get over all the layers that we are peeling and analyzing. My verdict is that we, my community of new age Ethiopian young adults, are super drawn to it not because we understand the African American struggle or because we have seen our tribal kings fighting for thrones but because we saw something of ours in the western cinema we enjoy a little too much. It’s because of the representation.

Well, at least that’s part of the case for me.

The representation of Mursi and Suri tribes was very memorable and perhaps a little misplaced in Black Panther, but it’s not unjustifiable. I remember seeing the man in green with the lip-plate in the trailer and that single idea had made my urgency to see the movie greater. Then earlier this month I saw on social media how one Ethiopian photographer had done a photo shoot of a model with the Suri tribe plates done with prosthetic and make up after Black Panther’s mainstream success in Ethiopia. It was nice art. It was probably not meant for harm. But I did not like it.

I remember being taught in grade school about harmful traditions. There was female genital mutilation, there was child marriage, abduction, making children swallow butter, and there was the southern tribal body marking and lip cutting. There’s also one I learned of most recently called Wuqera aka Neqesat aka tattooing. The person who brought the idea of Wuqera to my attention was doing a photography piece on the subject as a dying fashion trend. We’d talked about how women and sometimes even men did the Wuqera/Neqesat because they said it would make the women shorter, because they were under the impression that it would cure goiter (which has no medical support) or because it’s a beauty thing much like any modern tattoo today. It’s been deemed illegal in Ethiopia now because many were using shared needles thereby spreading disease. The women (and sometimes men) who have this neqesat are very ashamed of it when they mix with the urban crowd because there’s a stereotype around rural people being somehow “uncool” and the neqesat is basically like a permanent invitation for such stigma. I personally think it’s beautiful in some strange way but I wouldn’t do it for myself and I wouldn’t be happy if people I cared about wanted to do it because of the societal complications it brings.

Similarly, I’d wanted to talk about how the lip cutting was getting some weird appreciative attention by the avatars in my Facebook feed and I started to wonder if all these people knew that it was actually a harmful tradition and for the first time I kind of started to understand why cultural appropriation is a thing.

We people like macabre things because they appear interesting and edgy but I kinda felt like the lip cutting thing was a bit far, a bit too real.

Apparently there is a legend that the Suri women cut their lips to appear unappealing to slavers. No slaver wants a mutilated slave. I imagine they would want to do the mutilating themselves. I can not attest that this “legend” is in anyway true. I heard it from a colleague and then I found a BBC documentary that said the same thing. The Suri women are required to have a few of their lower front teeth removed and then the bottom lip would be cut and stretched out with a clay plate. A woman without her lips cut would not be considered beautiful so she won’t find a husband. The size of the plate in her lip will decide how much she is worth. The larger the plate, the greater the number of cows her father gets in exchange for her.

I brought this up to a couple of my colleagues yesterday and one of my colleagues pointed out to me the idea that the lip cutting holds a significant idea to the Suri people and that I don’t have any right to tell the Suri women that they can not cut their lips and put plates in them to find husbands.

The thing is, I will have a loud opinion if my friend changed her lipstick to attract a man let alone if an entire tribe of people was brainwashed into body mutilation to be socially accepted and be considered equal. This is an insanely gruesome, unfair beauty standard. For someone who complains about unfair beauty standards when she has to wear heels to a wedding or when the sauna becomes a little too hot, I can’t not be uncomfortable about this representation, when this particular harmful tradition is normalized.

Beauty is pain, they say. I think we, people, have always used pain to show and symbolize many things in our lives. Ethiopian monks whip themselves and inflict pain on themselves to show their love for Jesus Christ, I hear that the low hanging pants and giant gold chains for African Americans represent the break from slavery (although I am not sure about this one), we make music to remember pain, we make art and hang it on our walls, we tattoo it on out bodies to remember that without it we might not have made it today because so many of us believe that The Fault in Our Stars quote that without pain we can not know joy. We make a point of remembering pain as a big part of our lives.

I think this was what the aforementioned colleague meant. That the Suri tribe women keep the tradition to remember how they fought the slavers back then, but I don’t know if that is what they believe now or if it should still be relevant today. And while I don’t really get to tell people what they get to do to live their lives, I think I recognize that for a long time these women did not have the choice to not be mutilated.

We can mention a lot of pretend choices we have. Society has always been driven by the majority, or whoever’s feeding the majority ideas, setting the rules and anyone who wants to stray from those rules being considered the peculiar one.

I can’t really create a cause right here, right now to fight for how these people should shun their traditions and live like me. But I don’t think they should have to physically harm themselves to be considered equal in their community. They should get to have the choice I have on whether they get to cut their bodies or not.

If the alternative is being shunned from your society and dying a spinster, it’s not really a fair concept of choice.

P.S About the Feature Image:
“An Australian film crew was filming in southern Ethiopia when they stumbled upon Ataye Eligidagne, 20, who dons the largest lip disc in the world.” From a Publishing written by Nelson Groom for Daily Mail Australia in October 9, 2014

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Still Learning: Part One

 

“Do Nothing.”
-King Bumi

I think the main reason people make anime is more than to just tell stories. It’s probably to teach kids about morals and love and friendship as well. But some of us finally catch up to Avatar: The Last Air Bender at age 21 after having accepted teachings of morals and love as cliché, we look for something else. And even if we aren’t looking and we’re just trying to forget everything that happened in the real world, we still manage to find some lessons.

I’ve always been an advocate of doing things. I thought that we always have to be in motion to get the world around us going. I thought that if I weren’t constantly in control of things happening to me, that I was going to fall apart. I thought I was going to disappear if I didn’t do anything.

That was until I learned that disappearing is not the worst thing to have happen to you and despite what the priests or the motivational speakers say about us having the power to change the world, I realize, even if I don’t get out of bed today, the world will probably still keep moving.

The aforementioned wise words of the Earth King Bumi come when he realizes that his kingdom is being seized by the Fire Nation and even though his troops are dead set and ready to fight, he surrenders. The Avatar goes to ask King Bumi what in the hell he was thinking surrendering and Bumi says that there’s a right time to react to something. But there’s also a time where even though the world is collapsing all around you, you need to sit silently and listen for when the right time comes to act so you can be ready to make the most impact. (I’m obviously kinda paraphrasing) 

And surely enough King Bumi was able to free himself and join the Order of the White Lotus where he was well rested and properly backed to fight in the final war to take back the Earth Kingdom. Had he acted on pride and faced the fire nation when they came for him first, he might have survived because he’s this hundred years old ripped, reckless Earth bender but still, his loss might have been greater.

And so “Do nothing.”

Bumi talks about three fighting options called Jings. The Positive Jing when one is attaking, the Negative Jing when one is retreating and a Neutral Jing for when one does nothing.

I wanted to think of these in literal everyday life fights and I saw that mainly, I’m either on full attack calling people out and making plans for the future and going to events, trying to be happy; making things happen or I’m sitting in my room hating the world and feeling sorry for myself. The Positive and the Negative Jings.

Now I wonder if I should try the Neutral Jing.

The most valuable thing Mark Manson’s book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck: A Counter-intuitive Guide to Living A Good Life has taught me is that we probably shouldn’t waste time worrying about things we can’t control. I wonder if this can go within the same line as the Neutral Jing. I wonder if this Neutral Jing is a dangerous state to be in because the amount of fucks given decreases by eons. But really, what’s the worst that could happen?