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From: Aleme
To: Mandefro

Mandiye nefs-neger,

Mnew chekolk!?  You've already put us on opposite sides, hodEEre tew, yQr!  Perhaps we're not quite at the point of holding hands and singing the Internationale in harmony, but why not put our heads together to get through this incredibly complicated situation, to use your words?  Besides, I didn't even know we had to choose sides -- did I miss the "ye bud'n-na ye bud'n abatoch" call while I was mellowing out with a glass of this excellent Shiraz?  You HAVE to taste it -- here...take a sip.  Run your tongue around it -- bemotE, take another sip.  Yes, it may not have the pure genealogy cherished among its more snooty French competitors, but damn! it tastes good.

Okay, back to your imagery of the tree, which was magnificent!  I'll even admit looking up above my head carefully as I was reading to see whether one of those dead twigs with kurkum on its mind was headed my way.  But no tree in Ethiopia, or anywhere else for that matter (note to self:  Self, remember to get into the lie behind the American claim that there are no class issues in the US) tree in Ethiopia would have its branches occupied randomly.  Oh, no!  There would be some diabolic hierarchy.

There would be those above, stripping the smaller branches to fashion a well-shaped mefaQya or two -- how else could they dislodge the tender remnants of the TrE sga they had so recently consumed?  Their belches (subdued behind polite hands) would still be audible to those below who probably have some idea what that meal was like, having had a few occasions to partake of it themselves.  They may even have been on one of those higher branches not too long ago.  The savvy among them will have learned how to duck the flying mefaQyas and whatever else comes down from the upper reaches of that tree. 

And lowest on that pecking order are those who have no choice but to to say this the ugly mess that comes from all things that have a way of flowing downstream, aided by that medebun-yalsheTe adhari called gravity.  Mnabatu!  Couldn't it let things flow up for a change?  Quite often, those at the bottom never really get to see the sunlight and fresh air enjoyed by those above; all they get to do is to watch the endless trapeze acts:  Higher-Brancher deposed to lower level; Lower-Brancher shaking off higher one from coveted perch above -- over and over again.  Those observing in the middle just learn to do the artful dodge, sometimes reaching up to snag a li'l somethin' for themselves.  Oddly, though, it's all in the name of those in the stinky mess at the bottom.

Aselechehuh, aydele?  Serves you right for the tree metaphor.  I have one last comment on that before I move on.  You do a grand disservice to our older siblings when you "credit" them with chopping down the tree.  From my own personal conversations with some of the surviving revos, they were particularly concerned that the tree was rotting so quickly that it was going to fall anyway -- their futile attempts were, therefore, to try to find a quick and dirty way to either aim its fall or avert it completely by cutting off the top.  I agree with you that they were sadly misguided; what I disagree with vehemently is the implication that somehow the tree, aside from a few dead twigs and wilting leaves, was healthy at its roots.

What to do!?  I am a believer in many trees -- with all of us free to frolic from one branch here to another branch there instead of trying to find a precarious foothold on an aging warka somewhere.  Someone (say, you) might opt for the gnarly baobab, more roots than branches, majestic in its obvious preference for solid longevity over leafy cover.  I, on the other hand, have always loved the thorny lemon tree...protective of its fruit, tart at the first bite but delicious to those who taste more intensely, with fragrant leaves able to reach across to sooth the most frazzled nerves.  Why should any of us have to choose?

Wiy!  Even I'm all tree'd out.  On to other things.  (Before I move on, though, a little feta cheese on some crusty bread?  Earthy and pungent, unlike its more genteel cousins the Camemberts, but ah! truly scrumptious, especially with some black olives and sun-dried tomatoes.)  Ere yaz!  As they say, nkwan feta'na Tfee'm ydegemal!)

I was hoping you would help me understand what to do with this feeling of being marginalized -- sadly, though, I sense you have little sympathy for my predicament.  I haven't been a Buddhist for very long (actually, not before I started this sentence), but suddenly I feel like taking the path of least resistance; maybe...who'll see things my way in the end.  But in the meantime, the challenge at the end of your letter intrigues me.  I'm one of those AddisAbés who never had the Hilton membership, nor did I ever want to brave the Ghion pool's legendary CHrt, so I never learned how to swim -- my motto, therefore, was always "yemn swimming?! Ayyyyy! w'ha'na Tela bebrCHiQo."  But I am too tempted by your come-n-get-down-and-dirty T'ree, so move on over and let me slide into that murky pool with you.'s all squishy at the bottom...oddly liberating once you get over the shock of seeing your whiter-than-white whites all gooey with this mud.  I could learn to like this.  Those wealthy lily-white-folk are paying loads of money for this type of all-over treatment so, if nothing else, my skin will get all the exfoliating it needs.

Shall we toast the demise of my Observer status with a chilled glass of Veuve Cliquot?  What?  You're surprised by my choice?  Hey, even I know there's no substitute for good French champagne.

Over to you...


From: Mandefro
To: Alemé


Your conciliatory splash into the murky pool has made the nature of this exchange a little more intricate. Since you are now right next to me, it is no longer possible for me to wag my forefinger at you from across the river or make declarations from the pulpit. All of a sudden, I understood what Emperor Haile Selassie must have felt when, in the early years of the restoration (early 1940s), he included members of the Resistance, former collaborators (a.k.a. bandas) and colleagues-in-exile on his cabinet. I understood the wisdom of cohabiting with individuals with extremely varied histories, ideologies and ethics. It buys you three and a half decades of relative tranquility.

But I am not too happy with this adult world into which you've siphoned me. Yes, I know. I am the one who invited you to join me in the pool. But you were supposed to scoff at the challenge. You were not supposed to join willingly. If, according to my earlier plan, you had decided to join, it would have been-in my wonderfully smug and overbearing mind, at least-because of defeat, attrition or sycophancy. All of a sudden, I understood what post-war Addis Abeba planners must have felt when the city they planned for a million inhabitants became populated by five million. Yes, you have literally ruined the plan.

You see, Alemitu, I wanted to revel in the adolescent world of pure ideals and moral righteousness. I wanted to virtually experience the binary universe that our older sisters and brothers sailed in before the mess that was the revolution. I wanted to provoke you into heated exchanges in order for me not reflect on the holes and inadequacies of my own position and lines of argument. In other words, I had amassed my troops for a showdown at the OK Corral.

But you, Alemnesh (or should I call you-after all this is the Class issue-in the spirit of the revo years, ashaTreNa navigator?), dexterously uncoiled a rope and took the wind out of my sail.

All right, I am ready. We can now both sweat it out in the doldrums.

First, let me briefly rewind back to the tree. (Alie, do not take the tree metaphor lightly. Eve, nefswan yemarewina yeNa enat, messed with a teensy-weensy fruit on that tree and got the rest of us in trouble. Let's get it right this time around.)

Yes, (pray forgive this tired and overused allusion to Orwell's Farm) some branches were better off than other branches. No doubt. But our elder siblings ("Enough already!" they exclaim from Purgatory. "Hold on, bro. Hold on, sis. Not so easily," I reply from sidet in America) could not realize what, you, with one sweep of your practical wand, made manifest. One doesn't improve one's lot by chopping down the tree. In fact, our glorious history is plagued with the one-tree paradigm syndrome. Succeeding leaders/generations have been content only when they've destroyed the legacy of their predecessors. As you've already pointed out in our last entry, there is already a lot of belches and cacas to go around with one tree, but can you imagine growing one tree generation after generation when the population gets bigger and hungrier?

It is now no longer wise or beneficial to cut any tree. Can you not see from the pool below? We have not improved our lot because of our obsession with a single tree. You are right. The warca for some of us was extremely comfortable. But, if the warca, alas, is no longer around, then- if it tickles our fancy-we could start planting baby warcettes. And, as you've noted, a wide range of trees is available to us. Yes, at times the land may be inhospitable or the reigning cactus may be rapacious and belligerent (a deadly combo) and not allow other trees to grow nearby. If that is the case, we should rent some space across the river and start planting in greenhouses. One of these days there will be abundant rainfall that will force the cactus to hibernate. Our willow, banyan, magnolia, deodar, fig tree, mimosa, hemlock, walnut, rubber tree, olive, mango, gum tree, acacia, cedar, pine, elm, lime, teak, redwood, and coconut saplings will be ready.


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