Repost: Decorous Decorum (By Poet Asafa Tefera Dibaba) Narratives of the present discontents (Prologue)



July 3, 2012 ( Of some exertions of duty of a citizen or of social responsibility of a poet, I write this. I write of the reluctance of the generation we live in, I murmur at the possessors of power time Present, I lament the love and morality of time Past, I envision the extravagant hopes of time Future.

And thus We decenter, We deconstruct in Decorous Decorum Their mindless neocolonial discourse.

Narrative one: when law fails and constitution fades, the affairs of the nation(s) are distracted and moral wrongness becomes a full-blown ideal. Narrative two: by the contractualist account of the constitution, for instance, one such wrong ideal is the principle that no one could reasonably reject rather than everyone could reasonably accept. This principle would be said to be right, first, in the sense that all principles would be agreed to. Second, it would be right if the beneficiaries were provided with all equal rights and with all relevant true general beliefs to accept and / or to reject, temporarily. Under such wrong ideals, people suffer severe hardships. However, they believe those hardships are avoidable by some alternative principles-principles under which no one is obliged to bear comparable burdens. Narrative three: the issue of legitimacy! When there is no rule of law, who is legitimate, who is not?

Many of us now stand at a point of crossroad: to this historical juncture, we have come with more than one cause, more than one moral tradition. We participate in relatively different moral communities, and thus we chant more than onenarratives – the narratives of unjust historical relationships and lawlessness. Forced to dance all at once to one drum beat of our dictators, but our song is reduced to mere hullabaloo.

Our rulers our dictators are our democrats. They rule us and rule over us by the very knowledge of our temper. Not by a judicious management of it but by a witty and manipulative skill of contravention. They work on our temper. In so doing, they dissolve our unity. Our rulers do not rule us with concern, that is, as human beings who are capable of suffering and frustration. Our rulers do not rule us with respect, that is, as human beings who are capable of forming and acting on intelligent conceptions of how our lives should be lived, They rather tame us unlike humane.

A conception of identity over time incorporates criteria of memory retention and bodily continuity. As an active being, an identity is not simply a given, but is created and recreated continuously through identifying with one’s projects. Identity is therefore a reflection of a given purposive dimension. In a continued scuffle between the statesmen and the public, in a series of contemptible victories of the government and scandalous submissions of few, that identity of the nationalist is smashed and ultimately misunderstood as a traitor, or a terrorist, at most.

Discontents now certainly here are: deliberate neglect of the causes of nationalist movements, a growing disregard of the violations of human rights. Experiences may justify that when popular discontents are prevalent, there is generally something amiss in the constitution or in the conduct of the government. If the wealth of the nation is the cause of its turbulence, I assume it nonsensical to introduce poverty. If the thirst for freedom is the root cause of disorder, I imagine it idiocy to propose servitude. Of the distributive justice, i.e. , to redistribute resources between more- and less- fortunate citizens, the nation(s) should be willing. In my tradition, Man should be willing, not forced. Unlawful and forceful measures inflame rather than allay the heats. If we are enemies let us confront, if we are rivals let us compete, if we are friends let us sit and compromise. Constitution alone does not make us One, policy alone does not unite us, nor does a divided defense force by itself. But One Love, My People.

Artists are responsible to nudge those who may act ill by design; art is commendable to put justice at least upon a par in favor of the people.

Or it is, If Youth knew, If Age could only! And so on…

My people,

I sing in praise of you,

Of your political quietism,

Of your dignified patience-

Of your decorous decorum,

Of the location of your politesse.


(To read all narratives, read this wonderfully written poem by a famous Oromo poet, Asefa Tefera Dibaba).

June 2006



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