In appearance, there is every flavor of black person you can imagine here in Ethiopia. There is also interesting is the mix of Euro folks, too, which includes indigenous Armenians who have a long history here and love this land. Just about every European country has an embassy here. The British and U.S. Embassies look like armed fortresses. (Well, maybe that’s exactly what they are.)
Clearly Ethiopians are in the majority here. So what does that really mean? As far as I can tell, most of the rich folks and the masses of poor folks are black. European heritage folks are clearly in the minority, they really are! So who is responsible for this social crisis here? The poverty I have seen here beats anything I have personally witnessed in Mexico City, Harlem or Pine Ridge. Ethiopia is one of the ten fastest growing economies in the world and the second poorest country in Africa.
I remember as a young man, still in my 20s, reading a book by Jahn Jahnheinz, a German scholar who wrote about what he called Neo-African Literature. He talked about this literature as reflecting a different way of knowing. What I gathered from that book was that the indigenous African, grounded in his or her own environment, was more interested in or aware of, the relationship between things, rather than a fragmented difference between things. This to me in retrospect reflects an African environmentalism or a mind rooted in how the particular is related to or interacts with the whole. That fascinated me.
I felt very drawn to that way of seeing the world. There was nothing automatic about that insight for me, but it sure did resonate with me. As a child I tranced-out wandering through wild urban fields, feel the interrelatedness of all nature in my body. This became a living, growing, evolving insight going into adulthood. In retrospect, a deepening of understanding has unfolded over time in my lived experience. I move through this world encountering different people, places and ways of knowing. I have sought to understand the connections between diverse people, places and things in relationship to this planet. My relationship with indigenous African and Native American spiritualities has well as Buddhist Dharma have facilitated the melding of my life experiences. I am “ripening” as Meridel LeSueur used to describe her aging process.
When Africans lived in distinct villages or bio-regions as tribal groups in relationship to the water, soil, forest, animals and other tribes, they sought balance and harmony in how they lived in with other life forms. They had different languages, rituals, stories, and cultural symbols. What different tribal practices had in common was a value for balance and harmony. Colonialism brought chaos. That chaos and fragmentation continues to this day. I see it, feel it.
I have been feeling overwhelmed by the allergens, the sights, the sounds, the taste, the smells, the textures of reality here. My body is thrown off balance. I tell myself to be still and observe the chaos until you see the beauty of the design within the cosmic brain that we live and breathe within. If we keep insisting upon the supremacy of our individuality, we create more pain, confusion, war, starvation, alienation, and environmental disaster…add your own version of this nightmare.
I have contemplated and articulated some essential truths over my lifetime without realizing in the moment what had been placed in my lap without my even asking for it. Back in the 80s when I was just beginning to encounter global warming and water crisis issues, I realized that I couldn’t care about African people in isolation from all humans because the rain forest destruction was a common problem, the poisoning of the water was a common problem, and global warming was global! Duh!
The local and individual eventually needed to be addressed by collective awareness, collective strategies, and collective action. War as a “solution” produced collective death and destruction and hastened environmental disaster, and “a war to end all wars” has proven to be illusion. It was also during the early 80s that I began to learn seriously from the Dakota, Lakota and Anishinaabe communities in Minnesota. That was profoundly life changing and derailed the possibility of peaceful middle class life. It also consciously reconnected me, in present time, with Anishinaabe and Choctaw Ancestors. My understanding of Ancestor Energy was deepening, widening, glowing and growing.