post Manual for Leaders

May 20th, 2011

Filed under: General Issue — Lissan Magazine @ 20:32

Manual for Leaders

Since the so-called Arab-Spring revolution which took place in Tunisia and Egypt had greatly changed our view about the power of the underestimated civil society, we, the Lissan team, couldn’t escape the influence of this special political and social new era in north Africa and the Middle East. Though Lissan is usually entitled to topics that do not arouse temporary emotional reactions, we found the recent land-sliding events too tempting to ignore.

So we have decided to take a subtle measure by contributing our view. For we are no specialists on political issues, we spare our limited knowledge the stress of writing in analytic manner. Instead, we simply behave the way we really are: as part of the vast civil society

We are sure, just like us, most of the leaders who are now facing the anger of their people were once part of the vast civil society. Something must have gone terribly wrong; something that snatched these leaders off the reality to which they once belonged. If one was once like the millions, one should be aware of the uniqueness and the importance of one’s position when one becomes the leader of all those millions. Let’s put that down in a simple example suitable for us non-politicians; If a certain country has a population of 80.000.000 and if you happen to be the lucky one to have once-in-a-life opportunity to lead them…. Isn’t it like winning a lottery with a ratio of 1 to 80.000.000? Wouldn’t genuinely serving all these millions be the greatest award one could get for being that lucky?

Without any hesitation, our answer to the above question is a very big “yes!“. But there is something absurd and confusing about being in power that we as standard civil population wouldn’t and couldn’t understand. It might be an infectious disease that leaders get stricken with as soon as they drive passing through a palace gate and start living in the huge compound surrounded by heavily ornamented furniture. The longer they get accustomed to those things the more they become detached from the millions whom they were entitled to lead and serve. As amateurs in political issues, we can only tend to the conclusion that palaces are indeed woven with infectious deceases and should be avoided by all those who are not strong enough to ignore diverting luxuries and personal benefits….. or would be leaders with the deficiency of self discipline shouldn’t be allowed to drive through gates of infectious palace compounds.

How delicious is power? Is it addictive like drug? If being in power is addictive like drug, how come those in power are not interested in sharing? What we for sure know is that one cannot enjoy addictive things without sharing it with others. That is maybe why we enjoy having beer or a cocktail in a pub than alone at home. So how could power be enjoyable if not shared?

Probably, these kind of questions could only be answered by those who were chosen to be leaders; specially those leaders who became more busy in staying glued to their power instead of sticking to their duty; serving the millions.

May be it is already too late and helpless to deliver a manual for those leaders who have already succeeded in making their people extremely angry and fearlessly march for freedom. But if you are a would be leader of a certain country, it is like as if you were already on the tip of a highest mountain. You can’t climb further if you have already reached the highest point of your route. You either do the right thing to remain up there as long as you are needed and step down or you will find your self tumbling and rolling downwards  faster than you have ever predicted. As Jimmy Cliff precisely defined in his song, the higher you rise the harder is the fall.

post Where a fig tree grows

May 20th, 2011

Filed under: Literature Corner — Natty Mark Samuels @ 20:12

Where a fig tree grows
to the Kinga of Tanzania, who have an outstanding history of iron making.

Like a fanfare for fertility
They came blowing a horn of kudu
Beating ngoma drums
Playing the music of scarcity.

The priests of the Kinga
On their way to Lubaga
To a grove where a fig tree grows.

They came with salt
Hoping the speeding famine
Would come to an instant halt.
With beer and many a hoe
So hunger and sickness
And desperation would go.

Men of respect and taboo
Round the tree called nkuju
Fig tree libation of bamboo beer.

Cultivators of beans and banana
In the Range called Kipengere
Of the Great Rift Valley
North-East of Lake Nyasa.

For the iron worker
As well as the farmer
They prayed by the sacred fig tree.

©Natty Mark Samuels, 2011

post Patron Saint of Parchment

May 7th, 2011

Filed under: Literature Corner — Natty Mark Samuels @ 13:39

The Patron Saint of Parchment
To the Old Scribes of Ethiopia

Although I never met my grandfather, I still have an enduring image of him. He sits on a piece of wood, under a tree. Grey beard on his face, white turban on his head. Head bowed in concentration, writing on the parchment in his lap.

They say he used them all. Goat, cow, horse, antelope, sheep, leopard, as well as lion. In life, the lion has the top ranking - Sovereign of all Savannas. But in death, my grandfather favoured goat. With the words of the Saints and Apostles, he crowned the goatskin King. Gazelle was a favourite also, but gazelle was Crown Prince to the goat.

Goat hide though strong has a softness too. A good absorber of ink. Perfect ingredients for parchment.

Apparently, in the hides initial water treatment, the smell wasn’t easy on the nostrils. The odour of things being removed, went gatecrashing through the village.

Then the stretching. Hide taut on a wooden frame. Larger frames were constructed for horseskin. Horsehide being the number one choice for larger volumes; tomes of ecclesiastical topics. He used pumice, ejecting the remnants of skin and hair. Using knife and water to remove the residue.

After the cleaning, the frame is placed high against a wall; so the sun can shine upon it. A time to dry. Dry season time.

When the cleaning of the flesh side comes to an end, the shaving of the other side begins. The return of pumice use. Through the diligence of the cleaning, the sun waits patiently, to conclude the whole process.

After the final drying, it was cut to required lengths; ready to be written on.

I was told of his skill in ink-making, renowned throughout the area. Black ink, from this concotion and that one, all mixed with water. Charcoal of leaves from a certain tree, mingling with juice from another: fused with a brew of burnt barley. Or soot from the pot-bottom, mixed with gum, kneaded with a portion of wheat. An uncle once told me grandfather used red pepper and egg yolk, red earth and gum, mixed in a bowl and beaten in a mortar; the making of red ink. Red ink – the names of Jesus and Mary, the Angels and Disciples. Whether black ink or red, the process culminated in a cake. When needed, he would cut a piece of cake, dissolving it in water. Then exposed to the sun, stirred by a fragment of wood.

Down to the river he’d go. To cut the reed to carve the pen. Cut in bunches, left to dry, until their time of use.

Sitting to write, his ink horn beside him. Horn of goat, antelope or cow. Horn submerged in mud for seven days. To soften it for the cutting and shaving. The lower part shaped to a point, so grandfather could place it in the ground alongside him.

My mother said he often spoke of Emperor Kaleb, who gave up the honour and became a hermit. Of the Nine Saints, who he believed to be the Original Scribes. But most of all he spoke of St.Yared, great musician and first genius of Ethiopia. She said he liked to copy the words of Yared, more than anyone else.

I wish I could have seen his hands. To have watched them, to have held them, to have photographed them. At least I have that eternal image of him. Sitting in quiet concentration, under the Tree of the Scribe. The tree where he spent half of his adult life.

Because he had a reputation for kindness, his generosity something of legend, he comes to me like the Patron Saint of Parchment.

©Natty Mark Samuels, 2011

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