9 September 2017

Ethiopia: One Down, 99 to Go

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The Ethiopian Calendar is weird. It presumes to count the number of years and days since the birth of Jesus Christ. But its New Year does not come on the religious figure's birthday, which if Christians are to be believed, falls on Christmas. Instead, it takes place on the early days of September.

The Ethiopian Calendar sets New Year on the turn of Bega, after the Kiremt season concludes. The latter, owing to the shape and alignment of the Earth, coincides with the summer season in Western countries, and thus, due to globalisation, is also called summer.

It is that time of the year when goals will be set, questions asked, life analysed and contemplated. Some call them New Year's goals, with the national holiday as a launching pad, from which to hurl personal reforms and strategies for whatever new plans that have been set, or are going to be.

For a country where the sun shines most of the year, indeed, it makes sense that the New Year comes at the juncture where Kiremt gives way to Bega. The full fledged shine, in some cases, burn, of the sun reminds Ethiopians of missed opportunities, novel ideas and most importantly new beginnings.

This thinking is reinforced this coming New Year, as it is unique than the others. It is 2010, it is not just the turn of the year but the decade too. Of course, the holiday is lacking compared to the one we had just 10 years ago, which was the turn of the millennia, apparently a much more special occurrence.

Even the country puts forward plans every time the year turns or is close to turning, for a new fiscal year that is to be begun in the early days of July. First, the fruits, or not, of the past year are analyzed and then a new budget is put forward for a slew of projects that are to be undertaken for the Parliament to vote on. Very democratic, but also very lazy.

But it is also understandable. The government does not have the luxury, or even should have, to experiment, be spontaneous and change its plan in the middle of the year. They have to be methodical and mechanical, respectful of the process so that there are not any suspicious goings on under the surface.

But individuals are not governments. They are not bound by rules and regulations, the need for transparency and strict management that the government is. At least, thankfully, not in setting targets for new resolutions.

So why do we stifle ourselves? Why wait?

A new year's resolution, in truth, is the height of hypocrisy. There should not be any reason that a person who could not find it in himself to change, to prosper, should find the courage to do so all of a sudden once New Year has reared its head.

Of course, it is debatable whether or not the whole idea of New Year's Resolution went from the public to the media sphere or the other way around. No one really takes the phenomenon seriously, at least not an adult who has lived long enough to know that one either needs to be lucky or work like a pig, both before and after the New Year, to get somewhere.

It is probably the media that has propagated the thinking beyond the point where it has become part of New Year to ask, "what have you planned for the next year?"

But we should plan for the New Year; we have to implement instead. Our goals rarely change - it is probably to be rich, popular, successful and, for the brave amongst us, all three.

New Year should just be a number, a reminder that we are getting old, closer to death by a year every coming Enkutatash. As fun and exciting as the holiday may be, it should not be regarded as a blessing to reach it, but a sort of bad luck. It is a day that creeps up on everybody without most of us having accomplished what we had set out to do last year. A reminder of failure for the majority but a few. Much like birthdays, Enkutatash is a ticking hand on a clock, rushing forward, erasing time and washing away our youth.

And this is probably why it is a holiday. If I had it my way, Enkutatash would have been a national day of mourning, just to show everyone how little of what has been planned has actually been accomplished. But our ancestors long ago, perhaps, saw it fit to lift this great reminder of unfulfilled dreams off of our backs. They changed it into a holiday and told us to love and cherish New Year, for it is a new 'beginning'.

I say do not fall for Enkutatash, or any other day that marks the end of something. Weep and cringe, for the New Year has cast its shadow over us. Map out every failure and shortcoming for we be reminded that the deadline is over without even half of the target not being met. Then make a New Year's resolution, for there is nothing like pain and misery to teach one how to really get somewhere.

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