QYenesew Gebre an Embodiment of Existential Seriousness
By Teodros Kiros
The face is elegantly thin. The eyes are large. The mouth is slightly open,
betraying an ambiguous smile. The forehead is big, born to think for the
Ethiopian world by being the voice of the voiceless, the eyes of all those who
cannot see, the healer of all those whom he touched and the caring mind of
those who cannot think freely, lest they are silenced by the guns of tyranny.
For now and for years to come Yenesew will be the vessel of the Ethiopian five
senses. The people say he was a great teacher, a star of the ground on which he
walked and touched so many lives.
I imagine him now in the hands of the Transcendent being recognized for the
existentially serious project, which he carried out fearlessly; I imagine his
loving parents revisiting his birthday, when he was enthusiastically welcome to
this world, not very many years ago.
The fundamental principle of Existentialism is that the human self is condemned
to choose freely and responsibly. So has the existentially serious Yenesew
chosen death to life, freely and heroically, at the prime of his life.
His death is a reminder to all Ethiopians that the Ethiopian condition is
getting worse by the second, and that Yenesew may be the first to immolate
himself in an Ethiopian public sphere, but this is only the beginning.
He will not be the last, unless the Ethiopian condition is radically changed and
organized by a new Good.
It is true that desperate times call for desperate measures and that this
Ethiopian revolutionary has taken his life, while in sober but courageous
mental moment. Self-immolation is not pathological; rather it is an extreme
response to an extreme Ethiopian condition marred by unemployment, humiliation,
hopelessness and fear of reprisals in the dungeons of tyranny.
Anger, said Aristotle the foremost ethicist, is rational when it is provoked by
injustice, as patriot Yenesew evidently was environed by injustice everywhere.
He did this to be heard, to be seen, to touch and be touched.
I hope we Ethiopians have heard his clarion call that we must act in a
disciplined way to have our voices heard, our sufferings witnessed and our
hopes for a prosperous and democratic Ethiopia realized.
Yenesew will be vindicated if his existentially serious voice in not treated as
a media sensation, but as a monumental moral project, which must be carried
forth by a morally disciplined and politically organized people’s uprising.