A snippet on Ethopia

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Mon Dec 6 07:19:38 MST 1999

>Louis... Ethiopia has been "less porous" as you pointed out. It is also
known as
>the only country on the continent that has not been colonised. This is
true to
>an extent. Eritria was controlled by the Italians and Djibouti by the French.
>there is, therefore, a slight "influence" in that English and French are
>spoken (with Amharic, which has its own alphabet and calendar) in Ethiopia,
>mainly as a result of commerce; Ethiopians share a port/railwayline etc with

Alas, I am getting old and don't remember things as well as I used to. I
wrote an article over 4 years ago on the need for a green-red synthesis,
which discussed the role of imperialism in destroying the Ethiopian ecology

Was there ever a golden age when society lived in balance with nature?
People like Kirkpatrick Sale tend to romanticize indigenous societies in a
manner reminiscent of Rousseau. The explanation of the difference between
various stages of societies has nothing to do with a change in values; it
has everything to do with colonialism, imperialism and the introduction of
money into a primitive communist society.

P. Keleman cites the difference between descriptions of the Tigre province
in Ethiopia in 1901 and 1985 as recounted by two travelers. In 1901, the
first observes "The environs of Adowa are most fertile, and in the heights
of its commercial prosperity the whole of the valleys and the lower slopes
of the mountains were one vast grain field, and not only Adowa, but the
surrounding villages carried a very large, contented and prosperous
population. The neighboring mountains are still well wooded. The numerous
springs, brooks, and small rivers give an ample support of good water for
domestic and irrigation purposes, and the water meadows always produce an
inexhaustible supply of good grass the whole year round."

Then, in 1985, another traveler says "Shortly before I left Ethiopia I flew
over large tracts of the desiccated provinces of Tigre and Wollo. For hours
the picture below was unchanging: plains which formerly were described as
the breadbasket of the north were covered in rolling mist of what was once
fertile top soil; eddies of spiraling dust rose in the whirlwinds hundreds
of feet into the air, stony river beds at the bottom of gorges a thousand
feet deep showed not a sigh of water or new vegetation; and the grazing
land at the top of the plateaux which the dried-out rivers dissected were
as bald and brown as old felt."

What changed in Ethiopia? Did the people stop worshipping Gaia?

No, Ethiopia was brought into the colonial orbit. Land began to be used for
the export of cash crops. The peasantry was driven off the land and
communal property relations were abolished. Instead of being in trust for
future generations, the land was viewed as just one more resource to be

Louis Proyect

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