Negarit 77: ኢልኣምር ምኣምር – Ignorance – من لا يدري

When I first came across “M’amir Bokre’s YouTube channel, I was elated. I thought his videos will help me study Geez for he presented himself as teacher of linguistics and I think sociology and anthropology. And I did learn a few Geez words, thank you Bokre. However, slowly the man quickly started to move on a downwards slope and I was disappointed. His speech was full of a focused hate, a defamation campaign to ride the always present bias a prejudice. As usual, betrey habuni zeHmqo alleni [targeting what one believes is a low hanging fruit], he pinpointed on two scapegoat terms to unleash his bigoted attacks: He used Jeberti as a camouflage to attack Eritrean Muslims, and Arabic to demonize the others.

Now it is my turn to lecture M’amir Bokre. Hass ist nicht gut, aber Frieden ist edel.

M’amir; Mi’laamir! In Tigrayit, when we see such pompous statements, we discount it by simply saying, m’laamir, or m’amir, as in “what does he know! Or he doesn’t know any better. So, Bokre’s choice of the Geez word is very fitting, M’laamir! He doesn’t know as much I thought. His knowledge is rudimentary, tsewitseway, folktales with very little verifiable knowledge. And his hate spreading has been going on for a while fully aware that such inflammable divisive messages are dangerous to the impressionable minds.

Until recently I tended to ignore divisive speeches and advised others to do the same. But today I have changed my views because I am convinced the potential audience of such messages should be warned about the fire before it engulfs more souls. That is because the people who had no part in starting the fires, eventually end up facing the task of putting off the fires that the irresponsible ignite.

Bokre has little to add to his audience’s knowledge of language because he uses his linguistic knowledge only to serve his prejudiced and bigoted messages. Thus, he uses linguistics as a cover up to sound an authority in the field. He warps his speech with archaic but novel sounding terminologies and propagates them as history, always tickling raw nerves of his targeted audience with the aim of advancing his supremacist and chauvinist views. He talks about slavery, race and ethnicities, religion, and many other topics, all wrapped intellectual garb, to serve his political aim of spreading hate.

In the future, I may address the other topics as need be, and when I feel it’s required. But today I will only address, rather touch, on his hate speech wrapped as a lecture in languages. And I believe languages are products of social interactions, not a lab produced systems.

Maybe Esperanto is an exception.

133 years ago, a Polish Jew laid the groundwork and structured Esperanto as a new language to enable humanity to communicate “with ease”. It was an ambitious project to narrow the cultural gaps and differences among different societies. So far, Esperanto has about two million speakers. But during the reign of the Nazis, Hitler targeted the language and warned the Jews developed Esperanto to communicate among themselves secretly in their conspiracies to rule the world! May were convinced by Hitler’s speeches and many Esperanto speakers and intellectuals were victimized by the Nazis. I think the M’amir lacks and the basics of how language develops therefore, it is my turn to lecture him.

Languages begin as simple gestures then develops to sounds, vocalization, phonemes phonology, morphology, or syntax… it is science. And since I am passionate about languages, I have read enough about the topic—one of my favorite linguists is Prof. Noam Chomsky and I would have liked to know how he would grade M’amir Bokre if he saw how he misuses language and mythology interchangeably and mixes it with current politics to advance a chauvinist sectarian goal. My message to Bokre is: Sie haben viele Jahre in Deutschland gelebt, aber nur Mein Kompf gelernt. Enttäuschend!

Of course, language is influenced by the environment which creates culture, that in turn creates languages, vocabularies, etc. If a certain community stays within itself, fenced from other cultures, it certainly dies as a culture and never develops let alone be civilized. That happens to societies that wallow in mythologies, superstitions and folktales that are not supported by any scientific evidence but are mostly imposed on a captive audience using emotional blackmail.

When a section of any social group with a common basic language depart and live in another environment, they come in contact with other languages, cultures and environment and slowly, the language drifts far and after a time, the two languages could be mutually unintelligible from the mother language. Moreover, languages are more than a medium of communication but are they store culture and values as well. What culture is civilized or not is measured by tangible and salient facts that can be considered a product of a culture or language. Otherwise, arrogant statements, and supremacist pronouncements with nothing to show for it, is hot air.

A Bowl of Language Cocktail

A few thousand years ago, Sabeans, Himyarites, Kushites, Nilotic people and others in our region developed different languages, so did the Babylonians and many others. These languages interacted with each other and today we have several languages. For instance, I speak Arabic, Amharic, Tigrayit and Tigrinya and I can guess Geez words pretty close, but though related to each other, the above languages are not mutually intelligible to each other but some are relatively closer to each other. Trying to reverse history and berating people for failing to preserve an almost dead language, in this case Geez, is an insane idea and that is what Bokre is doing. I wish the M’amir focused on teaching Geez as an exotic language (I could have been his first students provided he taught pure language, not bigotry). As it is, we should pray the other languages of today do not face the fate of Geez and we should work to preserve them because the onslaught waged by other major world languages is intense and unforgiving.

Latin was alive until a few centuries ago but now it is a museum material and a reference language at best. It’s not fit for the day to day life of its historical owners. Geez is worse, it’s limited to liturgy, and worse, many people are adopting their local languages in mass and have translated their divine books to their languages. But Bokre is criticizing Tigrinya speakers for using Anesti for women and instead he is almost ordering people to use the archaic Geez word, B’estyo! Good luck convincing Eritrean women to change Mahber deqi’nestyo (Women’s Union) to maHber B’estiyo. How about deqi Tebaatiyo, any Geez suggestion?

Languages do not change because an individual wished them so. It cannot even change through a government Fiat or proclamation; it’s the society of speakers and its interaction with others that does it.

Insisting to force others to adopt Geez, the way M’amir Bokre does, is a very conservative argument, a rigid conservative outlook that even the social conservatives will not accept let alone the liberal democrats. Importantly, Bokre’s aim is not advancing an innocent and naked language idea, I wish it was so, it’s rather a supremacist campaign with a deep chauvinist arrogance. Unfortunately, Bokre betrayed his listeners by pretending he was all about language and unbiased culture and history. Starting with a pretentious lecture about language, he quickly became a hate-monger, conveniently using language and religion to camouflage his bigotry. The Germans say, “Hass ist nicht gut, aber Frieden ist edel.”



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