Maddammar (መደመር): The danger in the deeper meaning of the term
By Teferi Fufa, August 4, 2018
Maddammar, or to be added, has become a favorite phrase for all who are advocating for and looking forward to the new Ethiopia of Dr. Abiyi. From Addis Ababa to Asmara and from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles, California, “Tadammirenal or We have been added” is a rallying cry. An attractive phrase uttered by a populist and handed to the masses takes its own course, turns into a slogan and repeated for its own sake. It becomes an ideology guarded zealously and avoiding scrutiny.
But a person with a keen sense and a critical mind would like to dig deep and understand where the phrase comes from and what it is designed to accomplish. Hence, let me try to parse this phrase, maddamar, and try to get to its deepest meaning, and thereby, try to arrive at the purpose for its use.
Maddammar is rooted in the simple arithmetic to add. Children learn its algorithm in the first grade and it is simple to understand. Because of its simplicity it requires not much thinking. And, let me state from the outset, it is dangerous not to think. This phrase, as I stated above, and as those who are repeating in a chorus in response to the call to be added know and understand it, means to be added.
Looking now deeply into the operation, addition, we see the objects to be added represented by figures or numbers, more accurately Arabic numerals. 7 + 5 = 12. I just did an addition. The numeral 7 is a figure. 5 is also a figure. I, the manipulator of these figures put them together and came up with a sum, a new figure. Now let us examine these figures. They have no meaning at all on their own. I as a manipulator decide what they stand for. For example, what is the meaning of 7? Does it stand for coins? Kegs of beer? Dismembered bodies? Or fighter jets? Only the manipulator knows and cares. The Figueres are inactive, mute, and clueless. But they still serve a purpose, not of their own but that of their manipulator.
Not only that. The figures that are added totally disappear when the sum is found. Neither 7 nor five is anything like 12. They might as well have been 9 and 3, 2 and 10, 4and 8, or 11 and 1. The sum, 12, swallows them all leaving no trace of the addends. A bad prospect!
I hate to burst the bubbles of the exuberant crowd shouting “tadammirenal”, but in reality, they are shouting their willingness to be part of an operation they have no conscious part in, acceding to the whim of the master manipulator.
If you are reading this you might start pitying me by now, thinking that I have no clue that “Maddammar” is coming together to build a new Ethiopia. I beg you to read on for I know where I am going with this crazy idea. At the end, feel free to agree or disagree with me.
If we build a new Ethiopia, I guaranty you that we will have the old Ethiopia back. I say this because “madammar” is how we got the old Ethiopia. No, it is not a typo. “Madammar” is to add, while “maddammar” is to be added. Whether we are talking about “to add” or “to be added” the function of the manipulator and that of the figures to be manipulated are the same. But the architects of the old Ethiopia did not talk about “maddammar”. Instead, they called it unification. Thus, we were not united; we were unified, just like the figures in addition. For good or for ill, the master manipulator put us together without our volition.
As was evident in the Minnesota meeting, this time, the figures are not quite that inert. They have a degree of self-awareness. At least, there are some of the addends that would like the role of the master manipulator reduced. They want to play a role. They want to identify their own values, not assigned to them. They want to have a meaning of their own, not one assigned to them by the master manipulator. “Gadaan gadaa bilisummaati,” is a clear and concise message that we are not just objects to be manipulated anymore. We have our own ideas, we think for ourselves, and we can as free people enter an alliance when we feel it is beneficial all parties. We are not ready to be corralled into an Ethiopia which is a torture chamber for some and a land of opportunity for others anymore.