Libraries: Victims of Vandalism
The Reporter- 06/23/00
(by Yehenew Melese)
Shall we say Ethiopia has a very gloomy future? There is no need to explore the
mysteries of our brains to prove this. A glaring evidence is available here in our own
city. It is enough to see what is happening at the "venerable" Addis Ababa
That we all are acutely aware of the lofty responsibilities vested in the university
community is beyond doubt. However, what most of us here are busily doing is
really aching to the marrows of our bones. The problem is gigantic. For the time
being, I would limit myself to an issue which, I believe, is much more serious in
character. It is what one could properly call "a fierce war against libraries."
To see the issue in a better light, let me begin with a lesson from European history.
In Britain, there existed a certain movement in the 10thcentury. It was named after
its leader, Ned Ludd, and was thus called the "Luddite Movement." Its members
were motivated by one very dangerous belief. They felt that they were under
capitalist harassment because of the existence of machines. They, therefore,
mercilessly destroyed machines in industrial establishments in which they worked
until their activities were checked.
Who knows? Maybe, history is repeating itself. What most students of our university
are shamelessly doing appears to be a re-enactment of that dead, diabolic
movement. It is as if we have reached a sort of silent consensus that we are here
in custody just because of the existence of library resources. We have become
unchecked wild fires for the materials in our Main Library and its branches. If we find
anything unpalatable written or drawn, we are very much fond of crossing it out or
tearing it up. It is by scribbling on these invaluable assets that we air our political
views. Most of us see these books as our arch-enemies. In case we discover in
them something which would presumably appear in our exams, we automatically cut
it out to satisfy our unbridled selfishness. No worry at all about future or
Books are man's mirrors of his virtues and vices. Here, we are restlessly fighting
against our transparent mirrors. We are busy harassing our blameless friends. We
are diabolically opposed to our humblest teachers. We are warring against the most
industrious traffic policemen who are readily available to show us the green and red
lights of the way of life. My God!
Normally, libraries are supposed to be the safest places for preserving books and
other reference materials. In our case, this definition of libraries doesn't work.
Libraries should rather be redefined as rubbish dumps where such materials are
irrationally and mercilessly destroyed. What is happening here is a brutality
comparable to the crimes committed by Hitler and Grazianni.
Let's ask ourselves one question. While we are mishandling the assets that are now
at our mercy, why are we so eager to see the Meq'dela Loots returned? Do we want
them to be back and be destroyed in us?
Whenever I think of this issue, what one political commentator (whose name I do
not remember) said provides me "solace". He said that he is not unhappy because
there is no government in Somalia. He is unhappy because governments in other
African countries are treating their people inhumanly.
We can relate what he said to our issue. Any book or other material of the library
which we touch is liable to perish. The blessing in disguise is that we read very,
very little. Most of us are kilometers away from books. Were we voracious readers
with our irresponsibility, the library would have been empty by now. At least some
books are safe because we don't know if they exist at all. Maybe, laziness has its
If it were not for pushing ourselves a little from immorality to morality,
short-sightedness to far-sightedness, irresponsibility to responsibility, etc., why did
we pass such a long and arduous time at schools? Was it all a vanity of vanities?
Copyright MCC, 2000