Ethiopia: A Brief Note on Haile Selassie
Descending the Cairo Side – a novel of the traveling life
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Haile Selassie, now famous as the patron god-figure of the Rastafarians, was one of the great men of the twentieth century before he lost his mind to Alzheimer’s. He should be remembered for his flashes of prescience and bravery that have seldom been duplicated by politicians of any era.
In the 1930s, he organized his country to fight the Italian fascist invaders. Selassie’s warriors fought bravely if futilely with spears and axes against modern weaponry, including heavy-caliber machine guns, tanks, and aerial bombardment. He then traveled to the League of Nations in Geneva in 1936 and addressed the world via that august if powerless body. The speech was recorded on newsreel and is renowned for its gripping oratory. What he told the Europeans was simple: If you don’t come to help us in Ethiopia, you will be the next victims of fascism. You have no means to escape this fate.
His words were ignored. A brief excerpt of the speech may be found on youtube at:
The French overdub says “In 1936 the Emporer of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, appeared before the League of Nations to denounce the abandonment of his people to the Italian fascists.” I have viewed the complete speech so I know it still exists.
In 1968 he delivered another powerful example of poetic imagery in the United States that Bob Marley later put to music. Here is a partial text:
“That until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned: That until there are no longer first-class and second class citizens of any nation; that until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes; That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race; That until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained.”
What I find still unsettling when I tell people about Selassie’s later speech is that many of them don’t understand the concepts of “world citizenship” and “international morality.” They ask me, What are these things? and why should they exist? Are these words a plot from the New World Order?
Benito Mussolini and Joseph Goebbels must be rejoicing still, dancing in their unmarked graves.