Addis, I know you don’t want to talk about it but I think I have some good argument.
Although, Valentine’s day has become more popular over the years. There are still the Never a Valentine squad absolutely bent on teaching others about the apocalyptic effects of celebrating Valentine’s day. I’m here to say, that there are good elements to this annual ritual and I want to respond to some of the arguments I have heard repeatedly mentioned about why we shouldn’t celebrate Valentine’s day.
“It’s not our culture”
This argument concerns me because of the presumption it makes that ideas shouldn’t be adopted simply because they are foreign. This leads to the assertion that we shouldn’t consider the merits of different perspectives simply because they didn’t come from us. This would also remove one of the greatest pleasure of entertaining ideas, that they present a new dimension. I’m not insinuating, of course, that ideas have to come from a foreign land to be different but it definitely doesn’t hurt. I also understand that ideas and cultures are often misappropriated and African prospective are not appreciated. This is why I would like to highlight the fact that I’m not arguing about whether some ‘Wester Values/ideals’ don’t have Ethiopian bases but about our argument that some cultures shouldn’t be adopted simply because they are foreign.
I also understand feeling threatened by the level of change we see in our environment, especially since it seems so one sided. Globalization has made it difficult to grasp what is ours and what is not. An African/Ethiopian identity seems to be under threat. Despite that, I believe that it is important to understand each idea for its own merits. Creating a utopian society where culture doesn’t change or isn’t replaced by foreign perspectives is not practical. This is truer today than in any other time in human history. Trying to push back will be very difficult, this is not only because the world is now interconnected but also because economic prosperity is often tied with connectivity. This is not the only problem I see; failing to evaluate ideas simply because they are foreign may lead to unnecessary conflict in a community, further creating an environment of defensiveness and hasty generalizations.
Additionally, arguing for a merit-based system would allow us to strengthen our position and minimize the tendency to adopt ideas simply because they are ‘Western’. We can have a reasonable argument about what should be preserved and what can be improved. I will say that I am interested in adopting more relevant Ethiopian holidays to replace Valentine’s day. For example, highlighting Timket’s already existing cultural perspective to celebrate romantic love.
“Valentine’s day was created by flower farms and card companies to support a culture of consumerism and has nothing to do with celebrating love. “
True, but I don’t believe to be very relevant. Yes, some industries have taken part in popularizing this event to feed bigger pockets. But I’m sure we could hardly find that the sentiment behind every holiday is purely well meaning. For example, the idea of celebrating birthday’s is attached with demonic values of worshiping once self. So, I think it’s more important for us to determine if there is value in a celebration individually rather than dismissing it on what it means for other people. In terms of Valentine’s day, I think our question should be, would my relationship add value from celebrating this day?
Celebrating Valentine’s day isn’t attached with any requirements, we don’t have to take on activities we feel dishonor our partnership. We could even make an active effort not to spend any money just to be sure no one is benefiting from our affection for our partner. But if money must be spent, it could be spent in less traditional ways. For example, the Yellow Movement, a youth lead initiative that I volunteer for, sells roses, cards and chocolate on Valentine’s day to support students in Addis Ababa University that can’t afford stationary or sanitation material and this year, we’ll be highlighting students with disabilities.
“I don’t celebrate Valentine’s day because every day is Valentine’s day!”
I don’t believe it is practically possible to invest the romance and fuss that comes with Valentine’s day on a daily basis. We are exhausted from work and often too occupied with randomness to put in so much conscious effort. And I am of the opinion that that’s usually, okay. But not only is it impractical, it can also feel like an underestimation of the give and take that is the required nature of romantic partnerships. Therefore, assuming a balance between the two is imperative. Celebrating the value of a partner from time to time and ignoring it.
I think Valentine’s day can help in doing this. Recognizing the fact that it is Valentine’s day encourages us to think of doing something to celebrate our partnership. It serves as somewhat of an alarm clock when too many urgent things seem to be clogging our thinking. Valentine’s day, added up with other significant personal and cultural dates such as anniversaries, can serve as a much-needed reminder to invest in our relationship.
Lastly, why I like Valentine’s day.
Valentine’s day is a great way to have discourse around healthy romantic relationships. As an activist working to understand the culture behind gender-based violence I think I sometime fall into a lazy habit of talking about the attitudes and cultures I don’t appreciate and focus too little on the positive steps that can be taken to make relationships better. The cruelest forms of gender-based violence usually takes place in romantic partnerships. And I am of the opinion, that as important as it is to identify negative habits and cultures in relationships, it is also important to propose healthier attitudes to replace them. Helping people understand how to cope with rejection and disappointment in relationships, understanding the need to give ourselves time to reflect on the most productive ways to address misunderstandings and resolve conflict can help in minimizing violence. Valentin’s day presents me with the best opportunity to encourage kindness and affection between the sexes.
Happy Valentine’s day Addis, believe in the virtue of finding value in all things.
(If you’d like to discuss this further, please leave comments below.)
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