• “Though the uprising had freed the vassals from any obligations they might have had to their former masters, it had yet to profit them. In fact, as the villagers had to man their new borders, build their own prisons, police their markets, and look after the judges they appointed, the amount of money that went to communal use steadily increased. Many ended up paying out more this way than they ever had under the deposed system. But the uprising was never undertaken for riches; it was about basic human dignity. Nor was it for revenge, but self-determination; not for shedding blood, but ending bloodshed. Above all, it was about realizing fair access to natural resources.

    Two years after discarding the old shackles, they kissed their wives and children good-bye and headed for the trenches, many of the village men would look back at the distances they had traveled and shake their heads in disbelief. Indeed, what an exhilarating feeling it must have been for someone who had never made a decision for himself to have, finally, his destiny firmly in his grasp: to grow the crop of his choice, to paint his home the color he fancied, to marry his daughter to the man he favored, and to be able to send his children to school, all without fear of repercussions from a feudal master. What is more, the peasant no longer needed to submit himself to the humility of waiting on his master’s guests while his wife and daughter labored in the kitchen, preparing food they were not allowed to sample. The peasant might die fighting to hold on to his newly gained freedom; in the past he had always been dying fighting for someone else’s cause. This was a feeling many outsiders, Duke Ashenafi and Reverend Yimam, above all, would never understand.”

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