Tuesday, May 31, 2005

From the Mouths of Babes

I’m dog tired, cranky and in a strange mood… but I wanted to quickly jot down the happenings of today so that I don’t ever forget…

In many ways it was the same old Memorial Day gathering—the usual motley crowd-- old friends and new acquaintances who gather periodically to trade war stories about work, life, love, politics and kids.

But in one major way, it wasn’t like any other Memorial Day gathering.

The Ethiopian Elections, of course, dominated the conversation and amazingly, even the most notoriously apathetic ones among us have been following these elections… following closely… too closely… as in knowing Beyene Petros’ “metekelawi emnet” on… national unity.

We were all talking strategy and political hackery and dousing each other with sometimes ersatz intellectualism (blamed squarely on the consumption of cocktails)… when…

All of a sudden we fell silent when Teddy Afro’s new song “Yasteserial” came filtering through to the deck. It was one of the most organic moments in my life… a moment unassisted by pomp or circumstance or even the least oblique motion. Just silence as the words filtered in.

It was a moment in ET-yuppiedom. Even two years ago, none of us was really involved in much things directly Ethiopian that was outside of the usual feet masmetat at church during the high holidays… half-hearted attempts at teaching our children Amharic…etc. Writing checks was the most we did for any cause… all very clinical and comfortable.

Looking around at our friends today, I realized that something happened to our circle in the past few years… I don’t know if it is hitting that magical “mid-thirties” point in life and staring at 40 from the 50-yard line—or the resigned acceptance that Ethiopia, with all her warts and splendor, still has a stranglehold on us.

Looking around at our friends I realize how each one of us has connected back to Ethiopia in some way—politically (we talk about it even without liquor being involved), economically (three among us are building houses in Addis), socially (arts movement) and spiritually (um, one is on a rotation at the church’s “cleaning committee”—joined hastily in a fit of over-enthusiasm before she realized that that did not mean sending her cleaning lady.. miskeeen!)

Something happened to us, and the evidence was the look in our eyes as we listened to the exquisitely simple words of an adolescent Ethiopian pop star.

…sings Teddy.

I know most of Gen X Ethiopians have eschewed politics – for obvious reasons… (I still have not gotten a good reason why the right insane people are not writing about politics—(“Tuloffa” do I have permission to publish your letter of explanation?—hey, it’s my damn blog!). But there is a renaissance in the Ethiopian Diaspora. We are coming of age… And the rage we have felt for the past 14 years is finally ebbing. For some of us it has morphed into pragmatic exploits. For some of us the smallest connection is a massive leap forward. But whatever happed to us, the past stopped mattering.


Perhaps we have the EPRDF to thank for that, especially PM Meles, whose attempt at legitimacy ended his reign. It was a small blessing for us that he had grand visions of being seen as a statesman instead of yet another African despot. Whatever his impulsion, he opened the floodgates to something that was even bigger than him. So, yes, we owe him.

… sings Teddy.


When it comes to Ethiopian politics, I don’t trust anyone above the age of 40… Too much has happened. There is too much baggage the preceding generation is lugging around, and no matter how pungent the Capitalist baptism and progressive rhetoric, there is something in me that fears a generation that has seen too much blood spilt for abstract ideology. Hopefully they too realize their handicap and start grooming the next generation to be the leaders they can’t be. Our eyes are on Ato Lidetu.



…sings Teddy.

There is residual fury in me at what the EPRDF has done to Ethiopia. I have tried not to be blinded by it, and it has finally started to ebb over the years. Being in Ethiopia in 1993 and being first hand witness to the debauched wantonness of the TPLF/EPLF marriage changed me forever. The depth of depravity of the leaders nearly dissolved my will… the subsequent tribalization that didn’t even bother to cover itself from its pernicious purpose, and what it did to fuel the ethnic ethic… its avaricious economic policy and third-rate thievery… Okay, Okay… go read this. I know, ye mote zemed yelegNm. But I’m a big girl... I’ll get over it. We should probably have a “Day of oo-oo-ta” where we purge all of this and then move on.

As shall I…

First things first: with all due respect to NEBE, without a doubt, the opposition has won the elections. Numbers do not lie unless they are forced. This will become clear in the future. Dagmawi has an incredible analysis about this. Do the research. The numbers do not add up. So, in pure mathematics, the Coalition might have surprised even itself.

It is part of the Ethiopian psyche to exact revenge on one’s opponent. We think it is our duty to humiliate our enemies, and nothing short of it will do. It will be the greatest challenge for the new leaders on how they handle winning—by winning I mean even if they don’t get to form a government. Thankfully, the era of “be Tiyit yemeTawun be Tiyit” has finally been toe-tagged and cremated… except by fringe elements and they have been so marginalized that we should use them as comic relief on days that end with a “y”. The new leaders have the responsibility to set the tone early and firmly and make sure that the histrionics about the EPRDF should never be personalized (says the woman who just used “debauched wantonness”).

Double dose of chill pills should be widely distributed to the anti-EPRDF flame throwers… The venom… it’s not attractive. And it’s time to elevate political discussion. Someone spray some f’leet please. CHewinet, welcome back… you had been sorely missed.

It is the responsibility of the new leaders to make sure that former EPRDF members are protected from the wrath and venom of its supporters and other anti-PM Meles whack jobs. The kind of base attack I read does not help make the transition easy. So swallow it… yes, if it means that a greater good is served, then swallow it. The new leadership has to set a new standard for morality and good governance. Whatever PM Meles did, he has to be given the right to move on in peace, and we have to depend on the new leaders to set that example. I don’t know how you cure the psychosis, but good luck trying. Maybe we should proclaim June 8 “Hug an EPRDF” day… where are they in the Bay Area? I’ll hug one… maybe even cop a feel.

The difference between the EPRDF and the opposition is that the opposition is not vengeful. Not because it doesn’t want to (although I hope it doesn’t) but because it has a lot of supporters who won’t accept that kind of behavior from its leaders. In that regards, the opposition is lucky that it has a base that checks its ego. They say you can judge a man by the company he keeps. I judge a political party by its supporters. If the Qinijit ever started bullshit like the TPLF/EPLF um, collaboration, it doesn’t need to fear an opposition party ousting it; its supporters will get to it way before that. Welcome back, yilugNta… you had been sorely missed. Unlike the EPRDF whose supporters stood silently by as the bullshit train grooved on, the opposition does not have enough “yes men” and obsequious loyalty that can breed hubris. Their support goes only as far as the well-being of Ethiopia. The minute that is jeopardized they are switching parties. Even the most fervent opposition supporters I know would not stand for the kind of moral turpitude exhibited by the unfortunate love affair between the TPLF/EPLF. In all of this, that’s one thing I know for sure.

… sings Teddy.

The last gift the Prime Minster could give Ethiopia is a peaceful transition of power. Despite his dismal record as a leader, perhaps that he bowed out gracefully may be what redeems him. Maybe he will realize that it is not just western donors that he needs to impress, but the 74 million people who deserve a breather. Hopefully the prospect of leaving a legacy and a place in Ethiopian history different than that of chief sociopath Mengistu Haile Mariam will tempt the Prime Minister to chart new territory. His greatest victory might be to force his opponents to respect him. Not like him, but respect him. He can have the last laugh.

This is a great time to be an Ethiopian, my friends. When a bunch of comfortable, westernized ETs are sitting around on Memorial Day silently bonding though a song, it’s a sign that the renaissance has started.

See Teddy’s video here. (Thanks everyone who sent me the link.) Buy the CD… learn the words. (The other tracks are pretty good too, although one too many animal sound samples.)

I’m beginning to sober up. Back to systemic ranting next time.

“Ere aynegam wei” sings Teddy.


From the mouths of babes…

It was like no other Memorial Day.

p.s. A few housekeeping matters: Yes, to the person who wanted to be a guest blogger... as a matter of fact I have a busy work week coming up so... And, yes to the gentleman who left a comment about where the chicks are on this blog.. Yeah, where you at, sisters? Speak up.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Tesfaw Bizu said...

Oh Dear,

What a writer you are. I wonder why you guys don't write for the news papers here in Ethiopia so that you could be accessed to a wider 'real' audience. If I were blessed to express my feelings like you do, I would have a column in reporter gazeta like Delalaw. BTW do you know delalaw, the most famous metatifegNa in town and the most read column in Ethiopia. So, for the sake of those 'have nots'(many people who spend their time sitting with listro's and reading newspapers who do not have access to your blogs, DO US FAVOUR, PLEASE.

So, you do like Tedi's 'Aybekam Woyi'? Tesasteshal! Anchim deha bande yalfiletal bilesh new yemitasbiw? Although I am one of 'hand-to-mouth' gents in Addis, I do recognize the transformation ihadeg brought to this deha hager of ours. If angels were to administer in Ethiopia, how far would they take Ethiopia in the last ten years, Forgive me God!

Bicha, bizu atamari anchim. Ye'deha amlak Yitebikish, tsafi bedemb. I hope to see you soon in one of our gazeta's with a pen name 'from the mouth of babes'.

Caio

4:34 AM, May 31, 2005  
Anonymous -mengagaw- said...

Wonkiye,
you are lucky-- my memorial day was spent refereeing between the "anti-meles" group and the yeloss "really anti-meles" group. the only memorial i had for was civil discussion. i had to "iyofe" when i read your post. most of them did not know anything about the opposition, just that they hated PMM. and, inde memeriyash, i have purchased the Teddy Afro c.d. - afirst for me.

ere sewech gud belu. hoday wenket wenket malet kejelew. grum new.

9:31 AM, May 31, 2005  
Blogger another country said...

My dear

I can’t tell you how much it worms my heart to read some one of our generation discuss ET politics in a somewhat rational manner (even if some times deluded). The previous generation embittered by a failed revolution seems always ready to plunge Ethiopia into the abyss. As a product of an Addis upbringing in the last days of the Derg ET politics has always seemed ill at ease a combination of quackery and idealism. However I understand that Ethiopia needs more than our empty nationalism. EPRDF despite its fault has matured for the better. It is no longer a bitter force committed to imposing its will on the Ethiopian mass. The burden of governing a nation with so many problems has humbled EPRDF. They know more than most that no one political grouping can “save” Ethiopia. That realization has forced them to open the political stage to others. The hope is that the opposition will also mature to the fact they too can’t “save” Ethiopia by themselves. The leaders of the EPRDF as well as the opposition are of the same generation. Both camps infected by that unforgiving bug of revolution during the seventies, lets hope they have found a cure.

10:04 AM, May 31, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonkitte,
ahunis abezashiu! the one thing i have been holding on to is the day i see wieanye's humiliation and defeat. i have been preparing for my gloating for the past few months. now you are going to take that away from me? i have to stop reading weichegud: it's starting to make sense. min alebet esti if we stew in hatred a little while longer. chekCaqa!

beiye esti yehunilish.

gebru.

12:27 PM, May 31, 2005  
Anonymous Finote said...

Weyzero Wonkette,

I love your writing. It seems to me the May 7th election has revived the dormant ET politicians or politician wannabes.

Now, I agree that this election will have some fraud but it beats anything else that came before it. As to ethnic politics, it is one the major disaster Ethiopia had to face in the last 30 years. Can the situation in ET be changed overnight? I don't think so. Actually anything along the line of quick fix solution worries
me too much, for I fear the idea of having another "AbiYot" that likes to munch on its children. The politics of "if you are not with us, you are against us" that runs rampant in ET community doesn't really promote democracy.

The opposition needs to take a deep breath and take the sits it has gotten, work the system in any way
that it can. As many of the opposition members have changed their politics over the years (that is what I am hoping has happened} may be the ruling party might
change in some respects (as I was truly surprised to find out
TPLF was in power instead of taking Tigray and forming an independent state as they initially planned or
witnessing some EPRP members becoming part of EPRDF after forming ethnic organizations which was quite a shocker). And we all have to remember staying in the center gives you the best view of both sides, that democracy is a long process which requires patience. As
our forefathers will say "EnQulal KesBeKes BeIgrua TiHeDaLech" or take heed of the Chinese saying "A
journey of a thousand miles starts with the first
step".

Peace!

12:35 PM, May 31, 2005  
Anonymous Mozazeet said...

ere sewech,

The Estrogen Brigade reporting for duty! We have also been duly "mewenqetted"ed. We were just wondering what it would be like if women were running Ethiopia. m'Ts!

Ihit WonqeTTe: thank you for breaking the mold. The endless droning on of pseudo Marxists and nouveau capitalists was making our newly coiffed hair stand on end-- and not in a good way.

No, thank you for giving US-- those of us in the insane middle-- a breather.

In sisterhood, (not in the bra-burning way)
Moz.

5:43 PM, May 31, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

MILF housewives??? As in the MILF hunter from www.milfhunter.com?

5:20 AM, June 03, 2005  
Blogger Tobian said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:47 PM, June 10, 2005  
Blogger Tobian said...

"Yeah, where you at, sisters? Speak up."

We are right here, sistah! Slowly, but surely, the ihitawee-ferver is also catching on ...

Tobian.

12:49 PM, June 10, 2005  

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