Friday, August 12, 2005

How to Lose a Leader in 14 Years.

The EPRDF has claimed that it has won the election. Ho-hum.

Ooh, it’s great to be back and very soon I will let you know why I was off the scene for so long. Juicy, juicy.

The problem with being away for more than a week is that it inevitably leaves you with a backlog as to which dumb, dumber and dumbest EPRDF move to pick apart. Oh, EPRDF. You senile ol’ thing. Ah, to die without a modicum of decorum. So last millennium.

Okay, so I want to go back to the issue of honor in politics, something I explored earlier in That Thing They Call Honor and then I’ll come back with an update about EPRDF’s “Hey, looka he’a. We dooz believe we have won us an erection… no, election, comrades” affirmation. Boys, boys. Take a few Lithiums and go back to your coloring books.

So, here is the situation about the part of these great United States I live in: August is pretty much a dead month at work so that leaves a lot of us with plenty of time to listen to too many podcasts and watch entirely too much TV. Ay caramba! Podcasts! Has there been a greater invention since berad shai? I say no.

I’ve been having very interesting conversations about the blog about honor/values etc and politcs, and someone reminded me that the opposition should not be getting all the credit for the Ethiopian Renaissance, and that the Ethiopian people who waited hours to say “don’t let the door hee'cha where the good Lord split’cha” to the EPRDF should be lauded. Absolutely. Something that people coming back from Ethiopia recently keep telling me… there is no such thing as fear in the Ethiopian political psyche these days. The fear that used to debilitate us has dissipated, and that can’t be good for the EPRDF which depends on people to live in fear and terror. Hm. That is what they call irony, I do believe?

So, anyway. Good Governance and last time... But, not the Tony Blair version of Good Governance, thank you very much, which is very, how do you say it, malleable in its definition. How else do you explain Mr. Blair’s “La-la-la-la-la.. I can’t hear youuuuuu”’s when it comes to the question of how he can support a government like, … I dunno, Neo Marxist Ato Meles Zenawi’s, which just did a God awful job of stealing elections.

So I’m watching my husband’s TV... and truly it is his because I have no say on what we watch. Actually, even if I wanted to change the channel I couldn’t because the damn remote thingy has so many buttons that re-sizes things and PIP’s things that I inevitably end up stuck on some Geek TV that plays horrible techno music for no discernable reason. (Aside: Alas, I am addicted to Current TV.)

Anyway, so I’m trying to watch something… innocuous (okay, it was Footballers’ Wives, okay!) when my husband clicks a series of buttons and all of a sudden I’m looking straight into Charlie Rose’s face—something the faint of heart should avoid, by the way, especially direct eye contact on a TV screen that’s on steroids.

So Charlie from the Charlie Rose Show is interviewing Kim Clark, exiting Dean of Harvard Business School.

Okay, listen to me. Few things I believe in as stalwartly as my conviction that nothing good has come from Harvard ‘cept the Hasty Pudding Awards, the Crimson of the early 90’s and… my husband. (Gift idea for Harvardites: Ross Douthat’s “Privilege”. Read the WSJ review here.)

So, there’s Kim Clark on my TV and my husband, anticipating my howl of protest, hushes me with a swift craning of his neck in the direction of the TV with that peculiar reverence they all impose on you whenever their alma mater is mentioned. It’s a true “what-e’vr!” moment.

As I always do, I got sucked into the interview, which turned out to be brilliant. Summary: Mr. Clark is leaving his undoubtedly cushy position as dean of the
Business School after 10 years to teach at, ehem, Brigham Young University in, good-grief, Idaho. Yes, Idaho. Please, don’t ask.

Background: So, like so many Harvard freshmen, Mr. Clark’s first year was miserable. So miserable that he left Harvard and took two years to travel. A deeply religious man, he served in his church where he learnt the ABC’s of leadership.

… it’s a time when you learn how to be a leader… You learn the power that comes from working with other people. You lean how to teach, motivate, inspire, guide, and solve problems.

Hm. That’s what leaders do, apparently: teach, motivate, inspire, guide, and solve problems. Maybe someone should jot this down and fax it to Ato Meles who prefers a more, how do you say it, thorny but expeditious path to leadership: a little ethnic baiting here, a little double talk there, a little "neutralizing of anti-freedom" opponents here, a more refined way of begging for more aid from the guilt ridden west there, a little thuggishness here and there, add some cool cufflinks to your wardrobe, and voila, you are a leader of modern day Ethiopia. The very idea that leaders have to motivate, guide and inspire people has not yet enthused Ato Meles away from his Revolutionary Democracy. But on the other hand, that whole election stealing thing—I guess it could have inspired Robert Mugabe. Who are we to judge?

Back to Clark. So, Harvard messed with his head at first so he sought the advice of his uncle who told him, “Don’t take courses, take professors.” It was, Clark says, advice that saved his academic career. His uncle proceeded to give him a list of ten faculty members. “I don’t care what they’re teaching, if it’s an upper division course, in Latin or whatever. You take it. Don’t take courses. Take professors.”

This is the truest truism I’ve heard in a while, simple yet mind-bending-ly profound. From my discussions with people over the past few weeks, the idea that we Ethiopians have to start looking at the people who lead us from a human capital point of view is still as novel as the ‘time out’ style of parenting is to my father, who thinks that there is no problem with a child that can’t be solved with a stealth qunTiCha.

The idea that we should aspire to leaders who are honorable, smart and guided by a moral authority higher than ‘Revolutionary Democracy’ is considered naïve and implausible. Therefore, I’ve found myself having inane conversations about how the west is really responsible for corrupt African leaders because the west facilitates the corruption (by looking the other way while their black protégés torture people and siphon off aid money). Maybe so, and I certainly blame Tony Blair for coddling the likes of Ato Meles in such a garish manner. However, I first blame Ato Meles for his unabated moral turpitude. God. It’s almost like we are all suffering from Battered Woman’s Syndrome! If only we cower more, maybe our leaders won’t be forced to kill us. It does not occur to us that it is fundamentally wrong that our leaders beat the crap out of us. Amazing.

Basically, we Ethiopians don’t even think we deserve the right to have leaders who are beholden to us. We look at shiny buildings that have mushroomed in Addis, we mortgage our economy to a single, base billionaire whom we have canonized to sainthood/savior and we sit back wringing our hands, desperatly hoping that no one rocks the boat. We are happy with the little we are given. In other words, we continue to take courses and not professors.

I started reading through Ato Meles’ head-splittingly tedious ‘Revolutionary Democracy’ (a very ‘must-miss’ non-thriller on your summer reading list, but read ethiopundit’s awesome “Introduction to Revolutionary Democracy” to get the abridged version) to truly understand what our leaders have signed us on to. By the time you get to the definition of Revolutionary Democracy (bewildered diplomats had the damn thing translated):

the official doctrine remains the vague concept of "revolutionary democracy", which is regarded as an alternative to the "liberal democracy" practised by western industrialized states, for which the country is supposedly not yet ready...

you will be convinced that the professor of that course, in this case Ato Meles, inspired by the disintegration of communism around him, must have been on political crack when he penned such an underwhelming script.

Yet we still refuse to choose professors.

Back to Clark and what makes good leaders...

Clark further illustrates the importance of good leadership by citing a paper he wrote about two plants in Texas, five miles apart from each other. They were built the same year, were the same size, used the same technology, had the same product and access to labor market. In studying these two plants, Clark was stunned to discover that one of them was 70% more productive than the other. 70%!

Plant A: very hierarchical, very adversarial management. Huge gap between management and the workers. Hm. Who doth that remind us of?

Plant B: Very flat management that is connected to the workforce… there is a grievance process and a more systematic attention to issues people face.

Conclusion: good management makes a difference. A 70% difference kind of difference. Reeeally?

Next to its severe moral deficiency, EPRDF’s biggest shortfall is its unyieldingly feeble style of management, especially on the economic front—we’ll leave its heavy handed trigger happiness for another session.

For example, there is much bellyaching in Revolutionary Democracy (the part that makes sense, which is very sparse) about ‘the oppressed masses’ being exploited by the evil ruling class who lurk around, their evilness wafting through the land. So, basically, it is the Revolutionary Democrats’ God-given duty to protect, not lead, the ‘oppressed masses’. Yeah, yeah. Been there, done that, Mengistu gave us the T-shirt. There is a paternalistic tone throughout Revolutionary Democracy, indiscernible from your garden variety Marxist doctrines, that hints of major inferiority complexes. Oops. I think that just made me a… hold on while I look it up… oh, yeah… a ‘chauvinist’. Yay.

So read on and you’ll get the level of frothy-mouth anger and immeasurable odium at the horrid ruling class, which is not really defined per se, but look for no complexity in this novel. Ethiopundit is wise to conclude that no one really knows what the hell Revolutionary Democracy is. Me? I refuse to believe that people are dying for this so I trudge on through meaningless pages because I suffer from long attention span.

So, let’s look at how the EPRDF “protects” the oppressed masses. By most accounts, 80% of Ethiopia’s population is comprised of rural farmers. And yet none of them owns the land they till… oh, wait… major 70’s flashback… ‘Land to the Tiller’… Hmm. Remember that? To the EPRDF, “land privatization” immediately conjures up feudal nightmares. So what does it do to dispel the nightmare? It becomes the feudal landlord. There’s sound economic policy for you. And, really, doesn’t that make sense? Afraid of the big, bad, monster? Solution: become a bigger, badder monster. And thus Ethiopia’s economy runs. Well, who is protecting the opressed masses from this new and improved monster? Silly, the monster had to make itself bigger so that it could protect the opressed. Don't you kd?

On February 23, 2003 Ato Meles gave an interview to the BBC where he, what else is new, smugly blamed donor nations for the food shortage that had put 15 million Ethiopians in danger of starving to death. 15 million!

Oh, the blame game, how sweet your nectar.

In Ato Meles’ words:

We are not out of the woods yet. Quite a bit of the required food assistance has been pledged, but it’s not been arriving in time. Perhaps, more importantly, the total requirement for food aid is nowhere close to being fulfilled. Up to now, we have succeeded in avoiding mass deaths. But the expectation now amongst the donor representatives in Addis Abeba is that unless there is a rekindling of interest and shortfalls are covered we may run out of food by June, and that would be a very dangerous time because that will be the rainy season and it will be difficult to transport food to the rural areas even if it arrives.

Q: And what would be the consequence of that and how many people would be affected?

A: Anywhere between 11-15 million people. And the consequence of people running out of food during the rainy season in that number is not difficult for anybody to imagine.

Okay, let’s break this down. (Did the TPLF have a drama department while it was a guerrilla outfit, because I have a feeling that the prime minister dabbled in the dramatic arts in the bushes.)

How to effectively hold the world responsible for your economic missteps:

by: “M. Z”

Step 1: Start off with one, succinct alarming statement: “We are not out of the woods yet.” (But say it in monotone voice… don’t change the octave of your voice or nothing. Pretend you are reading ‘Revolutionary Democracy’ on a rainy day.

Step 2: Start the finger pointing, but passive-aggressively.

“Quite a bit of the required food assistance has been pledged, but it’s not been arriving in time.”

This way you are always blaming the bastards who said they’d give you aid, but the world should know that hey are breaking their word. Hold them accountable, and remember, deflect, deflect, deflect attention from yourself. You are a poor, innocent starving third worlder. Act like it.

Step 3: By this stage people should be feeling sufficiently guilty, so up the ante.

Perhaps, more importantly, the total requirement for food aid is nowhere close to be fulfilled.

Again, remember, monotone.

Step 4: Ka-bam! Bring in the death theme … now!

Up to now, we have succeeded in avoiding mass deaths.

i.e., no thanks to you idiots who are not running to our aid, we still managed to avoid mass death. What else do you expect us to do, awreaddi!

Huuuuh? You see where I’m going with this? So now they are remembering Ethiopia in 1984… images of starving babies pop, pop, popping in their minds. Donor countries hate it when that happens. Never been able to figure out why.

Step 5: But no time to linger. Let them know that their own representatives are also predicting much gloom and doom…

But the expectation now amongst the donor representatives in Addis Abeba is that unless there is a rekindling of interest and shortfalls are covered we may run out of by June…

Okay you see what you did here? You connected your pleading to that of the donors’ own representatives (irrefutable evidence) who are in Addis (location, location, location).

Step 6: Okay, now seal the deal. End with a bang.

… and that would be a very dangerous time because that will be the rainy season and it will be difficult to transport food to the rural areas even if it arrives.

A nice, elegant way of saying get your asses down here and feed these… these… oppressed masses who need.. the … food thingy.

Then wait for the gravity of the situation to so overpower the interviewer that he does not stop to ask you what in the hell you were doing while all hell was breaking through. Inevitably, he’ll hurriedly go on to the next question because he has a date with some hottie you set him up with at the Hilton. Listen, he doesn’t care about this, and he knows that you don’t care about this. He wants to move on, but make sure you get in one last prophesy of cataclysm.

Q: And the consequence of all of this…? How many people will die? That’s…

Step 7: Don’t be afraid of big numbers.

Anywhere between 11-15 million people.

You see? Big numbers are our friend. Ferenjies relate to big numbers. And big words.

Step 8: And just as a final exclamation mark, hint at how ghastly that number is. Just hint. Allow them to draw their own conclusion. If you can allow for a dramatic pause, do so … and then, wham! It’s a K.O.

And the consequence of people running out of food during the rainy season in that number is not difficult for anybody to imagine.

Sit back. Relax. Watch the west scurry to feed your people.

Thank you. Thankyouverymuch. Oh, really, no. You shouldn’t.

Annnnnnnd… curtain.

There you go. That’s Ato Meles’ entire 14-year economic policy in eight simple steps. Spiffy, ya?

So anyway, unfortunately the damn reporter asked about land reform. But not to worry. There is a playbook for that as well.

Q: Opposition parties in Ethiopia say that you haven’t done enough to engage in land reform, true land reform. You have small farmers which form the bulk of your population having to exist on very small plots of land they don’t own and they rent from the government, and this doesn’t encourage them to invest in these plots of land.

Meles: I recognize that there is a possibility of re-division of land and that could theoretically be a disincentive.

Theoretically? Excuse me very much, Mr. Meles, and I ain’t no big economic wonkette, but not owning the land is a huuuge disincentive. It’s been beyond proven that the farmer not owning the land he tills is… well, it’s a problem. You might remember the USSR? Basically, we have a little serf-landlord thing happening here, which I do believe was a sore point with you when you were an out-of-the-closet Marxist in the 70’s, hmm? But I interrupted, Mr. Meles. You were explaining something to us…

Meles: We are addressing that part of the land reform in our country…

We are? ‘Coz I do believe that you were quoted somewhere as saying that there would be land privatization in Ethiopia “over my dead body”, which… well, yes, technically that is addressing the land reform question, but maybe you should send out a memo… or… something to alert us when you finish addressing this issue. Do go on…

Meles: … but I do not believe that giving the peasants the right to sell their land at a time when something like 15 million of them are going hungry would create better food security. They would simply sell their land and go to towns where there are no jobs for them. And what you have is paupers with some hope of food security being transformed to paupers with no hope of food security.”

(All emphasis mine.)

What in the…? Okay, first of all, i swear to you i did not make up that quote. Thisis really what he said.

That, my friends, is what they call the money quote. No, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia did’n just relegate a large number of the population the unenviable position of being either paupers in the countryside with some hope, or paupers in towns with no hope, but paupers either way! That’s the best the EPRDF can do? We have to settle for 15 million of our fellow countrymen holding on to, eh, some hope that donor nations will tear themselves away from black-tie galas to throw some crumpets our way? Hm. Niger apparently didn’t get that memo. Sheeet.

How’s that for inspiring management! Wait. Are we in a time warp? Is this the same county whose leader steel-facedly confronted the League of Nations in 1936? Goddamn. Talk about marrying down.

Besides, note that Ato Meles talks about giving peasants the “right to sell their land” and not about their right to “own the land.” It does not cross the Prime Minister’s mind that not owning the land is what has led to this disaster. To the Revolutionary Democrats, peasants are little children who can’t really understand what it means to own land, and so these children would inevitably sell off their plots to the bad-ass …capitalists, oh, perish the thought, and then flood the town and… well, we all know that peasants should be seen and not heard. Way to go with taking care of the masses, Mr. Prime Minister. Great management. Meanwhile at the ranch, Ethiopians are perpetually seen as long-term beggars with five-star hotels.

In the same interview…

Q: What have you done about irrigation projects, because I do remember seeing at the end of last year many places where there were large rivers not far away from parched fields that had no water at all.

Meles: The resources are not available.

And then there is an uncomfortable pause where the interviewer must have given the prime minister an incredulous look because Mr. Meles deigned to elaborate on that trite little non sequitur.

Meles: The most abundant resource we have is labor.

Ehhh… ooookay. But Prime Minister... we were talking about irrigation? Any movement on that front?

Meles: And so we have chosen to… um, focus on labor based water management and [use those techniques] instead of damning our big rivers. So all the irrigation and the um… water harvesting techniques that we have put in place are family based instead of damming the major even minor [rivers].

Okay, grab your Advanced Bullshit-to-EPRDF dictionary, boys and girls, ‘coz this one is a multifaceted bullshit. So the question was, why are there parched lands next to body of waters? The answer in tortured Melesism is … “We have lots o’ labor. And we… yeah… we don’t have to dam rivers or nothin’ ‘coz we have all these paupers who can schlep water from the river—we call it the, ehem, ‘family based water harvesting techniques’, the rest of the world calls them buckets, but all technical terms and stuff."

Seriously, this is how ridiculous the EPRDF is. Why invest in any long term solutions when begging and um. 'family based water harvesting techniques' are two short-term and immediate elixirs? Next thing you know, the phrase “die of starvation” will be phased out (its already inched upwards to “food insecurity”), and eventually Ethiopia will be facing a simple case of … "population attrition from low-calorie nutrition." Welcome to the poor man’s "global struggle against violent extremism." Enjoy your stay.

Remember the absolute outrage and righteous indignation of Meles and Mengistu when the Emperor ignored the famine of ’73 and about 100,000 people perished under Emperor Haile Selassie’s watch? The Emperor was dragged out of office for his mismanagement and callousness. Well, even adjusted for “human life inflation” these days, 100,000 has jumped to 15 million people in danger of perishing while Mr. Meles tries to pass himself off as a sensitive reformer/renaissance man. Mr. Meles must think we all have collective amnesia. What was good for the Emperor must surely be good for our new Emperor? Tell me if I’m wrong.

I have learnt to be very weary of people who are all fire and brimstone about protecting the ‘oppressed masses’. Inevitably, they turn out to be people who are out to ensure that the masses are always oppressed because that way there will always be a need for a ‘protector.’ Say hello to co-dependency.

There is a lot of this kind of overbearing paternalism in Revolutionary Democracy. It was further highlighted by the pre-election rhetoric from Ato Meles and his menace-to-society sidekick/spokesperson/Minister of Disinformation, Ato Bereket Simon. In tandem they were touting the EPRDF as the harbinger of democracy to Ethiopia, and that they did it all for “the people.” [Get out your violin out. This is gonna be a long sonata.)

One of my favorite social commentators is Bill Maher. He has a long spiel about the art form of facile speechifying that those of us with children have to suffer through from snippety, self appointed “children protectors”. Everything is about “protecting the children.” For example, one of my daily battles … there I am, minding my own business, trying to pick up my kid from school when all of a sudden some desperate housewife in a Mercedes is losing her feathers about how we have to protect kids from Marilyn Manson. Yeahhh… although… Muffy, my child has a better chance of being hurt by the crap they serve at McDonald’s—which you took him to when you chaperoned his class trip-- than he will ever be from banging his head against the wall to the screams of an androgynous freak. Yes, they love me at PTA.

So, before I got sidetracked I was trying to make a point that those who lecture us about protecting some mass of people are the very ones hurting them.

There was something incredibly profound that super zany brainy major
Econ-geek Dr. Non-Engineer Berhanu Nega said in his speech in Sweden that made the terminally dull light bulb in my wonkettery light up. I’ll paraphrase:

People ask us if we are running for office because we want to bring democracy to the people. We are not. We are running for office because we want freedom for ourselves. We want to be the kind of fathers who don’t just leave money as inheritance to our children. We want our children to inherit freedom and democracy. So, we are doing this to free ourselves.

Bingo! That, my friends, is where it all starts. There is no grandiose sense of being the “freer” of people. We should all want to seek democracy because we want to be free and not because we have a need to free others. It was the most philosophically sound reckoning I have heard from an Ethiopian leader.

(Total aside: Hmmm… This Non Engineer Dr. Berhanu person…? Happily married, is he? I have a few friends who have wanted me to mention that they… like economics.)

So back to what I was saying about values and my new hero Kim Clark of Harvard Business School. Wasn’t that where I was before I descended into the intellectual abyss?

Charlie Rose, in his inimitably “I am shocked, shocked” saccharine-y way asks if the Harvard Business School teaches values? Clark answers, absolutely, which Rose somehow managed to find ambiguous because he leaaaaansss in and breathlessly whispers,

Are you telling me that men and women teaching at the school… you tell them that this is more than debits and credits, mergers and acquisitions, marketing and finance? You tell them, “We are about…

The famous Charlie Rose staring-down-guests ensues.

Clark, out of intellectual yluNta, elaborates:

Leadership. Leadership requires that you be about values because leadership is about inspiring trust. It is about establishing in those young people coming here a sense that character matters. Competence? Yes. They’ve got to know all the stuff you talked about. But they have got to have character. They’ve got to be able to operate with integrity so that when they say something, they act on it. They walk the talk. Deeply. Deeply.

And this, my friends, was what I was trying to say in my last blog. Seeking, nay, requiring someone of character to lead us should not be a third-tier priority.

If there is something that Ato Meles is proficient in is his almost stealth ability of not walking his talk. The ongoing blatant drama to thwart the elections is, unfortunately, not even his most ignoble endeavor. Ato Meles’ true character came unraveling during his cantankerous interview on BBC’s Hardtalk.

BBC: On the 8th of June, while police in Addis were faced with a large crowd, many of them students, what orders had you given the security forces?

Meles: Stop insurrection.

BBC: Simple as that?

Meles: Yeah.

BBC: Is that an adequate order, given slightly more nuances without how they should deal with children, young people, who might perhaps throw stones at them?

Meles: Well, you see, policemen are trained to control crowd...I do not presume to be an expert in crowd control and give instructions how policemen should do their job.

Oh… my… God! The sad thing is that the EPRDF and Ato Meles in particular will never know just how wrong that statement is. Never.

BBC - You are the prime minister. You are the leader of the country. The police had tear gas, they had water canon, the protesters had some stones, apparently. Why did the police need to open fire?

Meles - I'm told that they could not restrain the demonstrators with tear gas, or water canon or even shooting in the air.

BBC - Do you believe that?

Meles - Well, that is what has been reported to me until and unless an independent investigation proves otherwise, I have to believe it.

BBC - So will you apologize to the families of those who lost their lives?

Meles - If it's proved that there was excessive use of force, yes.

BBC - But you will not say here that you are sorry for what happened?

Meles - I'm sorry that people died but until an independent investigation is carried out, I'm not going to have a kangaroo court to judge the policemen. There has to be an independent investigation before I make the decision that there has been an excessive use of force.

[.. Ah.. an independent investigation…]

BBC: When will you publish the findings of the independent investigation?

Meles: As soon as the investigation is completed.

BBC : And how independent is it?

Meles: Well, in the past we've had independent investigations. And they have come up with results that we do not like.

BBC: Who is running this one?

Meles: We will make the announcement when we are ready for it.

BBC : What do you mean? You haven't started it?

Meles: We are studying the possibilities we are identifying the personalities.

BBC: What message does that send to the Ethiopian people? You haven't even selected the people to begin the investigation? This happened on June 8th?

Meles: We take our time, we study our case, and we make the decisions when we are ready.

As of yet, there has not been any kind of investigation into the deaths of those who were gunned down. Oh, but the Information Minister did take time out to call them “hooligans.”

“Leadership requires that you be about values because leadership is about inspiring trust. It is about establishing in those young people coming here a sense that character matters.”

Thankfully, not even the Ato Meles can bring himself to say that he is a man of character. What does it say to the Ethiopian people that he has yet to initiate an investigation? Aw, we’re used to the contempt he has for us, BBC, but thanks for asking.


So then Charlie Rose leans back and does that thing where he makes his eyebrows quiver.

Charlie: At Harvard Business School you teach people to make money.

Clark: We sure do.

Charlie: Boy, they make a lot of money. The top 10 people running hedge funds make about $200 million a year. Should we say to people that we have a responsibility, as members of this planet to do well, but that gives you a responsibility beyond your own family?

Clark: Absolutely. We have tried to instill in our students a deep sense of responsibility that with this privilege comes responsibility. Not only to go out and do well, but to give back and to make the world better. To do it in a way that has impact. At commencement speeches I try to help students see the difference between having a higher purpose guiding their lives and being guided by the love of money. “A lot of you are going to have money and power. But don’t let it get into your heart.”

Unless those of us in the Diaspora as well as those in Ethiopia who have been privileged enough to have somehow retained our sanity reconnect with Ethiopia, we will only be leaving our children a trust fund, if that. We would have willfully squandered their heritage. There are a lot of us in the silent majority who are happy with living under the radar. That can no longer be palatable to us. We have to understand that we have no less than a moral imperative, not just a passing fancy, to making Ethiopia better than she is. It’s an obligation and a long-term commitment.

It is often amazing to me that we are children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of people who actually won a war against fascists. Only a few generations separate us from those who won that battle at Adwa for us to accept a leader who now has mastered the art of begging for alms. Along with the privilege of being Ethiopians, we have to stand up and take the responsibility. We are already hyphenated Ethiopians. We can’t also be part-time Ethiopians.

Among Mr. Clark’s regrets during his tenure are:

a) Not having started on courses about values and leadership much earlier, and

b) “I wish I had paid even more attention than I have to developing people. It is fundamental stuff.

I’ve been trying to explain this passionately in discussions with some of you over email. Ethiopia can no longer afford not to invest in human capital. It is not only fundamental, but, for us, it is imperative. In short, where are the sane Ethiopians? Where? Why are we leaving the country to the mercy of the chemically imbalanced? (One of my favorite articles on Seleda, Addis Rhapsody, starts with the sentence, “Where the Ugly People at?” Beautiful piece. By the by, is Seleda kaput? Does anyone know? Can we start some sort of letter writing campaign? Big void.)

One place where the sane Ethiopian are at is at Ethio Corps. Thank God. What the kids at Ethio Corps have is extraordinary Emotional Intelligence. All of us, exhale. All is not lost.

Finally, Charlie, with that trademark wistful look of his that makes most people uneasy, asks of Clark:

What is it that so many of us do not maximize our potential?


Clark: It has to do with the society we live in… it is not inspired or passionate. It is passion. You may only get satisfaction from your job, but you have to be passionate about the organization you work for. And that’s what leaders do. Leaders instill in people a sense of purpose and they inspire people. They inspire people because they connect people to the larger purpose.

I wanted to reach out and kiss Clark.

To the EPRDF, anyone espousing unity and oneness, an easy “large purpose”(you’d think!), is a sure sign of some sort of ‘chauvinism’… Revolutionary Democrats’ favorite epithet, in case you haven’t been called one. I was stunned at the aversion to saying you were ‘Ethiopian’ in the 90’s… you had to Bantuize yourself into artificial ethnic allegiances. It was obscene. Only when the EPRDF got into a hissy fit with the other East African sociopath and former Ethiopian Isayass Aferwerqi did the EPRDF recognize that there was an Ethiopia. I remember the words of my father as he stuggled to fill out his immigration papers in Addis. “I never thought I’d see an Ethiopia where saying you are, simply, Ethiopian, was no longer acceptable.”

My heart broke for him.

Ethnicisizing Ethiopia, for EPRDF, was the only way to satiate its voracious appetite for power. It was a cynical and ruthless attempt to divide people, no matter how much it disguised its handiwork as helping ‘the oppressed masses.’ Ethiopia, for the EPRDF, was and remains an afterthought. Its Byzantine policy of dividing us through the blood that courses through our veins is something of a 15th century edict. It is absurd that in the 21st century, in the Digital Age, that the EPRDF managed to almost get away with its retarded ethnic ethic.

We need leaders who believe in Ethiopia, and who understand that we have a higher cause than who slighted our grandfathers in the past few centuries. Instilling pride in our identity is one thing. To revile us for wanting to be, simply, Ethiopians, was much more sinister. You realize how vile the EPRDF’s policy of ethnic politics is only if you are willing to glance back to just a few years back and remember how Mengistu divided us with his “feudal” vs. “oppresses masses” matrix (the now ludicrous “Adhari” vs. “Wez Ader” paradigm.)

Mengistu flourished on class clashes, Meles thrived on ethnic ethics... I want to be able to say that there will be no one else who will come up tomorrow with some other cockamamie idea (what's left... oh, yes, the religious warfare.) Truly, I am holding on to my favorite quote from Ethiopundit:

Ethiopians will remember who they have always been and not what they have been told to be at the point of a gun.

Shoot. That quote should be emblazoned all over Ethiopia!

Ethiopia is very low on the EPRDF’s priority. Too low. That’s not what inspiring leaders do, Ato Meles. You have managed to sap the passion out of most of us, but luckily there were people who had the stamina to stay in line for 17 hours to vote you out of office.

Leaders “inspire people because they connect people to the larger purpose.” Prime Minister Meles has worked hard for 14 years to make sure that Ethiopia would never be the “larger purpose.” We remember, Ato Meles, that it was once no longer acceptable to be just Ethiopian in our own country.

Donald Levine, in his interview with Chicago Public Radio brought it all home. Trying to explain Ato Meles’ ethnic ethic he said, and I paraphrase, “Can you imagine having to state whether you are an Irish-American or Italian-American before you get the right to vote?”

Oh, Professor Levine. Some of us had to state our ethnicity to get a Qebelle I.D!
Unfortunately, or fortunately, those are memories that refuse to subside.

Honor, value character. You see? I am not as dumb as I thought I was.

Sometimes, I wish we all did have collective amnesia and wipe away the memory of the EPRDF. But, then again, it might be better to always remember and chant out that comforting mantra: Never again.

And that, boys and girls, is how I spent my summer vacation: remembering the Ethiopia of yon and not the Ethiopia that was forced down my throat at the point of a gun.

… that and preparing my son for first grade.

It's great to be back!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

No You are not dumb at all. In fact you are way too smart for Ethiopian 'real Politik'. The people you hold with such high regard Harvard Men, or others in their catagory. How about providding examples of real politicians? shouldn't you compare oranges with oranges?
Ideally.. i would agree with concept of honor.. reality is a different matter. Surviving in politics needs much more than a sense of honor. The many young people that perished during the Derg era was not because they lacked a sense of honor.. but survival skill.
the reality of Ethiopian politics involves lots of variables.. the country is made up of hundreds of nationalities (almost disjoint) plagued with dire poverty.
There is not much of economic interest that holds these communities together.
The political climate is harsh. Providing a sane leadership in such environment requires people with extra-ordinary quality. Unfortunately such people do not last long in politics..
in any case, your posting was enlightening.

12:06 PM, August 13, 2005  
Blogger viva said...

Thank you for your insight into the mind of the treacherous,masterliar and arrogant Meles!Cheers,

3:13 AM, August 14, 2005  
Anonymous Ye Filwiha said...

Wonki -- it's great you found sometime to scribble between "..remembering the Ethiopia of yon..." and preparing your son... did I just say scribble? forgive me good lord that was a great piece, as usual.

I think I watched the same show and right about when you wanted to reach out and kiss Clark, I was thinking about the potential title of a new book by say, Jack Cashill, lambasting Clark for his "..intellectual hucksterism.."
anyways, what the heck do I know??!!
in case you reached out to Clark, hug him once more for me too for saying what he said...

Leaving everything aside just for a split of a second, can somebody, yeah somebody pro-EPRDF or CUD or whatever, just somebody write about the Ethiopian Athletes? Did you all see the Dibaba sisters? their abs? the six packs? man o' man, have been on the ab roller since last week - doesn't look promisin'

NGZ, the only chick I know here, don't mean to pick on you -- what did you say when you saw your fellow chicks on the track with their famous green tank tops, red seamless bikini... leading the pack home not once but twice... were they hot or what? my only regret - not in Addis to welcome them! hope they bring some cheer to the home crowd and at least for a few hours the day they get home, we'll throw our "ethinicized" self away and celebrate together...
p.s. FYI, I've already sent an invitation to the Dibabas to participate in Wonkiville 10K Labor Day Run.

7:55 PM, August 15, 2005  
Anonymous Yosias T. said...

What a great perceptive analysis of the folly that is the Ethiopian political leadership.
It is poingnantly bewildering to live through Meles & Co's treatment of their fellow Ethiopians with such contempt. I can never truly comprehend the justification (if any)for such continual abrasivness towards one's own citizens. How it is disheartening to be part of the same generation that grew up on the heroic expolits of our forefathers, to witness the humiliation of our nation. May god help us out of this colossal misery.
I truly enjoy and appreciate your incandescent pieces...Keep them coming.

12:13 PM, August 16, 2005  
Anonymous Barbie begebeya said...

i guess it should be called how NOT to lose a leader in 14 years, huh? makes you wanna puke. i loved your points and think you're amazing. but i also wanted to speak out on behalf of my fellow Brigham Young's in Utah, grrl!!

2:28 PM, August 16, 2005  
Anonymous Barbie begebeya said...

Ye fil, oh i can't tell you how much i wept when those fantastic women ran the 5k and 10k races. it makes this ager wedad fara so proud to be an Ethiopian woman. at such an ugly time in our history, they do us proud!

2:39 PM, August 16, 2005  
Anonymous Yohannes said...

Sheeeeee'z baaaaaack.

Wonqitu. It was with resignantion that I had clicked on the Weiche Gud site. Phew! Relief.

My take on your take about honor and leadership: we've tried dictatorship, tyranny etc. Okay, maybe we can try honor.

By the way, yes, there was a drama department at TPLF... "Masterless Theat-a." Fantastic breakdown of our leader's skills.

(Your blog is linked on a Harvard alum listserv. Brava. You are reaching the masses.)

8:07 PM, August 16, 2005  
Anonymous Seifu Yohannes said...

Wonk, your posts are a little too long (this one prints 10 8.5x11' pages!), worse the layout makes the scrolling a little too painful. Consider splitting them and maybe even spreading them over time... they're turning into essays!

great post in general. -- anonymous said it best ... 'Providing a sane leadership in such environment requires people with extra-ordinary quality'. It'll require a Lumumba to pull us out of the dark tunnel we've been stuck in for the past decades.

The exuberance can't be overstated, and we all know how their leader's sham reasoning has mesmerized the west. So you're right, we're back in the middle ages where there is no honor but greed, there are no patriots but plunderers, there is no future but the present.

1:53 AM, August 17, 2005  
Anonymous not Genet zewdie said...

I greet Wonqville from the Holy Land... Addis A'ba.

if you guys only knew to what extent the eprdf is dishonorable we would not have this kind of flights of fancy!! state owned media is a total joke and very much saturated with extra faraness. i can see now why mamo begebeya was flippant. forgive me, mamo.

wonqette is read by anyone who matters, and seifu yohannes might have re-ignited the issue of length and girth that was thoroughly discussed in past comments... huh, non-anonymous?

so, me too, in all this mess, Ethiopia of the past is everywhere-- in the way people say "ayzosh" when you stumble, in the discussions on weyiyits and the way a mother shelters her son from the relentless addis sun. so in the midst of eprdf bullshit, there is still the ol' ethiopia.

wish you guys could see what i'm seeing.

p.s. no sign of the real genet zewdie. trying to get face time with her. morbidly curious. i kept reading TIM Clark instead of KIM Clark and getting upset. But, wonqiye.... Kim Clark,..? should we trust a man who is moving from cambridge to Iowa?? yemannew!

missed you much. too much. nothing like Wonq's fonqa to get the day going. you are much adored.

11:44 PM, August 17, 2005  
Blogger mikeprice04203522 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:52 AM, August 18, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dude, you are spamming...

1:09 PM, August 18, 2005  
Anonymous World's Biggest Masinqo said...

I enjoyed this post the most, Wonqqi, but was disturbed at your conclusion that there are a lot of us who don't see good charachter as a sine qua non for good governance, and, no,I don't mean the Tony Blair kind of Good Governance, either. Someone of good charcter would never subscribe to a "let them eat food aid" economic policy... or sanction the killing of anarmed human beings. I refuse to
believe that we are still that low on the political food chain. Ere bakish, bakish.

And Wonqqiye, I am no one to ammend your blog, but you forgot an important part of the Kim Clark interview: in ten years he managed to increase the B-School's endowment from $500 million to more than $1.2 BILLION. Good management works. I'll volunteer to send the fax to PM Meles via Dr. Phil.

As ever a fan,

If it is at all possible, I'd like to formally ask for Not Genet Zewdie's hand in marriage. Where do I send the Shimagilaewech?

6:19 PM, August 20, 2005  
Anonymous Engurgurro said...

ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! finally, a fara-free zone! i was waiting to exhale.

the best we can do (the over-40 shime-gugu's who have been relegated by wonq to irrelevance) is to cheer on the new generation to shed the fara gene we passed on. thank you for mentioning ethio corps, a very 21st century solution to the 15th century TPLF/EPRDF problem of ethno-division.

Live long-- prosper... yes, star wars geek alert, and we don't appreciate you demeaning Darth Vader by associating him with PM Meles' messenger boy! bad wonq!

10:46 AM, August 21, 2005  

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