Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The OCD of OSDs

When it comes to Diaspora politics, I am not sure which one is worse: rabid opposition supporters who are convinced they are smarter than the leaders, or lobotomized EPRDF supporters who have been convinced they are dumber than their leaders.

Can you tell? It’s been a revealing weekend at the Wonqette household. A wedding had brought a lot of family members together, and whenever someone lit the poletika match it usually ended in a mushroom cloud.

I am taking as an example my cousin, who has given me express permission to write about our tête-à-têtes, as long as he is afforded the opportunity to rebut. Yeah, sure.

Nothing makes my cousin’s earlobes perk up and quiver like the strings on Mary Armiday’s krar than the tired old question, “Should the opposition join parliament?” He’s like a radar planted in a room, programmed to chirp violently whenever he hears the words “parliament” and “boycott” strung together any which way.

I’m all for opinions. Hell, I am married to a man who bears battle scars from my pregnancies over giving our children multiple, polysyllabic Amharic names heavily emphasizing the “qe” and “che” letters.

What I am saying is… you don’t think the opposition should join the parliament? Okay. But, what’s with the proclamation rendering anything short of a boycott as political heresy? Listen to me, opposition supporters in the Diaspora: tone down the testosterone. Walk it off, people. Walk it off.

Esqueeze me very much, but is it me or have opposition supporters in the Diaspora (OSDs) morphed into policy wonks who think they can dictate what opposition leaders should be doing? It’s not me, right? OSDs are tipping the scale in self-importance? Ah, self-importance. It comes standard in the Ethiopian DNA. To hear my cousin speak, civilization will halt if the opposition joins parliament. So you know what that meant: a bunch of us kept ruminating about why the opposition should join the parliament. We had to stop when it eventually became clear that our cousin was on the verge of colliding with a robust heart attack. Misskeen.

And so the weekend went, my cousin teetering on the verge of a nervous breakdown, sable rattling against "anti-Ethiopian forces", while his loving, supporting family stealthily goaded him towards the brink of insanity. Yes, we are a functional family.

And when did it become chic to lob snide remarks about über econ guru and Weichegud-certified whiz kid Berhanu Nega? Oh, please, OSDs--- take a deep hit from the hookah.

The reason why I like radicalism is that it can be generously ridiculed, so when someone emails me a long, tedious letter ending with “Berhanu is working against the will of the people” I have to salivate.

What makes otherwise intelligent people act so peculiar? My cousin is an educated (if you call people who've attended tiny, northeastern, liberal arts colleges educated), well adjusted and generally affable. But like so many, he’s letting opinions become dictates. He is suddenly an upholder of “the people’s voices” and he is one Tuesday removed from being one of those people who sign off their emails with “Victory to the masses!” Oh, no.

We Ethiopians have a long way to go. We’ve traveled thousands of miles without moving an inch. We are still threatened by moderation and are discomfited by opposing thoughts. We mistake bombast for courage.

How is it that those of us who should be most familiar with the precepts of democracy are the least to exercise it?

There is something remotely heartbreaking about that.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a point you made!

I love your comment ever since I have started to visiting your homePage... except difficulities in understanding some local dilects... Ahahahaha

This comment you put about the diaspora.... I 100% Agree...

Keep up your work!


2:47 AM, October 11, 2005  
Anonymous Carpe Diem Ethiopia said...

As usual, your writing left me speechless. I yet have to find ruminations on Ethiopia and Ethiopians as insolent-free, thought-provoking, opinionated without being dogmatic, critical without being haughty, and perhaps more important, that leave me more hopeful than depressed. I have often disagreed with you and have several aborted comments to prove it. One of your sentences prompted me to go forward this time—“We’ve traveled thousands of miles without moving an inch.” I simply love it. The cookie fortune people should periodically scroll through WeiEgzyo!

Some of my meskeen OSD buddies now famous through their Medrekian pseudonyms are furiously typing away, preparing their retorts, attempting to find ways to categorize you with the more-than-awesome Berhanu Nega now turned sell-out of theyear. (I once shared a drink with Gashe Berhanu at the lovely Sheba Lounge several years ago. He was just another pissed-off melaTa expat then but for me the night stands out for his incredible sense of humour. The TiQur JWC (Johnnie Walker with coke) (in Amyerika with diet coke) may have something to do with it but I remember giggling my ass off. Totally Irrelevant here but I thought you would want to know your guru is also funny as hell).

I will keep reading you even if I disagree with you more often than not but will, à la Voltaire, “defend to the death your right to say it.”

I hope you and your family enjoyed the wedding festivities.

11:09 AM, October 11, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Could yo please read Theodore Vestal's "Ethiopia" to really understand what Meles/EPRDF is all about?

12:12 PM, October 11, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vestal's book has to be a must read for all Ethiodiasporans. Some of us are even thinking of translating parts of it into Amharic and have it available for all Ethiopians.

12:14 PM, October 11, 2005  
Anonymous muqecha said...

could we have a verbal showdown between carpe diem ET and wonq? ya-ya ... showdown.

victory to the masses en masse!

12:27 PM, October 11, 2005  
Blogger kuchiye said...


You are late to the party!

Diaspora bashing & character assacination of opposition leaders by EPRDF's propaganda machine started over 8 weeks ago.

1:17 PM, October 11, 2005  
Anonymous not anonymous said...

I hear you Wonq! Loud and clear! You would, normally, dismiss these Diaspora-radicals as a bunch of hyperventilating nincompoops whose views can safely be ignored. Now, however, that egotism and out-and-out lies have found expression in the mindless harangues of one ET-Webmaster, who has emerged as an ex offico Poster Child of unfocused discourse, it can no longer be ignored!

What makes this guy’s pronouncements particularly egregious is that he is in the position to sway the opinions of at least SOME unsuspecting folks who visit his site. Granted, he does have the right to issue his little commentaries on his own Web-site against a particular opposition-leader he doesn’t like, but making it appear as though his statements were a commonly held position is dishonest, presumptuous and irresponsible!

There is a way to be a dissenting voice without besmirching, say, Birhanu’s reputation based on nothing in particular but one’s own sentiment that he may be too pragmatic for one’s taste! If one has sense enough to know that one doesn’t like Birhanu, one should be sensible enough to write a small article about “why” and leave it at that! Issuing two-and-three-line personal statements under the guise of “News-items” that portrait Birhanu in unflattering terms is lazy, cowardly and insulting even to those likeminded few that have bought into this Webmaster’s charade!

If this ultra-radical Diasporite flatters himself that he can impose his one-size-fits-all imagination on people, he should know that discerning readers see right through him. If he thinks that the leadership of the opposition will take its marching orders from him, his judgment has been hopelessly undermined by his exaggerated sense of self-importance! Delusion of grandeur comes to mind.

I say, this fellow over there, Mr. Webmaster, really really should tone down the ugly rhetoric a wee bit! And while he’s at it, he might consider stopping his relentless berating of an individual, who is totally undeserving of his wrath! If he doesn’t stop, I’m afraid all the work he does on his Web-site will suffer. It’s not that great to begin with!

1:50 PM, October 11, 2005  
Anonymous wegene said...


I agree that Theodore Vestal's book is required reading, although I am not quite sure if your commentor is making a connection with the OSD and their OCDs. (No one plays on words like you do, Wonq.)

I used to think that baseless character assassination was strictly the MO of the EPRDF. The EPRDF has to resort to that kind of tactic because it is hopelessly lame and can’t defend any of its policies without resorting to vile personal attacks.

I, too, found it distantly heartbreaking to read on Ethiopian Review personal attacks on Brhanu, who I have issues with but can’t deny his intellect. You’ve been hard on Hailu Shawel, Wonqqiye, but he does an excellent job of deflecting the radical OSDs, and he does it with refinement. I wish that part of him could come out more often in interviews.

The problem is not with the OSDs—of which I am one-- even the radical ones. It is that those of us in the middle continue to be silent. We are as culpable. Our silence has contributed to this degeneration. Someone said it earlier… CHewinet is a devalued commodity, and that’s what the opposition has brought with it. What a task! Wonqqiye, you are one of the few people who have addressed this issue, so a belated thank you.

My problem started when reports started floating that Brhanu and Beyene went into talks against their respective parties’ wishes… totally on their own will; modern day Attila the Huns. While that was shocking to read, what stunned me was how many people believed it. How can “otherwise intelligent” people believe this? Because we have not moved an inch. Not Anonymous, bingo!

Now, where’s that hookah?

2:36 PM, October 11, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

-Deeply inhaling from the hookah-

Not Anonymous, so tell us how you really feel? Wonkette, yousaid in a past post “great thinkers are never appreciated in their own time.” Berhanu is not an exception. Being dragged through the mud is the ritual people like him have to go through. I am sure he is a big boy. He’s handled it well so far.

3:48 PM, October 11, 2005  
Anonymous not anonymous said...

anonymous, how do I really feel?
Excited, real excited! I thought you guys were talking about some HOOKER. . .damn!

4:14 PM, October 11, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ethiopian Diaspora Politicians’ latest target is Berhanu Nega! The torrent of insults will continue until Berhanu toes the party line advocated by them. It seems that the Ethiopian opposition in the Diaspora that advocates for multi-party democracy, does not allow for competing ideas and positions. Can you imagine what would happen to Berhanu if these people take power in Ethiopia?

A generation ago, EPRP killed its own members who questioned the party line after demonizing them as anjas. That line of thinking continues today and according to those who feel that they have the solution to Ethiopia’s problems, if one is not with them, one is against them.

Those who ran away from Ethiopia to live a better life in the West are at the forefront of the call for a violent confrontation with the Woyyane. The last question they want to hear is why they don’t want to do the fighting themselves. Of course, they are quick to tell you that they have a family, careers, responsibility, kids in school, etc. At the end of their answer comes the glib and high-sounding conclusion that not everyone can fight and that they
support the struggle financially. Before you tear off my head, read the following.

Shallow support: What has been proven beyond doubt is that the Ethiopian Diaspora does virtually nothing beyond just talking. If the support was real, CUD and UEDF would not have had the financial problems they
encountered before the elections. During their campaigns, most of CUD’s candidates were using public transportation and paying out of their own pockets as they were facing an opponent that had multi-million
dollar budgets, government vehicles and state media at its disposal. Consider this: over the past several months, when CUD and UEDF needed financial support, the contribution from the loud Ethiopian Diaspora was
less than half a million US dollars! That is about ONE DOLLAR from the reputed half a million Ethiopians!

Americans say, put your money where your mouth is. Another saying is that if you want to know a man’s priorities, look at his checkbook. I don’t mean to suggest that finance is the ONLY way one can help, but
it is a more concrete way of showing your support.

Insulting one another can be a way to pass idle time or help the person avoid asking himself a serious question such as “What in the hell am I doing?” but it does not help the struggle.

If one does not agree with the pragmatic approach Berhanu Nega and others are taking, it is better to argue with them and try to change their minds instead
of treating them as demons to be exorcised.

5:26 PM, October 11, 2005  
Anonymous Yohannes said...


i have faith that kibur non-engineer dr. berhanu can ably handle himself against rabid osds. he's way above that. let's have a moment of silence for er and move on.

BUT, not anonymous, i am trying to figure out how one could, logistically, "deeply inhale" from a hooker. (or pass around a hooker.)

5:57 PM, October 11, 2005  
Anonymous not anonymous said...

Yohannes! Yohannes! Yohannes!

Even Clinton could not slither out of this one. You can’t put her in your mouth and claim you never inhaled!

Ahhh, the scent of . . . .ere sine s’rat!

6:21 PM, October 11, 2005  
Blogger DaEBushu said...

Again… what a point!

What did you say… walk it off… can I add one more, we need to Chill.
We have to stop blindly supporting individuals or a party and vilifying others with different out look.
We need to focus on what we can get out of this ciaos. So far this election crisis thought everyone a lot.

Establishing some democratic roots such as the free press and independent NEB is more important than who would lead the country for the next five years. That is what the opposition demanded… I applaud them for that. We have to be careful what we dream off 3,000 miles away from Males’s gun point. Those who are living in Ethiopia are paying a lot day by day during this time. Let’s hope that this is the last time we go through this type of crisis… I doubt it. I think what ever sacrifices we pay should be for establishing check and balance on power. Without that, had the opposition took the power they "won” with the current system in place, there is no guarantee that they wouldn’t abuse it… I’ll bet you they would have.

6:36 PM, October 11, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

People seem to have the darndest time accepting that the opposition in Ethiopia are actually doing the best they can.

It's that benefit of the doubt thing again. I know I'm generalizing, but I think the point's important: Ethiopians seem incapable of giving others the benefit of the doubt and are always questioning people's motivations. Teretaré, I suppose. I mean, if we're always suspicious in our everyday personal interactions, no wonder we're so suspicious of faraway politicians, even those whose side we're supposed to be on!

Culture is a strong thing. Travelling thousands of miles and getting all the education doesn't change much.

But we can draw an important lesson wonderful laboratory that is the diaspora. If Ethiopia is to develop as a society, we can't just work around the edges of the problem; there must be an effort to effect direct fundamental cultural change. So no, this doesn't mean 'eating pasta' and becoming atheists, for Ethiopian atheists don't give each other the benefit of the doubt either! It means inculcating some of the basic morality and ethics that Berhanu Nega sometimes touches on in this speeches and that are often neglected in Ethiopian society.

6:41 PM, October 11, 2005  
Anonymous mehayim said...

i can tell Wonq is over 30. we use bongs.

i am a Medrek refugee having seen that forum deteriorate. i was in desperate need for normal dialouge, being that i am a semi-educated alumni of a tiny, n'or eastern liberal arts college. i am also proud to have been Dr. Berhanu's student. there is a famous interaction between him and ato endrias eshete which maybe one day someone will tell. yes the man is funny, but he has what few of his contemporaries in ihadig have: balls. u talk about honor. he should wear the bullshit he's getting as a badge of honor. they vilify him for a reason-- he's stepping on their balls.


if anyone wants the bong, it's with me.

8:48 PM, October 11, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's nice when both problems and their solutions are found in the same comments thread.

Problem: I see a few references to 'Medrek refugees'.

Solution: As wegene writes, those of us in the middle should not be silent.

mehayim, as a former student of Berhanu's, you probably know what crowding out is. Let's not be crowded out any more!

9:39 PM, October 11, 2005  
Anonymous uglynakedguy said...

It took me a while to warm up to Birhanu, I must say. I did not think an academic would be up to the job-- they have to weigh this and that, think and debate and pontificate. i also thought that academics were by default lily-livered liberals who could not be tough (Yes, like Mehayyim, I, too, am a product of N.E. liberal arts colleges.) I read a profile on him I think on Adddis Fortune, and was very happy to learn that the dude is not afraid of banging a few heads. Eufoyye, I said to myself.

1:34 PM, October 12, 2005  
Anonymous gonTe gonetatlew said...

Wow - how many N.E. liberal arts college alumni are reading Wonqi?? Y'all are so sensible - We do need a replica of one of them in Ethiopia - unfortunately, it's gotta be in the northwest - say Gondar - I nominate my first alma mater - Dartmouth!
Go Greens! The crimson doesn't apply 'cause it is neither small nor liberal...

gonTe gonetatlew

3:06 PM, October 12, 2005  
Anonymous not anonymous said...

Former Medrekians of N.E.Liberal ilk mnamin seem to have found a new home in Wonqville! If they’re here to stay, perhaps it’s safe for some of us to go back to Medrek?

3:36 PM, October 12, 2005  
Anonymous not genet zewdie said...

not anoniye,
i refuse to believe that you lurked in medrek. but it might be time to leave if we have dartmouth in the house. :)

7:42 PM, October 12, 2005  
Blogger Parisian said...

I enjoy your writting, love it.
Neger Gin ! I beg to disagree with your criticism of the people in the Diaspora who may have made adverse comments about the CUD. If we are talking of democracy and freedom of expression, it is their right to do so. Many of them contribute to sustain the opposition at home. There is also an abundance of information about what is going on home. Practically on a daily basis if not hourly. Therefore, a lot of the comments are based on genuine information. There is a lot of respect and love for the heroic leaders who are confronting danger and physical hurt.
This said, it does not mean that the CUD are always right, or that they are all knowing Oracles. To suggest ideas and comment on certain developments is no crime.
We may have not moved an inch, but we grown to be giants. Have faith in the people of Ethiopia.
I will continue reading you.

10:01 AM, October 17, 2005  

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