Sunday, August 27, 2006

While we were gone... they're letting anyone write books now?

Here are a few things you need to know about Prime Minister Meles’ new, uh, book: African Development: Dead Ends and New Beginnings. (Not to be confused with his upcoming biography, How I Dead-Ended the Beginning of Development: Making Melesocracy Work for Africa.)

  1. Wonton lack of quotations from Tina Turner songs. (Really, how hard would it have been to work in “I’m your Private Dancer… Tony Blair” in there somewhere?)
  2. Unjustifiable, unforgivable not calling of even a single person or non-person a “self-appointed colonial viceroy”, even in passing.
  3. Ne’er, not even one, ‘academical’ series of intemperate “Why? Why? Why?”s or “Really, really, really I am a genius if you don’t think about it” articulations.
  4. Criminally negligent non-attempts at minting new Melesian missives. Like...? Like:

While I was expecting a huge garbage damp [sic] all I got was newly started garbage damp[sic] that was unable to bury the truth.

(Then again, how would one improve on that?)

... but...

5. Thankfully, thankfully, it is teeming with horrifically clichéd 80s obiter dictums such as… wait for it… “paradigm shift.” (Seriously, we know someone who was kicked out of B-School for uttering “paradigm shift”… as a joke.) WTF?! Paradigm shift? Bonapartism… Revolutionary Democracy… Garbage Damp. It’s like Ato Meles didn’t earn a bogus degree from something called Open University.

Listen, we know Ato Meles when he was on noxious literary rampages with titles such as “The Grapes are Sour”, okay? Let’s not waste lipstick on a pig.

As always, though, Ethiopundit does an absolutely magnificent job in tearing this dead end a new one in a brilliant piece, Hypnotize.

Our friend Gooch cogently asks, “What could possess a man in Meles' position to presume that he has something to contribute to discourse on African development?

We say it is has something to do with the whole “psychopathic willingness to kill his own people to keep power” thing haranguing Ato Meles, but what do we know? We still think “duh!” is a respectable rejoinder.

Gooch, however, is more nuanced.

And now a few words from His Goochness:

A Special Ivory Tower for a Special Man

You may have heard that our esteemed Prime Minister is writing a book. Yes, after writing that 700-page spellbinder on Abiyotawi (Revolutionary) Democracy back in 2001, Prime Minister Meles has found the time to have another go at authorship.

It's amazing how he finds the time. Here he is, running one of the poorest countries in the world, a country of 75 million people, a country in crisis, well on the way to becoming a failed state, where demographic and environmental constraints seem almost intractable, running what is almost a police-state, having arrested and condemned opposition leaders to death or life imprisonment, and he finds the time to write a book on 'African Development'.

And a prescriptive book at that! Usually, it's people who've succeeded at something who write “how to” books, you know. The EPRDF has succeeded at maintaining poverty at 1991 levels and presided over an annual growth rate of a whopping 1.1% per capita.

Okay, perhaps it's Meles the academician writing the book. After all, EPRDF theory has always been sound - it's only the application (read, everyone except the party) that needs work. Yes, up in his ivory tower, at his detached best, armed with a (first class) Master's degree from Open University, it seems Meles feels that he knows enough to pontificate on African development!

And yes, that's African development, not just Ethiopian development, for his knowledge extends far beyond Ethiopia. Apparently, Meles can talk authoritatively about African development, and how the wonderful lessons and successes in Ethiopia can actually be translated to the rest of Africa!

What could possess a man in Meles' position to presume that he has something to contribute to discourse on African development?

Well, I think 'possess' says it just about right. I know all the talk about him being one of the 'new breed' of African leaders, the endless platitudes from Sachs, Stiglitz et al, the worship of the sycophants he surrounds himself with, etc., got to his head, but I would have thought that the last twelve months may have doused his delusion with some reality.

Normally, I advise people to read stuff, even if it is written by Meles. There are always things to learn, you know, and it's good to be open-minded. But, having glanced through the 51-page preliminary draft excerpts, I say, don't bother. It's nothing but a third-rate Master's thesis, with an amusing 85, yes, 85, instances of Meles' favourite word - 'rent-seeking'. Well, perhaps the psychologists among you would find it an interesting read.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Welcome back!
"emeTalehu eyalsh eyekereshbign, nafikotish bezito selam nesagn"

For once, I thought echi lij min hona yihon endih yetefachiw?

11:43 AM, August 28, 2006  
Anonymous a 'Fan?' said...

I often disagree with a lot of the things you write about. But if nothing else, they are very well written. What a waste of such talent. What a goddamn waste!

12:36 PM, August 28, 2006  
Anonymous Gooch said...

Minga Negash from Wits University in South Africa writes this essay on Meles' book.

12:53 PM, August 28, 2006  
Anonymous kezira said...

the question is--- can tina turner work in 'rent seeker' into her next 'best of' album?

1:57 PM, August 28, 2006  
Anonymous not anonymous said...


Assuming that an ability to write well is, at least, loosely tied to an ability to think well, if you had to choose between a wonq who writes very well and a PM who doesn’t, whom would you choose?

Assuming that having a talent to waste is better than not having a talent at all, if you had to choose between a talented wonq whose talent is “wasted” on her writing and a no-talent-PM whose writing is a waste, whom would you choose?

If you choose the PM, I refer you to Chapter 20 in this mono-mess where your man, once again, can't resist a reference to TINA. Only this time, the poor girl has become a syndrome as in "There-Is-No-Other-Alternative (TINA) syndrome."

Arrrggggghhh! If you can take that, 'fan?', you're probably deserving of it.

3:55 PM, August 28, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can someone explain the point of this post?

If you think the publication is slate – tell us which part, why so, and your alternative? Just saying ‘I’ve glanced over it and it’s not worth reading’ amounts to HULACHENEM ABREN INDENKUR.

3:57 PM, August 28, 2006  
Anonymous y.m. said...

this book meles wrote on deadening, dead ending, whatever. it's like 'my pet goat' but without pictures.

gwad meles is chiko.

5:38 PM, August 28, 2006  
Anonymous a 'fan?' said...

Not anonymous, notice how I didn't say I was a fan of the PM? Or how I didn't say he was an eloquent writer? I am just not a 'fan' of the content of her post because of its cynical and pessimistic nature. As habeshas we are good at being cynical we are not very good at being optimistic and positivistic. That being said I always appreciating good writing.

5:39 PM, August 28, 2006  
Anonymous anti-leba said...

a "fan?" (aka anonymous)

you don't need to say... we know. too lame an effort to look nutral. The $50K/mns charge main target Wonqville... not an easy target, it may cost Meles more then $50k/mns. good luck.

gooch, great essay by Minga... thx.

8:51 PM, August 28, 2006  
Anonymous weejanboo said...

It did! It did! "My Pet Goat" HAD pictures. Posivistic ones at that!

Like moth to fire.

Gooch, very nice. Heyspecially the link to Minga's article.

10:23 PM, August 28, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Am not a fun of Meles/EPRDF etc, but the guy put an idea on the table..challenge him on that if you can.
Dont just be mad b/c he wrote a book.

Wonq, You are very Funny. You should write for Page Six of the NY Post rather than be a political or economic critic. Leave that to the pros and just make us laugh.

9:46 AM, August 29, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gooch said it all:

Usually, it's people who've succeeded at something who write “how to” books, you know. The EPRDF has succeeded at maintaining poverty at 1991 levels and presided over an annual growth rate of a whopping 1.1% per capita.

Zat's all folks.

10:04 AM, August 29, 2006  
Anonymous dube said...

Just for the sake of balanced coverage, let us all say one thing positive about el primo revolutionary democrat Meles.

Here's mine; Although he acts like an arrogant mehayim at times; I like that he actually reads and is well spoken (granted that he peppers whatever wisdom he's spewing with vugarities not suited to a head of state).

see, I can't even say something good about the guy because he even does what he's good at badly.

11:13 AM, August 29, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Around 2000 a tigrean who lived in Eth asked if I could get him books on globalization. "I'm gonna take it to someone higher" was his best bait. When I saw him with "The lexus And The Olive Tree" I was urged to recomend the othe view points on globalization. "Globalization And Its Discantents" and "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy" and other periodical writings from Coommon Dreams websites were my offer.
When children are let out of school, they act and sprint as if the world has been locked up in a class room with them. They dart out into the outside-class-room-world and be fascinated by what they see. "Look a bus!!", " A blue taxi!!" , "A horse!!,
This is how Meles acted when all of a sudden he wakes up see the discontents of neo-liberal policies WHICH HAS BEEN A SUBJECT OF SEVER CRITICISM BY SCHOLARS, POLITICIANS, GOVT. OFFICIALS AND OTHERS FOR MANY YEARS!

1:03 PM, August 29, 2006  
Anonymous not anonymous said...

Sure thing, ‘fan.’ “Positivistic” is nice. “Optimistic” too is nice. It’s just that there’s little cause to be alladat these days, what with our illustrious PM insisting that he needs to have yet greater involvement in citizens’ lives (under the guise of developmental state) as if he hasn’t had that all along. The PM may have thought he could evade the Western radar with his characteristically clumsy doublespeak in English, but he sure could never pull the wool over OUR eyes about the real nature of his governance.

One thing the Meles gov’t has never been is a hands-off, minimalist state! In keeping with the characteristics of a totalitarian state now cleaned up as “developmental state,” it has been and still is deeply embedded everywhere in the political, economic and social lives of the people. It holds absolute power. It advances the interest of only a certain segment of society, blocks the emergence of an independent judiciary, stifles independent press and destroys independent political parties. It even tries to rewrite the nation’s history to fit its purpose. Very little that the Meles gov’t has done over the years could be attributed to the prescriptions of a neoliberal approach. Some elements, of course, had to be tolerated in order to curry favor with the multilateral institutions so they would fork over the dough.

In his speech at Manchester (where his paper was presented) Meles actually admitted that his government’s reaction to instituting neoliberal reforms was to “conduct a rear-guard battle of delaying and preventing the introduction of reforms that would reduce the state to the proverbial night watchman . . .” It is clear that, for a decade and a half, the Meles gov’t has ruled according to the dictates of totalitarianism/developmentalism with a special TPLF-twist, whereby it subjugated the despicable masses to its will while engaging in the redistribution of resources to its cronies whom it skillfully sheltered from the vicissitudes of a neoliberal approach. Thus, creating and enriching a whole brand-new layer of corrupt and greedy individuals and party-owned businesses through glaring examples of what the PM likes to deplore as rent-seeking.

Sure, Meles bemoans this business of rent-seeking all over his rent-seeking monomess, but the reality is that “rent-seeking activities” is precisely what has kept his gov’t going. You don’t believe me? Here! Let Meles himself tell you: “ . .if the developmental state also has to deal with democratic legitimization of its rule, not only will it be forced to spend a lot of time in doing so, but it may be forced to engage in patronage and socially wasteful rent-seeking activities.” And that is what Meles’ gov’t has been about from day one! Not that it succeeded in “legitimizing its rule” through this transparent scheme, but it sure didn’t hurt itself with it, did it?

And now, this great-big paper from the PM that reads like a glossary of economic terms out of Economics for/by Dummies filled with little more than a lousy collection of taken-for-granted concepts regurgitated over and over. .yikes . .solely for the purpose of providing some semblance of a theoretical justification for what is already a reality on the ground! (yeah, I said on the ground) No wonder, his effort is not exactly drawing out the big thinkers for a serious discussion, only folks like me!

Some ‘Anonymous’ up there somewhere said "don't get mad b/c he wrote a book." He probably meant to say "he was mad to write a book!" The same 'anonymous also said something about “leaving things to the pros and just making us laugh.” Now, if only the PM would heed the first part of that advice about leaving things to the pros, he would not make us laugh.

And, to close this out on a positive note, dube, something nice about Meles . . . .wait a minute! What is this about some blue taxi, a horse and . .inde?

3:04 PM, August 29, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are too good to write fluff like this. Would love to see you take on the PM’s book for real and it would be a welcome change from the usual barrage of internet political puffery. If you find spending time on the PM’s book offensive, how about writing an analysis of Dr. Berhanu’s book? It would be a shame if you are remembered for your wit but not your insight.

3:13 PM, August 29, 2006  
Anonymous not anonymous said...

Now, that’s what I call raising the discussion to greater heights. Dr. Berhanu! And yes, his book! Isn’t it something that even under under such extreme duress the man managed to produce something extraordinary (from what I have seen so far)? Contrast that against Meles’ work! With all of his liberty and freedom intact, the trappings of power at his disposal, his access to information unrestricted, this great-big mess is the best he could think up?

It’s all so making me miss Dr. Berhanu something awful! Ganoch alequna, menchetoch gan honu!

4:30 PM, August 29, 2006  
Anonymous a 'fan?' said...

Not anonymous, I don’t totally disagree with you. I just wish our "discussions" were a bit more constructive. As I stated before we abeshas are good at saying "aychalem" instead of coming up with ways to make things possible or better. So the PM wrote a "book" albeit a bad one (in your words) personally I couldn’t get past all the "paradigm shift" stuff so I wouldn't be the best person to discuss the contents of the book, besides economics is not my forte. He is not the first person to do so and he won't be the last. He could do a lot worst things than writing books.

6:02 PM, August 29, 2006  
Anonymous ye mankussaw welafen said...

did i read " He could do a lot worst things than writing books."

did i imagine the last 15 years but *hasn't* he done worse things? he has left a legacy of poverty, oppression and outright Faradise; subverted the Ethiopian constitution more times than a baptist preacher assaults moonshine; has imprisoned and tortured how many thousands of Ethiopians? if writing this--- pamphlet (very doubtful he wrote a word of it) distracts him from further mayhem, I say effoye! i will even shell out for a secretary and an inkwell.

this paper is so ridiculous in its premise that at first i thought giving it even the slightest hint of gravitas would be an "academical" travesty. but it should get publicized. like everything it touches, the tplf/meles (one word) machine can only be discussed with ridicule accompanied with satirical qariya Tffis. so the more people know about this, the better. if meles thinks he can play with the big boys, he should get the big boy treatment that is deserving of the kurkum our fathers save for petulant tinnish lijoch.

to debase this as abesha style "aychalim" is the exact low expectations we Ethiopians expect from ourselves. "he wrote a book" ergo "he can do worse" ergo "why can't we all get along" because he wrote a freakin book, ynaw?! intellectually uncurious and a mantra not effective in wonqville, if i may so declare myself the temporary mayor/rent seeker/afe muz.

because he was never used to being challenged by the media, meles got slaughtered in that famous bbc interview. and did you see the pre election debates?? (here is an example.) stick a fork in him, he is done. and now when we put fire to his feet all of a sudden we are playa-haters? hire yourself a capable alqash.

Wud Lij Not Anon: ye erso ersas new yadefafereN. Gud-gud-gud libel weiss good, good, good? ye weizero amakelech gnfilfil new meseleN, miTmiTa honew TebequN. ay sew. sew hono mefeTer. ye eg'zEr tsega. ij nestenal ke tach midir. yasenbitiln.

8:58 PM, August 29, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are a few more books written on current situations by Ethiopians I would like to read before I read a book by a murderer. If it is not a confession of his crimes or he is not where he belongs at the time of writing, why should I read his so called book? What should I expect? It is like a mother of innocent victim being advised to read the murderer by the family of the murderer. I'm not implying the 'fan' or may be I'm. Trying to prove Bereket Simon right and his 'opposition will run out of steam' borrowed from Eritrea's guy who repeatedly said Ethiopian offense would 'run out of steam' when in fact Yohannes IV's Airport in Asmara was being bombed in the middle of the day?

YALTENEKA GILIGIL YAWQAL is a wise saying for you won't find anybody 'new' who is not in opposition to Meles now. And I wonder if there was any European who would dare advise the Jews of Europe to read Mein Kampf decades ago let alone now to 'see the other point of view', or ask them to go line by line and argue with the MeinKampf's famous writer. Or may be it is more like a mother of murderer pleading to the mother of her murderer son's victim to see how beautiful his hands are and make her understand those hands have also been thinking of plowing the land and not only murder her child and a few tens of thousand others'innocent children. Oh please, we don't know for sure if Hitler killed six million or only five million and nine hundred thousand Jews in Europe or even one until Hitler's fans give us the accurate numbers. So in the mean time, until the reports come in, let European Jews read and give the benefit of the doubt to the writer of Mein Kampf on his other books and may be we'll understand why the six million Jews deserved to die.

4:46 AM, August 31, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Stick a fork in him, he is done". Very original!! I hope we won't have to hear this 5 years from now, but I doubt it.

4:28 PM, August 31, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the idea of Weichegud’s book club analyzing Dr. Berhanu’s book chapter by chapter. Your analyzing and writing ability is amazing. Why don’t you take the challenge? By the way I am one of his sisters (not that it matters) and I am a fan of yours. I am sure he would consider it a privilege for an Ethiopian like you to analyze the book and generate discussions. You know he is a liberal democrat and he won’t put you in jail for criticism. Think about it. Will you?

8:18 PM, September 01, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here you are at your brilliant best. You get better all the time. Thanks!

Meles might tell us something about development. How about the cement shortage that was entirely predictable. But the only new factory to be built with fx revenue from the more productive south was in Tigray. Cement is then transported at huge expense in FX exchange, think the trucks the fuel, back to the south. Who benefits, who are the rent seekers? EFFORT?

9:23 AM, September 03, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here you are at your brilliant best. You get better all the time. Thanks!

Meles might tell us something about development. How about the cement shortage that was entirely predictable. But the only new factory to be built with fx revenue from the more productive south was in Tigray. Cement is then transported at huge expense in FX exchange, think the trucks the fuel, back to the south. Who benefits, who are the rent seekers? EFFORT?

9:24 AM, September 03, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paradigm "is a word too often used by those who would like to have a new idea but cannot think of one."
— Mervyn Allister King, then–Deputy Governor, Bank of England

3:02 PM, September 06, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here I see that some had their posts rather to gush their disgust towards the PM than having a disagreement with the contents of his book.In my view,Meles is the first adept head of state who,not only can understand but also comment on economic principles in such a scientific way.thus,it is no wonder that for some pathetic blogging-addicts it is easier to grossly insult him than challenge what he forwards in his writings.Actually,this dissipative opposition that always shows up whenever somebody starts to shine up is a typical Habesha trait that should be done away with as his 'developmental state' takes on its way.

7:50 PM, December 10, 2006  

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