Monday, May 1


what happens if they arrest our parents?

In 21 Months and Counting ... in stating that none of varied forms of 'encouragement' will change what we write (we have yet to be offered money by the way ...) we noted that
When discussion of politics is a matter of death, betrayal, bribery, submission, intrigue, obsessive schadenfreude, privilege and insincerity in a world of enforced lies it is no wonder that the morality and culture of cadres spreads like a disease or is kept alive abroad like a cherished tradition.
While depending on the topic or the mood of our readers we get varying amounts of email, that small cyber community became rather active in the past two weeks.

For us, the debate came down to the individual choices made by Ethiopians everywhere in response to varying forms of coercion and the implicit consent that some of those choices make to government.

For some, it was clearly not that simple. Here, rather loosely translated (at the writer's request) is part of a rather angry Amharic response
It is easy for you 'Ethio-Americans' to lecture us about dictatorship and how 'brave' citizens should behave when it is our lives that are at the mercy of the government. Do you have any concept of the risks Ethiopians take to resist it in any way?
In a similiar vein, last year we considered and turned over to a journalist a suggested article about the Ethiopian government's network of agents in the U.S. After countless hours of interviews and following up sources by said reporter - two of the main sources refused to cooperate - one of them with this logical explanation
What happens if they arrest our parents?
Good questions and one we are not equipped to answer. With appreciation for the limitations of vison and opinion all around we will try to come to terms with the fundamentals that question raises in the sections below.


A Boot Stomping on A Human Face Forever

No despot in history has ever had enough guns, swords or indeed willing thugs to wield them everywhere and all of the time his victims - entire populations - are found. That is why all despots nourish fear so that to millions, the very thought of authority comes to equal actual bloodshed and suffering.

There are accounts of what just one horseman from the legions of Ghenghis Khan could do to thousands all by himself. He could ride into any town throughout most of Asia and take whatever he wanted and kill whomever he felt like. No one dared challenge him.

No one would even look him in the face because everyone knew what the armies he represented could do on a whim nevermind when they thought they had cause. Imagine that level of terror - all knew there were places where pyramids had been made of the skulls of those who didn't submit as demanded.

Even more efficient from the despot's point of view is the far more profound level of submission achievable in millions far beyond the limits of pure terror. Once millions can be made to internalize their own status of an eternal victimhood - TO BELIEVE - that their natural state is one of being in terror to authority - at that point they not only police the opinions of their fellows but they also police THEIR OWN MINDS and form their own complex heirarchies of belief and justification to make it seem right.

There is a story in an old history of the KGB about how one man was turned into an informer. In the depths of an inhuman, starving and miserable winter under Stalin's rule a deliveryman for a bakery discovered he had extra bread rolls. He took them home to his family only to find that the rolls had been planted and that the only way to save his family from deportation to a camp was to serve as a spy.

You must realize dear reader that the KGB could have just ordered him to do whatever they wanted him to and he would have had to obey. The extra step of 'catching' him was an assault on his very soul. By using his sense of justice, crime and punishment those masters of evil wanted to make him complicit in his own corruption.

Then there are the volunteers who hold themselves and their fellows in such low esteem that they willingly serve a despotic state without compulsion. We will leave that bit of analysis to your own imagination.

Even if the baker's assistant had been forced to become an agent a perverse form of 'voluntary' complicity would have followed by the state's design. Consider this: anyone who wasn't raised from birth as a cadre has a rudimentary sense of right and wrong.

When individuals or groups are continually forced to do what is wrong they simply convince themselves that it was right all along anyway or that they are only hurting a few people who really deserve it anyway and who would do the same thing to them.

Thus a senses of pride and purpose in born of the very worst aspects of human nature. Indeed to many being agents of government becomes a badge of honor and they imagine themselves part of an exclusive club.

While right actually may rest with those who didn't or wouldn't join that club - a pack mentality of sorts takes hold to justify what is done. Those outside are a lesser form of human and not quite sophisticated enough to appreciate the moral sliding of collaboration.

Every act that they learned was wrong at the knee of their mother and father binds them to the state and to those who become their masters. The minions of the state are then presented with a win - win situation. The slightest reward the state's minions can give will resound a thousand fold in the vain hearts of those desperately seeking approval.

Of course, the slightest punishment the state's minions can give means far more than it would to free men and women. When they have tied themselves to the whims of dictators they have nowhere to retreat to so that they can find meaning without the approval of their tormentors.

How about getting to meet the officials and aristocrats of a brutal dictatorship socially? Or being sought out by the ambassador of the same? Or being told that serving the state is a mark of authentic Ethiopian-ness?

That is all heady and profoundly meaningful stuff for some of us regardless of the blood literally or figuratively dripping from the fingernails in question - after all everyone knows it is there.

The state counts on that exactly - from the stolen bread rolls, to the first lie told on behalf of the state, to the first bit of spying onto years of deception - all tie the government's tools ever more firmly to it in the slippery grasping bloody hands of guilt.

Ethiopians are a remarkably forgiving and understanding people. Especially in the past few generations they have developed an acute sense of what bad circumstances can do to good people.

Take the example of every Ethiopian who joined the opposition, who did not back down and who persevered through bitter terror and fear. We hear officially that about a hundred died but that is only what foreign reporters could vouch for. We believe it was thousands more.

There are tens of thousands in camps and the leadership of the opposition who were certainly offered every form of bribe possible languish in jail under threat of death. They and countless others suffer but only survive because of the minimal interest of ferenjis who have to beg and threaten the government to treat its own people decently.

There is absolutely no indication that the country in general or the opposition wants to or would treat its tormentors the way they themselves are treated. That is the wonder of the bravery shown by Ethiopians in the past year or so and the main promise for the future.

Those sentiments and actually any sense of conventional morality and national feeling are to the Ethiopian government what a mirror, cross or holy water is to a vampire. From eternal beggar status to cherishing tribal hatred onto the working assumption that Ethiopians who don't submit (or indeed Ethiopians in general) deserve to suffer what the government wants to do is break down individuals as it does the nation itself.

Therefore they will have nowhere else to turn for meaning, will believe themselves irredeemably corrupt and compromised and figure that the best they can ever be is brutalized victims happy to have a dictatorship maybe marginally better than old Congo's.

The Ethiopian government's approach to controlling Ethiopians is identical to that of a pimp whose prostitutes look to him for all meaning, accept calculated violence and all along figure that they deserve it.

What the government is pimping is the suffering of Ethiopians to a foreign audience who in the vain hope that the victims may be helped somehow fund and pretend to respect the authors of all the suffering.

When enough people can be so terrified or so broken under the boot of the state it takes surprisingly little investment to keep a population down. Above all what must be destroyed is any personal or group sense of decency that can't serve the state and therefore by definition is a mortal enemy of the state.

That is why the government faces all of humanity and especially its own people with a default policy of aggressive intimidation and lies. The reign of Mengistu was quite simply Zemene Awre - the Era of the Beast. He just killed and destroyed.

The reign of Meles is Zemene Ashattir - the Era of the Trickster / Liar. Both are faces of evil and are indeed just defined portions on a continuum of suffering. Meles is far smarter than Mengistu was. Actually given a chance Mengistu could have duplicated every act that made Meles a darling of the West.

But, Mengistu lost the which communist will rule Ethiopia contest and history is cruel to losers - it is only more cruel to those upon whose lives such games are played out.

Ever wonder why after 1991 there was never a Truth and Reconciliation Committee in Ethiopia as in South Africa? Or do you wonder why there was no equivalent of de-Nazification or de-Baathification with national discussion about what made Mengistu so bad and what needed to be done differently for the future?

The reason is simple and it is the same reason that the trials of Derg era criminals are taking forever. Simply put - for Meles to take Mengistu to task in a formal manner involving courts, witnesses, truth and obvious questions of philosophy and meaning - would tear apart the justification for the rule of the government of Meles itself.

No matter what this government ever said it kept the entire police state apparatus of Mengistu alive and even refined it. We have heard stories about the fall of Mengistu when all informers were asked to line up outside of kebeles on the same day. They all knew there were files in there with their names on them and Ethiopian bureaucrats of every kind keep records with religious fervor.

So we are told the kebeles and police stations had tens of thousands lined up outside. We aren't sure this story is true but somehow feel it should be. It is believable because the same thing happened in East Germany after the wall fell when it was found that up to one in five adult East Germans had informed on friends, family and colleagues to state security.

Unlike the German example of coming to terms with and rejecting that totalitarian past in its Nazi and Communist forms, the new Ethiopian government just got everyone to work for them after that display of power. Mengistu's kebeles always had copies in TPLF controlled Tigray organized down to the household level. The same model was sent out to Oromia and now to Amhara areas doing Mengistu's work ever more efficiently.

Putting Mengistu's government on trial beyond the level of occasional headlines for a gullible press and propaganda purposes is not forthcoming because that would also necessarily put the government of Meles on trial. What they haven't copied already from Mengistu is on reserve for future contingencies.

To what purpose but only that of the government? The good people of Tigray did not take the front lines of the war against the Dergue so that party cadres could use their good name to visit the same suffering they felt at the hands of the Dergue on themselves forever and on their fellow Ethiopians.

Tigrayans did not fight to assure that the ownership of all land would be in the hands of the tiniest and most selfish aristocracy in Ethiopian history. Tigrayans did not die for the EPRDF business empire.

Every manner of totalitarian manipulation described here falls most heavily on Tigrayans today. The government wants them estranged from others assuming they will remain loyal out of fear of every other alternative.

While other Ethiopians may occasionally fall through the cracks of the security apparatus and its nets - no Tigrayans are allowed to without paying a fearsome price.

The only thing that Meles Inc. fears more than any number of free Ethiopians anywhere is even a few free Ethiopians from Tigray anywhere - they are the original victims of Meles Inc.

It is only the fact that Ethiopia's current permanent revolutionary feudal aristocracy believes only in itself that the vast majority of religious Ethiopians of every kind are even tolerated minimally - there is always the fear that believing in something else other than revolutionary democracy makes them dangerous.

If Meles Inc. believed in God they would be devoting all of their energies to making Mary suspicious of Jesus and to making Jesus forsake God. They would have long ago planted lies and cadres to divide and rule among the angels (admittedly this colorful example falls apart here because getting a cadre into heaven would of course be impossible) with the ultimate aim of sitting on the throne of heaven themselves and declaring a revolutionary democratic existence.

It is Ethiopia's misfortune and the world's blessing that only 70 million odd humans instead of over 6 billion are under the thumb of Meles and his minions. In most countries with bad governments and good, corrupt and honest - rulers all over the world wake up every morning with at least some vague idea of what they want to do for their people.

Ethiopia's ruler's wake up from a fitful sleep of nightmares where they are running and trying to escape Ethiopians who loathe their rulers. They spend their days doing no more than anything at all that needs to be done to stay in power for another day at any cost. Above all they know that if they ever give all those Ethiopians a chance they are finished - they know that even better after losing the election.


Gourmets of Human Fear and Vanity

Yet Ethiopians right in the belly of the beast find the strength to resist. We find it deeply offensive that the most free, the most rich and the most enfranchised group of Ethiopians in existence - those in the West - have among them those feeble and corrupt few who so value their own personal relations with despotism that they sell themselves cheaply or at any price to such despots.

As the angry writer and the reluctant witnesses at the beginning of this post said, it may be easy for us to say but it is also far less easy on all the opposition leaders in jail threatened with death, all the students and workers shot dead, all the peasants whose votes are punished by having their land and credit taken away and all of their families who have no future beyond the limits of the boot of Meles Inc.

A cadre in the US or Western Europe is like a bird so used to being in a cage that it cherishes that cage, carries it along and finds comfort in it everywhere even though it exists only in its own mind - seeking permission from the other side of the planet even to leave its perch.

Think it is so hard to say no? Try taking a fraction of the risk that Ethiopians took for countless centuries against invaders and occupiers. Imagine the risk Ethiopians take today to be heard back home.

All humans have every manner of issues certainly, but when those issues and weaknesses serve to provide consent both actual and implicit in lives in the freedom of the West and most especially in lives in Ethiopia - that is obscenity.

The sense of isolation and inevitability created by victims of North American and Western European killil cadres is utterly misplaced. First of all most Ethiopians abroad would not put up with it. Those that do aren't alone.

The government, as we have said countless times, has set up a social contract between itself and the West that excludes Ethiopians. But in the West Ethiopians can be heard and they have rights.

Anyone who feels the hand of that dictatorship in the diaspora should do something about it. Call cadres and agents and spies exactly what they are. There is no need to fight about it but just stop playing their game and feeding their pitiful sense of power.

Threats and the like, either to those back home or to those abroad based on opinions or actions held by residents and citizens of free societies abroad are illegal by the laws of every society welcoming the diaspora. Let law enforcement from local police and district attorneys to national players such as politicians, the press and federal authorities know about it.

Doing so anonymously does not make sense obviously but as much circumspection as asked for can be given. In the West as residents or citizens your rights and concerns matter. When enough are heard and the networks of dictatorship operating abroad are no longer a dirty little secret they will decay away into the muck from which they came.

All of you and Ethiopians back home will be just that much safer and more free ... and remember most Ethiopians in the diaspora would never put up with that nonsense to begin with. Those who most desperately need an exit are the agents of the Ethiopian government themselves - whoever you are and whatever the reason you are an agent - the laws of free societies can protect you too. You too can escape mental slavery.

If Ethiopians took on Mussolini's tanks with rifles, spears and their bare hands while being bombarded with poison gas - then certainly Ethiopians in the diaspora can make it clear that a tiny army of puffed up cadres carrying out its foul deeds in their midst is totally unacceptable.

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