Friday, February 15

Fight The Power

"Our freedom of speech is freedom or death
We got to fight the powers that be
Lemme hear you say
Fight the power"

Chuck D.


There are some things that even Ethiopia's dictatorship is beyond telling sincere lies about any more. For example, on the subject of any semblance of human rights or participatory government, the accent now is on convincing ferenji donors, ferenji reporters, and the Ethiopian diaspora that everyone is better off with the resident dictators than any other options.

The government hates having to convince anybody of anything. After all as has been made explicitly clear, they will "never give up for the sake of 'counting Ethiopian noses' what was taken by force from Mengistu". At this point readers should note the pretense of democracy is only put forth in terms that the writers themselves clearly do not take seriously even as propaganda.

Does it matter though?

As ever the government's principal constituency remains ferenjis who pay the bills and hold their noses and make nice with the resident dictator - hoping all the while that he doesn't embarrass them by letting some new outrage against the lives and dignity of his own people reaching the outside world.

The Ethiopian diaspora has as a rule rather particularly refused to get with the program. Unlike tens of millions in Ethiopia itself, the only folks of Ethiopian ancestry on earth who are free to speak as they wish without their lives being in danger have stubbornly stuck by the idea that Ethiopians everywhere should have the same rights of every other variety of human being.

The newest and oldest variety of spin to deal with these issues is simply supposed to be a mature knowing wise acceptance of reality. The recycled Meles message is
sure, I'm a dictator, yeah I'm corrupt - but you're stuck with me forever. Just deal with it or I will hurt even more countless millions of these Ethiopians you seem so concerned with. So give me what I want and maybe you can get in on things instead of being locked out.
A recent conversation with a cadre (more subtle than most) that one of us had spelled out the terms of this sub-Faustian bargain.

It goes a little something like this:
Meles Inc. will never leave power and never stop squeezing Ethiopians for cash
Opponents of any kind should "work within the system" in the "space provided".
Why antagonize those who have the power to make things better or to make mistakes when there are deals to be made back home and trouble to be avoided.

This logic should have been appreciated by the opposition who chose to react to a stolen election by not joining the Parliament "where legitimate opponents speak out against Meles everyday". They should have seen that the only way forward was to give up on big dreams and accept the reality of the present and future.

Well ... we thank God that so many disagree with this bit of convincing, however, well it may work in some circles.

Ferenjis in large measure have accepted it because it is not their home to begin with and their interests are career or wealth personal ones or national or institutional power or profit ones. The many ferenjis who don't play the game have to do so at considerable inconvenience to themselves compared with the usual game of 'just getting along with the native thug'.

Tens of millions of Ethiopians have no say in this arrangement or bargain or any other one. Their signatures where signed for them in their own blood, sweat, and tears at the point of a gun.

Ethiopians who still defy the dictatorship and those abroad though, still have obligations that can't be traded away so easily. Traded usually with nothing but a promise of returned land or homes, assurances of international bureaucrat gravy train job, or fat business deals scooping up Meles Inc. crumbs as ferenji aid money is cut up.

In all too many cases the pot is sweetened with the sweet promise (threat of course) that they or their people will be left alone or at least suffer not too much more for the political errors of their relatives. The ugly hand of this sort of racketeering stretches its hands forth to North America and Europe as well.

If we even momentarily accept this kind of logic then why doesn't getting along with power and seeking change within a system absolutely resistant to change apply to the following:
-Perhaps Nelson Mandela should have sought to change with apartheid from within and refrained from offending Botha & Co.
-Should the refuseniks have left Brezhnev and his cronies alone and worked on changing the gulag from within?
-Should the abolitionist movement have worked on slavery in a partnership with slave owners whom it was careful not to offend by saying anything bad about the 'peculiar institution'?
-Maybe Ghandi should have made it clear from the jump that eternal colonialism was perfectly acceptable to him as long as he got to talk in front of a few reporters whenever the Colonial Governor scheduled it.
-Civil Rights workers in the U.S. of the 1960's should have offered to keep segregated facilities in good public relations fettle with the courts instead of raising a fuss and making racists even angrier.
-The TPLF should have worked with Mengistu to change scientific socialism to revolutionary democracy from within no matter what horrors he caused because, after all, he was the author of a constitution and the dully accepted legal authority whom all were bound to accept.

Sorry Charlie, but we and countless thousands in the diaspora and countless millions in Ethiopia aren't having any of your Melesian logic. An important corollary that sustains appeals to this logic is the neo-Mussolinian logic that Meles is at least making the economic 'trains run on time'. We will take a look at that later on.

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