Friday, June 10, 2005

If only ...

I can't say much about the violence in Ethiopia. I'm .... speechless. A lot has been said by Ethiopians in Ethiopia, in the Diaspora and some goodwilling western journalists.

But did you see all those news articles pop up in BBC, Reuters, FT, CNN, AbcNews about the 20 dead in 'riots'? If only we knew all that it takes western media to pay attention was to kill 20 people, during the election it could have been arranged. But no! One of the worlds most troubled countries registering an 90% voter turnout was not entertaining enough.

Two questions come to my mind. One has been asked a lot, and I don't care to even attempt to answer it - why does the west enjoy news of misery and misery only so much? I truly believe this is a strictly western phenomenon. News in Ethiopia will happily cover great achievements in the west, even if the story is of some writer winning the Pulitzer Price for a novel on a gay couple (eh ... but just try to keep the 'gay' part of the story away from Ethiopians).

The second is a question that is asked less, but rests heavily on (or rather, is against) the first question - why do 'third world-ers' care whether the west is watching or reporting fairly? Time and again, during colonialism mwazema, colonialism mebacha and colonialism magist westerners have demonstrated that their only interest in Africa and elsewhere lies in the benefits they can get out of these locations. If the process of getting these benefits results in crushing and abusing the populations in these locations, then so be it. To justify their lack of respect for human life, they 'chronicled' the lives of these unfortunate beings as 'barbaric' and 'uncivilized'. (Maybe this is the answer to the first questions: the west is incapable of covering good news in Africa because it has never been in its culture. It may not PC to say it anymore, but the feeling of 'justifying' superiority is not banned, as evidenced in western media ... and so western media drums on with stories of war and massacre ... )

Why do we hang on to the hope that west will ever like to hear anything better than us killing each other? I'm confused. The majority of us, especially those with regular access to western media and living in the west, and still interested in our places of origin, seem to be dissatisfied with the leadership back home (why else would we be here?) So technically, the unbalanced bad news coverage should be a good thing (especially if these ludicrous institutions like the UN and World Bank, whose blessings our leaders so heavily rely on, would take action based on these reports. )

I am left to think that the biased news coverage makes us feel like a teenager, sent naked to high school by his destitute parents who can't afford to buy him clothes, but they cant afford to have him not educated either. The news reports are as if every morning we start our days in the west with stories that make us cringe while western onlookers, if they have bothered to read the news at all, give us glances as if to say, 'poor thing, I'm glad we're civilized enough to give you shelter. What a wretched people and such a wretched place you come from'. And at that moment even we are made to forget all the good things we cherish about ourselves. The trials and tribulations of our predecessors to get us to where we are now is forgotten. Who is Menilik, what kingdom of Harar, what King of Wolaytta and which Zere Yaqob?

On our way to work, we make a quick stop to huddle with the crowd in Starbucks and pick up another cup of the over-roasted, badly brewed coffee (bought at a price that might as well be considered stealing from Ethiopian and other poor farmers around the world) whose bad taste is covered up by excessive whipped cream and caramel. And through lapping our grande Caramel Frapuccino , we achieve a sense of belonging and equality . Another day in the west has started for an African. Wey abol! wey tona! wey bereka! ...

sew be'Ageru, sew beWenzu
bibela sar, bibela meqmeqo
yikeber yelem woy sewinetu tawqo?
Why are we so obsessed with the west seeing the other side? Live and let leave.

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