Monday, May 29, 2006

Like The Pot Calling The Kettle Purple

Isaac Asimov supposedly once asked his daughter, “Why is the sky blue?”, and she’d confidently responded, “Because it’s not purple!”. That sure beats delving into refraction and the electromagnetic spectrum.

In English, color is a funny thing.

I came across an article entitled “Meles vs. Mengistu: The pot calling the Kettle Black”. The point the author made was that Mele himself has a lot to be judged by and when it gets to his turn, “One hopes it does not take 15 years for justice to be meted”.

Yeah, Meles sucks. Yeah, Mengistu sucks. However, my preoccupation with the article was more to do with its title. This title would obviously make no sense if it was “Meles vs Mengistu: The Iris calling the African Violet Purple”, or “Meles vs. Mengistu: The Dough calling Snow White”. My gut instinct was that the origins of "The Pot Calling The Kettle" is from times when being black was of lower stature in Western cultures. So I did a little bit of research which revealed other ways of looking at the proverb.

The saying 'that's like the pot calling the kettle black' is a very old saying. It means 'You've no real cause to say these things to me because you fit into the same category' or more simply 'look in the mirror, you're no different'. But the part about the pot and the kettle comes from way back in history, probably when the western U.S. was first being settled, and people cooked with cast iron pots and pans. The tea kettle was black, the dutch oven cooking pot was black and so the analogy was formed 'pot calling kettle black'.

I could almost believe this except “the post calling the kettle black’ is usually said by a third person looking at the ‘pot’ and the ‘kettle’ from a higher ‘moral’ ground and passing the judgment that the ‘pot’ and ‘kettle’ are both worthless.

But then Blonde Justice delves into its origins from “Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins” which gives two possible meanings. One is that calling the kettle back is ridiculous because they are both black. “The other theory is that the pot was black but the kettle polished copper and the pot, seeing its own blackness reflected in the shiny surface of the kettle, maintained that the kettle, not it, was actually black.”

Hmm. Let's keep in mind this is coming from dictionaries that define themselves with currents of time. Like the way The Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary copy I had while growing up had sample sentence to go along with words. For the word famine, and that sentence was ‘Famine in Ethiopia’, which of course was very true in 1984, and still is true now. Hopefully it will not be true in another half century or so, but my copy of the dictionary will still be around.

So …to believe or not to believe? I dunno. I say we change the proverb to, ‘The pot calling the kettle purple’.

Another English term that bugs me is ‘white trash’. I am pretty sure I had read Maya Angelou’s ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ before I came to this country, but … I don’t remember what I felt about it. Years after I came to the US, and having had a different view of the American ghetto than what’s depicted in ‘Coming to America’, when I opened the book a second time, the term white trash stuck me funny. The narrator, who was black and poor, was referring to poor white people as ‘white-trash’. Perhaps this is the case of the pot calling the kettle purple.

What finally struck me about the term white-trash was that it is so offensive to black people. And to all other people of ‘color’. A black person with a low socioeconomic status is simply called a black person. A Latino with a low socioeconomic status is called a Latino. After all, what is so strange about these people being poor? A white person who is poor is not just white, but a white-trash, the scum of what should otherwise be a spotless race. White needs hyphenation, the rest are trash anyway.

Is there another way of looking at it?

Ah. God bless America, indeed! Yibarkat'm, yimarat'm!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Real Rant

For anybody who’s bothered to read my posts from over a year ago, it’s pretty clear that I take my CUD with a grain of salt and Tena’Adam. Then I gave it all up and switched onto other issues some time after the elections because … all sides became nauseating.

I have been trying to write an article on CUD for over a month, but every time I start to write it, I keep thinking about all those people in jail and I have to let go of the idea. Poletikam be yilugnta – gud ikno new!

But then came the story of Alliance for Freedom and Democracy (AFD) which jolted me back to reality. In fact, it sent me running to my copy of Nelson Mandela’s “Long Walk to Freedom”. Time to question my South African history.

Ok. So the South African struggle was at some point backed by a military branch. In fact, when Umkonto we Sizwe, the military branch, was formed in 1961, its commander in chief was Nelson Mandela himself. During the next 30 years of the guerrilla army’s existence, the organization attempted to sabotage capabilities of the Apartheid government, and the government returned the favor by labeling the freedom movement as a ‘terrorist organization’. Initially Umkonto we Sizwe started` off with attacks on government/infrastructural targets, but eventually it moved onto urban warfare and inevitably civilian casualties.

So why did news of AFD send me running to this piece of history? Because AFD didn’t make sense. And I had to verify that, despite my vehement opposition to armed struggle, the South African resistance actually had some semblance of sense. In South Africa the army branch was ideologically on the same grounds as ANC, and therefore a logical extension to ANC. It was not attempting a revolution, it was not drawing out a civil war, it was not exterminating whites nor fighting to evict them. It was destabilizing an exclusive white South African government and the structures that enabled its existence. It was inflicting an economical wake up call to make white south Africa realize that the country’s future will have black written all over it, whether Afrikaners liked it or not.

In an enduring statement at one of his trials, Nelson Mandela once said,

I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

The point is that it is his cause that he is willing to die for. When ANC wants to fight it gets ANC people to fight for it.

So what is CUD(P) doing? It realizes that it can’t motivate the exhausted we-love-one-Ethiopia yuppies to fight for its cause. Instead it aligns itself with LFs who’re willing to die for another cause, like OLF and ONLF. Lovely! Just lovely! If CUD’s not willing to die for a cause, then they’re not worth the cause and the cause is not worth it, so they should quit and desist before they send that poor country off on another half a century loop. Personally I would not lift half a finger to pull no god dammed trigger to fight EPRDF, nor will I encourage even a willing member at the farthest end of my extended family. Obviously, neither would CUDistas

Besides, what exactly will AFD be fighting? Is it going to go for a civil war? Like the ones we had been fighting since 1950s? Like the ones that brought us a lovely government called EPRDF?

A year ago, on the wake of elections when EPRDF banned demonstrations my thoughts on the matter were conflicted. In theory, it was wrong. You can’t ban dissent in the name of maintaining democracy. However, in practice we don’t have democracy because we have not developed the democratic culture. By ‘we’ I don’t mean our government, I mean we, the Ethiopian people. Whatever is lacking in our leadership is lacking in us as a society. My thoughts then were that Ethiopians forget that the very symptoms they fear in others are the symptoms others fear in them.

On the same note, I don’t think another civil war in Ethiopia will bring us leaders any less jaded, bitter and myopic than the ones we already have. We produced this government, and we’re fully capable of repeating history. Just like EPRDF has spent too many years out in the bushes disconnecting from civility, ability to discuss and compromise, so will this era of freedom fighters. In the end, we can’t ask nor expect the new breed of ‘liberators’ to be any better … when we have not put enough effort to be any better ourselves.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Interlude to rant ...

Good one, McGruder ;-)

I wonder how much of this is true - we do things because we've paid for them, and we pay for them because … we do!

A month ago I went to the dentist, not because I had to but because I was about to cancel my dental plan (I come from a proud no-to-dentists family that believes in good tooth cleaning, ideally with mefaqia, kaltechale be brush and kolgate, and none of that dentist hogwash) and i felt it was a waste to have paid for my plan and not having done something with it. So I made an appointment with a dentist and found out what I expected - disappointment and a waste of my time. No cavities. Some cleaning. The lady commended me for doing a good job of keeping regular appointments as evidenced by healthy looking teeth (um ... how about this is my first ever visit to the dentist? - She looked at me funny) Will i consider taking out my wisdom teeth in the near future? She said they may impact the rest of my teeth. May. Right. Um ... I may ... in the future, but if my Dad's fine with them, maybe I'll be, too.

I still pay $15 for basic cable. I definitely don't watch it, or even know what channels consist of the basic cable. I don't think I've gone past channel 11, and those lower channels I get from antenna anyway. In any given week, I don't think I've ever watched more than 5 hrs of TV. The $15 this has not inspired me to watch more TV, but its wastage, along with my other (lack of) habits has not inspired me to cancel either. Maybe one day, I may ...

Monday, May 22, 2006



Gud iko new ... ishee beqagn, beqagggnnnnnnnnn crazy.

In short,
"A historic meeting convened, by the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP), the Ethiopian People's Patriotic Front (EPPF), the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), the Sidama Liberation Front (SLF) and the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF), at Utrecht in Netherlands, from 19 to 22 of May 2006 has successfully completed by forming the Alliance for Freedom and Democracy (AFD) and elected its officers."

"The new Alliance Freedom and Democracy (AFD) says it will focus on peaceful struggle against the government but the armed groups will still stage attacks."

"The Alliance includes the rebel OLF and ONLF groups, which are campaigning for greater rights for Ethiopia's Oromo and Somali communities respectively."
Be'isat lay CHid new yemibalew?

(BTW, to whomever wrote that for BBC, that article is darn confusing.)

Rant to be continued kesira wouCH ...

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Yeah. Like I said, me like crazy.

This is pretty impressive for an habesah. Normally we like to hide our names & faces ...

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Maybe it's me ...

It's not even that I fish for music stuff!

Anyhooo ... I've not yet worked through why this was aseqTaCH but ... it was.

I guess I don't see what the point is (publicity for the artist, somebody's home video, art project ...?) Anyway ... you know what they say about Ethiopians: 25% die from civil wars, 25 % from famine, 25% from AIDS, etc. and the remainder 25% bemayagebachew gebtew.

And right now, thisu beTam ayegabagnm ...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Time is money.
There is a time and place for everything.
Time cures all things.
Time flies.

The funny thing I have found about keeping journals/blogs is that they help you measure time. Wasted time. I dind't do anything I would consider fruitful in the past 3 weeks (besides going to work - not that I'd a choice. I guess time is, indeed, money. ) and yet I couldn't even bring myself to sit down for ten minutes and put down my thoughts.

Americans like claiming that they don't have time. But seriously, how busy can life really be? I think it has become a culture to think that Americans are busy.

If I fail to call home on a regular basis, other members of my family cover for me by saying i've been 'busy', and that excuse always works like a charm. In fact the standard habesha description for uncommunicative people is "min yidereg ingidih ... nuro'ko ruCHa new!".

Ok. I understand there are some people who work two jobs. Maybe those people are truly busy. But what's with the rest who work, say 10 hrs a day. Let's say they sleep 6-7 hrs, and commute for 30 - 60min round trip. That leaves 6 hours free per day. Lets say another hour or two for taking a shower, meals etc. Abesha people in America don't have to do zemed Tyeqa (ok, locations that are recreations of Ethiopia on the wrong side of the Atlantic, like DC, don't count), leqso, daily beteskian mesalem .... and to prove we've the time to waste, many among us will not miss the routine entertainment, be it a party or a wear-out-the-seats session at Starbucks. If there is a time and place for everything, then place seems to be the key word.

So how did we acquire the "ruCHa nuro" reputation? I for one feel like i'm wasting shitloads of time. Yes, time is flying ... but no, i'm not feeling cured.

Headlines of the (last) week

Sometimes I worry for the "American" part of this blog's description. But when I don't have to, I worry even more.

Here is a farce of the American justice system. Don't get me wrong - if I ever had to be tried in court (obviously due to some confusion ;-), and I had a choice of courts, then surely an American one would still come out on top. But every so often you have to stop and wonder.

One of my friends who in grad school jokes about how his jury duty calls consist of going for the selection process and somehow always getting rejected. He claims the less 'provably logical' you are on paper, the better a juror you make. As of recent observations from trial Zecharias Mousssoui's trial proceedings, now it also seems the less English you speak, the better a juror you make.

The word the juror looked up was "Aggravate"which, I guess, is not necessarily an everyday word, but then again, what kind of words are used by lawyers?

My guess is, in the future we'll hear of American jurors uttering:
"Excuse me. Allo? Allo ....what me do here? ... oh. Ok. So if me not under arrest, me go? No? ... "
"May I ask when do we'll get to my case, becoz I didn't mean to kill her ..."
"Your honor, we find the prosecutor guilty as charged!"

Moving on ...

The "Failed States Index" by the apparently not-so-estieemed Foreign Policy has finally been issued for 2006. Ethipia placed 26th on the Rankings . I've to say we've not topped the worst rating for any of the categories even in their eyes. The entire African continet, however, has managed to register all countries but 4 (South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland & Madagascar) at some level in the 'Failed States Index'.

Now, to the BIG question: Pakistan??? What the hell is Pakistan doing in the top 10 list? Pakistan between Afghanistan and Haiti?

I don't think so.

Then again, there are some other interesting in order, like Russia at 43, Ertirea at 54 and China at 57.

Hmmm.'Nuff said.