Vacancy: Africa: Gatekeeper needed

October 13, 2008 at 12:13 pm 4 comments

The story of the rude American is a story I tell all my foreigner friends planning to visit Ethiopia. “Be nice”, I warn them, “Be respectful. Ethiopia is not like any other African country. Ethiopians are certainly NOT like other Africans”. Then, I start to relate the story of this American guy who, after being pissed off at an Ethiopian laborer and not getting any satisfaction from abusing the latter in English (a language the laborer didn’t understand) made the grave error of asking the Amharic word for “bullshit”, told the brother he was & paid dearly for it.

The ICS people (International Community School, which hosted the incident) won’t perhaps admit it to you, how one of their staff was attacked so brutally that night (“with every bone in his body broken”, or so the legend goes) that he has to be shipped out of the country to get proper treatment. But I have it from a reliable source that every time a foreign teacher or admin. staff is transferred to the motherland, the first thing he’s given is the personal dossier of the rude American. After being showed every one of the man’s pre and post treatment photos, the newbie is given the above warning. With, perhaps, an additional footnote of how Muhammud Ahmed (aka the spokesperson for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church Sunday choir) wasn’t kidding when he sang: LeBeGo Kehone, LeQum neger Gudai..

Such an action, therefore, was what I anticipated yesterday afternoon when I saw a Chinese construction worker push an Ethiopian foreman around. The fact that I heard two laborers make fun of the foreman as “becoming China, ‘TiQuru China'” beforehand didn’t make me doubt where their loyalties would lie if/when fights brake out. After all, I must have argued with self, what we feel about eachother never stood in the way of standing together when we Ethiopians become targets of foreign assault. Hasn’t it been observed by many a writers (Daniel Kibret of Addis NeGer among them), how nothing seems to bring the best and the worst in us more than hate for a common enemy?!

I was in for a disappointment! The minute the [yellow] Chinese come running and started violently pushing the Ethiopian guy on the chest (while the Ethiopian stood his ground and screamed back the same [Chinese] words), I took a glance at the half a dozen Ethiopians that were watching the fight. I was both amazed and made upset at observing how they look more bored than excited. Preferring, it seems, to watch and learn than get involved. I ofcourse didn’t simply stand there watching a brother being kicked around. No, sir. That wasn’t the type of Ethiopian, the type of human, I was. After choosing a safe spot, I raised my mobile phone to the wreck that used to be Sholan Geremew, and started photographing (too bad I didn’t have enough memory to video) with the full intention of blowing the atrocity that’s sure to follow “forth to the world”.

This action of the sister’s, although useless on the “mefaQiya”-chewing flesh & bloods, attracted another Chinese guy’s attention. He came running out of the tiny group of spectators he had with him, and lashed out at……………………..his countryman. I admit I was afraid, the minute he stopped the fight, the little Asian would go Kung Fu on my behind. Or atleast squeeze the abesheet arm and try to take the mobile away (which didn’t get a clear shot of the men anyway). Fortunately, the sister didn’t stay long enough to see how it would turn out. After making sure he has separated the two and was standing between them, she headed for the horizon (otherwise known as her parent’s house) still furious at Chinese # 1 and embarrassed she didn’t have the guts to do more.

A day has gone by and I’m still not happy with what I saw. Alas, I’m not writing this post to demand for the first Chinese’s blood for having an argument with his Ethiopian colleague. Or for pushing him around in an obviously superior manner. Superior is as superior does, I suppose. I am not even judging the brothers for not wanting to poke their nose where it didn’t belong. A generous emotion I won’t have exhibited had they continued chewing their “mefaQiya” if Chinese #2 had decided to beat my ass. Survival proceeds pride, especially when the pride at stake isn’t yours. But I’ve wondered. I’ve wondered if there was any guarantee that these Oriental midgets won’t turn into modern-day slave-drivers someday. Or is that a [small] price to pay for a little [Chinese] civilization?!

At the time of Nehmia, if not the whole of Old Testament, the Israelites used to put a Gate Keeper at the various doors that lead to their [walled] city. These individuals, according to Champions of Christ are there to make sure “whether that person [the person driving upto the gates] has business going inside the gates.” “If that person has no business,” the website continues, “the gate is kept closed and the visitor is refused access and is turned around. If the gate keeper allows someone to enter that does not have the right to be there, then the gate keeper is responsible for whatever havoc that person creates.”

What with the American Economy going bad, with Meles Zenawi wanting to stay in power forever and with our enemies being what our enemies have always been, it’s not like we can resist the “development assistance” advances of up-and-comings like China. (An assistance one African writer called “New Money, Old Themes”.) Still, we can put a Gate Keeper at our doors to make sure we haven’t given more ground than we should to the new powers on the block.

Unless, ofcourse, we’re not interested in being our brother’s keeper!?

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Entry filed under: Latest Posts.

Daddy’s too big a shoe.. I’m no angel, neither is he!

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. chuni  |  October 13, 2008 at 6:53 pm

    I’m sorry i’m getting off the topic but what is “bullshit” be amarigna?

  • 2. abesheet  |  October 14, 2008 at 6:05 am

    Erm… you know that thing “kubet” is made of? That’s bullshit in amharic. Or atleast that’s what the ferenji guy called the young man who made him regret it before the end of the day.

  • 3. Mazzi  |  October 14, 2008 at 6:30 am

    Oh Abesheet, you have no idea how I take China’s growing economic and sometimes political influence on the African continent with a rather large grain of salt!!!!!!!!

    With globalization being what it is, poor countries forever needing aid and business partnership with ‘developed’ countries, and China’s economy growing in leaps and bounds while Western countries economy grows weaker, it was only a matter of time before we saw many many Chinese faces in African counties/communities in the name of development.

    What worries me is not even their growing economic influence; but rather their collective personal character. The infamous Cultural Revolution, its endless aftermath, the iron feast of the Communist Party over the decades has rendered many Chinese to live in absolute fear of their ALL POWERFUL government. It also has robbed them their individuality forcing them to obey authority at all cost with no questions asked. Rights of individuals do not matter, as the State ALWAYS comes first even at the expense of their own citizens! If they show VERY LITTLE REGARD to THEIR OWN citizens, I don’t think they will lose any sleep over dominating, mistreating, exploiting, or even enslaving (in one way or another) poor Africans in the name of working with them or working for them.

    Their rapid economic growth, and the arrival of Capitalist way of doing business might be injecting ‘Western’ ideologies into their thinking. Given the current global economic atmosphere, however, I don’t know if that is a blessing or a curse!

    Unfortunately, old habits of doing business as usual, Chinese style, die hard, and I hold my breath for Ethiopia for having China as the new ‘neo-colonial master’ :-(.

  • 4. alem  |  June 18, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    I don’t anderstand this topc please clear me

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