April 18, 2010 at 9:09 pm (Commenatry)

By Hama Tuma

I am sure not many of you know the word bloviator–I did not till someone told me to check it in Google. It means pompous, someone who puffs his chest and makes boastful declarations. The word defines many Ethiopian pseudo and self declared intellectuals of our time. Of course, who is an intellectual is worthy of a debate these days. One who finished Scondary School? Anyone with a diploma or a degree from a foreign institution? Who? Anyone with that Dr or Professor tag? Any fool who speaks averagely coherent English? Anyone with delusions of grandeur? Feelings of elitism?

Sadly, the bloviators are too many. They start out with the assumption that speaking and writing English is expensive to begin with. Not for you and me poor souls with miserable monthly incomes if any. African intellectuals, totally brainwashed alas, boast: “we learnt at the foot of the white man” which, it seems, give them the right and capacity to tell a plant from afar by just sniffing at the air. Ethiopian intellectuals fall in the same pit: their credential is the foreign/ferenji degree, earned in most cases not even from credible or prestigious places, sometimes from correspondence  universities who will give you a degree even if you fail!(check Meles, Tamrat and other mentally challenged TPLF officials). Yet, the Dr or Professor tag is all, supreme, it tell us all to shut up and listen, the bloviators have a degree, they are “intellos” par excellence. Alas, they are shallow, ignoramus to boot, word spinners, not worth the ink on their so called degrees. Take time off to listen to any of the loud pal talk rooms and you will hear many not only punctuating but drowning their Amharic with English phrases. Words like State, information, intelligence, saboteur (actually said “sabotateur” by our hyphenated souls), agenda, diversify, struggle, oppression, etc are words that seem to have no Amharic equivalent.  I had previously attempted to call upon them to be modest and received a tongue lashing for may alleged “jealousy” concerning their degrees which, I am proud to say, will not accept even if offered on  a golden platter.

The half baked “bloviators” use English words to impress, to be unintelligible to my mother and yours, to be pompous. I wish I had written all this in Amharic but as I am trying to deal with those who write  and speak pompously in English I have chosen the foreign language and by implication cornered myself in the dilemma. Why can’t we write our pieces in our own language so that the majority of our people understand what we are trying to say? The hypocritical attempt is to be above the mundane as it were, to rise above the masses, to parade before them with puffed out chest, to show we know and do speak English and can write articles in it no matter the spelling and grammar errors. We boast and silence our own parents and people, and fools as we are we feel proud as we shame ourselves. Delusion is taken as knowledge, ignorance becomes wisdom and we deny our identity to find some mirage of a respect for our demeaned self. The more they bloviate, the more they become incomprehensible, shallow and hollow. The exercise is to say nothing in many words, to use phrases from the Thesaurus, to say perambulate instead of walk, to sound like a Southern USA fiery Baptist preacher, to pepper one’s articles with quotes and references that are either out of place or pedestrian. I remember one “bloviator” who had to refer to Galbraith or Tagore to tell us “yenat hod zingurgur new”. The worth of an intellectual is thus situated firmly in an Ivory Tower, away from the majority of the common people, saying not I fell but declaring my verticality changed to a horizontality. One Weyane scribe, a former “tiraz netek” of the bars in Washington, recently wrote from Addis Abeba a vitriolic attack against Isayas Afewerki (of course in English and  to please his Masters), and informed us of the need to “indigenize democracy in a collectivist African cultural matrix”. Now, what the hell does this mean other than bloviating over our heads parading as a deep thinker, philosopher and a master of the foreign language? There is another Ethiopian who writes incomprehensible regular columns and whom I tried to criticize mildly and provoked his adoring fans (who do not understand what he writes but admire him just for that) to attack me with venom. One asked me in anger “who are you?” and I must admit I was tempted to do a French on her and answer back “I am still searching for my identity” (the French like such replies and will not make it easy where they can complicate).  Fake through and through, inferiority complex of the highest order when our so called intellectuals (many have become professors recently by some collective baptism like the Moonies) look down upon our language, culture, heroes (every political pretender is taken as a Mandela if he or she lands in prison for a month or a year), and our own experience.

The bloviators are also official scribes of the dictatorship. One such pathetic person, a stain on the proud history of her martyred brothers and cousins, recently wrote the following effusive nonsense:

“It is such an incredible win and an amazing era for us to witness the open and fast gain of Ethiopia’s democracy these past eighteen years.  Never in the history of Ethiopia have we witnessed such an open dialogue.   A free expression of ideas among different parties is what we are witnessing for the fourth democratic election.  It is so heartwarming and encouraging for those of us that live outside Ethiopia to have the privilege of being eyewitnesses to the myriad developments that is going on in the country. Thanks to humanity’s elevation of technology we are privy to follow the events of the country on a daily basis” If this is not empty talk what is? Democracy and the Meles regime are anathema, incompatible, opposites. The regime she lauds is known as the predator of the free press, the enemy of free expression, a repressive one holding some thirty five thousand political prisoners behind bars, has committed many massacres, is the one that disappeared dozens in its dungeons and practices systematic and wide spread torture. That makes the woman who wrote the above eulogy either totally ignorant or a shameless sell out. She says nothing in so many words even if she may gain some favors from her Masters in Addis Abeba. The art of saying nothing in five hundred words is often mastered by bloviators and the state of our intellectuals is such that they have all become experts at it. They want to browbeat us with verbosity, with the usage of “hard” English phrases and concepts (which they use not in the correct sense but who cares?), with their determined refusal to use their own language to communicate. I must say I am not amongst those African authors who insist that writers must write in their mother tongue or stop writing ( though the usefulness  of communicating in one’s language cannot be denied) but the impact of a political message is if it reaches a broad cross section of the people and influences them. Last time I checked 95% of Ethiopians are not very familiar with the Queen’s English and if truth be told not many of our self declared intellectuals write proper grammatically correct English either, notwithstanding their tendency to resort to English when they could communicate better in their own language. I could even be mistaken in this assumption of mine as most of them have no clear idea of what they want to utter and whether they do it in English or Amharic ( or any other mother tongue) their mumbo jumbo is not saved from being just that.

Alas, to add insult to injury (be inkirt lye joro degif) our bloviating intellectuals are not funny. Just take the above crazy eulogy and try to say you find it funny. It is actually boring, pathetic, an example of dog- like snivelling and servitude not to say shameful narrow ethnic identification. In other contexts, bloviators can be funny–they are so ridiculous that they become clowns. He was not an intellectual per se but Debella Dinsa comes to mind while in the imperial regime Yilma Deressa was another example of the funny officials. Our present day official scribes cum intellectuals take themselves too seriously as they bloviate and thus are dour and never funny. Otherwise their declaration of democracy under Meles Zenawi should have cracked us up but they believe in it and so they squeeze out the funny in their declaration. George Bush and Rumsfeld were funny with their declarations., they pretended to believe their lies but we all knew they were playacting like their claim of WMDs in Iraq. Take Rumsfeld’s foray into The Unknown:
“As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don’t know
We don’t know.

—Feb. 12, 2002.

Is not this a gem? Such bloviators can and should flourish to give grim politics a funny tinge.

Meles Zenawi, who got his degrees from a correspondence course, also plays at being an intellectuals but his feeble bloviating come out disgusting and only fools take his street smart talk as a sign of intelligence.

The redefinition of the intellectual is called for in the Ethiopian context unless we confine ourselves to the basic definition of the intellectual as someone who attempts to speak English, tries to use confusing words, and is irredeemably alien to his own people and lies as a matter of routine. Come to think of it, this defines our intellectuals “indigenized in their own matrix”. Whatever that may mean of course.

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  1. Getachew Reda says:

    From Getachew Reda
    Dear Hama:
    Indeed you said it all. Not only those who live in the Diaspora are addicted writing in English, but also those who live in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) such as a fellow calling himself member of “Free Press” (Opposition to Meles Zenawi)Eskindir Nega, who emails his commentary in English every two weeks. I ask to myself, what the hell is going on with these idiots trying to avoid the national language when they know that we are Ethiopians who are capable of speaking and reading Amharic?

    He could do that if he wish too as he did, but not by avoiding the national language as well. Does this man think we are English? How about those French speaking Ethiopians/Douch…..You name it. It is absurd.

    These sickness is not limited to Eskindir alone who is based in Ethiopia; but also the likes professors Al Mariam and the few circled of his Elite circles (and his propaganda machinery –“some opposition media owners”).That is why you see us and some friends like me switch to broken English in order to encounter their commentary that they wrote in English. It is a shame in many ways. I tell you, if you go to those Feudalistic elite media forums and try to address a comment in English and your English is as mine- you will endure so much racism or insults for not writing the English grammar they wanted to read. Can you believe these ignorant do ignore writing the Amharic language for years and trying to be English and act as Irish as if they are from Irish?

    With many ways that I weigh their thinking, generally speaking as you stated it correctly, the mafia looks alike media and their political icons are trying to fool the illiterate community by writing English as if writing English is the measurement of wisdom. Ethiopia is facing the most dangerous and destructive of all elite groups ever created in her entire history, particularly, in the Diaspora (mafia politics). I tell you, I have ever observed in my so many years usage in the internet media as this last five years or so. They are simply naive, dangerous, narrow, cliquish, ruthless, above all too cliquish worst than TPLF who will never response to human right cooperation if the person who is victim of TPLF is out of their circle. It is the most dangerous group I have ever witnessed. They are too toxic for society and stability and unity. Keep hope alive brother! Thanks Hama as always- you spoke up my mind.
    Getachew Reda

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