Editors' Note
My Story
Life Diaries
Our Angel
Mekasha's Mother
Work Log
Epitaph for a Hero
SELEDA Berenda
Top Ten

Transcript from a speech by Dr. Raselas on "The Modern Ethiopian Hero" at the first annual SELEDA Speaking Series.


Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for giving me this opportunity. Yaw hulachihum indemtawQut... Dr. Raselas ibalalehu.... Ante manneh? Please eki... fix this mic, please. Mnnew bakachiu, ye Merkato mesgid microphone aregachihut??.... ECh!

Test... one... two. Yissemal? Yissemal? Manneh ante, yissemal?

As I was saying, thank you for inviting me here. As the very esteemed announcer-person mentioned, I am here to talk about Heroes. Before I do that, however, let me ask you, what is a hero? Maletm, who is a hero? Where did the word come from? Who created the word, and why did he create the word?

Coincidentally, these were the very questions I used to ask when I was doing my Ph.D. in Anthropology of Heroes at the University of Bujumbura's prestigious Graduate School of Hero Anthropology...in...nineteen...sikisty ...four. So, you can see, I am qualified to speak on heroes and heroism. I transferred to the University of Bujumbura right after my fellowship at the College of Beersheba, where a few students from...ere bakachihu yihEn'n mic fix argut. Mnnew Dr. Raselas!

As I was saying, sometimes students who get fellowships are heroes to all of us. Yaw indemnawQew, fellowships were not as besh-besh in the sixties as they are today. ZarrE'mma, anyone who has ever even tesasto held a pencil with his gra ij can get a fellowship. Mn yaregal tadiya! In our day, one had to be an exceptional student with excellent communication skills...one would have had to be a great orator, able to speak on various subjects with precision and clarity and without meandering thoughts...

Oh, I see my friends Dr. Dagnaw and Dr. Temesgen in the audience. Hello, there. I know all of you might know me, Dr. Raselas, but I would also like you to get to know Dr. Dagnaw and Dr. Temesgen. Esti Qumu andE... awo aCHebCHbulachew... OK...BeQa. YibQachew. QuCH belu, Dr. Dagnaw and Dr. Temesgen. QuCHHHHHHHH. [Inaudible muttering.]

As I was saying, from my intense studies I have come to the conclusion that heroes come in many packages. But I think that the best package is that which comes in three BIG letters.. P... H... and D. Yes, ladies and gentleman, they are letters that send shivers down most Ethiopians' backs. And as I am sure you all know, I am a true Ethiopian.

Now, you are going to say to me, I am sure, "Dr. Raselas, with so many Ph.D.'s, are you saying that all of them are heroes?" Ah, ladies and gentlemen, wendimochE, ihitochE, innat abatochE...if only it were that simple! Rome was not built in one day, ladies and gentlemen, but the ye zemenu Ph.D.s, the ones they hand out these days as if they were festals at Big Giant, were not only built in one day... ere andandu'mma drive-by Ph.D. lihon mn Qerew? If I were to ask how many people here do not know a fellow Ethiopian with a Ph.D., I am sure the answer will be zero. For one, I think most of you know me. Ere! L'TeyiQ indE! Ay. AlTeyiQm. Bicha... yaw hulachn'm yemnawQew haQ new.

We are in a modern day pogrom, ladies and gentlemen. We are in serious, serious crisis and no one is addressing it. We are, ladies and gentleman, on the brink of the kind of crisis in Ethiopian society that has yet to be seen. That problem is... the rapidly increasing Ethiopian Ph.D. inflation! The E-Ph.flation, as I call it. Yes, the hidden killer!

In my days, people understood what those three great letters meant. We Ethiopians like things bunched in threes... the Sostu Silaasewech, and the three letters that have defined us in modern times, P.. H... and D.

How can we curb this disaster, this catastrophe, this...

E-Ph.flation tesibo beshita? At the dawn of a new century, how can we distinguish who is who in these Sodom'iina Gommora glut of Ph.D. days? It is indeed a wise question, and I am lucky to have been one of the first (some would say the first, gn esu ayaTalanim) people to have asked it.

We have to, wegenochE, start asking hard questions. Are all Ph.D.s created equal? The answer is a resounding NO! We have to open our minds and start thinking of Ph.D.s in a different manner. I propose to you, my fellow Ethiopians, that from this moment on we look into the wugagan of a new era and start thinking of Ph.D.s like wine. Like wine, there must be, what I will call, Ph.D. Vintages, and like wine, anything after 1971 is what I call Ph.D.L... Ph.D.-Lite. ...

I see there are some latecomers to this lecture. I shall now insist, dear and esteemed organizers, that you close the door and let no one in. Tardiness is a most uncouth and undesirable trait that is directly responsible for yehager mebelashet. I am coming to the most important point and we... wui! Weizero Sebebyelesh! Erso not indE! ... TenaysTilN. Aref belu... Ante! Doma ras! Lisanih yize'ganna, man beru'n ziga aleh?? Ante demo, esti tensess! Weizero Sebebu.... Ye-zarE lijoch... eh? SemuN, Weizero Sebebyelesh? Ye-zarE lijoch... aTnit siwuTu adgew...
g'tr-tr'achew yeTefa! Teness biyaleu! Eshi.... Ere wuha amTulachew.... Weizero Sebebu... buna/shai milot Tefa? Ay ye sidet nuro!

[Pause while Weizero Sebebyelesh settles in.]

Eshi... inimelessina... yissemal? Alllew? Yissemal???

As I was saying, the dynamics of heroism have, in modern Ethiopian society, made a, what I shall now call, a societal paradynamic change. Esun s'l mn maletE new? T'ru T'yaQe... When Dr. Dagnaw and I were at the University of KonsTaTinopolis as visiting fellows, we learnt a lot. We were young then, aydol Dr. Dagnaw...? Awo. And the sense of heroism was not as well defined as it was later when we transferred to CC-SoGSUP: Calcutta College: School of Graduate Studies of Under Population. At that time... in.. nineteen hundred and s-s-s-sekkitii... sis, mannew, seven, CC was a very hard school to get into. Especially the School of Under Population. No Ethiopian had gone there. Pe! Demmo inde zarE ayargew'inna, Calcutta yanE le Ph.D. yemimech hager neber! Aydol, Dokteroch?

It was the training that I got at august institutions like the CC and then later at the Graduate Institute of the University of Mauritius that has helped me formulate my theories on the societal paradynamic change and the "E-Ph.flation Theory" I outlined earlier...

I see that the organizers have slipped me this note asking me to speak about my heroes before I wrap up. Ay, mnnew! Mn makeleb new! YilQunnu Weizero Sebebu'n "mn lamTa" beluwachew.

As I was saying, my heroes and your heroes, ladies and gentlemen, can very well be the same. But at some point, we have to stop magbess-bessing so-called over-inflated "heroes". It is time we start asking, "What vintage is your Ph.D., sir?" before we label people as Heroes.

How many young people do we have here. Esti, ante! QuTer... yes, plenty. From the conversations that I hear these young people having, and from the "esti Dr. Raselas, mikr ymkeruN" that I always get from them, I sense that there is a thirst for new heroes in our society. I try to mentor as many young people as possible. This will be the first generation of Ethiopians that realizes all Ph.D.s are... eh? AdamTu bedenb, all Ph.D.'s are.. eh? and-lay belut.... Are not created equal. This generation is a smart generation. It is a wise generation. AlemaweQachew'n yaweQu! It knows about E-Ph.flation ... and it knows how to curb it. As a professor of mine and Dr. Temesgen's at Croatia College used to say, "The first sign of knowing, is, after all, realizing you don't know anything."

Esti alamTut ahun yalkut'n.

[Long pause]

It makes me happy to see the "I know I don't know" look masking over some of your faces. It pleases me. Pleases me more than my days at the University of Peace and Rational Conflict Resolution at the University of Rwanda. (I transferred there from the University of Tripoli...lEla le Ph.D. mymech ketema...)

What we need to pinpoint in our societal paradynamical paradigm, is that we look back and find the people with the true Ph.D.s. True Ph.D.-ians are honest, loyal people because they are no "iQa w'sedilN" Ph.D-ians. They have worked hard. They know when to go to the Idi Amin School of Government, and when not to. There is a difference, ladies and gentlemen, and it would beseech and behoove us to find these people and tell them, 'You are our true heroes'.

Now, you may ask, where do we find these new heroes? They are in the cafes of DC (especially the one on 18th Street...), they are on our church boards, they are in our restaurants (especially at Addis Ababa Restaurant on Friday nights...basement, fourth table to the left of the bar...), they are at, well, those are the main places where we can find them. I urge you, fellow Ethiopians, to find them and embrace them and, like the prodigal sons they are, usher them back with great to-do and a fine party (they like, or so I am told, gored-gored with a touch of areQE awazE.) In other words, let us celebrate our heroes and fight E-Ph.flation! Are YOU willing to take this journey?

As I was saying, ladies and gentleman, are you ready to find your societal paradynamic? Do you dare? Are you willing to rise and say, 'Yes! I know that I don't know'? Are you willing to sponsor a new radio program "Inne Dokter Mn Alu"? Are you ready to take responsibility?

Let me leave you with this thought... Who, ladies and gentlemen, is your new hero?

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for your attention. I will be holding a special seminar on this new societal paradynamic next week at the café. I am usually there ke s'eat bewuwala lie.

Thank you for your time, zemedochE. You may now go home.... Eh? Mn? Oh, the esteemed and distinguished organizers tell me there is a program following this... eh? Ere bakachihu! Sewu'ko yidekmewal! Aldekemachihum? Belu beQachew... LEla gizE nu! Eh? Ay yishalal... sewu'n atashegru... OK... sewech be gra beru mewTat tichlalachihu... I declare this meeting over.

Belu... tolo.. tolo... mesmer yizachiu tadiya. WefCHo bEt tera atasmesilut... Awo... endesu...

Table of contents Editors' Notes Comments How to Contribute Archives
© Copyright SELEDA Ethiopia,  April 2001.   All Rights Reserved.