He sniffed the change in the air and left his not-com for a dot-com. He rode the wave of public weret and rose high to a hot-com. Now, as he rides the same fleeting wave of public weret down to a shot-com, he notes the wisdom in his waterproof Palm V that what goes up in a flash doth come down with a splash. But that's not the end of him. He'll bubble to the top once again like a burp from the belly of a monster economy...and he'll sniff the change in the air... and into the attic he will throw the VB manual, the Java sourcebook, and out he will bring the EE diploma, and the Econ Masters.
He's on a roll once again... because, in a winner-take-all society, there's no stopping to nurse self-pity. There's been social upheaval in the works, and it's left in its wake the rising of a new class of bohemian geeks -- techno-nerds empowered by their knowledge of nifty tricks to have your computer screen display "hello world" in several ways. He's just witnessed the mounting into power of the so-called "knowledge class", the launching into power of the "symbolic analysts", the dawning of an era of the "techno-elite" -- All but a motley crew bonded in nothing but years of formal education, acronymic appendages to their names, association to elite universities, and child-like obsession with techno-tricks.
A motley crew that, nonetheless, claimed him as one of their own. A membership earned not by material prosperity, but solely by personal merit. For one who sported scars from a childhood infested by complexes induced by poverty, this had been a tantalizing prospect.
When he left Addis on a rainy night after three full months of crisscrossing the city on a scavenger hunt for a hasty feerma here, the seal of a runny rubberstamp there, ye Qebele ID wediya, ye tegbare-id clearance wedih, he took, slung over his shoulder, a decorative kebero. He took with him old calendars, several Selamta magazines, tourism brochures. He took with him much kotet and paraphernalia stuffed into an enormous suitcase. But he hoped to leave behind memories of a childhood riddled with poverty-induced complexes. He left Addis with a promise of catharsis dangling from the wings of a Boeing 767.
At the time he left Ethiopia, pedigree no longer commanded respect on its own. Class meant, for the most part, that gaping rift between the two halves of material prosperity -- the have-not's and the have-lots'. The berebasso-botti-shera-kongo clad and the Qoda-Adidas-speel-takko clad. Those who donned, day in day out, the same wrinkled adaffa shemeez with its buttons missing at the chest, and those with impeccably clean ironed shirts with a tie around their neck, who would throw away a shirt if it so much as missed a button. Those with sweat-soaked toeless socks and those with dry-cleaned and brand-named socks. Each difference carved the network of complexes a little deeper. A little longer. So, the beero telalaki drank like a chief on the evening of every lideta, and ran [from lenders] like a thief till the next lideta.
The temari paid daily pilgrimage to the neighbors' QorQorro gate with the supplication, "zarE TV yikefettal?" If he'd miscalculated and arrived before the rise of the dinner gebeta, then he would refuse the customary invitation to join in. And he'd wait awkwardly while shifting in his seat. "zarE TV yikefettal?" All this in preparation for the next-day's school yard reviews of the night's slap stick comedy shows. If he hadn't watched, he would give away the painful fact that his family was, indeed, too poor to own a TV.
So, membership based on personal merit held the promise of catharsis. The prospect of a class membership that couldn't be read right off of one's footwear sparked the dynamite that would pulverize the complexes lodged by poverty. The complexes would crumble, the wounds would heal, the scars, while never quite disappear, would nonetheless fade with time.
But the hoped for catharsis is not to be had. Why?
Say you were a newly empowered habesha academic being groomed into a research scientist. As part of your thesis, you've studied deeper than anyone cares several efficient schemes to milk a spherical cow. So, you exude confidence and self-importance. At your first academic conference, you find through the course of repeated attempts at mingling and schmoozing that not many really give a hoot who YOU are, that pedigree does still matter within the "knowledge class". This time, it isn't the pedigree of biological sorts, but the academic pedigree that it is supplanted by -- the stature of your thesis-advisor in the who-is-who of academia. It's whose student, whose protege, and NOT quite who you are that sparks a lingering interest.
Say you were a newly empowered "mediocre wembedE from Princeton", rubbing shoulders with offsprings of the richest and the smartest, and come across one of those egg-donor-wanted ads that ran in newspapers around elite school campuses. An infertile couple seeking to award $50,000 to an "intelligent, athletic egg donor who is at least 5'10" with an SAT score of 1400 or better." Is it palatable? Sort of... Will it leave a bad after-taste? Probably. Is it compliant with your philosophy that status accorded in proportion to personal merit shall be the holy grail of a fair society? Sort of. How much of the personal merits sought after in this ad are actually "personal" and uninfluenced by pedigree, material prosperity, and a roll-of-the-cosmic dice? Hmmmm...
It hits you that the void left behind by the complexes of poverty may soon be filled by complexes of other sorts. But, you don't stop to think much of it. You're on a roll. You are... the newly empowered.