There’s a saying: “fool me once, shame on you! Fool me twice, shame on me!” Sun Tsu, the ancient Chinese strategist, wrote that warfare is all about deception.Above all else, war is a psychological endeavor. If one is weak, one poses strong; if one is afraid, one looks fearless, etc.That’s why many warriors do ‘shilela’ before going to battle. The Derg excelled in that field. Beyond ‘shilela’, more advanced countries also make action, adventure, sci-fi, and spy craft movies to strike shock and awe abroad. But not every psychological war has the same effect.For example, there’s a big difference between Hollywood and Bollywood movies. The former uses excellent scripts, directors, actors, stunts, stages,cameras, costumes,etc.. In comparison, the later marshals mediocrity for lack of training and budget.
The political drama the new premier is playing and the psychological warfare he seems to be orchestrating reminds me of the old Bollywood movies I use to watch as a kid. When one watches an old Bollywood movie for the first time, one gets carried away. The story is simple but engaging enough. But after watching a couple of old Bollywood movies, one gets the routine, anticipate its development, and predict itsending. It becomes difficult to take it seriously. A typical Bollywood movie boils down to: lots of music, dancing, running, wearing colorful attires, and staged fights. The typical story goes like:a boy (often poor and handsome) meets a girl (often beautiful),they fall in love and live happily ever after subduing the bad guy (often rich and rude).
When one watches the current Prime Minister making long talks and his followers cheering him on for the first time, one pays attention. But when one sees him doing the same thing everywhere, every week, and amidst every crowd, one loses interest. It all seems superfluous. Great leaders like Gandhi, MLK, and Mandela are not known for sophistry. They are known for reconciling with their enemies, not marginalizing them. Even when LBJ realigned his Democratic Party with the civil rights movement, he didn’t abandon his majority base (white people) but retained them. I’m just pointing the facts, not trying to give history lesson to a psychological commando.
When he said all the nonsense about the human body, matter, catholic priests, etc., it was ok. After all, not every leader needs to be well read. I’m talking about that time when he said some % of our body is made of fire, air, etc.-perhaps taken from mythology.Then he said Malcolm X lived in West Coast, Marcus Garvey influenced JFK and all that imagined correlation. Ok! Perhaps he got the wrong info from Facebook. But when he plagiarized his English interview from Kissinger (we all know why Kissinger but Russel Brand? really?!), that was really embarrassing. That’s worse than the foreign minister changing his grandfather’s name. Ok! maybe he’s trying to prove he is as articulate as Meles (in English)- trying to prove he’s not as allergic to English as his top diplomat and retired Security Adviser/House Speaker!After noticing this clear gap in competence on himself, it seems that he changed tact and started depending on his real strength, namely: Amharic sophistry/rhetoric!
If it’s impossible to guide the popular mind with sharp intellect, it might be possible to take their heart by fanning the popular sentiment. So, in Mekelle, Tigrai became the engine of Ethiopia, its populace gold, and Meles its precious gift. This was right after the Ambo drama where he was praising those crying “down Weyane!”. His best gig, however, was remixing the“Ethiopia is a drug!” chorus which made Lemma famous and Teddy Afrorich. Ever since he begun playing that tune, the protesters have calmed down. It seemed they were content with a new talk, not a new walk. At least this premier can communicate with the local audience. His predecessor lost power because he can’t articulate his thoughts clearly.
All was well until he kept on giving sermons to everyone, everywhere, and every week. His catchphrase “medemer” went viral. Some of his devout followers reinterpreted the hitherto mysterious magic behind addition that everyone encountered in the 1st grade. Others even tried to christen it as an ideology to replace revolutionary democracy.Only if it was that easy to forge a new ideology! Sorry to say, but it takes a combination of hard study, original thinking, years of experience, and a high intellectual caliber to be taken seriously in the idea market place. Subsequently, he proceeded to mix“encrypted” slurs in his speeches. These also went viral like Psy’s “Gagnam style!” Let’s keep it real for once: he’s insulting TPLF’s leaders in order to shame their Tigrean supporters. This new rap became a hit in the box office of TPLF haters worldwide. Some denied he was elected by EPRDF and declared that God sent him. He confirmed this citing a childhood prophesy pertaining his destiny of becoming the 7th emperor of Ethiopia. When he said this,ESAT expressed little concern and OMN pretended to be deaf but ETV channeled it.As long as he scapegoats TPLF, they will forgive him.
It was at this point that he started indicating that TPLF and the Tigraean people are different or, at least, need not be the same. He posed as the prosecutor for the Tigrean people. He stated that Tigreans are oppressed in their own region. Unfortunately, what really is and what one wishes to see isn’t always the same. One might attempt to separate the atom, but one needs sufficient know-how, a collider, and the ability to manage chain reaction.If one goes down this path of separating the inseparable, one must truly answer: “whether its is the OLF or the OPDO that really dwells in the heart of the Oromo people? If it’s the OLF, what’s the later doing in power? The same goes for ANDM, has it really won the heart of the Amhara people? If not, why is it still running the region? Are these parties serving as John the Baptist paving the way for the real Messiah? Or do they aspire to deliver their own people by themselves? If not, who’s the ‘anointed’ one?”This is none of my business. It only becomes an issue when others interfere in Tigrean affairs while afflicted with a fragile-support-base-syndrome (FSBS). Didn’t Christ tell hypocrites to remove the log in their eyes before pointing their fingers at others.
One can’t help but wonder why he and his “team” are playing Bollywood politics in Ethiopia today? Gene Sharpe’s non-violent resistance only took them half-way. It didn’t lead to victory as hoped. They rushed into 4kilo. But the palace is not as decisive as it used to be prior to 1991 when they used to run things from Addis. The country is decentralized. So, their backup plan is to split the TPLF leadership from Tigreans masses by waging psychological warfare. It’s funny to witness them applying ‘koreta’ on TPLF.
But action speaks louder than words. Who is more reliable, more disciplined, and more trustworthy? Forget the 17 years armed struggle and the 27 years transformation. Let’s look at the last 100 days. Let’s observe the TPLF in action. What has it been doing? It is advising Tigreans to remain calm and refrain from serving violence. It is hosting different forums on development and good governance. It is properly engaging thousands of Tigraean scholars and the diaspora to play a constructive role in nation-building transcending hugs, and kisses. It has initiated and welcomed the call for peace with Eritreans without claiming the credit. And, as usual, it has succeeded in these endeavors.
Let us then make comparison: Where’s the stability, the reform, and the introspection in the medemer regions? They’ve been giving speeches in front of the crowd for the last three months. Again, what they do is none of my business. The point is: even if Tigreans forget the armed struggle and the accelerated/just growth of the last three decades, and consider the 100 days, they can easily judge who’s been acting rowdy and who’s behaving like an adult. Whose fans are making threats these days and whose supporters arenot responding in kind? Where in lies stability; where in lies insecurity these days? Isn’t Tigrai the safest region in Ethiopia today?Which regional leaders are putting their house in orderand which ones are shuttling across the globe in a big Boeing as the premier’s groupie? Who’s spending the taxpayers’ money? The truth is clear for all to see and for few to hide on purpose.
The current psychological warfare could have been more effective if they refined their narratives, demonstrated concern for others, and gaslighted their specific targets skillfully. There needs to be an element of surprise. But the psychological warfare that we see today casts the same actors howling since 1991, uses the same script created prior to it, and applies the age-old repressive anthem called “my way or the highway”. One can predict how a demagogue rises, declines, and falls before the movie starts-just like a Bollywood movie. The Derg used to sing “wenbede”, today its “leba”. Derg used to call the TPLF “rats”, today they call them “hyenas”.When one follows the same routine over and over, one becomes predictable, hence inconsequential.I’m not so naïve as to reprimand those hurling insults online, on tv, and on microphone to change course. Their life task is splitting the TPLF leaders from Tigrai people by waging psychological warfare. Hitherto, their attempts resemble old Bollywood movies. As the greatest leader Ethiopia ever had, Meles, once said: “you might call me‘bold!’,but you can’t touch my head!”