Mr. Al Mariam, You Are Not Still the Smartest Person in the Room (Part 2): We challenge you to do better


 By the Strathink Editorial Team

In his relentless pursuit of untruths, Mr. Al Mariam has taken on an internationally renowned expert on famine, Dr. Alex de Waal. Dr. de Waal has spent the last thirty some years studying famine—and not from the comfort of his desk. Dr. de Waal has spent a great deal of time in some of the most desperate places in the world documenting the spectrum of food insecurity—from food shortages to famine.

The topic of food security involves an understanding of nutrition, agriculture, sociology, economics and public policy. A great deal of work goes into defining concepts and standardizing measurements that assist governments, donors and the international community in preventing, mitigating and responding to events such as famine and food insecurity.

Mr. Mariam’s ignorance of this topic combined with his arrogance is insulting. He uses words that he clearly does not understand. He makes pronouncements that defy a rational, intellectually sound and evidence-based discussion. He insults not only Dr. Waal and the international community of experts across disciplines but the people who are suffering— not just in Ethiopia but also in other places around the world.

Mr. Al Mariam lacks the compassion needed to rise above his animosity towards the Ethiopian Government and make a substantive contribution to alleviating the suffering of people.

The people he glibly dismisses—such as Alex de Waal and Gayle Smith—have seen people starve to death. It is something ineradicably etched in your brain. It becomes part of you. The act of seeing people starve makes a devoutly religious person question God and his mercy. It is an abomination.

Mr. Al Mariam has never seen that kind of suffering. He has never felt the despair of watching people waste away in a world abundant with resources—and in some religions, despair is a sin against God.  He has never felt the guilt of eating after spending the day with people who are literally dying from hunger—a guilt that never goes away. No one who has seen a child die in front of one’s eyes can ever remove that image from memory. That child haunts you and you live with that child’s suffering every day.

Dr. de Waal and Ms. Smith have seen that child.

And what about Mr. Al Mariam? He basks in the pleasure of his cleverness. He wallows in his popularity among members of the Ethiopian Diaspora. He is pleased with himself.

Yet, he offers no solution, no new idea, no different way to understand the problem. What does he offer his readers? He personally attacks Mr. de Waal and Ms. Smith. He impugns their reputations. He snidely dismisses their understanding of the situation and their motives in addressing the crisis.

Mr. Al Mariam’s ignorance is frustrating.

No one is “denying famine” because the Ethiopian government says so. That is naïve and demonstrates Mr. Al Mariam’s lack of understanding about how the international community operates. There is a science that underpins internationally accepted definitions based on nutrition levels, epidemiology, economics and a host of other variables that make up such categories and have been vetted by international actors.

The fact that you don’t know who Dr. de Waal is tells us more about you than him. Anyone in the field of global politics knows the work of Alex de Waal—the emphasis here is on work.

Because you, Mr. Al Mariam, don’t do the work it takes to understand something as serious as famine. You don’t do the work and you lack the compassion it takes to not manipulate the situation of suffering people to fulfill your political agenda.

Your political agenda lacks the substance necessary to take you seriously. A political agenda is not based on hatred of a government without offering alternatives that can be operationalized in a real way.

Even though your blog is cartoonish, the real people suffering from real problems should not be pawns in your fantasy of wielding power. Try to develop some compassion and understanding of real people suffering in the real world. Look up from your computer and try to imagine a better world.

The late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi did precisely that—he tried to imagine an Ethiopia free of poverty. He tried to imagine an Ethiopia where the poorest peasant could send his children to school and his family to a clinic for health care. He tried to imagine an Ethiopia that built roads and dams that could provide Africa with electric power.

Prime Minster Meles had the political creativity to make change—he dreamed it and it happened.

You, Mr. Al Mariam, have no dreams.

Mr. Al Mariam is a reflection of much of the political monologue—it tends to be a one-way conversation—promoted by the Ethiopian diaspora. For legitimacy and credibility, it is simply not enough to be against a government. For legitimacy and credibility, the Ethiopian opposition must be able to articulate a reasonable, evidence-based argument that explains why the current government policies are wrong and what are the alternatives. That, my friends, is real democratic dialogue.

It seems as though Mr. Al Mariam, and a good deal of the political opposition in the diaspora, do not want to put the work into providing Ethiopians with constructive alternatives to the status quo.

Mr. Al Mariam, in particular, seems to enjoy the pulpit but not the work required to inform himself about the real problems facing the country and the options available to address these problems.

It is easier to provide his audiences with mocking humor and a sideshow of personal insults.

Animus will not solve the problems confronting the Ethiopian people.

Mr. Al Mariam, you are still not the smartest person in the room.

The Strathink Editorial team challenges you to write a thoughtful article that articulates both a problem and possible solution. We challenge you to write an article that does not insult nor disparage but clearly expresses a solution to a social, economic or political problem. We challenge you to re-set the tone of political discourse and set an example for the Ethiopian Diaspora.

We have thrown down the gauntlet. Be courageous and accept the challenge.

One Response to “Mr. Al Mariam, You Are Not Still the Smartest Person in the Room (Part 2): We challenge you to do better”

  1. minilik says:

    does he really need this much attention? He is just a crazy dude without any merit or substance at all. The best thing would be just to ignore his usual & sensational rants and move on. I guess he needs the confrontation. But the thing is how can you confront a clinically insane person who could barely think straight? Just ignore him please!!!Let him bark like a mad dog!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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