The Dumbest Guy in Town

Ephrem Endale: Contributer

“You’re a moron! I thought was talking with someone who knows what he says.”

“Me a moron! Coming from you that’s a big surprise. Morons don’t go call others morons.” Ouch!

“I was wrong talking with you in the first place. You don’t have the slightest knowledge about anything and you talk like you know everything.”

“Oh is that so! Then you are the one who has the last for everything. Let me tell you…”

That was snippet from a story someone was telling me; a story of two foreign-educated guys about the problems in our country. The discussions which started smoothly, so a couple of us were told, suddenly go off course and the whole thing degenerates into personal name calling. To go with what the fellow told us the two used words you’d expect from some ill-mannered village goon. How things went from smooth discussions to heated name calling and all that no one knows. Here are two supposedly high-knowledge gents talking about serious issues as those with their stature are expected to do and all of a sudden the boat starts leaking! What was clear, so our source says, was that both of them believed their and only their conclusions were the ultimate solutions to the nation’s problems. Case closed! No sirs, with the problems we are facing cases aren’t that easily closed. What we need more than any time before is minds open to the views of ‘the other side’ while presenting their own views as discussion points and not as the ‘Final Word’ ruling of some sort. Unfortunately the two gents we’re talking about were on a different level and their a dozen a dime egos spoils what would have been an interesting discussion.

Isn’t that a problem that runs through all sectors of the society? Isn’t that why smooth, well-mannered and respect-filled discussions are rare these days? What does it take to make us understand that solutions to problems of such magnitude come from the contributions of many minds?

This is a topic I dwelt upon a few times before. It seems we’ll not be divorcing from it anytime soon. At times things become so frustrating, the level of ignorance on issues is so scary and the playacting all over the place so boorish people are pardoned to feel dejected. Now the two guys mentioned earlier are ‘foreign-educated’ and the conventional wisdom is that anyone trained abroad supposedly is blessed with more brain power, whatever that means. I can tell you such blanket conclusions have cost this nation a lot over the decades. Those expecting some good from the discussion between the two gents were displaying the belief of most of us.

Look, for example despite the opportunities of high level trainings when it comes to the nuts and bolts of daily life in the country many of our Diaspora colleagues are still marooned twenty and thirty years back and even longer. Somehow the picture of the nation they had thirty years back fills the ‘living rooms’ of their brains. It’s hard to bring them up to present times since their view of the country is molded Western narratives which, as most of us are aware by now, give precedence to their interests and to the interests of the nations and peoples they talk about. ‘Truth be damned!” That’s the slogan which feeds their narratives.

Look, sometimes talking to certain people there is this urge to tell them what you actually think; “If you don’t mind my saying so, a bit of advice from a well-meaning friend. Forget the politics and all that stuff. It is making you look the dumbest guy. Or if you insist to continue debating such things how about making time for deep reading and investigations of issues!” Yes you’d lose friends. But whenever you try to be informed about the things you don’t know and talk of the things you know, there are these unexpected detours which take you miles off your destinations. “I never expected the guy was so ignorant even about the simplest things!”

You telling him to lay of talkie about politics until the time he arms himself with real knowledge of the issue would not get you any pat on the back; “That’s a real friend. Thanks for making me aware.” No way! The immediate urge on the other side is to serve you that Tyson uppercut and send you running in search of one jaw if not two. Hmmm. So, if you expect anything like “That’s very nice of you to give me such advice,” and fail to get it don’t blame the other side. They’re in no wrong. Such nice words are no more the norm.

Believe me you thought you were doing the decent thing to do but there would be many who for a second wouldn’t hesitate to hang you out to dry. ‘Who do you think you’re to give advice to people who already have put themselves in the position of the unreachable?’ “What’s wrong with these people? I am already trying to save them from bad social media barrages and they treat me like…!” Forget it.

Events like that the fellow narrated to us aren’t experiences one would have to have again. At first the topics were those usual ones you know like the cost of living going through the roof with a kilo of tomatoes going for anything 70 to 90 birr, a not-so-impressive looking egg coasting you fifteen birr and the like. Then you get into what many would have described ‘politics.’ That’s when the claws and the teeth come out with everyone trying to gauge out the eyes of ‘the other side.’ The volume of misinformation, disinformation and pure ignorance of important issues is so much so one would end up shocked if one is thin-skinned and expects miracles where the ingredients aren’t there. “No, I’m not saying that. I’m saying that it was the most horrendous thing I heard since I started growing facial hair.” That’s when they try to make you feel like you’re the dumbest guy in the town.

That’s how ‘the other side’ tries to make you appear these days…the dumbest guy in town!


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