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A Web Site For The Young Ethiopian Professional.
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Front Page
Table of Contents
Editors' Note
The Mail
My Story
Money and...
Imeri SuQ
Delala, NY Style
Thirty Questions
Selling Out
E Trade
The Hustle
The Profile
Corporate Arbegna
The 25K Challenge
A Kiss Without...
Top 10
MBA Woes
Do The Right Thing
Hamsa Lomi:
Back Page

It's a BuBu World: Learn the Rules!

"Talking about the Rich, Bold and Beautiful, my hope for Ethiopia lies with the swelling ranks of cutthroat self-serving Ethio-American capitalists busily carving out their share of the pie here in America. Not because they have yehager feker but for the immense opportunity. This new class of brilliant bourgeoisie (BuBu), armed with their Ivy League degrees, stock options and American-style cutthroat attitude, is starting to discover Wello Sefer, Langano and The Gazebo. Yes, they are spending their $$ today on what might seem buwalt ena fez (an important and real contribution to the economy) but their trained eyes are bound to notice the upside for Mega-Profit." (/may00/ld1.shtml)

It is interesting to me that people have so many diverse ideas about the path to prosperity ranging from the very practical to the lam alegne besemaye wetetwane alaye variety. What is even more intriguing is the fact that such ideas are invariably tinged with a moral overtone. Just the other day I found myself in a heated debate over the issue of private ownership of land in Ethiopia; my friends were making the claim that public ownership of land is not only right for security purposes, but is also just.

At this point, I want to assure you that this is neither a discussion about the role of morality in our search for b'lsiGna nor about the diversity of opinions regarding such matters. Rather, it is a personal observation about the compelling role of the market in getting to this state.

Before going on, I must admit I was partly inspired by the tte--tte of the Life Diarists from two months back on the merits of bego adragot versus self-interest inspired activities for the future of our country and society. (At least this is my read on part of the exchange). In particular, I found the discussion of Bu-Buism the vehicle through which profit motivated development might take place interesting, if not fascinating. I also take it that when we talk about the future in this context, we are referring to material prosperity, and its attendant benefits, and not much else.

As you might have gleaned from the preceding, my biases favoring the Bu-Bu approach are apparent. But even at this point, I cannot emphasize enough that there is nothing that shows bego adragot and the Bu-Bu scheme to be mutually exclusive. Anyone involved in any activity in life always has something to share with others. Nothing is too small if it has some significance, especially to those who are close by: Co-workers, friends, family members and even the occasional foe. (I really believe this and I also say it partly to head off any colorful mail that might get directed my way).

Well, to get back to the point at hand, I appreciate Bu-Buism for all sorts of reasons most of which are naturally interrelated. At a fundamental (and even philosophical) level, Bu-Buism can lead us to avoid championing a false sense of pride and temper the passions of popular sensibilities no insignificant feats by any measure. Bu-Buism with its dispassionate, some might even say objective, outlook towards life has thus great appeals. Practically, and maybe even more importantly, it appears to be the best mechanism for organizing our material life.

Altruism on a grand scale, although it has its own merits, has many pitfalls. The saying 'The road to hell is paved with good intentions,' comes to mind. It is not that I am against the kindness of strangers. However, given that human nature is what it is, I tend to find some comfort in the idea of a pursuit of meritocracy, in the fullest sense of the word, which Bu-Buism makes possible. If we can claim that BuBus are predictable, the follies of human passions are even more so. At least BuBu culture reinforces and makes transparent what is part of our nature: the pursuit of individual well being. So, even if it cannot deliver us salvation, as a nice by-product, Bu-Buism helps us all thrive materially.

So, where do BuBus fit here? Next to the Lord, the Creator (forgive the blasphemy here), the market is the deity that BuBus knowingly and unknowingly embrace. Ok, I exaggerate when I equate the market to a divine being, but the existence of the "invisible hand" and "animal spirits," which dictate its workings mislead me into believing that is what it is. But, the similarity of this market thing to any deity ends here, for it is neither benevolent nor forgiving as it marches to the relentless drumbeat of the all-powerful bottom-line.

Getting back to BuBus, since they are the love children of the market and the almighty bottom-line, they could be the natural conduits for nurturing the market in our society - notice, I say could, for no matter how powerful they are, even I am not nave enough to expect that they can build any market in the absence of the necessary pre-requisites. (In the jargon of the profession, without the presence of the institutional set-ups such as property rights and contracts BuBus will not have much to nurture. This sort of talk maybe reminiscent of the idea of whether the chicken or the egg came first. But, regardless of whether the institutional set-ups are needed first or they will only develop as needed, this is an important consideration). Still in this hypothetical scenario we are considering, I am assuming these things away to leave room for my imagined BuBu influence.

Before you write me off completely as being a heartless fool, and even worse, a misguided apologist of Bu-Buism, I would like to say a word or two about its dangers. The usual suspects in this area monopolies, pollution, inequality and all sorts of other 'greed' inspired follies are still at large even in places where this phenomenon has been in existence for quite sometime. But these things don't worry me because they are by-products of human action and as such are amenable to change. Besides, it seem to me the choice here is between poverty and gaining affluence - that is, between facing problems spawned by poverty and facing those that inevitably arise with improvements in living standards. As far as I know, there is nothing romantic about poverty, so I choose the latter. But I will let you, dear readers, be the final judges on this.

The real unfortunate (and even frightening) consequence of Bu-Buism, in my humble opinion, is a case of a kiss without a hug: a society that can fall victim to the scarcity of genuine human relations. Maybe my imagination fails me here, but I say this is frightening because I know of no solution for this malady. (Maybe this is the domain best reserved for bego adragot).

Hope springs eternal, and this sort of thing need not happen in all societies. Besides our society is in no danger of being infected by this bug for the foreseeable future (yeluNta alone takes care of that), so we can delay worrying about this as we struggle to achieve all that BuBu culture promises us. So, I end my intellectual (but not entirely impractical) musings on this optimistic note.

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