swagger, ethiopia, DDT and durkheim
I realized today that I've lost my Toronto rush and acquired an Ethiopian swagger when I walk. There's hardly reason for rushing and there's a lot of tolerance for lateness here when you consider the difficulties with respect to transportation. Most people don't drive and either opt for walking and/or taxi service. The taxi system is far superior to anything in Canada. The majority of taxis are shared so the price depends on the distance to your destination. For a trip in a van which carries up to 12 people at once, the minimum is 60 cents per person. For a car, which carries up to 4 people at once, the minimum is 75 cents. (I don't know maximum prices because I generally don't stray to far from home by taxi.) It's convenient because you just need to say "this is my stop" (aka woradj alleu) and they let you off anywhere. To get picked up, it's just a slight wave of the hand. I've only taken the giant red and orange bus once (from Shiro Meda to Bole) with the help of friends. The bus is better for longer cross-city trips. The bad thing about the bus is that it's packed and more people always squeeze on. People literally tumble out at their stop. I hardly doubt there are safety regulations and the doors are capable of removing limbs as they close.
I think the other swagger factor is the sun. It's too hot at certain times of the day to move quickly. And while this is highland country, it's still very hot, dry, dusty and dirty. Which brings me to another point - you have to walk carefully to watch for rusty nails, gobs of spit/snot, zig zag bull pee and goat poop pellets.
Things are slower here but considering the country is still developing, I think there's such a great opportunity to learn from the mistakes the rest of the world made in their own stages of development. The best example I can think of to relate this is the use of DDT as a pesticide in North America. While somewhat controversial, DDT was banned over 20 years ago for possibly causing harmful side effects and yet it's being widely used here. Why, why, why? The poor economy means Ethiopia can mostly afford the West's cast-offs but in all good conscience, how can anyone act out the role akin to a tobacco company - we know you don't really need it, and we know it's harmful (maaaaaybe deadly) to you and your children and your children's children but...that's business. Essentially of course, it comes down to money. You don't have to read that much into it to realize that when it comes to money, the lives of Africans aren't considered valuable.
All of the world, including the West, spawned from Ethiopia. If anything, the development of Africa should be an ideas exchange rather than a dictatorship or fiduciary approach. Who's to say the West knows best? Because we have stuff and technology and technology that gives up more stuff? It hasn't brought us happiness yet. We seem to think if we hold out a little longer, this same technology will click, spark or shine and happiness will appear. It won't. Are the people of Ethiopia happy? No. But I think it's the disappointment of seeing the gap between their lifestyle (something akin to Durkheim's theory perhaps) and that of the West. When perhaps they were perfectly fine in the first place.
As an update, the book to change our generation is "Ishmael" by Daniel Quinn. It's a mind bender in the best sense. It says everything I can't possibly say here.