Observations of Ethiopians in Paltalk (‘Paltopians’) By Yared Ayicheh

August 28th, 2011 Print Print Email Email

After attending Paltalk(R) for four years I feel I need to put my feelings, thoughts and observations about Ethiopian interactions in Paltalk rooms. This is by no means an attempt to scientifically assess the Ethiopian Paltalk subculture; it is just an observation.

From the hundreds of nick names I have seen in the various rooms, one that has stuck with me is ‘Paltopian’ (It looks like a combination of Paltalk + Ethiopian.) So, from this point on, I will be using this term to refer to Ethiopians in Paltalk: Paltopians. The credit goes to whoever the person is that created the nick name, not me.

Some have suggested that Paltopians are not different from Ethiopians at large and that they, Paltopians, represent fairly most Ethiopians. I don’t know if that is a fact or not, since I have not seen a scientific poll taken about Paltopians, but I feel there may be some truth in that. Like most modern technology, Paltalk was not created with Ethiopians in mind, since we are usually at the bottom of the global food chain. Perhaps that may account to the ineffectiveness of most of the rooms and the abuse of technology and room participants by room administrators. In any case, what I found easily identifiable about Paltopians is we are under-developed, under-exposed, and under-civilized.

Under-developed

Paltopians seem to be unaware and unawakened folks. It is perhaps an indicator of the low quality of the Ethiopian education system. Basic concepts such as emotional maturity, personal ethics, basic scientific concepts, basic critical thinking skills, and interpersonal communication skills are at a primitive level in the land of Paltopians. The lack of curiosity and courage to question the basic assumptions of the Ethiopian society is common among Paltopians. How could this be when most Paltopians reside in the western world?! How come people don’t expose themselves to various philosophical questions raised 500 or even 4000 years ago?!

Paltopians are indeed under-developed intellectually, however what has startled me the most is the absence of emotional maturity or insight. The way people treat each other as if the other person has no feelings has alarmed me many times. It has also tempted me to link the many atrocities committed in Ethiopia in the past century to this emotional numbness. The anger and emotional outbursts, the pretentious denials, and the total repression of ones own feelings is reflected in the way people treat others. If Ethiopians are like Paltopians, no wonder we Ethiopians don’t trust each other. No wonder Ethiopian organizations are riddled with fundamental organizational weaknesses, mistakes and failures.

Under-exposed

Exposure is what an individual experiences through life, work experience, travels to foreign places, reading diverse views, watching and listening to human expressions/art and so on. I feel most Paltopians are generally under-exposed and inexperienced. For example, the absence of posted Paltalk room rules and topics in most rooms says something about our weak understanding of basic communication skills. I have heard many Paltalk room administrators say, “We have room rules, please follow the room’s rules.” But can one know the rules when they are not clearly posted where they can be easily accessed? No.

Often even the admins don’t know what the rooms discussion topic is, and yet I hear them say, “Lets stay on the topic.” Some may see these issues as simple mistakes or even non-issues. However, to me these are reflections of how much under-exposed and inexperienced many Paltopians are to procedures and processes.

Under-civilized

Yes, I am going to use the C word: civil. It is a word that many Ethiopians take lightly or not understand at all, but Paltopians lack basic civility. From the potentially mentally and emotionally disturbed Paltopians, to the rude, abusive and incompetent administrators; from the narrow-minded-flag-worshiping-ultra-Ethiopianists to the ethnocentric-Amara-haters, from the young to the elderly, I have witnessed excessive lack of basic civility in Paltalk rooms.

The first thing is to understand that everyone can express their ideas without the need to undermine other individuals. Disagreeing with others does not have to be a love and hate issue. And yet, as an emotionally under-developed society, emotional dependency is rampant not only among Paltopians but among most Ethiopians as well. I am not responsible for how you feel. That does not mean I will intentionally provoke and trigger your negative emotions, but I am not responsible for how you feel. You are responsible for your own moods, nobody else is.

Paltopians also seem to have no boundary what so ever. Boundary is how far I can go with out making an issue personal. It is as if Paltalk is full of wild animals. Do we not understand that people have boundary? Are we not capable of imagining what individual boundary is? Or do we feel setting boundary is being westernized? Whatever the reason is, Paltopians lack boundary.

“I wish I was born in America”

Paltalk has in its own way helped me reflect about how sad and tragic the “Ethiopian condition” really is. It is right that Paltalk can not be used to judge all Ethiopians, but I feel there are too many patterns of behaviors that parallel between Paltopians and Ethiopians.

Let me share with you a true story. A family came to America from Ethiopia with young children. After living in the States for few years, the mother has a new baby in America. One of the kids that came from Ethiopia made a comment that shocked the parents. He said, “I wish I was born in America too.” The parents rebuked the kid and ordered him not to say that again. But what is wrong with the kids statement? Nothing. Perhaps the parents were upset because the kid said what they were thinking but were afraid to say out loud.

After observing Paltopians for four years, I wish I was born in America too.

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The writer may be reached at yared_to_the_point@yahoo.com

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