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July 19, 2012

Threshing "tef" in Ethiopia

By Dwayne Hunn

Where are you from? What color was your sperm or ovum? Why did you get the lottery ticket that allows you to read this on the internet? What makes a Bible preaching, chest thumping American so much better than the rest of the world? Didn't many of our ancestors come here as part of the world's discarded riff-raff? "Can't we all just get along?" Does it take a village? Aren't we zygotes from the same village?


He looks 60 or 70.   He might be 40 or 50.   Kaiser would report that his body fat content is 0%.  He has no stainless steel water bottle, although there is an almost empty recycled plastic bottle ten yards away.  His dark skin is leathery.  His muscles tense every time he throws his tef laden pitchfork heavenward into the baking sun.  No lunch bag is visible.  

(Image by Unknown Owner)   Details   DMCA

Our Habitat for Humanity crew finished our 2011 latrine building project in the slums of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia a few days earlier.


Now we are touring some of the country side.   We've just had a wonderful lunch and stopped the van to talk to this farmer, who speaks next to no English.   Our driver translates, but the farmer's quiet, humble demeanor says enough.

As we leave, a couple of the girls leave their water bottles and some lunch left overs including injera (Ethiopian flat bread made from tef flour).   The grateful farmer bows several times.

We drive away, moving closer to the day we return to western life, as the farmer returns to his sinew-driven routine of threshing tef on his little field in a big valley surrounded by boulder strewn mountains likely loaded with minerals...

It's now July 2012 and that Habitat group and I are well ensconced back into western life.   With many others I now thresh, or thrash, at my laptop's keyboard at a coffee shop surrounded by Golden Gate National Park Mountains.   A neighboring thrasher asks, "How you doing?"

My often repeated reply comes out, "Can"t complain.   Compared to rest of the world, I'm fine.   And you?"

"Working three different jobs.   Gets a bit confusing.   But, as I told Jana little while ago, it's just a first world problem."

Yeah, it's a first world problem that my, his, and Jana's   fertilized egg   was lucky enough to be born into.

Episode 1 of HBO's Newsroom opens with Jeff Daniel's sizzling and blistering analysis of what's wrong with today's media and the country that once had plenty of reasons, but today has far fewer, to call and carry itself as special.

  Nonetheless, news anchor Daniel's fact laded response to "Why is America the greatest?" still causes some to react with, "Well, if you don't think America is the greatest, move!"

Maybe the better retort is that more Americans who unswervingly and uncritically believe we Americans are always smartest, hardest working, most generous, always right, the best, etc. ought to just "move around" more at home and in the world.  

When one travels the world, does one become less critical of Daniels rightfully and critically pointing out that we are #1 on war spending?   Had more super-duper, chest pounding Americans travelled the world more, would America have been more worldly aware and therefore less likely to have been duped into a trumped up $5+ trillion Iraq war?  

Had the Peace Corps grown to the size Kennedy wanted it to be, would America haters have sprouted up in Muslim and Arab nations, leading to today's hatred filled post 911 problems?

Could an itty-bitty amount of the money saved from that phony Iraq war have been invested in roads, factories, mineral exploration, as the Koreans, Chinese, and Japanese are doing, in places like Ethiopia to better their and our peoples' futures?   And wouldn't such an investment have made a helluva lot more friends than investing in falling drones does?

Could stateside travel and service work through regions like Appalachia and boarded-up towns like Detroit have moved us further along in people skill building, infrastructure rebuilding, and solar investments at home?

I'm an American who admires the smartest, hardest working, most generous Greatest Generation, who saved the world from Fascists propaganda, their military industrial estate, and helped make us special.   But factually, scientifically, and logically, I am not a myopic, chest-thumping American Firster, nor should any thinking, observant person be with the way America is becoming.  

First, we were all sperm or ovum.   Then, human beings.  

Before we were toddling human beings, some god, karmic power, or huge computer tucked away in distant nebulae decided whether on little blue green earth we would be blessed to ride comfy saddles in the first or mostly bareback in its third world, or bump along somewhere in between.

My sperm was lucky.   It wasn't humanized walking barefoot and threshing tef in an African field, struggling through in a Mumbai slum where garbage was piled ten foot high for rats to pillage a dozen feet from a tenement window, trudging a half mile to draw bucketed water from a Sri Lankan river...   No, my sperm was lucky.   It had tennis shoes to chase round balls, food on the table, garbage cans behind the garage, and toilets that flushed so we didn't have to dig holes and pee in trenches as flies and mosquitoes buzzed around...

How long would the most cocksure American Firsters last under those conditions?   After ten years of living in a hard third world way, how tough would the toughest be?

Do you think whoever or whatever put our sperm in play did so to see how horrendously #1 Great American could be on war spending and incarceration rates?  

Or is it more likely we were put here to together help saddled and bare-backed human beings become smarter and healthier?   Were we put here to help all sprouted zygotes to live with increased humanity, or to lead in bombing and incarcerating humanity?  

What if today's ranting America Firster is reincarnated into the threshing farmer?   Would he want the dominant world power of his re-do era to be as dumbed down as so many simplistic American ranters are today?

If Daniel's litany rings true to some of you, where does one go to make life better?   One place to start is

There you can find reasons People's Lobby   hopes you sign the petitions below, as we again begin seeking supporters in the 2012 Congress.      The Fair Tax Bracket Reinstitution Act would fund more than just an American World Service Corps (AWSC) .

And sign our initial on-line petition at

Authors Website:

Authors Bio:

Dwayne served in the Peace Corps in the slums of Mumbai, India, worked several Habitat Projects, and was on the start-up team of the California Conservation Corps. He has a Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate University, has been a builder, teacher, political organizer, small businessman, affordable housing developer, and a rock-piler at Rubel's Castle. Some pics and stories at

Some story tidbits about his recent well-regarded book about Rubel's Castle are available at

In 2013 Rubelia was designated a National Historic Monument, right up there with Hearst Castle. CBS clip: Rubel's Castle is on verge of listing on National Registry

Dwayne is presently Executive Director of People's Lobby Inc (PLI, 501c4)and People's Lobby's Education Foundation (PLEF, 501c3). You can read PLI's American World Service Corps Congressional Proposal (AWSC) at

Rebuilding People'Lobby web site is available at

Congresswoman Woolsey (D, CA) offered to introduce it in the 111th Congress, then retracted. Please contact your Congressional reps and ask them to become an original sponsor or cosponsor. The AWSC citizen-initiated congressional proposals could be, with you pushing your representatives, among the most significant legislation passed and implemented in decades. Imagine having 21 million Americans cost effectively doing good at home or abroad over the next 27 years.

In December 2009 Ralph Nader choose People's Lobby's book, "Ordinary People Doing the Extraordinary, The Story of Ed & Joyce Koupal's People's Lobby" as one of the Ten Best Books to Read for 2009. You can purchase the book from or learn more at

"This country runs on laws. If you want to change the country, write its laws," People's Lobby's founders Ed and Joyce Koupal used to say. If you want to enlighten public policy, involve millions of Americans in addressing public needs, prepare for climate weirding, etc., help make it happen. The AWSC addresses with people action many of our most pressing and costly needs. To sign the reopened American World Service Corps petition/letter, which contacts Congress for you: Paste
Please help make the AWSC happen. To learn more about People's Lobby, visit the web site at

Recent books both available on line and from publishers: Every Town Needs a Castle (Prelude to next book, Every Country Needs a World Service Corps)

Ordinary People Doing the Extraordinary (Nader's 2009 TopTen Books to Read List)