The Ethiopian perspective
I. Consensus on Peace as an objective of harmony
In the concert of the harmony of life, with the perspective of harmony is there for us, for the Ethiopian reality any light through the tunnel? Is the high objective peace just a dream? The great historical opportunity in 2005 seems to have elapsed, when all politically relevant actors could comply with the rules of the democratic play to share or reconcile fields of interest and spheres of political power to accept the challenge of the day and cope with the high-time task of the people. The minds of the big-actors are still staggering in disharmony incapable of managing the concert. Thereby on the one side, resorting to the simple, brutal and primitive method – brut force, which appeals to the substance of the small and backward intellect, on the other the state of an uncompromising political attitude, incapable of grasping the moment of history in its harmonious existence, showing the indicative low level of intelligence, not worthy of the peoples high level of social reality, ever witnessed in such a manner in the history of the Ethiopian state, to promote peace, prosperity, welfare and culture illuminated by a high level of faith of different colours. Sticking to their legacy of different origins, the elite have failed as a whole; be it in the underlying dogmatic attitude of the so called “revolutionary democracy”/”Abiotawi democracy”, which is a remnant of the obscurant dogmatic ideology of communism; or be it in a manifestation of the misplaced “zeraf-mentality”, which is today totally irrelevant, for the aspirations of the people with hundreds of flowers of cultures I mentioned above. And above all the insanity of the never ending dispute of the Eritrean – Ethiopian conflict, not to mention the material wealth consummated; for which over 70,000 people have sacrificed their lives, (an amount which only measures to the sacrifice during the Italian occupation of Ethiopia in WW II) is beyond any form of rationality. Without this conflict, the amount of wealth consummated, could have given a basis of existence for the million of the victims of the hunger catastrophe of today. Instead, it has been an annual ritual to collect alms every Christmas for Ethiopia, a name, which is gradually in the west becoming a synonym for Hunger, scratching and piercing on the substance of the pride we used to entertain as Ethiopians. Given the common ethnic origin, the common cultural ground, the similar religious and historical background of the peoples involved in the conflict, I would say, this conflict has taken a paranoid dimension – and is a case for the psychiatrist or the exorcist.
Since the man of Ethiopia always likes to symbolize himself with the lion, (to please everybody) if I take the liberty of making an allegory, I always have a picture of several numbers of these “lions” fighting, scrambling, snatching and tormenting each other for a piece of flesh, which the warder of the national park has thrown for their nourishment on his monitoring tours. In the sphere of the humans, if you take and understand, this piece of flesh for a piece of knowledge and the warder for the source of knowledge, be it the political ideology, the religion or a genuine epistemology from every direction of heaven or earth — China and India -the eastern philosophy, the continent – the Greek philosophy or the Roman empire –or the philosophy and scientific inquiry from the island – the Empire or from the far West– the philosophy of constitutional democracy- across the Atlantic – from the Incas —etc…etc…Or for that matter even an indigenous origin of knowledge, whatever it may be -from the Aksumite Empire or the Geda system or the Wolamo kingdom or the Mehal Meda of Shewa – or the castles of Gonder – the source or the truth of this knowledge is immaterial and does not justify the negation of life. The point is that, knowledge is at the disposal of the human, to nourish the intellect, so that he could make his life convenient and worthy of the existence, but never and ever for organising a bloodbath or carnage like the wild lions in the national park. I am sure this is not at all in the sense of the initial originators of all these philosophies, ideologies, models, faiths and religions. If however, some of these ideologies, philosophies, economic models, religions or faiths are inherently in their nature made or rectified for the carnage, the conflicts, and the violence, they don’t deserve the attribute human and have to be discarded, not even in the warded national park, but to the animals in the jungle, where these laws of the jungle would reign. Under the perspective of harmony, we Ethiopians can no more afford any religious or political philosophy or political movement or liberation or freedom or national movement, which is counter to the philosophy of peace as a higher objective. I think we have had enough of it, in the events of the last 30 years, not to mention our 3000 years history. Be it the wealthy man, who adores the sanctity of private property or the philanthropist or the “communist” who sees all sources and solutions of conflicts in the appropriation of the latter, without peace his basic ground for existence will crack and break down. That piece of flesh, for which they have staged a carnage, will not be consumed by any of the indigenous ones but by another lion, a stronger one, which will again reign in the jungle; then you know the saying “Kanbesa mengaga”1. But we want a human environment and peace. We must surpass this phase of the “Anbesaw”2 psychological make-up to a sober intellectual outlook of the modern human-being and work in Ethiopia for the Peace of our people and mankind.
Is this high objective peace of the social plane really just a dream? We can remain optimist and let us put oil on the troubled waters of our volatile region. Let us hope that the state of reconciliation, which is today in the air at the dawn of our Millennium hold long enough to bring the first off springs of the social Harmony, which the Ethiopian people are for so long fond of. The economic policy, the philosophy of the social welfare and the education system, which are the ground work of a peaceful existence, are all negotiable and could be worked out, if the genuine good will for peace is the ultimate purpose of the social framework. If one deserves the attribute intellectual, for the beginning and as a prerequisite, it just needs the harmony in the individual mind, the consensus and the passion of the elite– the political class- for tolerance and peace at large, whose condition is under the Ethiopian reality, the freedom of culture.
II. Consensus on Culture as an objective of harmony
The high objective – culture in Ethiopia is so diversified that, instead of being an asset, it is either seen as a burden or it is used by the simple intellect as a pretext to call for uniformity, which is counter to harmony. The simple solution of the simple intellect – one man –one language- one nation- can only invite the disintegration of the Ethiopian state, where for good or bad, we were living together for centuries. No one, but the stronger lion, to continue with my allegory, would benefit from the modern version of “zemene mesafint.”3 But the agenda of the modern man, in order to have a substantial ground of existence for the coming centuries, can only be to join hands in the sense of “dir biabir anbesa Yasir”4 and develop the existing state, on the fundament of humanism and tolerance. For this, the appropriate form of state is today nothing less than a full fledged constitutional democracy. To build up and develop such a state is of course a case for the high intellect and not for the “sima belew” 5of the simple uniform solution, where one or the other culture would dominate or the diverse cultures will be left “for themselves and by themselves”, liable for manipulation by the stronger group, like the segregating solution of the “Bantu” type in the apartheid system of former South Africa. Because of the fact that building a state, on the ground of cultural freedom constituting hundreds of cultures, is a case for the high-intellect, which are assets for the beauty of life – there is no reason to dismantle the state, the Ethiopian state. Whether we like it or not, with all its odds and ups, this existing state is handed over in this form to this generation. I think a common sense suffices to know that, after the revolting phase of the adolescence, the off-spring will take over the common house; the authoritarian father has built; even if he has built the house without the appropriate substance and construction material of the day; and even if this father has mistreated the members of his family. Abandoning the house for others and making the existence of oneself and one’s neighbours, precarious, is foolish, and even contrary to the self-interest of the concerned. . With this I am just indicating that it is meaningless to abandon the common state, or even to dwell much on the past and the injustice experienced, which no doubt is true for the majority of ethnic and national groups, unless it is necessary to illuminate the way for the future common state. What is the problem at looking in the future? The intellectuals of the different cultures in Ethiopia, if they don’t want to be an object of manipulation for the big “lions” of this world devoid of conscience, their interest can only be congruent with that of their corresponding people. The interest of any people, whether incorporated in one big state or disintegrated in hundreds of isolated mini-states, is cultural freedom and development, prosperity and peace for a worthy life. To take the service of the harmony-model: peace for a worthy life; Culture, faith and perfection (for prosperity). Turn it in every direction or put it in every dimension, all people have no other interest than these essentials of life. The point is how can you better achieve these essentials? Either in a common state, if history happened to grant you one – a state for several national groups and peoples or isolated to become the prey of stronger nations. Under the political philosophy of the world today, does it need a high intellect to grasp the better alternative?
Is it a dream or a nightmare to develop the Ethiopian state on the ground of cultural freedom? The –one man- one language – one nation solution of the simple intellect is the nightmare. The concert of the hundreds of cultures with the cultural freedom for a still further and higher humanist cultural development is a sweet dream for the optimist. There are several models of such states – federal states with one plus one or two languages solutions to promote the interaction between the cultures, administrations and the economic developments. This is the concrete nature of the high objective of culture in the harmony of life for the Ethiopian social reality – Cultural Freedom – a prerequisite for prosperity.
III. Consensus on perfection/prosperity as an objective of harmony
The High objective Perfection supported by Science, is nothing but prosperity in its real concrete nature. Prosperity for all Ethiopians seems really a far fetched dream. If we look back at the last 30 years and all the sacrifices made for it and all the bloodshed experienced in the name of dogmatic ideologies, with their solutions to achieve this, it is not so easy to remain optimist. Tilahun’s “Migibma moltual mech Amlak nesagn ….” 6 is the biggest lie ever made in the field of art, if the mass of the Ethiopian people were meant!
What is our problem? Doesn’t science have access to the Ethiopian mind? Ethiopians as soon as they leave their country, they are not less successful than an average person in their surroundings. Ethiopians are even in the average more intelligent than their companions in the field of academics. But as soon as they interact with each other there is always a problem. A paradox observed by several foreign Ethiopian experts too. A fact which made the Ethiopian elite throughout the past century a prey to alien forces with their ulterior motives. The one Ethiopian mind doesn’t let access to the mind of the other. Reason and logic, which are essential means of mutual understanding to solve problems are among Ethiopians not necessarily always accepted in that function. Irrespective of education or experience, I have the feeling that this medium plays a highly subordinate role in the abstraction and conception level of the Ethiopian mind (without going too far see for instance the frustrating breach within “Kinijit”/the CUD Leadership/ these days). There are always other values and system of judgements which subordinate this medium. Just to mention some mixes of these: Superstition, Religion, Faith, Genealogy, Astrology, social status, wealth etc… Along this line it has stuck up for instance specially in the areas of mythology; blocking all epistemological development in the sphere of cosmology and science etc. The infamous concept like “Mekegninet”7 or stuffs like “Yalteretere temenetere”8– “Sewn mamen kebro new”9 etc. (- these kind of attitudes are at least for those from the highlands, numerous) which run counter to mutual understanding and communication, are states of mind which are rather peculiar to Ethiopians. This way of mixing up conceptions may be true for social environments of other states as well, but I believe it is not as overwhelming as our Ethiopian reality. And without reason and logic there is no science. This is of course a case for social investigation, but for me it suffices, to make the assumption that this is due to the fact that Ethiopia and specially the Ethiopian intellectual has never had a genuine chance to reflect on its own and appropriate the spirit of enlightenment and intellectual freedom. I think it is not an accident that the progress of science and enlightenment in the history of mankind took place more or less simultaneously. Is the Ethiopian social reality resistant to Science and therefore our problem with Prosperity, with the consequence of remaining one of the poorest states in the world since almost a century?
The controversial social role of religion and the fact, that enlightenment didn’t still have access to the mind of the Ethiopian and especially to the intellectual is significant. The social reality of a community can somehow be measured, according to the harmony model (see hypothesis below), by the sum total of intelligence, which is a factor of humanity (humanitarian values) and quality of music in an exponential relation, expressing the development of culture in all its aspects. If the intellectual section of our society is so imprisoned by its social environment and social reality, that it has its problem with the medium of reason and logic, no wonder if the prosperity we are longing for remained a far fetched dream. And this is, in spite of some attempts made by different ideological models so far, which may have been sometimes subjectively genuine.
Given these social circumstances and state of minds, is it a dream to hope for prosperity, the high objective of harmony? The key to the problem is I think, like all our problems, the intellectual section – the elite- of the Ethiopian social reality. The Ethiopian intellectual has to make a genuine acquaintance with Enlightenment in all its facets. It has to make the medium of reason and logic its way of understanding life and the means of its social interactions and communications. If the Ethiopian elite can make it among other social realities, they can do it in their own social environment too. Once such communication, which is an essential factor for material development, not only on the surface of the Ethiopian mountains and valleys but also deep in the intrinsic structure of the minds, becomes a self evident medium of life, the curtain of ignorance will be torn down. If this replaces the tradition of scepticism, suspicion, fear and all sorts irrational and mythology dominated state of minds, the Ethiopian people will do miracles, and the immodest statement, we once used to make, that Ethiopia would be the breadbasket of Africa, may come true. With enlightenment breaking through the day of Ethiopia, we may then walk with our heads upright. Enlightenment is the essential substance of modern Faith in whatever forms it is manifested.
IV. Consensus on faith as an objective of harmony
Faith in Ethiopia is not a scarce property, if we consider the religious component only. The role and impact of the Ethiopian orthodox church in particular and the other big religion – Islam in the historical development of the Ethiopian state is not insignificant. And the Ethiopian people are also, though somewhat liberal in practice, more religious than secular. This is also true for the intellectual section. The most outstanding fact is that the two main religions in Ethiopia, with the exception of short periods have a long record of peaceful co-existence in the life experience of the people. (A state of affairs, which we by all means have to maintain further, dismissing all persuasions to the contrary). This is in spite of the dogmatic nature of every religion, which is exclusive in the promotion of ideas and values. But this dogmatism, not sensed by the victim, had, I think, until today, a big impact on the attitude of the protagonists of the new ideologies entertained by a substantial section of the active political elite. This may be one of the reasons, why Ethiopians were in the last 50 years, in their new appropriated political philosophies intolerant and unable for compromises in case of different opinions. This fact plus the inherent dogmatism, which ideologies have by themselves, was in the Ethiopian reality disastrous.
The other components of the spiritual plane in the harmony of life other than religion are conscience and faith by itself. Conscience had a significant social value in the period 50 years before, not only in the decision making of the sovereign individual but also in the administration of social affairs. The social role of religions in the sense of orienting the strong social groups to be accountable at least to their Gods, i.e. the “Feriha Igziabher”10 conscience, was socially helpful. This was especially valuable in view of the missing democratic and basic human rights. Faith, manifested in different forms of intellectual and philosophical conception of life was however, minute or insignificant. This reality in the form of an open philosophy has either not changed or faith in its philosophical touch is present solely as dogmatic as in the case of religions and as exclusive as the latter, missing the enlightenment role it could have played in the society. All philosophies, if interpreted by Ethiopians have always an affinity to dogmatism. This can be explained among others, similar to that of science mentioned above, through the fact that, the intellectual development of the elite in Ethiopia has taken place without making a genuine reflection of the enlightenment period, which was the basis of humanism. With the religious dogmatism and the authoritarian absolutist social background combined with a dogmatic ideology, this state of reality could hardly bring about the liberation of the mind of the new generation of intellectuals, who have in vain drafted now and then a better administration of the people. Instead, this has brought about a political culture, which is characterized by intolerance and the inability for compromise with the opponent, demanding a blind obedience from the proponent, in the end culminating in an obscurant system of belief, celebrating violence and contradictions instead of making the emphasis on the solutions of problems. This means in the harmony of the spiritual plane, the Ethiopian social reality was dominated by disharmony. The Relation between the conscience of mankind, religion and faith was messed up, so that the state of harmony was impossible, in the sense of the higher objective of faith. The main discrepancy was, as indicated above, in the philosophical attitude of the intellectual, which should have promoted the spiritual and material well-being of the society. The elite are responsible for this discrepancy, either in their inability of grasping the moments of the spiritual plane in the context of their three manifestations (conscience, religion and faith) or not understanding the social role of religion and some ethical values, like conscience, present in the social reality.
Is this high objective of faith, especially in the emphasis on its philosophical aspect achievable for the Ethiopian social reality? The key to the problem is, promoting this faith, by highlighting and incorporating the essence of enlightenment, with the purpose of liberating the mind of the elite from all forms of dogmatism, to make tolerance, reason and logic the essential medium for spiritual communication in particular; and to grasp its relations to the rest of the high objectives of the harmony at large.
It is working for these high objectives – Peace, Culture, Perfection and Faith – that the great purpose of harmony in life will be achieved in the Ethiopian reality too. Let us become optimists, though the reality of the day is not encouraging. The success depends on the enlightenment of the elite, especially in their ability for consensus on these high-objectives. Otherwise the spectre of discord and disharmony will reign further; and like in the last 40 years all the philosophies of intolerance of different origins, with their inability for compromises resorting always to violence – the simple solution of the low intellect- would prevail. This would however be only the case until again; the forces of harmony make their ways through life and succeed. Like all enlightened cultures, the Ethiopian people may also experience one day THAT LIGHT of Plato through the tunnel. Year 2005 is the witness and the beginning of this fortune.
Hope is a principle of Enlightenment!
May Harmony be the Logos of our Millennium!
1 “out of the lion’s jaw” 2 “the lion’s” 3 “the era of princes” 4 “a collection of threads can trap a lion” 5 ‘a commander’ 6 “God has not deprived me of enough food” 7 “mischief” 8 “if you don’t suspect you will loose your head” 9 “trust a man after his burial” 10 respect for God