What is Wrong with us? Part I

What is wrong with us?

Such an abrupt change of life encourages thinking about the next stage.

I was pleased when I developed a kind of three-point plan that gives me

direction. Now I ask myself, when I’m doing something in my work: 

Is it relating to point one? Is it relating to point two? Is it relating to 

point three? If it’s not relating to any of those, then I’m wasting my time.”

(FRANK WILCZEK, Nobel Prize in Physics (2004)*


A Point of Concern for Reflection (Part I)

Decades are gone, regimes have changed but there is no progress in the democratic

process of the Ethiopian Community.


Normally when ideologies fail, organizations crumble, unless there is some

“primordial” disposition holding them together, affiliated through a “communion 

of fate” /Schicksalsgemeinschaft/ based either on a camouflaged ulterior (teleological)

purpose emanating out of some “faith and philosophy” with an objective of a 

certain totalitarian system or a similar political substance with a “nationalist” colour 

or even an apparent pseudo-aristocratic new ideological model. The former Eastern 

Block is still a living example how actually ideologically devoid organizations 

and parties crumble, though some are again reviving anew or restructured with 

similar old or new political objectives.

Why is thus, the political-organizational metamorphosis in Ethiopia rather the same

during the last decades, in spite of a tremendous global ideological shift? Given the

simple political contours which would be relevant, it is beyond common

sense to explain the never ending sectionalism and divisive propensity of the active 

Ethiopian polity. Is it only something of that Phenomena like “the false dasein” /

“non-authenticity” at the individual leadership level? Or more?  What is it that hinders our 

political development from taking the path of some new African States, 

like South Africa or today Ghana etc. or even Zimbabwe’s opposition?

Given the academic sufficient high level standard of their various leaderships, the ethnic 

diversity etc. in Ethiopia is not a strong argument. Religion, Ideology and/or 

social-psychology at the individual level are all relevant but perhaps not fundamental, 

since otherwise the significant political demarcations would have run along these 

lines and we could have experienced a new organizational political stability. The political

stratification of the Ethiopian Elite is as simple as in any other modern political

landscape with similar political development of the last decades. However,

without going to details, be it the political spectrum with leftist legacy or a social-

democratic content or those with classical conservative values, the political

organizational outcome does not run in accordance with the possible political

content. WHY? As unhappy, unaware or even as a victim of the “political imperative”

as they could be, are most of the minds buried in the onto-historical nature of power 

(in its ugliest mod-us) and have lost their capacity for reflection? 


Just to initiate, a bit of a reflection here; Hannah Arendt’s explanation of totalitarianism is 

a strong discourse. Her position, that the people promoting fascism and racist ideology 

are not beasts or wild humans but the same men and women like every one of us; and 

the big phenomena which makes the difference (irrespective of to which “camp” they

belong) is their “GEDANKENLOSIGKEIT”/ thoughtlessness, the incapacity to think,

i.e. Moments of history when men and women lose their capacity to think or submit

to authorities due to primitive existential reasons, is highly persuasive. Without

falling victim to Descartes’ dualism, I am sure of the fact that, the moment one

stops thinking everything is possible. In other words, „I AM BECAUSE I THINK” is as

valid as / “Cogito, ergo sum”/ “I think therefore I am”. AND NOT “I am because I

belong to this or that community, that blood or soil”. “I am because I think” and

therefore under normal circumstances “I go there to where what I think” 

-my IDEA – is sufficiently represented i.e.  to where I THINK and AM, and 

not blindly to where my “blood or soil” leads me.


Communities, nations or states, circumscribed by one or a diversity of cultures with

their corresponding arch-types, are products (projects) of the Conscious – the

collective Conscious – the collective intelligence – the sum total of the

thinking individuals – the conscious individuals, with a sense of (historical -)

pragmatism to make their common survival – their minute and short natural

existence in space and time- somewhat convenient. That means, if these

individuals are not subjects with the necessary capacity to THINK, the state and

community may be along a disastrous path and everything is possible. (Look at the

new Bill against NGOs, what is it indicating?) AND what is all this fuss about, for

such a tiny “interlude” between Eternities of no time; NO TIME whatever that could

be, if there is not a more fundamental dogmatized belief cemented in the activist

minds/subjects? I don’t think it’s just “material” and “economic”. If I were a

“pentekost” or a priest I would have simply said “Yeza yekeisi – yesaitan sira”/a devil’s

project and dismiss all other reflections.


How can IT, the “primordial” fundamental dogmatized belief cemented in the

activist minds/subjects, be shattered? -Social evolution through generations with

all its consequences in between? -Through an arduous appropriate education

(political or more) and/or experience (phenomenological or not))? What then?

Armed social revolution! Didn’t we see all through our century enough of the

minds, which come out of the barrel of the gun? Or counter to enlightenment back

to a new or old aristocratic rule full of obscurity or a totalitarian rule of the “left”

or “right”, colored with different ethno-religious flags (aware or not) at the service

and merit or as a victim of external power relations?


Where is the Ethiopian renaissance? -The Philosophy of enlightenment etc.? Where

is the “Emperor of the MIND”, who could see and feel across the cross-section of the

minds of the whole Ethiopian community? -The Common sense of the State? The

common sense of the simple man cumulated to make the exponent of the wise



“Lemehonu bebeg na besew mehakel yalew liyunet min yihon”?(1) How is the

Human qualified to be better than the Animal. What makes the big or the tiny/DNA/

difference between the animal and the human? The “flesh and the blood” or/and

the “soil and the blood” into which they are born or “the enlightenment of the

mind”. “Siga we demu weis berhane aymerow”? (2) If a clever and cunning social

survey of all the Ethiopian literate section (or the elite) were made and if they

were ready to give an honest reply, what would the outcome be? “Sigawe Demu”(3),

in the sense of Christianity’s “telatihin Wided” (4) or “Sigawe Demu” in the sense of

“soil and blood’s Telatihin gidel” (5).-“Telatihin gidel” like an act of survival in the sense 

of “social-darwinism”, like “the survival of the fittest” in an evolutionary process. 

As far as the rest of the Ethiopian people is concerned, be sure the vast majority, would

only say: “Inesu ketesmamu igna min gedon”!(6)

If we take the past and the present as an indicator, it won’t be difficult to forecast

the gloomy perspective, since we have all witnessed in our generation, how the

ruling Ethiopian polity has resolved its differences, be it the old aristocratic, the

military or the new regional-nationalist regime. This has been a vivid event at the

climax of power relations. How does, however, the substance and characteristics 

of the relations of power at the level of the last drop, at the level of the simple literate 

Man-Woman (i.e. the elite) look like? If we give Foucault’ s micro anlysis of power its 

due bearing, is this in a way not implicated to the way the ruling section of the elite 

resolved its differences and social conflicts, all the way through our century?  

Have we ever made an inquiry to how differences and conflicts are resolved at 

the last drop i.e. at the family level,  in our social circles and all other institutions 

with a social significance including political groups and parties with national 

relevance or less? Have we ever questioned appropriately our esssential attitude

and state of mind to these intricate questions of power at the backdrop. 

Could we honestly expect an essential change to come about – the change of power 

relations at the top of the power structure; a change, which could redefine 

all our social relations again, as long as we have not changed in our attitude 

of our day to day life at the last drop. If we don’t dare to change at the last drop,

it is not even far fetched to presume that we are also implicated in the fact that the 

the democratic process in Ethiopia doesn’t make any progress.

By the way,  the momentum of the highly acclaimed “Obama’s Change”, whose 

climax is being celebrated today,  is not a  miracle from heavon. Though the social 

and political prerequisites are totally different, the big point of common significance

is the last drop- the last Man, the last Wo-Man, especially the Last (of the elite), 

who has the power-stuff to convey the message, the Last, who has got to 

be totally inspired,who has got to live and to fully believe in the change to come.  

Thus, the essential point remains:

What is wrong with us?! Where is the Ethiopian renaissance?


As an enlightened section of the Ethiopian people, would the WHOLE Ethiopian

polity ever opt for Enlightenment, for “Berhane-Aymero”(7) or if you like for the

“Sigawe demu”(3) in the sense of genuine Christianity’s “telatihin wided”(4) to resolve

and contain its differences through a genuine democratic process? Of course, it

goes without saying that “telatihin-wided” does not suggest, “To go to bed with

the enemy”, but it has a simple philosophical significance that the Whole

constitutes itself out of its contending forces. Life is only a game out of contending

forces and it can’t be maintained if these forces are not ready to accept and

comply with their reciprocal indispensability. Life is a nice game. But no child

would tumble on a trampoline if the circumscribing moments and vectors of the

plane fail. However, why is this simple fact not apparent to all of us? The simple

fact of “DARING TO KNOW” this! The simple fact of surviving together! Why is it so



What is wrong with us? What makes us blind to the Enlightenment of the MAN and

the WO-MAN, realized elsewhere in the world, among which, even a lot are in a way

late-comers than Ethiopia to cultural civilization? What keeps us away from

using our own mind “without guidance from another?” What hinders us from daring

to know/SAPERE AUDE / (cf. Kant) the quintessence of a social harmony to witness

a sufficient life or if you like, even a harmonious LIFE full of Faith and Wisdom

irrespective of its color; be it


Like the Yin and Yang

In the Eastern Wisdom,

Like the Son and Father

In the Christian Faith,

Like the Star and the Moon,

In the Sufi mystics,

In the Muslim Belief.


It is depressing, since we are witnessing the opposite.

2009 begins with ” Keditu wede matu” (8).

ETHIOPIA without political prisoners remains still a vision; political opponents still

suffer behind bars in the hands of the regional-nationalist regime!

Nonetheless, democracy in Africa is not a dream.

CONGRATULATIONS GHANA! – Our long independence-mate.



*This is not just physics; physics is in a way full of philosophy/


**”authenticity is the process of becoming one’s possibilities”


/Amharic, translated:

1) What is by the way, the difference between the sheep and the human?

2) The flesh and blood or the enlightenment of the mind?

3) The flesh and blood

4) Love your enemy

5) Kill your enemy

6) We don’t mind if they agree

7) Enlightenment of the mind

8) From the slippery terrain to the swamps.


Part II



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