Sunday, January 22, 2023

What does love of country really mean?

Love of country is a notion that Ethiopians need to deeply examine and truly grasp. Love of country elicits a particularly emotional response when it is expressed in songs, theatres or moviesand other art forms. However, trouble is bound to ensue if the pervasive misconception about its very essence is not promptly addressed. Though it is possible to opine long on this subject, it would suffice here to discuss it in terms ofwhat the present generation understands by love of country aside from the rhetoric voiced during victory celebrations, how much it values the sacrifice paid by previous generations in repelling foreign aggressors, how much we honor ancestors who did their country proud in various spheres of life other than defending its sovereignty, and whether we look at how the notion is viewed in other parts of the world.

Ethiopia is a country of many citizens who left behind enduring legacies. Its history is full of people who accomplished significant achievements that set an example for subsequent generations on the war front and in such different areas as literature, education, health, agriculture, commerce, etc. Thousands of youth gave their life to oust autocracies and dictatorships so as to bring about in their place a democratic system which serves the public. These youth paid the ultimate price and several more underwent torture on account of their passionate love of country. We can never forget teachers and doctors who traversed difficult terrain on foot or horseback/donkeyback in discharging the obligation to deliver less fortunate citizens from illiteracy and provide medical care. They too gave up a lot for the love of country.

What about today? There abound compatriots who believe love of country is all about articulating it in songs or extravagant language. Far few people for comfort show solidarity for their countrymen and women. Security personnel treat their nationals shabbily while they kowtow to foreigners. Public servants are increasingly loath to provide the services fellow citizens are entitled to unless palms are greased. Those who cannot stop professing their love of country during national holidays have nothing nice to say about their country and compatriots on other days. And government officials who misuse their power usually try to hide behind their professed “love” of Ethiopia to avoid censure. In short the importance of love of country as a concept that has a profound meaning has been lost on many and become a catchphrase abused left and right.

Our ancestors’long, unbroken line of service, sacrifice, and honor is nowadays being threatened by the terrible moral and cultural decadence festering across the nation. This finds expression in the alarming rise in thecreation of a mindset that values amassing wealth through shortcuts. Unmindful of the obligation to faithfully serve the country and its people the vast majority of the youth are inclined to spurn hard work and integrity as a means to secure financial success and prefer to take a shorter route towards achieving this goal. The political, economic and social costs for the country of such way of thinking cannot be overstated. Particularly, it desecrates the genuine love of country all Ethiopian should have.

The uncheckedrate of illegal migration overseas also needs to be mentioned here. Not much has been done to address the root causes impelling citizens to embark on a perilous journey in search of a better life, namely lack of a better prospective and, to a certain extent, unawareness about the dangers of unsanctioned migration. From universities to the relevant government agencies everyone is seemingly unconcerned by the plight of these citizens and oblivious to the fact that protecting migrants from anything that endangers their safety is an embodiment of love of country. Meanwhile, a considerable number of Ethiopians who legally travel to North America and Europe with the intention of not returning paint the country as a living hell in order to obtain asylum. Though they have the right to depict negatively the treatment they receive at the hand of their government, humiliating their country is akin to Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. Paradoxically some of them eulogize the very country they abandoned and denigrated even as they campaign against calls for aid to compatriots suffering from famine. Such a failure to distinguish between the country and the government is a clear demonstration of their misunderstanding of or disregard for love of country.

This generation should display prudence lest it does not end up on the wrong end of history. The nation will fare bad if it does not instill a sense of patriotism in and is indifferent to the fate of future generations. Parents must think seriously about how they raise their children. Educational institutions are duty-bound to work hard at seeking practical solutions for the multitude of challenges facing society. Religious and civil society organizations, elders, and the media need to contribute their due share in improving the lot of the people of Ethiopia. And the government owes the obligation to lead by formulating and implementing the appropriate policies. A nation’s survival can be assured by working genuinely in its interest. One would do well to appreciate that love of country is a deep-seated emotion anchored in mutual affection, respect and solidarity towards a common cause. The coming generations cannot be properly shaped without battling blind hatred, vengefulness, wickedness, larceny and other forms of turpitude or setting an example steeped in the highest moral standards and informed by knowledge. This is instrumental in helping love of country course through the veins of each and every Ethiopian. It’s only then what love of country really means can be truly understood.

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