There are followers and there are initiators. Maybe I am wrong, but I have the feeling that many Ethiopians are followers. Maybe it comes from our shy and conservative nature. A culture that sets boundaries and norms for how people should think, say, act, dress, and live in general.
This conservative nature has its own merits. And one of the benefits of keeping a culture or tradition intact is that it keeps a country and its people authentic and unique. On the other hand, being conservative also has its demerits in being too risk averse.
Risk aversion comes, I believe, from fear of being an outcast, of being different, and of offending others who are loyal to the status quo. Our conservativeness is one of the reasons Ethiopians are considered shy people.
In our culture, quiet is venerated. Quietness is respected because it shows that a person is wise, sage, and respectful of others. So people who are quiet, who do not talk much, do not oppose others’ opinions, are considered well mannered.
Our conservativeness often leads us to rely on group thinking. The group is the master! And deviating from it is too risky. People do not trust their individual beliefs, if they have any. We believe that if the majority accepts it, then it must be because it is true.
Our conservative and shy natures prevent us from trying something new. Only the very few dare walk into the unknown. And often, when they succeed, they find themselves with a multitude of followers. We tend to look up to or wait for these one or few individuals to clear the road for us before we venture into the unknown. Only the tough are able to do it, and this comes from that person’s nature of being born a risk-taker.
I have observed that many Ethiopians do not like to venture into uncharted waters. But when that one individual dares to take a step, he or she is kicked in every direction with words that diminish their energy and hope. If that person is able to survive all of that, then he or she will find the same people turning into their followers.
A shy and conservative society is easily subjected to abuse. Such a society has a higher threshold for abuse because it has been trained for that from a younger age. I do not believe it is pure human nature to be shy. Shyness and conservatism are things that are learned.
Each human being is born a free-spirited individual. Have you observed children? Don’t you ever wonder how a child you once knew was free-spirited turned into this shy and conservative individual as an adult? I also believe that people who are shy and/or conservative are not shy and/or conservative deep down.
Deep down, when nobody hears them, they think as they will. What they don’t do is show it to the outside world. Deep down, we are free to think as we will, and we shut down so that others do not see it. And it is not healthy, I have to say.
The danger with such behavior is that the moment the glass becomes full, you will see an outburst or explosion of emotions and unexpectedly harsh behavior.
I always say, never take the silence of a person for granted. Just because they are being patient with you does not mean that their glass will not be full in the future. I believe the silence of the Ethiopian people is a ticking bomb whose time of explosion is yet to be determined!