To a large extent, people strive for social conformity. Many people, I’ve found, are uncomfortable being the odd one out, especially if doing so means being criticized by the majority. People would rather stand out for a positive reason, for an achievement for which they would be honored. However, few Ethiopians would ever risk the former type of oddity.
I think people in our country worry too much about what other people may think.
Our culture is exemplified by the word “yilugnta,” which means “extreme anxiety about being judged negatively by other people.” But I just can’t put my finger on why this way of thinking is so pervasive in our society. Many of us worry about what people might think of us if we did something or thought something that went against the grain of popular opinion.
Perhaps it’s because of our upbringing, in which we were never encouraged to think for ourselves and act accordingly, or because our forebears did the same. There is little tolerance for those who are “different” in our society.
People vary greatly from one another. Different people have different ways of thinking and behaving. I do not think that people are fundamentally the same, despite the fact that Ethiopian culture seems to value uniformity of thought. I believe we have a significant problem because we are afraid of the potential for social reprisals if we dare think or act in ways that are contrary to the general consensus.
What makes me unhappy is that we don’t say what’s on our minds for fear of repercussions. We conform to the norm because we’re afraid of being singled out and rejected if we don’t fit in. The price we pay for being ourselves and raising our voices is too high to bear. When we hide the truth and avoid doing the right thing, justice suffers.
Few people, if any, came out publicly during the war with the Tigrayan government to advocate for an end to the fighting. There are fewer of them than there are fingers on both hands, which raises the question of whether everyone has simply ceased thinking. It puzzles me why there seem to be so few vocal war protesters.
How low have we stooped as a country in terms of our collective mindset? I respect the few who have spoken up for justice, fairness, and peace. I feel it’s important to give them a shout-out.
Now that hostilities have ended and discussions can resume where they belong—at the negotiating table—many people are saying the war could have been prevented. Individuals who were either silent during the conflict or actively advocated for more violence and damage are now stating that those few people who shouted for peace were right!”
I don’t understand how people can instantly change their minds. The majority has come around and is once again rooting for peace and harmony. Do we feel any remorse now that the worst of the suffering is over? Do we harbor any remorse over the words we used that served to escalate the conflict?
To that end, I hold out hope that we will. I pray that we, as a country, have the courage to stand up for what is right and true, even if doing so causes us to lose the support of the majority.