A viable nation can neither be built on nor destroyed by lies. Whereas ethical values guide visionary citizens when they embark on a nation-building exercise, lies and deceptions are the favored instruments of characters intent on tearing a country apart. For several decades party politics in Ethiopia has served as a cover for a handful of people to get away with countless crimes while the masses were brainwashed into avoiding politics like the plague. These days while some endeavor to practice a civilized brand of politics, there abound forces that toil day and night to use the slightest of differences to dismantle the country. The job of politicians who genuinely seek to take the reins of power through the ballot box is not to excoriate the government no matter what; it’s to contribute its share to deepening the democratization process by, among others, steering it on the right path when it goes off track and mobilizing the public to remove it from office democratically when it fails to mend the errors of its way. Fomenting conflicts and divisions at a time Ethiopia is facing the twin challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the standoff with Egypt over the filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is deplorable. This shameful race to the bottom is liable to irreparably harm the nation’s interest and earn harsh criticism in the eyes of history.
One of the values which individuals and communities in Ethiopia attach great importance to is according respect to others. It’s a value that has inspired generations of Ethiopians to live in unity and defend their country from foreign aggression. Furthermore, it has played a critical role in the success of centuries-old indigenous dispute resolution mechanisms. Though the vast majority of Ethiopians continue to display respect for one another, nowadays a significant minority are conducting themselves in a manner that desecrates this proud culture. These deviants have no qualms about and in fact consider it a badge of honor to denigrate and hurl detestable insults at stalwarts of the community, respected leaders and even elders. Many are despairing at the reprehensible attack on a value that had held Ethiopians together for eons.
The appalling level of intolerance towards the views of others is discouraging knowledgeable and experienced citizens from sharing their wisdom with the public. Many useful ideas have been prematurely nixed due to the culture of shooting the messenger of an idea taking root as opposed to holding productive discussions on it. The near absence of constructive dialogue on a range of fundamental issues does not only rob the Ethiopian political scene of civility, but is also spawning a generation which is uncritical and easily incited to violence. Disagreements between ordinary people are increasingly escalating into ethnic or religious conflicts on account of the deliberate erosion of mutual respect. Given individuals and groups that ought to lead by example have expunged mutual respect from their lexicon it should not come as a surprise when the present generation perpetrate iniquities.
In a society bereft of mutual respect such manifestations of moral turpitude as larceny, sexual outrage, mendacity, avarice and rumor-mongering tend to flourish. Mafia-style groups will have the clout to bend the government to their will and buy off the police, prosecutors and judges; they can get away with daylight robbery by terrorizing defenseless citizens; and they will intimidate independent-minded individuals and institutions through politicians, “activists” and media outlets they control and finance. If these criminals are allowed to have a free rein to do whatever they please with impunity the future will be bleak for the country.
While some care more about building, uplift fellow citizens and evincing optimism others toil to sow destruction, pull down anyone who does not subscribe to their world view and dash hopes of a better future. It’s become commonplace to come across hypocrites who have not contributed anything of substance to improving the lot of their compatriots malign citizens diligently serving the nation. There is nothing more exasperating than to witness someone who has never run a family disparage hardworking folks doing their best to help the country stand on its own two feet. Those rubbishing the government’s efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic while they blatantly disregard precautionary measures have no moral ground to do so. Similarly critics insisting that the launching of a campaign to plant billions of seedlings amid the novel coronavirus outbreak proves that it is possible to conduct the delayed general elections, which were due be held in August, are advancing disingenuous arguments. It’s perplexing why the political class in Ethiopia has to make everything a reason for bitter division and is loath to engage in a constructive discourse marked by respect for differing outlooks. This undermining of the cultural practices, norms and values Ethiopians have developed over centuries may well turn out to be Ethiopia’s undoing.
Some deniers of the fact that Ethiopians have gone through good times and bad times together go to staggering lengths to peddle a revisionist narrative. They reject the notion that Ethiopians have shared successes and failures. They blame injustices on a certain group in a bid to pit it against the alleged victims. They also attempt to portray a people which have co-existed in peace, harmony and mutual respect as estranged neighbors, to stigmatize intermarriage so as to separate intermarried couples. And they resort to insulting, their stock-in-trade, to silence anyone criticizing their actions. The persons responsible for this egregious defilement of shared values as part of the strategy to unravel the tie that binds Ethiopians together are, lo and behold, the elite and erudite scholars wallowing in hubris. At a time each and every citizen has a moral obligation to join hands and take Ethiopia to new heights it’s abominable to embark on race to the bottom.