Greatness unachievable by disparaging past, painting bleak picture of future!
Some 44 years after his ouster by the military junta otherwise known as Derg a statue of Emperor Haile-Selassie I, the late Ethiopian ruler who is regarded as the father of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), was colorfully unveiled last Sunday at the headquarters of the African Union (AU) during the 32nd AU Heads of State and government Summit. Emperor Haile-Selassie is remembered, whether fondly or with bitterness, for the many things he did. His likeness was given a place of pride by fellow Africans on account of his invaluable contribution,both during and after the anti-colonial struggle of Africans, to the establishment of a continental organization where they could speak as one. There is one fact that both Emperor Haile-Selassie’s staunchest admirers and detractors need to be appreciative of: he was an influential leader who left behind legacies thathad profound impacts on Ethiopia and beyond. While the country he once ruled has not honored him properly, the least Ethiopians can do when Africans commemorate him in a debt of gratitude is to accept graciously the tribute paid to him.The current generation would do wise to work hard to build a better Ethiopia than waste its time bickering over a past it cannot change. Greatness cannot be achieved not by excessively hypingthe virtues of those deserving esteem or bashing them no end; it requires the commitment to put in the extra effort and deliver results that inspire others to excel.
One of the intractable problems besetting present-day politics in Ethiopia is the extremeness with which the past is viewed. As a source of acrimony the distorted and irrational perspectives on the past are detrimentally affecting contemporary interactions. At this critical juncture in Ethiopia’s history when it’s undergoing a fast-paced change, hopes that had risen high are being dashed due to the propensity to view everything through the ethnic lens. Instead of relegating age-old recriminations to the dustbins of history and finding a new common denominator, it’s become increasingly commonplace to exchange harsh insults over irreconcilable narratives. Every generation owes the obligation to not only write, but also make its own history. Such obligation stems from the imperative not to be held at fault by future generations. Needless to say this makes it incumbent on each generation to surpass its predecessors and dispassionately examine their record. The latter goes a long way to avert the commission of similar mistakes; learn lessons that help make decisions grounded in reality; and share experiences with succeeding generations. It’s through a display of the capacity and the courage to do so that greatness can be achieved.
Every generation has its own heroes hailing from different professions and walks of life. The distinguished service they give to society and the nation earns these heroes an accolade that is recorded for posterity in the annals of history. It’s of the essence to institutionalize the mechanism by which individuals who did their fellow citizens and the nation proud are accorded due recognition while they are still alive. Launching a diatribe against someone on the basis of differences in terms of political belief, ethnicity, faith, gender or other grounds stands in stark contrast to the very core of what it means to be a human being. Though it’s impossible to agree on everything, there is no reason why a common ground cannot be forged in honoring citizens who have done right by the nation. A society which neither respects itself nor elevates its heroes cannot become great; it’ll always be inferior.
Ethiopia has had and continues to have sons and daughters who have acquired a reputation for their great works. If we admire or malign these individuals from a purely partisan perspective rather than in consideration of their accomplishments or lack thereof, the chance that we as a nation will atone for the egregious mistakes of predecessors is below zero. If Ethiopia is to become a land of freedom, justice and equality it is vitally important to hype on divisions that can be easily bridged even while seeking a common denominator that serves as a rallying point for unity and solidarity. Setting out to rewrite history in a bid to foment disputes aimed at undermining national unity is catastrophic for the present as well as coming generations. A nation can be built into greatness insofar as its people forge a shared vision towards a common destiny. The history of Europe, North America and Asian countries like Japan, Korea and China bears testimony to this fact. Forging a link between the past and the present day not only enables one to differentiate the wheat from the chaff, but also achieve greatness.
It should not be lost on the current generation that it’s lucky in many respects. It lives in an age where thanks to advances in technology information is exchanged at the speed of light. The proliferation of both formal and informal sources of knowledge has made all human knowledge available at one’s fingertips thereby providing many with an opportunity they could not have dreamed of even a couple of decades ago. Therefore, the platforms empowering people to undertake collaborative dialogue and discourse are abounding. If all sides display a willingness to sit down and talk the chances of agreeing to put off for another time discussions on an issue on which an agreement cannot be reached are much better now. If constructive dialogue becomes a societal norm, there are several things over which consensus can be reached. Moreover, the chances of anyone leading a constant existence of hatred, revenge and backbiting to be cured from such a curse is steadily rising. The more communities take opportunities like these to heart the likelier the chances of a successful transition to a civilized rule and greatness. The path to greatness does not lie in disparaging the past or painting a bleak picture of the future!