By Zelalem Eshete (PhD)
February 23, 2014
Much has been said about ethnic tensions in Ethiopia. Are we planning to move beyond that and actually start healing and building each other towards a new Ethiopia that exhibits exemplary unity in diversity any time soon?
I hope we quit the rat race madness by surrendering our respective polarized stance, and meet on middle ground in order to actualize a new unity today.
The scope of this paper is targeted to reinventing a new identity that unites us all as one. To that end, I propose 10 Theses for public discussion. I do my best to put forth the truth as an independent voice with lots of love in my heart for all. I attempt to discuss concisely and to the point.
Thesis 1: We have a Problem – We are Prisoners of our History
Real and grave damage was done in the past. It seems we don’t know what to do about it collectively. We talk at each other, each from his/her perspective – but there is no listening to each other. We all are talking and nobody is listening. We are reactive at best and engage in denial mode for the most part. We are stuck in the past. We are frozen in time with no apparent progress upward concerning racial harmony. The state of our identity is an arrested one.
Thesis 2: First thing First – Reconciliation Now
We are at a loss concerning the foundational work of healing the past. When we can’t resolve such important issue, we charge on forward with other topics. We can’t put life on hold, of course. So it goes: we demand democracy. We struggle to make politics work in Ethiopia. We search for political solutions left and right. Listening is too much work for us to be an option, so we shout at each other even more. Thus creating a new history of our own in the process that aggravates our unattended wounds of the past. There needs to be realization of national reconciliation that addresses our past and defines our new identity for the present.
Thesis 3: History Shouldn’t Dictate – Only Teach
We have a long history: good and bad, as it is with every thing. But since we are not dealing with our past reality, our history is doing us more harm than good. Whenever we reach out to our history to define our identity, we end up with more confusion than clarity. Unless we abandon using history to define our identity, it will continue to sabotage our chance to be a symbol of unity on the face of the earth. We only need to use our history to make us wise about reformulating our new identity together.
It is time for history to stop dictating what should be our identity one way or another. When we let go what we think is the old good/bad memory of Ethiopia, we will be surprised by the possibilities of the new Ethiopia that is awaiting us. We need to let go of the attempt to hold onto the identity passed to us (interpreted as good or bad) and define a new identity for ourselves altogether.
Thesis 4: Let go “Ethiopia first” Mentality
Those of us who like to think of our identity as “Ethiopia first” need a big dose of reality check. We need to get out of our school of thought and get to understand others who are not thinking in the same manner. Instead of being outraged by those who choose to put their ethnicity first, we need to hear their hearts’ cry and validate their hurts that put them in this position in the first place. Otherwise, just giving them a deaf ear and shouting out for a glorious united Ethiopia makes things worse for all of us. Because, struggling for a united Ethiopia while dismissing others that make up Ethiopia is an oxymoron. If we truly want Ethiopia fist, then put those people who protest to put “Ethiopia first” – first. After all, Ethiopia is not an idea – it is people.
Thesis 5: Let go “My ethnicity first” Mentality
We didn’t have a healing discussion about our hurtful past yet. Such healing comes when we are listening and understanding each other. For the most part we are at war, always interpreting the reality through our own lenses only. When we do listen, we want to rush and gloss over in an effort to make our saga go away sooner than later. In light of this, it is understandable those of us who are hurt to abandon “Ethiopia first” and root for our own ethnicity as a matter of survival.
In doing so, though, we are missing the big picture. We make the biggest mistake of all by being reactive to the mistake of others against us. Such reaction doesn’t cause us to be victor, but victim of our own decision this time around. We need to rewrite the ills of the past, by embracing our destiny to lead the healing process by setting a proactive approach.
Thesis 6: Discover – To Be Known As We Truly Are
Now that we release history from dictating our identity, the present becomes devoid of disturbances thereby bringing to light the new Ethiopia as we truly are by shining our best attributes as a people. In addition to embracing the discovered identity at the present, we also go forward and ask what kind of Ethiopia would we want for our children? The adventure begins and the possibilities are endless.
We have witnessed the United States build a new country in the time frame of couple of centuries that is the envy of the world. The world is waiting for another miracle so to speak: to see the people of Ethiopia spotlight the other face of Ethiopia as never before.
Thesis 7: The Hero is the People
Israel has Moses, India has Gandhi, South Africa has Mandela, and USA has George Washington. Ethiopia has great leaders, but we have no one we all agree to idolize as our savior. That is okay. Ethiopia doesn’t need to have one in the future either, for that is not our path. It is meant to be this way. It is in the hands of the people. The fate of Ethiopia doesn’t hinge on a single person. Ours is a different kind of success story. For us, the hero is the people. It was the people and it will be the people. The throne is reserved for the Ethiopian People. That is why there is a need to stop bickering and start to have real listening among us. The order of the day should be this: let’s talk to each other with the intent to listen. Then only we see that the people have what it takes to get us moving in the right direction. Let us listen the people speak – and treasure the decency and beauty that is hidden from sight and shadowed by everyday commotion.
Thesis 8: No Exclusion Allowed
All the people need to be in this boat together. A political or religious divide is not acceptable to define our boundary. Attempting to work for Ethiopia by excluding the opposition doesn’t fly in this journey. Trying to fight for Ethiopia by considering the government as an enemy has no place here. True, the government and opposition disagree big time on their respective political agendas – but that is not the scope of this journey. Here we want to focus on healing our past and discovering our new identity as a people. Remember that we can’t get this insight by looking to our history. We don’t learn this by looking to the history of the world either. We need to write a new script for us to live by on our own. For that, all must be in.
Therefore, we ask the political machineries on both sides of the spectrum (government and opposition) to give us space by coming together to deal with the healing process of the past in unison. Such would be a breath of fresh air that produces dividends for both of them at the end. Such healing brings positive energy into the political dialogue thereby enhancing the democratization journey for the better.
Thesis 9: Our Choice Today – The Real Issue
We can point fingers to the past, but the players of the past are gone. We are here. This time, we get to decide. We have two paths set before us into the future. We will either become a beacon of hope for the world, or a case study of mediocrity in history books. We either keep fighting each other until we destroy each other in the process, or learn to work together for a bright future for all of us. We will either write a new script for our future history or be handicapped by our past history forever. One thing is clear; we have the potential to arrive at either one. We have what it takes to get us to the higher ground or the lower pit. Our fate is not decided by our ability or inability, but by the choices we make today.
Thesis 10: Embrace the Creator Factor
Disclaimer. This is not about religion. The marriage of religion and state brings only trouble. Religion is beautiful on a personal level – the way the Creator wanted it to be – for each person is given a free choice. The role of the state is to maintain freedom of religion that has been given to all people by their Creator.
It is about reaching to our spirituality – the highest and noblest attribute of humanity that more importantly sets us apart from animals. It is about believing that our Creator is looking upon us to rise up as a people. Let us not just copy the success of other nations, but pave unchartered territory unheard and unseen before. For that – we need the Almighty. We need to look up to the One who is greater than ourselves if we are to make the impossible possible in our land.
“One Nation Under God” has been taken by the United States. “One Family Under Our Creator” awaits us for the taking. This refers not only the creation in the past, but also the creation of the New Ethiopia in time now. Let us invite Him to help us to be known as one big family that is connected with each other in sisterhood/brotherhood to dream together the unthinkable.
Do we hope that our best is yet to come and the people of Ethiopia worth our dedication and devotion in joining the journey towards a New Ethiopia?Do we believe that anything is possible if we all put our mind in rewriting our own history to the amazement of the world? If so, are we prepared to show our faith in action?Do we wake up from despair and complacency to contribute our good will with passion and excellence?Do we display maturity by speaking our point of view in love, and more importantly listen to a different point of view with intent to understand?Do we display greatness by letting go of our ego/pride and humbly considering others better than ourselves in a spirit of sisterhood/brotherhood?Do we have the courage to think as if there is no box and dare to explore new frontiers?
If we all put forth the best part in us, this may initiate collective discussion in our homes and neighborhoods in Ethiopia and around the world by allowing the people to set the agenda for the healing process and model constructive reconciliation in action.
Dr. Zelalem Eshete is an engineer by profession, and may be reached for comments at: one@EthioFamily.com