By Seyoum Teshome (MBA)
The pronouncement that Ethiopian Semayawi Party (ESP) is to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Menelik II triggered an obstinate debate among local social media users. As usual, the deliberations are predisposed to the categorical judgment with ‘nogrey’: ‘Menelik the slave entrepreneur’and“Mother (èmyè) Menelik.”If one dares to have his own say, he will be doomed for being “banda” or ‘shifta.” Well, I am not here to indulge myself, nor anyone else for that matter, into this saga. Rather am concerned that such historically and/or politically imperative phenomenon is left for these social media thugs to set the public opinion.
You might think that this kind of debate is customary to such politically sensitive issues. The same to the Menelik’s 100th anniversary, deliberations on such threads are deemed to instantaneously twist in to a high tempo wrangle. Of course, one cannot evade anti-conceptual arguments altogether as they are the reflections of a low level of comprehension on the subject. And this is archetypal to all underdeveloped nations where social and political problems are barely scrutinized in their entirety.
The political sphere is filled with men whose unthinking loyalty to their belief is what held the whole creaky system together. By and large, the nation’s politics is often framed by thugs who conventionally play the zero-sum blame game, alleging somebody but not themselves. They do hate mongering as a full time job, and spent the rest of their time praying for err of the other group for them to say‘I told you so,’which is the only way to authenticate their position.
It seems idiosyncratic to Ethiopians that we are all thin-skinned to discuss political issues objectively. In the intellectual sphere, we don’t make a sober assessment on the erroneous assumptions concerning the socioeconomic and political structure of the nation. We don’t examine our ways of doing things.
Our political groups are not courageous enough to neither present their social, economic and political programs to be reviewed methodically nor demand the expertise of intellectuals. Intellectuals also failed to boldly criticize the programs and/or scrutinize the activities of local political groups which makes them liable for the prevalence of the current ‘catch-22 politics’ in Ethiopia.
All that I have discussed above is to elucidate that the shared knowledge among Ethiopians on their political affairs is miniature, and are scarcely shaped through conceptual integration and critical thinking. ‘Political elites’are those who are best educated, best-informed and most politically active with an outsized influence on the politics of the nation.1
Here you may pose that Ethiopia is not distinct in having a small number of political elites. Yes, of course, we have very few political elites with an undersized influence on politics. But, unluckily, the very few educated/political elites are constricted from playing their role on the politics of the nation. Consequently, the politicking is left for those who are impervious to new ideas and facts clinging to a muddle of unprovoked assumptions about the nation, the modish catch phrase of “LiberalDemocracy” and tribal prejudices. And, I don’t mind the vigilance of my mother when she said“Politics is fire!”But it is eerie when my professor cautioned me with the same ‘tone’.