In his new hit single, Tewodros Kassahun, a.k.a.
Teddy Afro, has artistically described a growing
loss of public morality in Ethiopian society.
The time could not be more fitting to remind the
public of the virtues of integrity. Ethiopians today
are, perhaps, unlucky people to live in the most
politically inhospitable region of the world. Ethnic
factionalism, religious fundamentalism, colonial
mentalities, excessive megalomania, identity crises,
authoritarianism, feeble regional cooperation, and
weak cultural integration are some of the typical
characteristics in the Horn of Africa.
Placed at the heart of this tortuously unstable
region is the poor country of Ethiopia, with its
unique cultural identity and ethnic mix.
Its long years of history, 80 plus ethnicity,
beautiful landscapes, glamorous religious tolerance,
and hospitable weather conditions should make the
country conspicuously attractive and unique. Despite
the generous presence of these elements, the country
has been hallmarked by war, famine, poverty, and
underdevelopment. Lack of good governance and
participatory democracy has remained as a
century-old problem, resulting in the further
multifaceted problems of political instability,
economic underdevelopment, social crises, and
Ethiopia’s closed social system has little space for
democratic deliberation and objective criticism.
Political leadership has become more about sectarian
representation than inclusiveness, partisan loyalty
than merit, and conformism than independent
The contagious disease of sidelining objective
criticism has also tarnished this civilisation,
shattered the mightiest, and lost many opportunities
for decades. The result of all of these has been the
continued deprivation of the people of this land, in
every aspect of life.
The very fact that Ethiopia’s socio-cultural makeup
leads to anxiousness in the face of objective
criticism has spoiled every dimension of life here,
on both individual and societal levels. The broken
political system, passive monotheistic religious
empires, deteriorating educational system, and
prevalent self-centred lifestyles are vivid evidence
In spite of the previous transitions from feudalism
to pseudo-socialism and onward to illiberal
democracy, the political system has remained
impermeable to objective criticism, no matter where
it comes from.
The imperviousness of the feudal system to
constructive criticism made it ignorant of
transformational adjustments, resulting in the
popular revolution that ultimately threw that regime
off the throne. Similarly, the succeeding socialist
military junta took its deeply entrenched hate of
dissenting voices and any sort of criticism, no
matter how viable was, to its grave.
Ethiopians are still living in the vicious grasp of
the avoidance of criticism, even after the nearly
two decades of struggle to establish democracy. The
players of this dysfunctional democracy, from the
Revolutionary Democrats to all sorts of other
opposition parties, are intolerant of criticism.
Rather than giving attention to dissenting voices,
political parties prefer to blame, nametag, and, if
possible, uproot critics.
Critical support for political players from educated
members of society has been lost, due to the
distaste that politicians have for them, the gap
being filled with opportunistic, self-centred losers
and laughable daydreamers. As the ultimate result of
the very nature of the political players, the
political environment has become marred by fear,
patrimony, opportunism, rent seeking and
The problems would be fewer if the religious
atmosphere, dominated by the two monotheistic
religious empires, shined as moral examples for
other social institutions.
Yet, just as in the political environment of the
country, there is a deeply ingrained ignorance
toward objective criticism in these passive,
despotic, and elitist empires. They are the sole
proprietors of absolute truth, each of them
believes, and they have no space for criticism.
As a result, their preaching is dominated by
exclusion and selfishness. Even in the rare cases
where they preach love, they merely give it lip
service while practicing exclusion.
They have discouraged innovativeness, limiting
inquiry, self-criticism, and reasonable
deliberation. As a result, they have abandoned their
congregations. Their flocks are as lost as the other
sheep they so often preach about, lacking moral role
models and fallback systems for times of crisis.
Yet, as the people of this nation act faithfully,
the religious spectrum will be transcended,
positively affecting the political, economic, and
social constructs of the country.
What should also be a training platform and an
exceptionally objective social institution is the
educational system of the country.
Yet, it has also been a victim of the same problems,
flavoured with destructive megalomania. The educated
youth have learned unreasoned prejudice,
opportunism, and abhorrence from their teachers.
What should have been a place of academic
deliberation, critical reflection, theoretical
discussion, and paradigm shifts has become a place
of ethnic super-consciousness, narrow-mindedness,
self-centredness, and shortcut gains.
Hence, Ethiopian society cannot rely on the
recommendations of the educated, as they are
flavoured with chauvinism and lopsided assumptions.
Where could an objective generation come from, if
not from educational institutions?
Individual life has become self-centred and
contrived, to say the least, reflecting the lack of
public space for objective criticism in this poor
country. Reasoned morality has been sidelined, while
opportunistic immorality has presided.
Money has become the sole end of life, even if it
comes in the most unethical ways. Manoeuvring has
become the latest strategy, while the rent seeking
mentality is popular. Objectivism has been sent to
the shadows, while savagery is gaining a foothold in
a new form of modernised selfishness.
How can Ethiopians hope to get better as a society,
while simultaneously abusing reason, objectivity,
“Morality is founded on reason, while its purpose is
to teach us how we enjoy life,” Ayn Rand, the famous
libertarian philosopher, once said.
Is this not also the end goal of this injudicious