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Published On  Oct 30,  2011
   
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Ignorimatocracy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Few as they may be, my friends are a crucial part of my life. They heavily influence every aspect of my world view. Knowing that I would ingest their thoughts sincerely, I choose them cautiously. One of my most esteemed friends is a trained Seychellois manager, who recently came to Ethiopia for a visit. 

Unlike his managerial proficiency, I grapple to understand the root cause of his hate for politics. He serves as Chief Operation Officer (COO) for a Moscow, Russia, based firm that has an expansive investment in an island located 1,500 kilometers east of Kenya, in the Indian Ocean. Unlike his constant engagement with politicians, he proclaims that he hates politics, not to mention African politics. His previous experiences as government official and his current position in the corporate world seem to have pushed him to this conclusion.

He claims that African politicians are self-serving and ignorant.

Even in knowing that most of their constituents are destitute, they are not willing to minimize their unjustifiable opulence. They abuse their office so much that public service is no more a priority to them. They have so many mistresses in so many different capitals of the world that much of their international travel is unrelated to project negotiation, finance mobilization, policy benchmarking or training, but rather “sex and the city” escapades.

Because I am aware of the extent of my friend’s policy knowledge, I can imagine what he means by hating politics. His emphasis on personalities might have distorted his perception about politics. Compounded by his close relationships with many politicians, his opinion might have slowly transformed to hatred. Even then, his disgust is profoundly about personalities rather than politics as a system.  

Noting that the line “I hate politics,” is so common in the Ethiopian discourse, wherein artists seemingly have a lead in this hatred, I’am constantly puzzled by what makes people make such statements. It might be possible for people to hate politicians, but it is by no means possible to live with a hatred for politics. After all, politics is not Hockey.

Modernization has obscured many aspects of life. Increasingly, more is being said about less. Socratic questioning is scarce that trends annihilate identities. Flawed thoughts diffuse into cultures so unnoticeably that wiping them out would be an unimaginable task. The statement on hating politics is no different.

Many, like my friend, would like to put politics in the same footing as choosing between Basketball and Hockey, Lasagna and a Steak Sandwich, country and Hip hop music. Deeply explored, however, the search for selective dichotomy is less about choice than lack of it.

Structurally, politics has transformed into a monotonous framework of partisanship. Even in the developed world, ideology plainly drives policy making while public interest takes less weight than party wrangling. Money sets the rules and the rich attune the provisions. Noting what little, insignificant influence they have, many people opt to care less about politics, as long as its eminent effects do not knock on their doors.

An Everest of bad policy decisions seems to have reactivated public interest in political decision making since the global financial crisis. Reckless banks, unregulated insurers, ill-advised manufacturers and poorly managed sovereigns have put social welfare under such huge uncertainty that politics has gotten under the skin of ordinary people. It is no longer reassuring or even bearable to leave subsistence to the indecision and mediocrity of career politicians. Hence, movements from Occupy Wall Street to reclaiming Greece.

On the flip side, the situation in most developing countries is complicated and political superstructures are poorly developed. Partisanship is not yet ripe. States are too distant to listen to public resentments. Income inequality is so large that an opportunist politician might die of excessive consumption, whilst his unfortunate neighbor dies from hunger. Most African politicians are seen struggling to get rich or die trying.

Apparently, Africa has turned into an island of political malfunction. It is home to injustice and destitution. Poverty, unemployment and infrastructural deficit plague economies. Bad governance has been so rampant that finding a leader to take the continental governance prize by Mo Ibrahim Foundation for three consecutive years has been extremely difficult.

An expanding incongruence between state and public interest disguises Africans from political participation. Increasing repression worsens the case. No wonder that vibrant grassroots activism could not be initiated with the handful of vocal activists facing torture and jail terms in different countries. It is as though the veins of African politics are filled with pecuniary interests and the pacemaker is a cash register.

Along with their African colleagues, Ethiopians are developing their own share of hatred for politicians. Growing income disparity worsens the abhorrence amongst the poor. Economic monetization has uprooted cultural values so swiftly that politicians are considered economic opportunists.

At the heart of it lays poor public representation. Ethiopian politicians are known to talk considerably more than they listen. It is also common for them to trespass societal norms for political gains. The lives of ordinary people are trivial to them. Swamped by ideological division, they provide inadequate attention to public interest.

Reigning fear and mistrust continue to endanger communal solidarity. Political divisions are so deep that many prefer to conceal their affiliations. In public, hate is the phraseology to swathe dissatisfaction. Although it seems that the statement “I hate politics” is thoughtless, it actually recounts history; an account of fear, hopelessness and helplessness. 

As it appears, Ethiopian politics is evolving into what Robert Frank, an economist, has called ignorimatocracy – a system identified with ignorant politicians and the helpless public. Nonetheless, the familiar expression remains “I hate politics.”  

 

By GETACHEW T. ALEMU
Getachew T. Alemu is the Op-Ed Editor for Fortune. He can be contacted at getachew@addisfortune.com

 
 
 
 
   
   
   
 
 
 

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