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Reflections on our Identities

By Alethia

This is a short article on a reflection on the nature and question of identity, ethnic identity and one’s political identity as it is being played out in the contemporary Ethiopian politics. Caveat:  It’s not my intention to share anything more than my own reflections on the issues of identity and ethnicity in light of nationalism and what most or some call “Ethiopia.” Much of what I say is intended to bring out some, hopefully, conceptual distinctions in the ideas being treated here.

First, on what we mean by one’s identity. No intention again to address this complex issue thoroughly:  we all know that our own sense of who we are, upon a reflection, goes someway in answering the question of our identity as human beings no matter where, geographically, we are.  Yes, we all know that we’re human beings and share all the essential attributes that make a being human. The bottom-line here is that there are essential attributes that make a being human and such attributes know no color, no race, no culture, no language, no ethnicity, no country, and no time. All humans share essential attributes that make them what they are [I leave such essential human-making attributes for my readers to figure out].  I know some would dispute this claim but then this is not the right place to address some academic yet misguided debates about some human beings lacking in what truly makes a human being what it is: human, period.

 Now human beings belong to things called natural kinds, to what we find in nature, as we’re not our own creations/creators, that is, we’ve not created our own nature. It’s a given. God given, if you like, but that is a point that need not concern us here and now. We have no choice and control over what we are, being humans. Period. No one chose to be born a human being, at this time and place. That is clear. No arguments.

What about our ethnic identities? Yes, our ethnic identities are also things over which we do not have control. We’re born into this or that ethnic identity and that is how we’ve acquired our ethnic identities. Ethnic identities are deeply embedded in one’s language   and culture.  In the context of this discussion, nobody chose to be an Amhara, or a Gurage, or an Oromo, or a Wolyatta, and what have you in the Ethiopian ethnic history. That is clear too.

But now there is an essential difference between having been born into one or the other ethnic group and having been born as a human being. Ethnic group is an accidental, i.e., non-essential, attribute that we’ve acquired due to the accident of birth. Being part of this ethnic group is not an essential attribute to being  human but then being a human is an essential attribute to being part of this or that ethnic group. For example, there is no ethnic donkey nor is there an ethnic cat no matter where these were born, nor where they were raised, unless we refer to cats and donkeys identifying them with their breeders. That is simple: a donkey or a cat is not a human being and does not partake in those things that make a person part of this or that ethnic group, such as the realities of language and culture,  or such complex combinations thereof.

The previous paragraphs made two key points, among others: all human beings share essential attributes that make them one and the same: all human beings are equal. This conclusion is one fundamental reason for why we believe that all human beings possess an inalienable and inherent right and dignity that no other human being has given them nor can any other human being rightly and justly deprive them of.

 Our ethnic identities, though they are accidents of historical contingencies, they are also things over which we’ve no control. Since our deep consciousness and self-awareness (of ourselves) is deeply intertwined with our ethnic identity (linguistically and culturally) it’s our inalienable and inherent right that no human being has any power to deprive us of our deep manifestations of our identities, i.e., our ethnic identities, which are as deeply important as our being human though they’re distinct in some sense. We’re not human because of our ethnic identities but then our ethnic identities are embedded in our being humans. No cats or dogs are ethnically conscious but we are just because we’re humans. 

 Yes, trying to cut one’s ethnic identity off one’s being human, or vice versa, is the most delicate thing for any person to undertake. Another key point: no one chose to be born into this or that ethnic group in the same way that no one chose to be born as a human being. The bottom-line: no one ethnic group or the other is superior or inferior to the other; the reason? Simply because being part of this or that ethnic group is not the consequence of anything that one has done anything about by his/her choice. All human beings are essentially one and the same: equally humans; and also,  all individual  ethnic groups are distinct in virtue of their distinct languages and culture yet  all of them  are equal in having their ethnic identities embedded in their being humans.

What about one’s political/national identity? This is rather more of a political question than the previous two in some sense. All people who live in a geo-political entity called “Ethiopia” are equally humans. Clear. But these people are not one and the same, i.e., identical, in virtue of their ethnic identities because there are more than one ethnic identities in this commonly designated geo-political entity called “Ethiopia.” Being an “Ethiopian” is not essential for something to be a human being; otherwise all other people who’re not “Ethiopians” are not humans. And also, we say there is an “Ethiopian culture” but that is not equivalent to saying the “Ethiopian culture” is a human being.  Clear.

Now we need to focus on some elements that distinguish between being a human and belonging to a certain ethic group from being an “Ethiopian” national and also for wanting to be a nationalist assuming that there is one, unified nation that brings together the idea of a nation and nationality and the spirit of nationalism, if we like. I think now we see that we’re going far beyond what it takes to be just human, being part of this or that ethnic group. The previous two are things over which we did not have control.

Now, can we say, in the same sense, that the person who was born and raised in this geo-politically designated entity called “Ethiopia” has no control over the fact, if it’s a fact, that he/she is an “Ethiopian” period? This is a deeply controversial and deeply sensitive question but then we must face the implications of this question head-on if we really care about what it means to be an “Ethiopian.”

Being an “Ethiopian” is a very fluid concept that does not have one and same meaning for many people even in this geo-politically designated entity called “Ethiopia”. Yes, embracing this, ideally all-unifying and all-embracing concept, idea, as an umbrella is something that those who live in this geo-politically designated entity called “Ethiopia” ideally need to willingly, or voluntarily accept and embrace for their common good. It’s a self-defeating exercise to impose, without the will of the people that constitute the nation, what has historically been taken for granted by some, i.e., what is called “Ethiopia”, as such an all-unifying ideal. As one can see being politically and geographically defined and identified is far different from one’s deep sense of identity as a human being and one’s deep sense of belonging to this or that ethnic group. One has some degree of control over one’s political identity but not over the other two as I’ve tried to argue. Political identity in its nature is an all-inclusive, all-unifying, and all-embracing concept of identity which cannot and should not override or dictate or deprive one’s most natural, most inalienable and most inherent identities of being human and belonging to one or the other ethnic group. Any attempt to subsume one’s ethnic identities under a political/national identity that does not sensitively, and sufficiently and comprehensively address the most sensitive forms of a person’s identities will inevitably fail in its goal no matter how well-meaning and innocent and sincere. Ethiopian politicians in political power or vying for political power must ponder upon these issues if they mean to address the above among the most fundamental problems “Ethiopia” faces at this critical juncture in its history.

Finally, we all heard time and again that Ethiopia’s most fundamental problems will be solved if Ethiopia becomes a genuinely democratic nation or society with rules of law to maintain human rights and human dignity. I agree with such noble ideas but then I think democracy is only part of the solution for Ethiopia’s multiple problems. Yes, democracy is among those necessary things we need to solve Ethiopia’s multiple problems but it is not sufficient as a solution for some of those fundamental problems that we face as a society.

 I’ll return to address some of these issues, hopefully, some other time.

Alethia can be reached at ilovealethia@yahoo.com 

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Categories: Comment
  1. Tazabi
    December 1, 2007 at 12:16 am | #1

    Hi Alethia, (Should i say Veritas?):-)
    I think one time you mentioned that your other blog name is Alethia (i could be worng, though).
    Geat article! I actually printed out your reflection article and read it with a great deal of interest. You’re sooooo. right and you just touched the heart of the problem. I hope ethiopian politicians and others who read your article would take a good note. When it comes to ethnicity issue among Ethiopians these days is just a total madness out there.

  2. Alethia
    December 1, 2007 at 2:06 am | #2

    Hi Tazabi:

    Good to hear from you in quite a while. Yes, Alethia elsewhere and now here=Veritas here from last year. Yes, we had a great time here exchanging ideas and it was a great loss to miss you when that exchange of ideas stopped last year. But I want to assure you that the ideas we’re discussing here have been developing and will continue to devlop for some time to come.

    Glad that you’re back.Thanks a lot for your kind words about what I shared in the above article, which is somewhat a beginning of some more reflections about the complex issues of ethnicity and identity in the present Ethiopian context, more so than before, that I’d like to think about and share whenever I get a chance.

    Good to hear from you, an old friend.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  3. Yaya
    December 1, 2007 at 8:13 am | #3

    While agreeing with most of you said, there are things I have difficulty comprehending. It is true we don’t have controls over our identities. This is an elementary fact. And you said we’ve not created our own nature. We know it all along.
    “It’s a given. God given”. Here comes George Bush. I am not sure it is. Of course you also said, “if you like”. But I should tell you I don’t like it.
    And you raise questions lots of them, like what is one’s political/national identity?
    But when it comes to answer you kept us in the dark.
    The only thing I managed to comprehend is that of course one shouldn’t impose
    his or her unity doctrine, something I don’t have problem arguing.
    I am still wondering why you find it hard to speak assertively.
    I am still wondering if there such a thing as political identity?
    Your definition that says political identity in its nature is an all-inclusive, all-unifying, and all-embracing concept is vague all the same. Hope you will explain to me.
    One supports the government, another the opposition, one left, another right?
    Sometimes one could switch loyalty? But I don’t have any thing that could be called anything closer to political identity.

  4. Endalkachew
    December 1, 2007 at 9:21 am | #4

    I think what the athour meant by political identity is national identity which is all the same hard to grasp in the context of the current Ethiopian political structure.
    We have political power decentralized, with states retaining lots of authority, if not autonomy.
    Ethiopian nationalism has become less and less exuberant and more diffedent because we have come to recognize how fragile and uncertain is the structure we tried to celebrate and how delicate must be the touch of they who would work all of its parts into a cohesive whole.
    What does being an Ethiopian mean? I don’t think there will be one and neat another for that, as there wouln’t be for every nations in the world.What does being Sudanese mean? or what does being Brtish or Scotish mean?
    May be this is a type of question that an an Ethiopian poet Mengistu Lemma says ‘Melsu yemayitawek bitena bitena.”(A response you can’t come with however hard you try).
    We should also remeber this isn’t only an Ethiopian paradox,I mean this discussion of national idenity.every nation is struggling is trying to figure out who and what they are ,what bind them together mostly in the face of thier not so oood past and to reconcile with it (their past) though how they try to deal with naturally differs.Like how the British are trying to down play thier ugly imperial past by giving it a different interpretation.
    with a notable exapmle of the Harvard history Prof. Nial Ferguson is doing of defending British’s imperial past unapollegtically while others took a an opposite path.But of course any child can tell you that the coloniail claim in Ethiopia is absurd.
    Having said this i suggest to turn the discussion into- more constructive one- to make like finding a new sense of “national identity” based on hybridity ans multicultualism, not based on the idea of purity?

  5. Alethia
    December 1, 2007 at 1:14 pm | #5

    Hi Yaya:

    Welcome back. I remember you from our conversations here last year on other yet related issues. Good to hear from you again and thanks for your comments too.

    The article above is just a beginning of some of my reflections on the issues I raise in it and not a final one. I just wanted to start some discussion among us so that we can develop ideas together and also learn from one another.

    Just quick points to which I’ll return at another time since I do not have time to respond at length to some of your concerns.

    We do not have control over our own nature, which you agree and call an elementary fact. Yes, it’s a basic fact about us but there are many who deny that and embrace the opposite by saying we create our own nature(if you’re familiar with the literature in philosophy) but then I did not want to engage such mostly academic debates though I’m not afraid of such debates. Rather I enjoy such debates. I did not or do not see that this is the right place to undertake such debates.

    About our nature possibly having been created by God? I’m not sure what you mean by your reference to G. Bush but my suspicion is that defending the nature of human beings as having religious foundations is not something you might be alluding to. I hope not.

    I do not think associating an idea with our favorite person and hence like it or otherwise will give us any good reasons to consider the truth of the idea. If some hate G. Bush or his views on some issues because they don’t like him and his political policies such arguments won’t be worth arguing against for I do not think that is an acceptable way of arguing at all. Just argue for a view with good reasons and see if the idea is true, or rational to believe or not whether G. Bush or others hold such a view is irrelevant. Hope that you were not heading that direction.

    I was accused (in another place for writing in a much similar way) of arrogance for some took me to be assertive in an unacceptable way. You seem to think otherwise. But I do not know what you had in mind when you thought of lack of assertiveness on my part in what I tried to say in the article. There are some issues that by their nature require us to be cautious and that may be why I do not seem to be that assertive. Or writing on such sensitive and easily divisive and much controversial issues with an unacceptable degree of certainty and confidence might not be a good thing to do.

    Endalkachew has responded to some of your concerns about political identity and what I was trying to say about it though still as something to which I’ll return. I used it interchangeably with national identity and that does not seem a mystery unless it’s being analyzed to its minutes details and something of a mystery might emerge from such analysis as most analysis of concepts end up looking like mysteries. Thanks to Endalkchaew for his contribution which was very helpful as well.

    Thanks Yaya and Endalkachew for your thoughtful contributions. I’ll get back as soon as I can.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  6. Tazabi
    December 1, 2007 at 1:17 pm | #6

    Yaya,
    I’m assuming that when Alethia said Political identity, he meant to say political positions. Because I could change my political position time to time, however, i won’t be able to cange my ethnic identity.
    I’m pretty sure, Alethia will explain to you.

  7. Fasil
    December 1, 2007 at 3:11 pm | #7

    The way I see it ascribing all things to God is more an American propensity than Bush’s.(And Ethiopian, of course.)

  8. Tazabi
    December 1, 2007 at 5:41 pm | #8

    Fasil,
    I read yor comment and i felt dropping you a few lines here.
    What Alethia presented to us is that among many other things, ethnic issues are a fundmental problem for future Ethiopia. We don’t need to read too much what Alethia’s said on the creation of nature. What the writer religion believe is beyond the point here. However, there’s people out there who really belives that God created one ethnicity suprior to others which is a very dangerous views & problamatic in multicultural society so, the above article should lead us to discuss how to deal ethnic issue individually or as a society. Or, how the future leaders addressing it.

    Alethia,
    When i read your article yesterday, i found it “soft” and i said to myself “uhh, this guy changed” :-) Given the sensitivity of the subject it’s very understandable, but as long as you’re polite to others, because people accusing you please don’t hesitate to tell us what you think. For some unknown reasons, i noticed that people skin is getting thin and thinner. One annoying thing in my culture is that as much as we’ve many Do’s, we’ve way too much Don’ts.

  9. Fiseha D. Letta
    December 2, 2007 at 12:01 am | #9

    Wodajoch… this is a rather tempting discussion. I tried to hold myself from commenting but I could not. Her is why. Notice that I am not as much sophisticated as you guys are. I trust that the opinion of the unlearned Ethiopians also count. So I did by bit.

    I agreed on the substance of the discussion and therefore wanted to add something that I thought was missing, noticeably. A distinction is not clearly made between what we are, by nature (creation, if you like) and what we do (by choice). Again, no clear statements are discernible from the article as well as the comments regarding our voluntary natural actions (as all of us human being do) and our voluntary association in community and then further as a nation. I am raising these for good reason, if my contribution is found to be acceptable to the forum members.

    Yes, I agree on being human and that I have no control over my arrival into this world. My family and ethnic group to which they belong (one or many) is given in much the same way as the geopolitics that defines and continues to shape who we are (become) collectively as a community and as a nation. Therefore, no string attached, I believe we are all created equal. There and then comes if our actions and thought follow our being (what we are). My answer is no. I don’t want to go into the potential as well as the opportunity we have to unite and live in peace. The reason I refrain from doing so is that no national boundary would bind our bid if we push it to its full extent and therefore the discussion would go beyond being Ethiopian.

    Let me limit myself to Ethiopia. Long before the Greeks came up with that coinage the ancient Hebrews (Aramaic) called the people and the land as Kush (Cush, as some prefer it to be). It is a very large area of land including some prominent people group in the now Arabia. Some people living within the view from the mountain of the Himalayas are also clearly Kush. So is the vast area below the Mizraim. The Greeks preferred to call the later, Ethiopia. Historians have confused it with Nubia (Maroe) and Punt. The Axumites claimed it for themselves, though they also claim to be immigrants from Yemen. The Agaw, being the dominant people group to challenge the new establishment of the Axum, tried to revive their prominence (during what is called the Zagwe rule) only to be overthrown never to come ever to the claim of power (political and social administration) in the new Ethiopia (then Abyssinia, later Ethiopia). Both the secular political leaders and the Church (EOC) supported the move and the books such as Kibre Negest (Fitha Negest being the constitution) served the to shape the history of Ethiopia from early 13/14th century on.

    Why did I mention this history. For a good reason. To be specific, we are still struggling with the notion of who we are as a nation. That is whether Ethiopia was a unified ancient nation or if we needed to redefine our history in terms of the people’s plight and glory of few kings. Some still struggle with a multi-ethnic ideal that has been propagated for years. Many have recently started to count the odds. They are counting how the process of unification of Ethiopia has brought about abolition of their respective identities as a separate people group and that the both the natural cause of migration and the unnatural causes of war between various groups has now adds new dimensions to issue that we are considering here.

    In the neger bizat I don’t want you to forget my point. Irrespective of our past, we can and should be able to work towards what unites us. One way of doing so is to find out our true nature as humans. This is done by Alethia. Then comes the will-driven nature of ours. It is the later that makes a community. A community is not just given. Community and the things that makes it distinct is gradually and continuously shaped by our individual choices of today and tomorrow. Yesterday is given. Today is much promptly awaiting action or inaction. However, tomorrow is much different than today in that tomorrow gives time for reflection and planning. We make what we are, in this sense. If we are not happy with what we are today, we must use our will and our power to choose and work towards avoiding the things that appear to be working against us while working diligently towards bringing about a life (communal) that serves us better.

    We can and should debate history. However, there is no such objective reason to deny that we all are humans. Ethiopians, therefore, must see ourselves for what we are from nature and history and start living (communal). For communal life is an area of maturity seen from individual person’s perspective. A child is looked after by all (family being the first area of care). As a boy/girl moves around and sees its neighborhood not only do the parents limit their control over their children’s lives but they make sure that the children are now well informed and prepared to make the right choices while moving around in the neighborhood. A time comes (rights of passage, if you like, a graduation, in modern man’s training language) when the parents call upon their children and declare that ‘the time for being a child is no more!’. The implication is that the children are becoming socially responsible and functioning adults.

    Notice the social personality as a process of maturity. A selfish child becomes a self-less individual by caring for others and maturing into a life that involves so many in many different ways.

    I hope you see my point. Society is an area of voluntary association. There is no determinism about it. It is something of our making as it is being shaped by our individual actions and inactions. This, in fact, is an idealistic discussion. The practice is far less right for me as an individual to make my own choices because the social engineers of today, taking the most powerful social institution, the Government, have their own pre-determined agenda that does not necessarily reflect any substance in my own life.

    My point is probably premature as Alethia promised to give us the piece on national questions. So let you haste and let the discussion grow. Let me then hold on to the rest of my points (opinion) until I read Alethia and the good contributions all other respondents would make.

    Fiseha

  10. R
    December 2, 2007 at 1:21 am | #10

    I couldn’t really manage to see what the article is talking about-it doesn’t have much of a point because the writer is runnibg around the bush. You just can say what you want to say in one line why westing time!?

  11. Alethia
    December 2, 2007 at 2:45 am | #11

    Hi Fiseha:

    Many, many thanks for your splendid comments that provide so much food for thought. I’m not in a position to respond to your wonderful comments at this moment due to lack of time at the moment but of course will happily engage you and other contributors here when I get chance to do so.

    For R, I think in short what I want to say is this: what do you think the other commentators are responding to if there was not “much of a point” in the article the others are responding to? Are they also just “running around the bush?” I hope that you’d be a bit charitable at least to them.

    Yes, I could have made my points in one sentence but then there were more than one-liner arguments in what I wanted to communicate and that is why I wrote in more than one line. If you still need a one line (it depends on how long the line you’ve in mind since all the article could have written in just one line) summary of the article I’d be happy to do it for you.

    Hope that you’d stay with us and teach us how to avoid going around the bush and bushes at times.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  12. Alethia
    December 2, 2007 at 3:08 am | #12

    Hi Tazabi:

    Have I changed somewhat? Perhaps but I’m not sure if that was reflected in that short article. As you guessed it’s due to the nature of the issues being discussed that I tended to be more cautious.

    Good to see your contributions as usual. Keep it up.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  13. Tazabi
    December 2, 2007 at 3:11 am | #13

    Fiseha,
    You’ve many good points. Let me ask you this, in your 5th pargraph, are you saying that before we start living in harmony as united Ethiopia we’ve to get an answer for those group of people who’re still strugglling? I would appreciated if you explain to me.

    Please, forgive my ignorance in the issue. No ill feeling here at all. I just want to have a better understanding. Honestly, what i observed in recent years is that ethnicity issue among Ethiopians are widening and it scares the hell out of me. Today, there’s people who’re distinguishing themselves totally separte from among the same spoken language groups. It’s not a secret anymore what Amara & Oromo arguing about and we hear all the time who killed what. The same goes with the recent government. Call me naive, but how you reconcile what’s been done in the past? Is there a better way to do this and move on?

    I read in this blog an article written by Epherem Madebo about Dr. Nega and the writer mentioned briefly how Dr. Nega’s views would be on language. What he said was the majority ethiopians speaks Oromo language so, he was suggesting for people to learn. Language is a beautiful thing to learn and i’ve no problem with that, however, what that does good to for non-oromo speakers? Speaking of Dr. Nega, people accusing him because of what his ethnic identity is ( I’v no opinion on his political view, though) but, this guy if he gets a chance to be a leader of Ethiopia why we we’ve to accuse him because of his “predetermined ethnic identity”? These are the issues really make me scratch my head.

    I’m not sure what Alethia has in mind for the discussion (i hope i’m not out of the topic). Let’s keep it between you and me, sometime Alethia see things from his professional perspective. Ha! Ha! All in all he’s a good man!

  14. Alethia
    December 2, 2007 at 3:36 am | #14

    Tazabi:

    Please feel totally free to share whatever thought you think is relevant to the discussion.

    Yes, Fiseha raised a number of good points that I hope will generate good responses and you’re already doing a good job engaging him and I just wanted to say keep up the good job. I got only few moments to share these these notes just to encourage you guys to keep the discussion going.

    Will be back hopefully soon.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  15. Alethia
    December 2, 2007 at 6:03 am | #15

    Hi Fiseha:

    Just some thoughts in response to one of your interesting comments. You pointed out that there was something missing in the article and subsequent discussions in reaction to the article and you meant to draw some distinction between our identity as humans over which we do not have control and our subsequent identities which are left to our own choices and actions.

    The point you raise is crucial and well taken. That said, I wonder whether you’ve seen some points in the article that briefly talk about our national identity, which I interchangeably used as our political identity, as being based on our will when I touched on these issues in a longish paragraph just before the last. Of course I did not develop the ideas in detail because that would have taken more space for a short article that I wanted to produce at that moment.

    Yes, a community/social group/society is largely, other things being equal, a consequence of our actions that presuppose our choices, voluntary actions, but then we should not forget OUR Ethiopian society, esp., in the political context that we’re discussing, and it’s important to see if much of the society is based on a “voluntary association”. To argue that that should be the ideal is one thing but then to claim that that is actually the case in present day Ethiopia does not seem right without reasonable qualifications. That is why I said what I said in the article for the reasons just mentioned.

    Here’s one thing just to remind you of what I’ve said, “It’s a self-defeating exercise to impose, without the will of the people that constitute the nation, what has historically been taken for granted by some, i.e., what is called “Ethiopia”, as such an all-unifying ideal.” There are millions of “Ethiopians” who no longer call themselves Ethiopians if we should face the reality in virtue of the fact that they think that the unifying ideal which is called “Ethiopia” has been imposed on them (this is ethnic and political reality, mind you) and it’s with such issues in mind that I said the previous ideas in the quoted sentence.

    Yes, as human beings we’ve freedom to act and as free beings we would live life that would mirror a life of creatures with inherent capacity to freely act, to voluntarily exercices our choices and act accordingly. But that is just a wishful thinking for millions of fellow Ethiopians if we’re talking about political freedom in the last several decades of Ethiopian history. Where there is almost no political freedom there is no free choice as to do this or that in relevantly important ways.

    I’m not talking about a deterministic world in a scientific and philosophical sense of determinism but then it seems to be important if the majority of fellow Ethiopians are “freely exercising their choices and hence are acting freely” when it comes to being Ethiopians in a politically sensitive sense. I very much think such a picture of Ethiopia is too rosy and unrealistic to be true. How would a realistic picture of Ethiopia shape one’s identity, esp., political/national and even ethnic?

    I’ve argued that all human beings are equal in the sense that makes them humans and also there is no superior or inferior ethnic group in virtue of one’s belonging to one or the other ethnic group for none of us have contributed to these givens in any relevant way. Now I think we can talk about how much freedom Ethiopians have when it comes to making certain choices in life and how much of our choices can be and have been “determined” by powers over and above us, beyond our control. Just think of some disillusioned Ethiopians in the Diaspora and how much of their identity has been shaped and dictated by the reality of life in Ethiopia and what and who some of them have become as a result of lack of opportunities to live life as free human beings in their country in a political sense of freedom. This is just an example for us to think about.

    The above is just meant to add to the already lively discussion and thanks to all who’re participating in it.

    Thanks Fiseha, once again, and please keep this discussion going by continuing to contribute your thoughts.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  16. Anon
    December 2, 2007 at 8:19 am | #16

    Endlakachew
    I beg to differ with the analogy you made with the British trying to deal with their past imperial heritage. The way I see it the British are not going through any kind of national identity crisis. They have long figured it out and made their peace with it. Nial Ferguson isn’t defending the empire to rescue them from some kind of crisis but may be because he is nostalgic about the golden empire or he sincerely believes in the fact that the Empire shaped the world, which in a way is true.
    India can’t be what it is today without the British Empire. Nor is Kenya.

  17. Semere
    December 2, 2007 at 1:29 pm | #17

    The question what does an Ethiopian mean is fluid.One should raise questions like
    Do Ethioans have distinct character? If so what makes them distinct? What values do we share? What most ties us together as a nation?

  18. Alethia
    December 2, 2007 at 4:11 pm | #18

    Hi Semere:

    The points you raised are very important and it’d be good to hear what it means for one to be an Ethiopian. I’d define one’s identity (not necessarily Ethiopian) in virtue of one’s values which I’ll do in another article but now what you have in mind seems to be interesting and important and why not just share more?

    Do Ethiopians have distinct characters and are there things that tie them together as a nation? Please go ahead and describe the answers to these questions and hopefully others will add to what you share.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  19. Fiseha D. Letta
    December 2, 2007 at 7:59 pm | #19

    My dear Alethia,

    Thank you for the cordial reception. It is encouraging and I shall do my best, of course.

    I will deal with Tazabi’s concern first. Tazabi asked me specifically what I meant in para 5 of my insertion.

    Here is Tazabi’s question:

    Let me ask you this, in your 5th paragraph, are you saying that before we start living in harmony as united Ethiopia we’ve to get an answer for those group of people who’re still struggling? I would appreciated if you explain to me.

    In my humble opinion we are all struggling. Some of us are trying to figure out what needs to be done and others are engaged in a cause that they deemed to be for the benefit of all of us and still others have resigned from this or that and therefore felt inaction is the best way forward. We are in effect struggling because the basis of our nation building, state building to be exact, is not based on the liberty of the individual person. My country men want to decide what is best for me. And I am demonstrating my rejection of their proposal in my silence. For them, silence is acceptance and therefore I am now beginning to tell it. I am a socially responsible person and I do mind when others tell me what I am and what I should be doing.

    For me united Ethiopia is not a given fact and I take the line Alethia better explained. United Ethiopia is for me a strong proposition and the most viable one for all of us. The way to harmony, to answer you Tazabi, is to allow the able Ethiopian to make individual decisions in his/her own lives. Unity, if it exists must exist in the decision and commitment of Ethiopians. However, if unity is a strong proposition, awaiting our further commitment, then I cannot make others get committed except trusting in their personal decision to see my point of view. I respect their decision whichever line they choose. My hope is that when we respect each other we walk together the fastest and cover the longest distance. Therefore, my dear Tazabi, I did not see any particular group that is struggling with the idea of unity. For me we are all caught up into the confusion of push and pull and we don’t even know at which end we are. That is why we are clearing the theoretical ground, here in this discussion.

    You are not naive in calling for a possibility of reconciliation between groups. Like you are I know so much stories whereby Oromo was and continues to be a victim. There are cases where Amhara was said to be the victim. Who is the perpetrator then? Can we point somewhere and find the cause and account for it so that our future lives become one of collaboration? How can deal with our past? You asked me if there is a better way. I emphatically say, this. Let us the living, deal with our lives for what it is. My forefather must have killed your forefathers, or vise versa. How do you want to deal with me today? If you are waiting for an opportune time to kill me, then we are not living, we are all dying, now or later. See we die not because we grow old and submit to the laws of nature, but because we believe in killing what we perceive to be our enemy and the enemy reacts and kills more. Can we then avoid such a language and start on the talk of the living? I hope we do. The best way, for me is, dear Tazabi, that I am what I am. I know what you can do potentially, for I see it in myself. I respect you and now I am saying, “balefew yibka!” Let us sit for a true reconciliation. Let us deal with it and clean our conscience of the series of killings and replace it with living and let other live. Can you, Tazabi?

    Dear Tazabi, you also mentioned your reading of Ephraim Madebo’s entry on Dr Birhanu Nega. With all due respect, I don’t know why we care to side with this or that person. Let us talk for ourselves. If you agree with anyone of them just say it. If you find it difficult to accept, stick to the issue and raise it the way you want to put it. In any case, let us avoid discussing personalities. We are here on our own. If the you find it unrealistic to learn the language of the Oromo by the mere fact they constitute the largest group of people in Ethiopa, how do you feel when the same largest group had to learn Amharic even when the culture is looking down upon whoever that does not speak Amharic perfectly well. I don’t want to take sides here. Do you answer the question, which should be the language of our Ethiopia? Amharic? or Oromo? or both or none? Why not Kembata or Hadiya? What is your basis for choosing one over the other? I hope we will discuss such matters after we clear the theoretical ground upon which our communal life is being built.

    [Let me pause here and more thoughts later. Sorry for not sticking to the original topic]

    Fiseha

  20. Tazabi
    December 2, 2007 at 8:57 pm | #20

    Semere,
    Your last question is “What most ties us together as a nation?” is a very important question and i’ll be happy to read your input. The simple answer would be a nation is built on the people within. What has been done in the past , People make a nation based on historical background, shaped by based on similar language, culture history, geographical boundry and a Govt. system is in place.

    On the other hand, there’s people who said a nation should be built from similar belief, common social value, nation-state..It’s not a bad idea at all, but how would work a country like Ethiopia? I always think highly impractical. I forgot the name of the person who said “nation is an imaginative community”. I like the quote. I guess, you and me and other bloggers could built a “virtual nation” if we share similar belief, common social value.

  21. Tazabi
    December 2, 2007 at 10:48 pm | #21

    Fiseha,
    I think you posted your entry while i was responding to Semere. Thank you for your response. I admired your passion. You make so much sense and please, please, “unchoose” your silence decision. There’s no question, in the past and even today what’s happening to Oromo. It’s horrible and unacceptable. Regarding to reconcilation, how would you do it in a national level? You and me could have a civil dialogue here and walk through the same path having the same differnces, however, what about the general population in Ethiopia?

    By the way, when it comes to Ethiopian politics, i’m in the process unleraning what i thought i learned. Believe me, i’ve no agenda at all. The place i lived in, it doesn’t give me that luxary to follow up who’s what. Alethia’s article not entirely, but addressed ethnic identity issues related to Ethiopian politics context so, the reason i brought Epherem article is that i was very much interested to know what those politicians have to say in ethnic issues besides democarcy. Also, we’re labeling people so much without understanding what they’re all about and the consequences really conserns me. I apologized, if that took you out of the track. I’ll look forward to read your thoughts.

  22. Fiseha D. Letta
    December 2, 2007 at 11:27 pm | #22

    Great Tazabi,

    I got you as my partner then. I and you, no one else for now… I take you for your word. Don’t apologize for representing others. I don’t care how many people you represent. For me you are one person, an individual. I don’t care less if you hold the most popular opinion or those ridiculed by the majority. You are just like me, an individual. Just be honest with me for being what you are. Most of all I want to be sure that you are Ethiopian, of whatever sort. If we have agreed so far it is sufficient for us to continue agreeing on many things including on things we agree to disagree.

    In the process, at any level, we are free to change our minds and stand for not only what we are but what we become when concepts get clarified to us. What our mind conceives ideas it grows into cognitive level by comparing it to other things we already know (pre-conceive), then we begin to re-recognizes it be a definition of a kind. However, we must move on from conception to cognition and then to conviction. Conviction comes after we weigh consequences of what we come to know. Conviction is not enough though, I warn you Tazabi. We must move on to action and therefore character shows what we really are.

    This is my trust in discussing the issues of our common country. Talk to me for there are lots of things in my mind that I hold to without checking with you. I suspect you too have convictions. Let us jointly, me and you, explore what is out there, in reality. Not what others interpret but how it appears to us. If we stand by our convictions and strive to put to practice what we see to be true we have done our parts. So we start living the lives of new Ethiopia. So let’s move on. Let us discourse. Bear in mind, I see you as an individual and take me for no less, an individual person.

    Let’s politic!

    Fiseha

  23. Tazabi
    December 2, 2007 at 11:46 pm | #23

    Fiseha
    Hey, the feeling is mutual. You’re right, change could be possible “one person at a time “. Talk to you later.

  24. Alethia
    December 3, 2007 at 12:08 am | #24

    Hi Fiseha:

    You’re doing a great job by sharing your reflections on the issues that we’re discussing that sound very much thought about and mature and hence worth sharing with your fellow Ethiopians. I’m glad that I wrote that little reflection to trigger such a wonderful dialogue and discussion among fellow Ethiopians.

    Your passaing reference to this idea of “new Ethiopia” stuck me as something novel and worth developing further. Please do not shy away from sharing such novel ideas that might well do so much good to fellow Ethiopians. Not hold back such novel and noble ideas, at least from what the way they sound from reading your reflections.

    Yes, if the old concept or idea of Ethiopia is NOT good enough to bring together fellow “Ethiopians” to think and work together to truly be Ethiopians (mind you that I use or mention “Ethiopia” depending the context since some do not want to be called Ethiopians without scare quotes or literally) it seems the next bst thing it to come up with a new concept or idea of Ethiopia that most Ethiopians would willingly embrace and want to live up to as one people, one nation.

    But no rush to that gran unifying ideal without adequately dealing with some crucial issues and questions of our identities individually and collectively given the “unity” and diversity of all of us. Yes, the beginning of national reconcilliation, for example from Tazabi’s concerns, would work in a better way IF the old idea of Ethiopia which is not embraced by some individuals and groups could be re-invented, re-conceived, and realized in a manner that brings together the diverse ethnic groups in Ethiopia as one, in whatever workable sense that is. No one should underestimate the complexity of such issues but then we should not shy away from trying our hands and minds on such much needed issues that will make a true difference to the future of Ethiopia.

    Fiseha and Tazabi, yes,

  25. Alethia
    December 3, 2007 at 12:10 am | #25

    P.S. The above post found itself without me finishing my ideas:

    I was going to say, Fiseha and Tazabi and, yes, all of you who’re interested in participating in such mutual and constructive discussions, let’s keep this discussion keep going and hence alive.

    Cheers,

    Alehia

  26. Fiseha D. Letta
    December 3, 2007 at 7:29 am | #26

    Great job guys! We are marching on; forward we must keep on marching. Don’t loose heart for we have not yet begun the walk. Once the talk is streamlined we may start the walk while the talk goes on. That is where I am inviting Tazabi. I sincerely hope that he would soon discover the most effective and lasting change is one person at a time. It is a serious business. It is also a hard work but surely it works.

    On Alethia’s response to me I must admit I was wrong in emphatically saying something was missing. Yes, in my first insertion I was pushing you a bit strongly on the fact of voluntary social association. Reading your response and then through it going back to your original positing I rediscovered that what I so emphatically claimed to have been missing was not missing after all. It is all there. May be it was the academic selectivity of your words and how it was wrapped up with that hid from me your message of freedom and equality. Therefore, dear Alethia, I will hold on to my horses next time. I take off my hut for you. ‘begzihar… ayigebam!’

    While many beautiful ideas flow in, let me inject few of my own. (what an opportunity… it feels like I am dreaming, at times)

    Ethiopia must be new every passing moment. I am a different kind of patriot. My pride in our history is not stronger (not even as much strong) as the people I know so far. I have no pride in the history of killing and war. I very cautiously accommodate war for the sake of survival. I see no more utility in war, otherwise. [Moreover, I don't see how war and bearing arms helps me for today and tomorrow. I sincerely respect all who do own and bear arms. Our lives are now more complicated because of the easy access to arms and how even simply disputes resort to armed confrontation.] [A topic for another day]

    Therefore, Ethiopia must be invigorated. So new that we deliberately change course when we reach the right turn. I am also trying to replace the glory of the past (that I find not so glorious) with the determination and nobility of today. Today is calling all of us to entrepreneurship. Two types of entrepreneurial call: first, is business entrepreneur that changes ideas into profitable social engagement. Obviously, the other type of entrepreneur is a social one. Social entrepreneur is someone that changes ideas into socially beneficial engagement. The difference is that business is a private initiative to seek and gain financial benefit for oneself and others. So let us agree that this is noble. The social entrepreneur, I call myself to be one of them, on the other hand, is someone that see to it to bring results in the form of social benefits and content for himself/herself as long as others gained out of the engagement.

    Let me declare upfront that I am presenting this as a mission of the new Ethiopia. The new Ethiopia cannot (should not) depend on any organization other than the people taking charge of their individual lives. We don’t need others for survival, do we? Haven’t you heard of bootstrapping? It is the IKUB and IDIR geared towards life and meaningful collaboration. We continue to deal with our Governments and so called humanitarian aid organizations. Today, sadly, we are where we are not because of them but in spite of them. [my conviction, I can explain, if asked] Even to our Government, when the time is just right, we must tell them to stay out of our initiatives and creative solutions. Fellow citizens have taken charge of their own lives. You see my point… In new Ethiopia citizens must be charged with a purpose and they have themselves to make their dreams a reality. No need to create another social parasite.

    Wodadjoch… stop me and tell me if what I am telling you sounds like a wishful thinking. I will take it. No harm in wishful thinking. My wish, I am insisting on it, is more practical for me and I don’t see any other effective and least economical way to solve our plight. Tell me if I am wrong… I’m listening. When you correct me, I get shaped and molded by you. The same is true of ideals at a national level. We evolve and thrive. We must be strong at introspection and march on believing in life before death.

    fiseha

  27. Tazabi
    December 4, 2007 at 12:22 am | #27

    Fiseha,
    There’s a number of ideas, questions running through my mind from reading your last entry. I’m glad you mentioned one important key word in the area of social responsibility because that’s the area we lack so much in our society. I’m guilty on this too. Most of us we don’t ask ourselves how to be a good citizen and how to contribute to the society in a positive manner. I think if we all have that in mind, we’ll be heading to a right direction.

    Having said this, i’ve a few questions for you. Please, clarify to me When you said “i’m also tyring to replace the glory of the past..” because, historically i could give you lists that is not glorious so, it would be good if you’ve specific issues for us to discuss. I agree, change is necessary for future Ethiopia and we may not take pride on some of the things what happend. however, just because the past is not so glorious to some of us, are we in a postion to rewind our time and re-write history? Or, are we willing to go forward from this moment on and do what it needs to be done?

    We’re facing bizillion problems in our society and it would be a good start if we narrow it down, though. We all know govt. won’t be an answer for every problem out there, but there’re a number of contributing factors why we’re where we’re today. Thanks

  28. Alethia
    December 4, 2007 at 2:05 am | #28

    Hi Fiseha and Tazabi:

    I wish I had time to engage you in this engaging discussion that you guys are advancing in an interresting direction. I said I wish. Unfortunately, I do not have time to add my share at the moment.

    Hope to join you guys as soon as I get a chance to.

    Keep up the good work.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  29. Fiseha D. Letta
    December 4, 2007 at 5:28 am | #29

    Wodaje Tazabi,

    I don’t see any problem in taking pride in one’s past. All I care about it to weigh it in light of what I am faced with today and the things that lie ahead. Introspection is a good thing. In our case, Ethiopians, we tend to think of life as ‘duro kere’. That is what I completely reject. For me, if something of the past is what it is, bygone, then adios. However, when people talk of the bygone as more precious and more appealing to the eyes and ears of us today, I find it repulsive.

    Take for example the civilization of Maroe from where later Ethiopians take their artifacts and stales. What is the value of speaking of that history if it does not appeal to me either esthetically or more meaningfully to teaching me practical skills of life today? The same is true of the obelisk of the Axumites and the rock hewn Churches of the Agewe. When we abandon this touristic worldview of ourselves (that focuses on key sites of present day Ethiopia) and start looking closely at our own past and people for what they really were, with their immense diversity and breathtaking depth of intricate theorizing, we will then discover that the material and moral culture of our people and the depth of their oral and mythical thoughts including their crafts could have charted an appropriate pathway for us today and hence better tomorrow. The tragedy of where we are today, as Ethiopians, is that we are neither connected to the past (our true ancestors) nor linked to the future (idea of progress as we see it in the West).

    Dear Tazabi… I am not promoting what you can do for your country, though I cannot object you if you insist. Nor do I discourage what the country can do for you. I simply do not accept that premises at all. The way I see it, you cannot do anything meaningful unless you do it for yourself and for your own life. If there is something good to be done, you should be the first to do it and in doing it you will take either a material or financial benefit (business entrepreneur) or you will do it just for the pleasure of it (social entrepreneur). You see I am not a socialist and I abhor anything socialism, with all due respect for the people that are still caught up in its capacity to appeal to human conscience. I am not a philanthropist, neither. I am a realist. Human nature, when I reflect upon who we really are, shows that we do things from our own self-interest. I am trying to be true to myself. True compassion, if at all we reach that level, as it requires growing into social personality, is when you get pleasure in caring for and helping others.

    Being good citizen is noble, Tazabi. Yet again you insisted in looking at yourself in the light of the nationalistic identity that I am shying away from. You don’t have to see yourself as a citizen all the time. You are primarily a free human agent. Be a good person first. Citizenship can change. You may get dual citizenship of Ethiopia and Kenya or Ethiopia or Canada; depending on what the law of the countries you want citizenship prescribes. Good citizenship of one country does not necessarily make the person good. For German Nationalist of those days, Hitler was the pope of it. You see, if you just follow the external laws of a country, you may be mistaken for good person. But a good person is not just those who followed the law. Rather, good person is those who enjoyed and found meaning in the laws of nature and in that found peace and tranquility of life where humanity lives in law and order. Therefore, being a good person always makes a good citizenship. Goodness in persons is the basis upon which you bargain social responsibility. So I am more for growing into a personhood than growing into citizenship. Notice that I consider citizenship to be a voluntary social organization.

    So, my dear Tazabi … depending on how you see this piece, I am going to ask you couple of questions next time so that the dialogue gets even. I don’t have to write in such a long responses all the time.

    Fiseha

  30. Tazabi
    December 4, 2007 at 8:23 am | #30

    Fiseha,
    What you’re saying is now what Alethia’s has been saying all along which i agreed because we caught up so much in the past and we’re abandoning the present. I think you’re contradicting yourself when you talked about new ethiopia in every passing moment, social entrepreneur, and again shying away from national identity. It’s obvious that inorder to be a good person, i don’t need a national identity. Of couse, I don’t pass by seeing a dying person on the street, because he’s not an Ethiopian.
    What does it mean to you when you said being true to yourself, a good person? Your comments suggusting me that self interest is motiviating you to be a good person which is to get “peace and tanquility of life”?. Thanks

  31. Fiseha D. Letta
    December 4, 2007 at 10:33 am | #31

    Dear Tazabi,

    Yes, self-interest motivates me. Why not? Do you see a problem?

    I don’t think I contradicted myself in shying away from citizenship and national identity. New Ethiopia, for me is a vibrant new nation of people where citizens look forward to opportunities of life and choice. Ethiopia from where I see it today is not forward looking nation. Notice that I don’t completely identify myself with the new Ethiopia as if it is the same thing. I chose to be part of the endeavors of the new entrepreneurial Ethiopia in much the same way I chose to brake away from the current situations in Ethiopia.

    Do you think it is offending to my fellow Ethiopians if I declare myself to be human by being and Ethiopian by choice? You see, being Ethiopian has nothing to do with my natural identity. The State (Government) of Ethiopia can expand or shrink its territory depending on how much the colonial boundary treaties allow flexibility. Looking back in previous centuries, my kin-people could be in Sudan, Somalia, or Kenya. They acquire different political affiliation. I my DNA certain people that I might not share nationality with but I share my political commitment with the people group that affiliate themselves with Ethiopia (irrespective of their DNA).

    Did I sound to much cosmopolitan? I hope not!

    I hope I am clear about this.

    Fiseha

  32. Tazabi
    December 4, 2007 at 2:52 pm | #32

    Fiseha,
    I’m at work right now and i won’t be able to say much. Personally, i’m not offended by your choice, but i’m very puzzled by it. If anyone offended, you’ll hear about it. Our comments are in the public folder now. Hopefully, Alethia may get it and give me some light. Thanks

  33. Semere
    December 4, 2007 at 3:35 pm | #33

    Feseha, You hit the nail on the head.Ntionalism is a disease one should get away from as fast as his/her could carry him or her. Being from sowehere is something but not everything.Any place could be your homelad ,even Darfur if it suits you.

  34. Semere
    December 4, 2007 at 3:37 pm | #34

    sorry i meant to say as fast as his/her legs could carry him or her

  35. Yaya
    December 4, 2007 at 4:06 pm | #35

    Sorry for drifting away from the discussion. You seem to be hurrying it.
    About a point Fisseha made about Ethiopia not being a forward looking nation, doesn’t make sense to me. With all its present problems and misery, Ethiopia is a forward-looking nation. Like any other country, it has got a couple of issues to settle. It needs to settle it.
    But then it will prevail, not just survive. I am not being romantic or anything.

  36. Fiseha D. Letta
    December 5, 2007 at 4:05 am | #36

    Wodaje Semere… it is a privillage for me to be part of the great people of Darfur. I love them and have tremendous respect for them. I am not sure if they are a nation. If and when they get ready for citizenship, I could consider applying. Meanwhile, I keep up my solidarity with the peoples and nations of Sudan and Chad.

    Yaya is not happy with me for saying that we Ethiopians are not forward looking people. I read your short but complete proposal to solve whatever difficulties we now have and move on with our lives. Of course, Yaya we must move on. I accept the kind shunning and start looking forward. We shall prevail, Yaya… we will, inshallah!

    Fiseha

  37. Tazabi
    December 5, 2007 at 6:57 am | #37

    Yaya,
    lol! I like your simplistic approach to our problems. Do you really, really mean it when you said “we got a couple of issues to settle”? What are those a couple of issues? Uhhh… health care for all Ethiopians and national debt (i just picked for you the least concerns). Well, you may be right, after all we all are exaggurating it. I agree with you we’re not in dead-end yet, though.

    Fiseha,
    Forgive my ignorance, but I still don’t know your postions in the issue here and i’m having difficulty following you up. I’m waitting Alethia’s response to give me some shades of light (he’s my virtual professor;-)) .

  38. S
    December 5, 2007 at 7:21 am | #38

    Darfur! Ah a aha !What about if I propose a more stable and peaceful place for you, Mokadishu?

  39. Fiseha D. Letta
    December 5, 2007 at 10:10 am | #39

    S
    The only problem in what S says is that S did not trust me with my freedom of choose. The hard fact is that, it is I to make the dicision. Thanks for the proposal, though. Somalia is the next of kin.

    Fiseha

  40. Alethia
    December 5, 2007 at 2:59 pm | #40

    Hi All:

    I still wish I could be part of this lively discussion. This time of the year for someone in an academic institution is the busiest and hence my lack of time these days to actively participate in this very tempting discussion.

    Tazabi, thanks for your kind words. I know that from our experience of exchanging ideas for months, last year, you know where I’d be coming from and hence your interest and also confident in seeing a possiblity for my share of contribution. Hope time will come, sooner rather than later, for such a contribution on my part too.

    Keep up the good work, all of you participants. At least I get a chance to read what has been contributed.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  41. Alethia
    December 5, 2007 at 3:02 pm | #41

    P.S. Typo:

    “Confident” in paragraph two above should have been, confidence.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  42. Tazabi
    December 5, 2007 at 9:00 pm | #42

    Alethia,
    I just e-mailed you xerox “philosphers on strike” cartoon from this week The New yorker magazine issue. Now we know where you at! Don’t make excuses being busy. Hope, you’ll find it funny.

  43. Alethia
    December 5, 2007 at 9:39 pm | #43

    Hi Tazabi:

    That is funny! I got the cartoons and thanks for sending them over to me.

    The philosophers in the cartoon stopped searching for truth until their demands are met; I’ve not joined these folks on the strike and am still on with a search for truth some of which I’ll share as usual when time permits.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  44. Fiseha D. Letta
    December 6, 2007 at 12:56 am | #44

    Wodaje Tazabi,

    I thought we have started to walk along side each other. Since you asked, here is another mombling.

    You did not say which part of my talk was difficult to follow. You are not the only person to tell me this. It happens to me a lot. After I passionately make a point, so many people just drift away as if I was saying it is enough let’s disperse. Let me gues at what might appear to you to be unclear.

    My idea of citizenship and nationalism!
    Did you ever hear about nations before states? Long before the idea of the nation-state was popularized and even to this day, people hold a nationalistic feeling towards what they consider to be their collective being. You know the Scots. Like the Irish the Scots too have a strong feeling of nationalism. They were part of the British Kingdom, later shrank to be the United Kingdom. So the new state is a later phenomenon. Nationalism and the nation of the Scots and the Irish and the English including that of the Wells and others have always been there since long time ago. Gordon Brown and the Parliament in Westminster as a political organization has evolved out of the history of public administration of the people we mistakenly call the English. They each have their own nation of with England became the centre of it.

    Just another example would suffice for now. Let me attempt the USSR. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republic has never been a proper Republic. It was a totalitarian regime where all of the nations of adjacent regions were swiftly controlled by Stalin and condemned to live under the Russians sitting in Kremlin. Later when the sound of economic perestroika was beating and political glasnost was heating, Michael Gorvachove fueled the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Republics later have gone back to their old nations and independent states reviving their old nationalism. Kremlin is left with coordinating independent states (Commonwealth of Independent States).

    In both of the above examples, states were formed out of many nations and by undermining, at various degrees, the nationalistic affinity of various people group and through instilling new nationalistic feelings that does not seem to be natural. While the UK managed to keep it together the USSR did not.

    Citizenship changes when the metanarrative of nationalism changes. Citizenship is contingent upon the winning nationalism of the day. That is why you hear people respond to the question, “Are you English?”… “Irish, actually.”

    Ethiopia is a different ball of game. One thing is clear, though. The elite Ethiopians were busy building their state irrespective of the various people group and the level of maturity of their respective nationalistic affinity. Ethiopian elites learned to look down upon the traditional Ethiopians that care much for their grand idea of national identity as Ethiopians. All in all ever since Minilik called all the people to fight the enemy for the sake of his own family and livelihood the call to arms to defend the mother/father land has remained the only gathering force and a unifying motto of all Ethiopians. Ethiopianism is therefore a call to defend the border of Ethiopia and a call that inherently makes the people in the periphery feel part of the larger social organization. The people defended their borders, irrespective of who is sitting on the throne.

    So, where am I?
    I am open to the Puntland scheme as much as I defend the Kushland project. Let Maroe revive and let the Axumite get their proper place in the history of today’s Ethiopia. I hope to see a day when a real Agaw, stand tall and tell it all. I wanted to visit the Sidama, and the Wolayita when they stand as high and as stable as Mt. Damot. In all, let the competing nationalism know that I have gone beyond all this. When all is done, and we found who we really are, it is yet up to us to start living, a life of peace and solidarity with all people and that actually starts with learning to respect the individual person.

    I don’t care for Regional Autonomy anymore rather I vouch for the autonomy of the individual person. I have seen that liberty is liberty of the individual person. For me, national sovereignty is nothing until the sovereignty of the individual person is respected.

    Wodaje Tazabi… are you with me?

    Let me know…

    Fiseha

  45. Tazabi
    December 6, 2007 at 3:52 am | #45

    Fiseha,
    I lost you somewhere because it’s not so much about your ideas of citizenship or nationalism. It was much to do with your relationship with Ethiopia because your position was flipping around and that confused me. I was not sure where you were heading with this discussion. I’m one of those nuts who ridiclously respect ones choice so, there’s nothing to do with the choice you made.

    I’m still laughing…. reading the last paragraph above. Your intention is well taken. I don’t have my crystal ball with me today, but everytime i read your comments i’m reading very deep rooted pain, especially in the area of national identity. (am i worng?)
    You hear all the time nation existance without state or vise versa, consolidating nation-states, it’s basically to create a national identity within the people. Don’t get me wrong it sounds wonderful. Some contemporaries even suggesting since Globalization is bringing people together they’re proposing a different kind of concept of nation. I guess, we shouldn’t have boundries. Here we go…a couple of individuals disagree with you because you chose Ethiopian neighbore’s? Why not taking a look around the globe? We all know that nation is (to list a few), having common culture, geographical terriotry, sharing the same past so, how it would be managed in a country like Ethiopia? It needs to be done a lot in a national level implement it. We’ve not dealt with Erietiria issue, yet. So, in the time being my senses telling me that it would do a greater harm than helping.

    I agree individual respect is very important. It’s going to be a difficult task changing our mental models. We need to begin doing a lot of learning, relearning, unlearning, and listening. Most of us we hear and intend to neglect listening. How we do it individually and collectively? Any suggestion?

  46. Fiseha D. Letta
    December 6, 2007 at 12:54 pm | #46

    Tazabi,

    I am back to where I started, then. So sad you are not with me. What can I do? Ce la vie…

    If citizenship is given it becomes your identity. It ain’t so when you look around. Double citizenship, migration and so on provides variations of citizenships. If my child is born in the US citizenship is granted automatically. But the child may still be raised in Ethiopia and with no affinity to the US. Citizenship can then be seen as choice, my choice for my child as guardian. The fact that some countries restrict citizenship and allow residence does not change the fact. Don’t think this is a very narrow exception… it is a way of thinking that allows you to break from tradition.

    There was a time when I dumped ethnic, national or any global identity of any kind. Live was good and I was able to communicate with anyone anywhere. Then I started committing myself into life before death and I rediscovered Ethiopia, I mean my new Ethiopia that I am presenting to you. It is a new nation where you respect others (individually or as a group) by learning to respect the individual. You told me you are not going to walk with me… so I cut this discussion short. I am looking for a partner…

    You didn’t say what you wanted to discuss about Eritrea issue? Bring it on. It might help us walk together. I also have some kins there. You should be happy for me… I am ‘zemede bizu’ but still libertarian.

    Fiseha

  47. Fiseha D. Letta
    December 6, 2007 at 12:56 pm | #47

    “Life was good” was intended… not Live was good … [para 3 send line]

  48. Tazabi
    December 6, 2007 at 1:35 pm | #48

    Fiseha,
    Are you for state independent? Do you think bottom-up approach works for a country like Ethiopia? What’s the first step for “your new Ethiopia”?

  49. Fiseha D. Letta
    December 6, 2007 at 3:41 pm | #49

    Tazabi,

    The first thing I prepared for Ethiopia is a liberated self. An independent Fiseha.

    You just missed that Fiseha. You said you couldn’t follow my line of arguement. It appears to be in consistent to you. I am standing by the road …waiting for you… for you have yet to show me what I missed.

    Fiseha

  50. Jen
    December 6, 2007 at 4:46 pm | #50

    It seems me to me that that you guys are really interested in initiating a conversation towards promoting, fairness, equality and tolerance.
    But from experience let me tell you this. No one would be impressed by your genuine intellectual commitment. (If you find no one too general, I would use few)Whether educated or not, people don’t think that way. Theirs is always the best. The other ones are not. Not because they are ignorant. But that is how and what they (We) like to think.
    I know a professor at the AAU who is from Gojam, No amount of argument can convince him that any one who isn’t from Gojam can be knowledgeable and decent. He is always making fun of at other tribes. The same could be said with others.
    Hey, Forget about it and let us talk about something else. Like the type of girls you prefer to going bed with.

  51. Tazabi
    December 6, 2007 at 5:12 pm | #51

    Fiseha,
    Along with your wish, reality also should be in place for your wonderful thought. I already impose a question for you. How you get your independent from individual point of view?

  52. Tazabi
    December 6, 2007 at 5:13 pm | #52

    Jen,
    Your point is well taken, but what we should do to change our set mind?

  53. Fiseha D Letta
    December 7, 2007 at 1:14 am | #53

    Jen,

    You will have to excuse me, Jen. I’ve lived enough to get tired of that. There are other things life, too. It’s good you tested how the professor of AAU thinks and I can assure you there are millions of us like that.

    Tazabi,

    Enough of my own mumbling. Since Alethia is still busy, let me go behind his desk and pull out this:

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/citizenship/

    ‘Bemote..!!! yebet new!!! Tegabez!!!

    Then I will focus on your specific question of how to act upon individual liberty.

    Iskezaw…

    Fiseha

  54. Tazabi
    December 7, 2007 at 2:34 am | #54

    Fiseha,
    Gladly accepting your link. It looks like informative reading and i’ll get back to you tomorrow. Remember, i’m with you in the general concepts of citizenship, nationalism, nation-state, however, my argument is that implementing it in Ethiopia would do harm. I would like also to caution you, the western world always coming up with awesome/enthusiastic ideas and when it comes to implementing it in poor conuntries, most of the time nothing seem to work. What it works in Europe or Middle East, it’s not necessarily it would work in any other African countries.

  55. Alethia
    December 7, 2007 at 3:41 am | #55

    Hi Fiseha and Tazabi:

    I’m resisting one of the greatest temptations and am still doing that.. But I decided to drop a short note as that is my way of sneaking in these days.

    Fiseha, thank you so much for posting a link from SEP, which is a great resource for the public. I’ve not read the article but I believe that it’d be a good resource. And also, as I’ve said before what you’re doing on this blog is a great job. You’re very clear and mostly coherent and passionate about the issues you’re sharing with us. That is a rare thing to find on blogs among fellow Ethiopians. Keep up the good work and never give up. I can assure you that Tazabi will go a long way with you. I say this from my previous experience of dialoguing with here last year. She’s so much fun to interact with.

    Tazabi, just a suggestion from an old friend: as I said above, Fiseha writes clearly and is passionate. I want to encourage you too to write your questions for him, whenever you have some, in order like (1), (2)…. so that he can address them accordingly. That will add clarity and coherence to our conversation/dialogue. Remember from last year? I was also doing such things on many occasions and that has been helpful.

    And also, it’d be good if you take time and develop some of the ideas that Fiseha is developing when there are points of agreement. That will give him a chance to engage you by raising questions when he has some too. That will, I hope, add more coherence and clarity to these complex issues that you’re discussing among others.

    Now I got to go and look forward to eading the rcontributions from both of you and others, of course.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  56. Fiseha D Letta
    December 7, 2007 at 6:10 am | #56

    Alethia… you were so kind to me. Thanks! Gladly anticipating your piece, it better be sizable … I don’t doubt the substance.

    Me too I am still half way through the article from SEP. Years have gone by since I lost my Athens password and I cannot pull out some good materials to enrich our discussion here. In fact, I usually don’t feel comfortable diverting to readings from euro centric academic analysts. My purpose in sending time was to empress upon Tazabi the centrality of individual liberty when we speak of identity. It looks like the effort is futile…as I am preaching the convert.

    Tazabi,
    Yes, we should concern ourselves with how to go about it building our nation. What we have done so far is so good. I feel good about it, some how since we were trying to be very clear about what we meant. I want you to be sure of one thing, though. Don’t mistake me for some kind of a self appointed scholar or a progressive idealist. I never admired euro-centric theorizing with the only exception of universal values over which they cannot claim authority. I am a naturalist-realist. Politically a libertarian, a passionate libertarian (individual liberty, private property and limited government). Notice again! I don’t believe liberty is practiced in any country around the world. I also don’t believe in copying for I believe social issues are unique to the people participating in the engagement. In fact, it is even difficult, as we have already alluding to above, to take historical lessons of Ethiopia and apply it to us today without qualification of and consideration for what we stand for today.

    Tazabi and et al
    We must move on … and … we will win! We are appealing to the hearts and minds of people. We are telling them that their genuine selves are the power for the future. We don’t have to bring anything else. Not even money, the most scarce commodity among us. You remember I mentioned bootstrapping, ‘ikub’ and ‘idir’.

    To be honest with you all, I was not very sure what I was supposed to say on this topic of citizenship, identity and nationalism. It was a topic I decided not to talk about with fellow Ethiopians for some time. It was so divisive. I am content with whatever the people choose for themselves as long as it is their own choosing and we all pay for it as a consequence. I don’t see any perfect system that can be recommended for Ethiopia. In my personal contemplation, I honestly considered constitutional monarchy, we were not ready for it at the time. Now it is gone forever. I considered cosmopolitanism only to find that the West always has some interest on who is in power in poor countries and they somehow sneak in and plant certain elites for us. It does not work that way. Besides, the power of money is still being researched as yet. So I am so open to all social systems, even to the very wrong ones. What I cannot stand is Socialism and any form of communist ideology. There, something burn in my stomach and I begin to throws up. I don’t see how people fail to educate themselves about false collectivism. Respect! for those that fail to stand a village critic like me. It is not about people, for me, it is about the ideas and the opinions that we uphold without checking it against our human nature.

    In this discussion I am hopeful to move on to areas that I feel comfortable with: social engagement, my call. Did I say earlier something like ‘after we settle the issues of identity we will have to start living… Yes, I was trying to chart the way forward. Yes, I was insisting that it the individual person, the liberated individual that can engage in Ethiopia and bring about a change that is meaningful. It is meaningful because the person bringing about the change would do it in pursuits of individual interest (remember I was saying both financial and moral reward is the same as a motivation). Not to win election or praise from anyone. It is our lives, we need to do it.

    What we have not touched upon, back to the identity question, is social affinity. We did not go there because we are still talking about the basis of our argument. We have touched few things, though. Earlier I was trying to indicate that an individual grows into social person-hood. Yes, when you grow up and take social responsibility (not to impress others but for your own sake) then your action attracts others as others attract you. Society, when fully engaged with a weighed relationship then can create a certain kind of cohesion, a norm that encourages certain common characteristics and somehow discourage (even without verbal criticism) other things. A beautiful word for it is social capital. Affinity is a state of social interaction whereby individuals in society feel close enough one to another and this cohesion creates some common purpose. Isn’t that what we called ‘nationalism’? May be not…. what do I know? But it is exactly what I wanted to see in Ethiopia, in the new Ethiopia when we get charged by our own personal goals and when it meets or diverges creating the beauty of diversity. My focus, to remind you, is entrepreneurial pursuit.

    You know me by now, I repeat things, and I talk too much. I have also effectively counted Alethia out of my review. I know he will surely come back and make us feel that he actually laid down the foundation of this discussion. Yes, Alethia, bring your logically structured thoughts.

    Tazabi, walk with me! I tell you, there are so much to learn from each other. Do you remember reading somewhere… “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” Yep… it is true!

    Inshallah, we are sorting out things and we walk on.

    Fiseha

  57. Tazabi
    December 7, 2007 at 6:39 pm | #57

    Alethia,
    Thanks for your advise. The problem i’m having with Fiseha was that sometimes his mind, his heart, and the keyboard he’s pressing going in a differnt direction, at least to me. I felt i’m with him and then i don’t so, i’m just throwing out a question to him, just to see where he’s heading.

    Fiseha,
    Now you’r talking! Your last entry is much clearer and we even know now your political stand which would be a good discussion for another agenda another time. I actually printed out the article and read it commuting to work and again I’ll read it in my lunch time so, you owe me luch, man!

  58. Fiseha D Letta
    December 8, 2007 at 7:05 am | #58

    Wodaje Tazabi,

    Oh! Yes! I owe you lunch. Right!

    I also gathered few things about you… that you’re commuting. How nice! And while doing that, you read. What a comfortable ride. I envy you. Not bad for a ‘tazabi’. Which brings me to something else. As your wodaj, and someone that walks with me and others gaining interest in the walk of courage to see to it if we mean business and engage in building the new Ethiopia. (Is that English? Do I care… you know what I mean)

    I have a request to make.

    Actually, I’m only passing a message from a good friend. Out in the field, yesterday morning, just after we brought our respective herds together and set them off on a good green grass, I had a little chat with my good fried. So naturally I was talking about this forum and I shared with this friend of mine about you, Tazabi. (capital T) Before I was able to go on, this good friend of mine gave me that look that makes you feel that you were saying something terribly wrong and has almost exclaimed, “who did you say the name was!” Before I had any chance to explain, he continued, “find someone serious, my friend, don’t waste your time with a ‘tazabi’.”

    So last night, done with the cattly, the backyarding, and back in my hut, sitting in front of the fire, to keep my dry bone warm, I started contemplating. Hum… tazabi… Tazabi… can I take tazabi for a friend… I restled with it. It’s true Tazabi feels more like a spectator or specifically a bystander. The part that makes tazabi an eyewitness makes eign Tazabi great. But we wanted someone that can do just more than observing, in fact, we want a participant. Isn’t that what we were saying all along?

    I plead with you then. With all due respect, kindly change your name. You cannot be just a ‘tazabi’. ‘sim’n mela’ak yawetal indilu… newna’, ‘Tesatafi’ is more like it. Or give me your word you moved on…

    I know what you’re thinking… I take everything too seriously. Besides, it’s my keyboard.

    Fiseha

  59. Tazabi/Tesatafi :-)
    December 8, 2007 at 3:11 pm | #59

    Fiseha,
    lol!! You sounds like a show business manager who’s anticipating a low sale turnout just because of the artist’s name. If Tazabi is giving you uneasy feeling, you could refer me as Tesatafi (at least for now, it won’t be hard to spot me from 3 of us). In regards to, looking for “serious” individual, your invitation is wide & open so, if they really care we would have more company here. Tell your friend that there’s always a life we think and there’s is a life we live. Please, invite him to have some input in our discussion.

    By the way, it’s a very good article and it provided me more learning. I’ve to do some errands now, but i’ll share my thoughts upon my return.

  60. Tazabi
    December 8, 2007 at 8:47 pm | #60

    Fishea & Alethia,

    It’s interesting finding topics like citizenship, nationalism, state, issues from philosophical perspective and it could be the reason why the whole world is in disarray now (just kidding, Alethia. I remember, when I questioned the existence of Ethiopian Philosophers, a few individuals were jumping at me and knocking my head down).
    Any way, the article talked about the definition, models of citizenship and the globalization effects. Briefly, It stated that there are two models of citizenship which are:-
    -Republican model is civic self-rule, and explained further that citizens are first and foremost, “those who share in the holding of office” (Aristolte 1958, 1275a8). The second model is:-
    -Liberal model of early reflection of Roman law (Walzer 1989, 211) and in this model, citizenship is a legal status. Obviously, the two models have their own flawed. To me the republican model has a gender bias and it doesn’t give you a private life freedom. The liberal model also make us raise more questions in the area of discrimination among different ethnic groups, minority rights because it doesn’t answer what it means to have a legal status in a complex society like us. While I was reading the article my mind was racing back and forth with the two continents. I was left with more questions than an answer, though. It’s funny I always end up finding solutions with the Govt. or religion institutions and then I remind myself that these are the very causes of the problems so, I’ll run out of options.
    – How you create trust, tolerance, and sense of belongingness among citizens?
    – How would you encourage people to engage in fairness?
    Fiseha, if you’ve an imaginary foundation who could find answer for my questions “Fishea foundation for future Ethiopia” I’m in it :-) Are you related with Fekede Dejeniea?

  61. Alethia
    December 8, 2007 at 9:45 pm | #61

    Hi Tazabi:

    I was looking forward to reading your summary of that article and thank you for doing that briefly. By the way, philosophy is so broad such that there is virtually no aspect of life that is out side of philosophers’ reflection and such systematic study. The article you’ve read is part of political philosophy as you could see, and its subject matter is of course to systematically study what we’re doing here in our discussion these days.

    It’s understand able that reading a philosophical treatment would leave one with more questions. But I do not doubt that you’ve better understood some of the concepts about the issues we’re discussing here after reading that article than before reading it. Is that not true?

    If Ethiopian political philosophers work on workable theoretical models that actually and realistically capture the Ethiopian situation, I think, we’d have better understandings of some of the complex issues that confuse us about our own problems. It is the role of philosophers along side other intellectuals like political scientists and sociologists and legal scholars, etc to work together to make sense of the complex reality of contemporary Ethiopia and let’s hope that some of such Ethiopians will get together to do such a thing in the near future. Until then let’s keep discussing the ideas that matter to us individually and for the nation that has become our concern.

    Fiseha, keep developing and sharing your ideas which I’m enjoying quite a lot.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  62. Tazabi
    December 9, 2007 at 4:11 am | #62

    Alethia,
    It was a good article and you’re right, it gave me more insight on the issue. It’s long overdue to have a national debate with those intellectuals on these issues. When i hear stories Ethiopian politicians who seek presidency office, my first question is ” what are the issues they care?” and sadly i’ve not get good explanation, yet. Approximatley, a year ago i’ve talked to a guy who used to be a policy maker in Ethiopia and i told him my fear that brings nationalist clashes, the changes of people’s attitude towards nationalism and his quick answer was that referring me to what’s written on the constitution. If we think the constitution is divisive and problematic to the people, those concerned intellectuals should bring on the table to discuss,debate from the basic definations of citizenship, nationalsim to more complex issues so, at least we would have common understanding and mutual trust in the system.
    Not only the intelectuals, but somehow, we need to develop a culture to have all of us to participate, engage in the process. Given the majority who lives in a rural area, it should be a tool to have them participate on the debate. I know, i know, it’s very furstrating to witness except Fiseha, so far nobody showed up in this crucial topic (of course, there’s a few who came and gone, hope they will return). I was thinking Danyote and Dan. O.k enough rambling. Talk to you later.

  63. Fiseha D. Letta
    December 9, 2007 at 4:34 am | #63

    Wodaje Tazabi,

    These great and deep questions of yours cannot be answered by my fible imaginary foundation. In fact, in my humble opinion, I don’t think you need any one else beside yourself to solve them. Isn’t it my point all along? As a libertarian, a faithful one, I don’t see any fitting solution than finding your genuine self with its bias and passions. Just be yourself. This and only this is the solution of Ethiopia, for today, tomorrow and forevermore. We will be free one person at a time, we have agreed on this. I cannot point to the day and age when this idea will be consuming the land of ours like a wild fire. But if we keep up this good talk, we are surely contributing. Besides, this is a natural position of an individual to stand firmly enough when we stand on our own bare foot.

    Oh… how come you know my brother Fekede… you can send me personal emial about this. fiseha_dejenie@hotmail.com

    You insisted that I show you how my vision can build a nation one person at a time. Since you asked, I must repeat my conviction, so that you see that I’m dead serious about it. But before I move on, I must tell you that social organization is as strong and as effective as the individual members constituting it. Society is nothing but the collective view of the contribution of the individual members. Therefore, there is not single formula for organizing it. The fact that the members of any group start from their own personal standing and started working on their common grounds for the benefit of them all is sufficient social dialogue. You know the future is positive and a hopeful. It is so because it is a resolve of the individuals committed in this togetherness (society) and in that to bring about such a positive and hopeful life driven by not an imaginary common soul of some kind but through the initiatives and actions of them all, individually, for their own good, as there is no other way to contribute to a common good.

    I am glad you liked the article I shared with you. I’m glad you picked the Republican and Liberal theorizing. As much as I admire a strong Republic and admire the advocates of civil liberties, I don’t subscribe completely to them. I repeat, I am not promoting one or the other competing theory of political organization. And the one I am advocating is not a design of social organization, but a philosophy that builds it. What to build is yet to be determined by the people. I’m more for liberty and when it comes to government, and when it is one of our choosing, and only as far as it is proven effective in helping us live our individual lives, I can go for a so so so limited one.

    I thought you touched upon religion, just slightly. For me, I count no offence against standing social institutions [I hope they don't claim divinity]. No secret about it, some of them are deliberately evil in their thoughts and actions. The vast majority of them, however, are driven by a very strong opinion of theirs that whispers into their hears that I need a Nanny because I’m not be able to choose what is best for me. That makes them my big Nannies that I did not choose for myself nor, as far as I know, did my parents afford to hire them for assistance in raising me, their dear child.

    My call in life is to show them I can actually stand of for myself and claim what is rightfully mine. It is I. And, having done that, I must tell them to back off, for they have suffocated me enough! Basta! I am taking over, now (I mean already). It is my life!

    So sooner or later, a talk on identity must necessarily touch upon the institution of the self-elected government and self-appointed religion. This is for another day, I know, and who knows what Alethia comes up with.

    Before I forget … my friend and the other one and friends of my friends all of them say to you, ‘shukuran jezillan!’ for considering the name Tesatafi. I also passed your message. They are exercising their liberty … I don’t know when they choose to shop up. Isn’t that great? They are as free to participant as anyone of us.

    Great talking to you, Tazabi

    I remain,

    an individual person, Fiseha

  64. Fiseha D. Letta
    December 9, 2007 at 5:57 am | #64

    Alethia and Tazabi,

    Don’t expect strong and active participation in such conceptual and seemingly scholastic discussion. Remember what Dan proposed?

    I wish I have sufficiently developed writing skills so that my post would fully reflect what I wanted to say. The language we use is one factor that repels some people. I may be wrong but it seems to me that many Ethiopians judge substance by the form. I am not proposing another language. I have no writing skills in any language, for that matter.

    Topicis is another and much bigger factor. As attractive as this topic of ours appears to be, it does not have the latest news that many Ethiopians craving for. Nor does it contain slanderous words by which many friends and relatives would prefer to slay their perceived enemy number one, the TPLF and its allies. So we do not attract them much. Again, as much as it is able to attract, let us continue doing what we can. I am not recommending change of course.

    I know few things about Ethiopian Professional Associations (home front, mostly) Lawyers, Medical, Economics, Sociologists and statisticians, engineers, chemists, and so on. They were trying to throw in ideas and policy directions. Some are more stronger than others. My experience with few of them is this: Ethiopians are so much organization oriented. We are not so much in the evolution and transmission of ideas. We are after power oriented and even that only when it is packaged with a visible organization of popular support. So we are sadly, mob oriented, I am so sorry to say this. Many people hate me for saying this but it is a sad truth. In Ethiopia, if there is a good idea, we know it to be so by the number of people that rally behind it. So, when professionals start a small talk, they almost always end up in making it an organization. You know what it takes to be organized. The constitution, membership, registration, designing a project, administering finances, etc. Somehow most of our good ideas are burried under the rubbles of the funds that run the organizations.

    The distructive power of “Ato Biru,” has not yet been fully known to many of us so we still say, “that is a good idea, but where is the money?”. Some beautiful ideas will be defeated so much at an early stage by asking the wrong question. There are encouraging develpments, though. I don’t want to metion all of them [ye'seytan joro yidefen]. I am personally very encouraged that Ethiopians are ready to vote. When there is no one watching, we do what we were supposed to do. That is very encouraging. I hope all active powers including so called educated Ethiopians would notice the implication of that.

    In cyber-space there are some strong groups. Some have the usual weakness of being for the season only. Like ours is an ad-hoc type. But there are good ones. Who else gave us so much motivation. Now, we will continue in our engagement not because we are scholars but we are also participants. Whether or not Ethiopian scholars contribute from their respective acadamic view point or sit down with their fellow Ethiopians and learn from each other is for the good names of the schollars, themselves, to be blunt about this.

    Ethiopians, the majority of them, really know how best to live their lives. They are the ultimate solution to their situations, not some learning and subsequent learned solutions. The solution of their recurring problems is still with them. When we start to listen to them than trying to teach them new ways of life that the do not know, then we actually learn more about what we were trying to teach. I hope that day is drawing nigh!

    We must stop saying, “The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build ..l.”

    We are few but we are builing, hoorhay!

  65. Tazabi
    December 9, 2007 at 6:13 am | #65

    Fiseha,
    Thanks for your response. Why i’m reading mostly “me-centered” ideas from your entry? Don’t get me wrong that’s the place where we all need to start. Definately, it’ll work in for an individual society like USA and alike, however, in the long run our individual ideas (the most effective ones) must translate to our country problems. To be continued…….it’s getting late up here.

  66. Fiseha D. Letta
    December 9, 2007 at 6:18 am | #66

    That is great, Tazabi… you see I already started saying ‘we’. Check the last line of my last post.

    Again, we are together in this… only dawning from this end…

    Fiseha,

  67. Alethia
    December 9, 2007 at 9:46 pm | #67

    Hi Fiseha:

    A brief response to your message to encourage us not to lose hope about the lack of active participation in this discussion, etc.

    Last year there was a serious discussion on this blog of which Tazabi and I were a part, among some others, a few of whom we did see these days even though very briefly. We had a chance to observe a fact, a painful fact at that, as to how fellow Ethiopians can fail to participate in serious discussions when it’s about us and our own problems. We’ve learned that bitter lesson about us and have lived with it.

    I just wanted to warn you though in that you’ll at times see some comments, among the very few that we get here, that might drive you crazy and make you find yourself saying “I wish I were not born an Ethiopian”, or something to such effect. I never said that but it’s not hard to imagine someone saying and feeling that frustrated about us.

    I hope that we’ll continue to share our reflections no matter how many will join us or choose not to. We should never expect anything that is contrary to the “nature” (=habit, which is rightly called “a second nature”) of most Ethiopians. Serious engagement in a civilized, respectable, and respectful and friendly and mutually edifying public discussion has never been part of our culture notwithstanding what we wish the truth to be otherwise.

    Let’s hang in there and hope to see you guys standing strong no matter what, without losing hope too soon.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  68. Tazabi
    December 9, 2007 at 10:55 pm | #68

    Fiseha,
    Yes, I can see the changes from “I” to “we”. Your passion is very inspirational. I like the road you’ve been taking “know thyself”, taking unconditional responsibility for oneself principle. This’s the kind of personal authenticity they teach you in business school (I’ll ask Alethia what it means personal authenticity from philosophy perspective. I doubted, it would be different, though). Who wouldn’t like to have Personal authenticity, just being true to the self, being aware of our weakness, strength and own up to our mistakes. It’s funny, after i took classes, training at work, i’m still struggling with it.

    By the way, as much as I don’t have too much faith in religion organizations to seek solutions, in the same token, I don’t like the idea dismissing them entirely. As we know, these organizations are very important gathering place for millions and if it used in a genuine manner, their service could be priceless (when I said religion org., I’m referring to Orthodox which I’ve familiarity with and of course, they need a serious reform).

    Uhhh… I don’t need anyone else to solve??? Actually, I’m benefiting from learning the problems so far than finding the solution. They could’ve been all fired by now :–) “..I don’t think you need any one else beside yourself to solve them”, this reminding my the boss I had years ago. You cannot step your foot in his office without having solution, suggesting along with your problem. His management style and strategy was that to have us all included in the discision making process. Ther’s no doubt he was making us feel empowered for a moment, however, there’s a bottom line in his end result.
    Fishea,
    I agree with Alethia. Public discussion never been encouraged or a shared culture by all of us. I’ve to say something on your comment on the organization establisment and failing. I’m not familiar with the organization you’re referring to, woudn’t you think it’s a wonderful idea that they took a first step and organized. You shouldn’t put it under the rug, just becasue it didn’t work. We shouldn’t be afraid of failing.

  69. Fiseha D. Letta
    December 10, 2007 at 12:00 am | #69

    Wodaje Tazabi,

    Now you’re behind the wheel. We need each other but we are authentic selves.

    Yes, organizations have capacity to augument and facilitate a cause. My point is there is no natural organization and all organizations must serve the withes and resolution its members. For me this applies to religious organizations as much as secular once. The order of nature requires that organizations serve individuals by providing a space where a person grows and thrives and never undermine the will and action of a sovereign individual.

    What else can I say… I fully agreed with you, Tazabi.

    When the individual person is the foundation of society, their organization is theirs. It’s success as well as its failure is only a step in the right direction. a lesson learnt to to make their future better.

    There is one thing we need to be sure about. Idea makes the world go round and not organizations.

    Fiseha

  70. Alethia
    December 10, 2007 at 3:18 am | #70

    Hi There: Fiseha and Tazabi:

    What Fiseh has been proposing and arguing for these days, if some remember from our last year’s discussion, for example Tazabi will remember them I think, are much similar to what I was also arguing for: a change in an individual’s life, an examined and transformed life of an individual is the foundation for the change for better in one’s own society.

    Since there is no society without individuals that constitute a society (since a society is a complicated arrangement of individuals anyways) hoping for a change and transformation in one’s society WITHOUT a proper change and transformation in the life of an individual is just being wrongheaded. And wrongheaded we’ve been as individuals and a society for a long, long time.

    Now I’m reminding readers from last year that the time has come for another fellow Ethiopian to argue for such a view/idea and let’s develop such ideas if they’re worth developing further or show them to be wrong if they are wrong. It’s far better to develop an idea worth developing than working with one that should be put aside for what it is: worthless.

    Fiseha, keep developing these ideas as I’m also with you as I believe Tazabi and some more will be with you. If truth is on your side, you do not need a company of any other mortal though. But mortals we all are and struggling to make sense of our existence as humans and also as Ethiopians at the same time, at least, for those who believe in their being Ethiopians and have a good grasp of what that means and amounts to. Not all do have a good grasp of what being an Ethiopian means and they should not be ignored or chastised for having a bit confused idea as to who they are in one sense, which might not be all that important for them and their identity, too. Who knows?

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  71. Tazabi
    December 10, 2007 at 4:50 am | #71

    Alethia,
    lol! I’m still laughing reading your last paragraph especially, the last sentence. That’s wild!

    You’re right, Fisaha’s arguments is almost the same argument what you were saying last year. I agree with him, change has to come from within first. The difference this time was that the topic brings us to this discussion. In my humble opinion, just having a dialogue with Ethiopian politicians would be an excellent channel to address the issues we care about, the problems we face in the areas of ethnicity, nationality, so that way i thought the people voice would be heard, listened and discussed in the national level.
    I don’t think we’ve bottom-up system approach to address a complex issues as such. I honestly believes that the only effective approach is from top to down if we’ve a genuine, a willing Govt., because the Govt. has the means to take it to the people (if they really care to people’s voice). I’m not saying that Govt. will be able to fix it, but they could serve as an instrument. In the past, i had a conversation with my uncle about Ethiopian public representative and jokingly told me that once they’re elected, gone to Addis and settled, they never go back to their region (picture this! so, who they’re representing then if they disconnect relationship with their own people?).

  72. Alethia
    December 10, 2007 at 5:35 am | #72

    Hi Tazabi:

    Just a thought-experiment to see what I was trying to communicate with my last paragraph and the last sentence: take a guy from Mursi (way down in Gamo Gofa, or Region nine, I think, in case some do not know), and also take a guy from Wollega, another from a rual Gojam/ Gonder, another from Harar/Gigiga, another from Adwa, another from rural Sidama/Wolytta, another from the Anjuak people, another from an Adere, another from Bole/Addis Ababa, another from first Generation Diaspora Ethiopian in the USA, another from a first Generation Diaspora in Sweden/Australia. That is enough for variety.

    Then bring all of them together into one room in Addis Ababa. By the way, mind you that only some of these people speak Amharic. Some never even heard that there is an Amharic language. Some never had a clue whether Ethiopia means their own country and where they are now (addis Ababa) is their own country.

    Now ask them all at once to see who they would say they are, individually. And now try your best to find all the common things among them, whatever that they have. Then ask ( by ahelp of a machine that intereprets your questions in their own languages) to see what the Mursi guy would call and describe a Bole guy to be or the other guys from Gonder/Gojam/Wollega/Harar and vice versa. Ask the Diaspora born, first generation guy from the USA who this Wollege guy is, or the Mursi or the Sidama or the Bole guy is. Do continue to ask such questions among these people until you get a clear (!) idea as to what it means to be an Ethiopian, from their own mouths. Do not put into their mouths what YOU AND I AND OTHERS THINK that who these guys are. Let them FREELY say who they are and tell the others who they think the others are too.

    What makes these people (this is what we all know to be the case in reality about us, whoever this “us” refers to) one, Ethiopians? Geography, political/national identity willingly chosen at some point by such people that we just described above, or some people from ruling class at different times in power? Who says these people are one? If they are one, what makes them one? What does it mean to be one, Ethiopians, in this context?

    Do you see my point in my previous point? We got to go a long way in working out and answering questions of our identity sooner or later. Do we have a neat and clear solution to such utterly confusing reality that I just described above?

    Now it’s your turn to share your thoughts.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  73. Alethia
    December 10, 2007 at 5:48 pm | #73

    Hi Folks:

    Are you busy conducting the above “thought-experiment”?

    The good thing about the thought-experiment is that you do not need to go to all those places mentioned above and bring all those guys into one room in order to see the point.

    I think such thought-experiments would give us some good, thought-provoking ideas to see what is being asked when we ask what it means to be an Ethiopian. These are genuine questions that call for genuine responses.

    Nothing here is motivated by purely political crises in Ethiopia or anything to that effect. I’ve always wondered how people in the above kind of situation would describe themselves. That is interesting for one who really wants to understand his/her own identity in its multiple forms, all at once.

    Just curious to hear what others take the above thought-experiment would teach us.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  74. Debela
    December 10, 2007 at 9:32 pm | #74

    Hi Alethia,

    I find your thought experiment interesting and wanted to respond accordingly. Personally, I do not really know who Ethiopians are in strict sense. If we talk to the people from different corners of the country, I guess what comes to everyone’s mind is who he/she is i.e., a person from Gojjam will call himself Amhara, the guy from Wellega call will himself Oromo and the fellow from Jijiga will call himself I am a Somali etc. At the same time we all are told that we are Ethiopians. For practical reasons, although I call myself an Ethiopian, its current form I do not feel that Ethiopia is my country. For me Ethiopia, which we all could refer to it as our country is a new Ethiopia built on free will of the nations and nationalities in that geographical boundary. Ethiopia in which rights of nations and nationalities are respected, and Ethiopia in which I can proudly say I am a Mursi/Oromo/Somali and at the same time an Ethiopian. Hence, the vague Ethiopia in which the basic identity of individuals is not respected can not be a country to all of us. It should be someone’s country and others source of distress.

    Debela

  75. Alethia
    December 10, 2007 at 11:57 pm | #75

    Hi Debela:

    Your response to the above post itself is interesting and revealing and seems to be an honest one.

    You might be speaking for thousands or even millions of fellow “Ethiopians”.

    It’d be interesting to hear what others would say. Please stay with us and share with us what you think is the best solution for the puzzles that we’re facing as individuals and as a nation.

    Cheers,

    Aletha

  76. Tazabi
    December 11, 2007 at 1:06 am | #76

    Alethia,
    Personally, i don’t find it difficult to say Ethiopia is my country, i’m an Ethiopian or those diverse group of people you mentioned above are Ethiopians. The first thing it comes in mind was geographical territory, and i also felt morally obligated to say they’re Ethiopians.

    As you can see, i feel complete belongingness and Debela doesn’t and this’s the reason why began this discussion. I wish Debla said more about possible solutions for future Ethiopia or the remedies to close the gap. Hope, he’ll be back.

  77. Alethia
    December 11, 2007 at 3:03 am | #77

    Hi Tazabi:

    I just wanted to point out some of the issues that I thought you would see in the ideas that I was meaning to communicate: You see the point is not to say what we (you) think and what you want to say who these various groups of people in the thought-experiment were/are; rather, the point was to figure out what they would say who they were/are, or tell us who they are in such a situation as the one I described them.

    When you say this, “…and i also felt morally obligated to say they’re Ethiopians” you’re going against what I was hoping that you would not; do not put in their mouths what YOU THINK that they are. That is what I’ve been meaning to point out as not right. You remember one of my points, ” Do not put into their mouths what YOU AND I AND OTHERS THINK that who these guys are.” You’re just going against that, if you see my point.

    Now I’d like to see your second attempt if you’ve gotten my point now. What do you you think these people would say of themselves if thy were put in such a situation? Please do not say what you think they should say. That is imposing on them your own thoughts without listening to them say who they are. Hope this is clear. You see out job is not telling who is who; it is listening to others to tell us who they are and want to be and would like to be called. This is an exercise of individual feedom, first and foremost. No one has a moral obligation to tell me who I’m, for example, when I hold a view about myself that should be heard and considered for what it is, in the first place. Now what do you think about all this?

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  78. Alethia
    December 11, 2007 at 3:19 am | #78

    Hi Fiseha:

    Where are you?

    Your contribution is missing when we re-focused on some critical questions of identity and individual freedom, the will of an individual and the collective, the group, etc in the Ethiopian context.

    Just curious.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  79. Fiseha D. Letta
    December 11, 2007 at 3:40 am | #79

    Hello friends,

    I tried to listen to your exchanges. It seems to me there is an urge in all of us to move to the solution before we completely agree on the problem we are here to solve. Yes, every one of us wished to live in one Ethiopia, whether Ethiopia becomes a melting pot of ethnic nationalities or a multi-ethnic diversity. I’m doubting whether this wish is realistic, given Revolutionary Democracy and the experiment of Woyane Federalism. But for now, I will focus on defining the problem itself and then looking beyond a word on solution.

    Some Ethiopians dearly value their collective identity (I call them Ethiopianists) to the extent that they completely reject those that praise the rights of ethnic and nationalistic identity of the peripheries. On the other hand, some in the peripheries continue to feel an utter rejection and exclusion of their identity in the mold called Ethiopia. (I call them Liberation Fronts) The rest is in between, in my humble opinion.

    We need to bear in mind that the Ethiopian unity agenda is not winning today. Neither is the liberation idea being praised, as long as Woyane is in control. Woyane told us time and again, liberation is closed with after the Eritrean agenda is settled. Now, according to Woyane, the ethnic, nations and nationalities of Ethiopia are living under the Woyane Constitution.

    The fact is that the colonial scheme defined us and the post nation-state political ideology and boundary is keeping us together. Notice that Woyane is surviving in its attractive statues in the international arena and not by popular support of the people of Ethiopia. They have proven this in the 2005 election, too.

    Let me start with what Debela said:

    “Ethiopia in which rights of nations and nationalities are respected, and Ethiopia in which I can proudly say I am a Mursi/Oromo/Somali and at the same time an Ethiopian.”

    Who wants to dispute this? No one except the extreme Ethiopianists. On the other hand, Debela’s conclusion is quite missing the mark, in my opinion.

    “Hence, the vague Ethiopia in which the basic identity of individuals is not respected can not be a country to all of us. It should be someone’s country and others source of distress.”

    Such a statement, to be blunt, is the same as requesting the right to cessation from Ethiopia. International geo-politics does not allow splitting from a nation-state at any time whenever one feels like. There are mechanisms for it. There are international conventions and instruments regulating such sensitive issues. Internal and external factors must ascertain that the transition would benefit the people requesting cessation. The question for Debela remains, what would the Government of an independent Beni Shangul/Oromo/Somali/Sidama/ and others look like?

    The materials out of which the Governments of tomorrow are hoped to be built is already available, don’t you think. It is not yet to be born. If these people, after forming their independent nations, face similar situation along tribal lines, are they going to call for an independent Mecha State and that of Tulama, (speaking of the specificity I am familiar with)?

    Let us agree on the rights of nationalities. But let us also pause to question the effectiveness and validity of the extreme claims of independence. Ask me if I see options and I emphatically tell you of course.

    First is that I would rather challenge the Ethiopianists than to let them have their way. After all, I too, am Ethiopian. Then I must deal with the things that pressures people from the periphery to fall out of the fold. The self-styled psuedo-cosmopolitan residents of Addis, for example, must to respect a fellow human being. Gurage is a word of insult in Addis Ababa. We still say, Gala! and Wolamo! and ‘cherkam’. It has been said by you all but it needs to be said again. The people of Addis is completely ignorant of the rights of people. Many Ethiopians in fact still believe that they are not Africans and anyone appearing darke is considered to be from the slave origin, a sub-human. This is a sad reality that fuels our distorted self image. This is happening in the 21 century. This is a huge task. I am no progressive at all. I just want us to respect people for what they really are, an individual as much human but may belonging to another ethnic group than myself. For as long as it takes, it is of my choice to demonstrate that we are all human beings. That is why I chose liberation of the individual person.

    We have to also deal with the things that concern the Ethiopianists. Not only are they required to be a model in respecting ethnic nationalities, they must promote equality. Condemning the splinters does not help them any more. This is a time when we are impressed by equality and engagement than submission and silence. No one group is more Ethiopian the other and so one individual has purely Ethiopian blood than the other for Ethiopia is not a racial identity but a commonwealth of the people living in the Horn of Africa. We all arrived there at different times through various debatable ways, that the post nation-state world would not want to consider anymore.

    My nationality is my choice, friends. My nationality is not my ethnic identity. My nation is a commonwealth of people with whom I willingly engage to promote common opportunities and face common challenges.

    So much is in charting the way for resolving the current impasse. The way ahead is so hard and so exciting that we all need to be our resolved selves to get involved. I don’t see any other way. This way requires call to a national reconciliation of some sort. People in the peripheries must celebrate their unique identities while also assimilating, to the extent they wish, into the rest of Ethiopia. The elites in the center, must learn to respect the identities of Ethiopians and refrain from pushing their own personal agenda and in stead learning from the people what their wishes are.

    There is no pre-determined way to do this, nation-building. It is as open but as cohesive as we become.

    Two quick points [question] before I close:
    First, I evaded Alethia’s experimental model and went a round about way.

    Second, I am not convinced why Tazabi would rather want a Nanny Government in Ethiopia to do this job. Is this what a government was supposed to do in the first place? Why?

    Don’t slap me in the face, but this is Fiseha!

  80. Tazabi
    December 11, 2007 at 4:20 am | #80

    Fieseha,
    I’ll get back to you.

    Let me answer to Alethia. Honestly, i would think the Oromo, they’re not Ethiopians, and the Gojjam and the Gonder (basically the Amhara’s) would say they’re Ethiopians. My answer here is based on my false perception and i already have a set mind to think this way, because i’m told that a certain ethnic groups don’t identified themselves with Ethiopia. Let me know if i missed your question.

  81. Alethia
    December 11, 2007 at 4:36 am | #81

    Hi Tazabi:

    The thought-experiment was designed to bring out some of our misconceptions and what we think others are and should be and now your confessing that you had “a false perception” is a good thing for the moment.

    But once you see that your way of thinking about something is wrong, the next step is to understand the reason why and then change it by adopting a realistic and true thought, view, or idea.

    Thanks for now seeing part of my point. I’m genuinely interested in hearing who says what in Ethiopia about themselves and what and how they would like to be identified and accepted and embraced. That is the beginning of true foundation for reconciliation and a beginning of a collective identity based on one’s genuine sense of identity.

    You remember one of the points of the article that triggered this discussion: we’ve a right to be Ethiopians, as citizens as Fiseha also has been emphasizing all along, or we can renounce our Ethiopianness in this sense. But we cannot just renounce our being humans or belonging to some ethnic group, at least, by way our actually origin, but then what does follow from these two? Just nothing special except the fact that we all are equal in those senses. For our national identity we’re free to choose to be whatever we want to be. No body has a right to tell us who we are or should be without each individual’s consent, free exercise of one’s will. Period. These are crucial points worth bearning in mind in the future discussions too.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  82. Alethia
    December 11, 2007 at 4:50 am | #82

    Hi Fiseha:

    Since I agree with most of the ideas that you share with us I do not think there is much for me to say. Your thoughtful reflections are worth reading and please keep sharing them with us.

    I do also think that the new Ethiopia of tomorrow cannot be a desirable place for its nations & nationalities, ethnic and tribal groups, without a true and realistic foundation that starts with recognition that all of those who found themselves in the geo-political entity called Ethiopia are equal, as humans and irrespective of their ethnic origins, etc. Such an ideal, which is a realistic thing to expect, has never happened in the Ethiopia we know , and now it’s time for things to change in the direction desirable for all, not for some who happen to be in political/economic power due only to historical contingency.

    Let’s continue to debate these ideas and learn from one another with a hope of building a new Ethiopia for generations to come.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  83. Fiseha D. Letta
    December 11, 2007 at 4:56 am | #83

    Wodaje Tazabi,

    Do you appreciate historical arguments? I am going to surprise you!

    On your set mind first:
    You are right in saying certain ethnic groups don’t identify themselves with Ethiopia. However, was this like this before? Ask them again. Were there a time when these ethnic groups were one and the same with Ethiopia? Why do they feel this way?

    While admiring your sincerity, let me tell you that you just said one of the most offensive and exclusionary statement of modern Ethiopia. I am not saying you are not entitled to what you heard from your side, I beg you to listen to the other side. They also feel that they are excluded from the national mold, however they tried.

    On Amhara:
    You seem to assume Amhara to be an ethnic identity. Who is this Amhara you are referring to? A language group or an ethnic identity? Since when is Amhara an ethnic identity? Do you have any historical suggestion? The same partially applies to Tigre on both sides of R. Mareb.

    Fiseha

  84. Tazabi
    December 11, 2007 at 5:28 am | #84

    Fiseha,
    I hear you loud and clear, your point is very valid, however, the process has to start from somewhere given the situations. I felt it’s much esier to start from the top and the ideal place is the Govt. The future president he/she sould prioritize the issue before it gets out of control. We may not see the changes we’re looking for in our life time. I’m suspecting that there’s no quick fix for this nor overnight change.

    The current govt is no help on this issue as we know it so, we shouldn’t let the future govt to repeat the same mistake. We heard the word “Democracy” back then and we hear it again now from politicians so, they shouldn’t use the word just to keep the people in content. Just a reminder, i’m not rushing to the possible solution, but my point is lets open communication channel, let’s have a dialogue, let’s make awareness.

  85. Alethia
    December 11, 2007 at 6:09 am | #85

    Hi Tazabi:

    I’m also losing you when you talk about the Govt. You know what? We also talked about the role of Govts in such issues (last year) as the ones we’re talking about, i.e., changing our own false beliefs about ourselves and replacing them with the true, right ones. No Govt can do that for us, for you and me and others. Govt, esp., in our context, is a large part of the problems we’re talking about. Yes, if we had a reliable, responsible, and truth-seeking Govt, and that genuinely cares for its people, some of our concerns could get a good platform to be heard and given a thought or two and also to do something about.

    But why do we need to talk about a Govt that never existed in our country with such noble and reliable history? Do Ethiopians have a real Govt of the people chosen by the people in Ethiopian history? Did we have a Govt that fills such a bill at all? By the way, I never called any one in power in Ethiopa my Govt nor will ever do such a thing given our current and past history unless things change radically for which I’ve no good reason that they will. I call such people in power those who call themselves the Govt of this nation. I never elected any Govt in my life to be “my Govt” and have no clue why I should call any “my Govt” when in reality there is none that reflects my choice and the choice of many of my compatriots.

    With such attitudes towards Govts in Ethiopian context I never understand what people mean when they refer to this is “our Govt” or that is …

    Hope that we’ll not continue to talk about something that does not exist as if it does in the senses I just described above. Yes, there is a Govt in Ethiopia. Who denies that? But then is that my Govt holding the office out there? Government has something to do with governing and how can I say that so and so is governing me when I do not even recognize who is who. This is the fundamental point Fiseha has been trying to communicate many times: the freedom, liberty , of an individual comes before anything else. The moment any Govt recognizes such fundamental rights of an individual then that Govt’ becomes “my” Govt. Until then I’m trying to govern myself., Fiseha would say, are you with me? I hope we’re together in this discussion.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  86. Tazabi
    December 11, 2007 at 6:30 am | #86

    Alethia,
    Actually, your thought experiment would be more effective if we include ourselves in the group and how we would feel and why. Just assuming the other group is difficult and i’m not sure what you got out of it.

    Fiseha,
    I aplogized if you find my answer offensive. I’m glad you ask “However, was this like this before? Ask them again. Were there a time when these ethnic groups were one and the same with Ethiopia? Why do they feel this way?” these are the questions i was asking my self in recent years.

    There’s no question Oromo people have been mistreated, there are many ethnic groups have been left out, neglected from the system. One thing i’ve to remind you that my finding, my learning knowledge came from nowhere except from me. I’ve not learned it in school, i’ve not thought from my family, from neighbor, friends nor from the govt. There no system created for me to learn about those groups in my childhood or in my adulthood. Honestly, If you asked me 7 years ago about Oromo’s movement my answer could’ve been ” It could a trouble maker group, and i may just shrugged it off.”

    I hate to tell you blame the system, don’t blame me. I was born and grew up in Addis and i’m totally ignorant about it which is very wrong. If there was a big problem among ethnic groups, i guess they were good hiding it. In my knowledge, we get along with everybody fine and ethnicity never been an issue. This why the reason i’m insisting to make awareness among us.

    For your last quesiton, I meant to say Amharic speakers.

  87. Tazabi
    December 11, 2007 at 6:49 am | #87

    Alethia,
    I said the FUTURE Govt. Of course, he/she has to be authentic leader. I said many, many times, Govt won’t be the answer and we don’t need to seek evidence for that. But, when it comes to issues like ethnicity it’s impossible to avoid the Govt. in my opinion, without the govt involvment the issue won’t be addressed.
    O.K guys, it’s getting late i better go.

  88. Fiseha D. Letta
    December 11, 2007 at 7:53 am | #88

    It’s a good day today. The discussion became so lively.

    I must read your discussion of last year. I have it somewhere. I remember saving it for future reading. I will find it and educate myself on some of the things you guys have been discussing.

    Alethia,
    I never knew this side of you. You came out so aggressive and refused to call ‘getoch’ your Government. I admire your position but you are a kind of facilitator of this discussion and I prefer you down tone your position to a politically correct statement. It does not mean you have to hide the truth but I think a facilitator must be somehow broad enough to help all of us reflect upon the issue. I am personally satisfied by your response.

    Tazabi,
    I exactly know how you feel. We all grow up in the informal cultural indoctrination of our closest segment of the society. I did not know about the Oromo movement ten years ago as well as I do today. I still don’t approve of everything they claim. The reason we get along with everyone without any regard as to our ethnic identity in years before the Woyane was that we lived in what I called a pseudo-cosmopolitan Addis Ababa. A real cosmopolitan politics allows for diversity. However, Addis Ababa is a jungle where you find people from all regions of Ethiopia where by they each take up new identity as urbanized ‘keteme’ and forget their roots. This far is noble. However, they not only just forget their root but also start to get into the mold of Amharic speaking (excluding other languages) new identity. This very much offends people from the region and I am one of them.

    Everything going well, cosmopolitanism is a fact of life that is not heading towards globalization’s dynamism. Did you notice people are learning Chinese in Addis in a proper class? Yes, of course, we need to integrate and strengthen our affinity. But there should not be any shame if I speak my mother tongue with my close friends and family members at the same time. You remember we used to feel about the Dorze people of Entoto. Somehow we picture society in cast like hierarchy.

    The reason the cosmopolitan idea of Addis did not prosper but cut short by intervention of the ethnic liberation fronts was simple. Cosmopolitanism in Ethiopia chose Amharic as its language and somehow allied with the cultural dominance of the Amhara through public administration and its script (Ge’ez) becoming the national language. Again, in itself this is not a major issue had the languages and culture of other groups were respected.

    In response to Woyane, and to stand in cosmopolitan culture of Ethiopia during the transitional period after 1991, the Unitarian Ethiopians sadly formed ‘Melaw Amhara’ in stead of ‘melaw Ethiopia’ and left us out of the fold, those of us that are not strictly speaking cannot be included under that cause. They focused on the death of Amharic speaking people and started to enlist defense for the Amhara in stead of considering it a national and human rights issue. You know it took them several years to find out a national and unifying equation, by which time we have already moved on and concluded that the cosmopolitan motivation of the ‘keteme’ is only a pseudo and not a real one. We somehow cherished the establishment of Ethiopian Human Rights Council and what it was able to accomplish. There our hopes have been revived.

    Later, what we now know as ‘kinijit’ have once again revived the national identity we all wanted. However, again, as recent internal strife made it clear, the question is, once again, failing to acknowledge the rights of other people to their language and culture. This is actually still in the making but reports in the ER indicate that CUD is going to decide whether or not they should keep their alliance with liberation fronts and save AFD.

    You know why I went into this length. I wanted to show you that we all lived in our own small world where we accepted what we see and rejected what is far off, praised what we do and reject what does not confirm. That is also how we made ‘ye’dabo kirchat’ when the world was marching and beating drums to raise fund for our famine in 1984. So soul searching and thorough introspection is timely.

    I am glad you brought it as it is. ‘Tirewn’ and engaged us. No offence… I’m glad you said it out. I hope what I’m saying makes sense to you. I blamed myself for failing to see the truth. The system, the culture and the government is as strong and as truthful as we are.

    As for your trust in Goverment, a libertarian cannot say more than enjoying liberty. In the long history of Ethiopia, whether the government takes a form of divine-appointment, or crowning a winning chifta, just like Alethia said, none so far recognized us as an individual. We are just numbers in the CSO. Only the very recent once wanted out vote and they get it to their boxes in whichever box you cast your ballot.

    I will come back another time with an idea of ‘revolution from above’, as Tazabi seem to imply in choosing the government to lead the way.

    Fiseha

  89. Alethia
    December 11, 2007 at 1:45 pm | #89

    Hi Tazabi and Fiseha:

    Yes, this discussion has become more lively. That thought-experiment was designed to show us that things could explode in the way they’re doing to make our discussion more lively but still being friendly and civilized. Keep it going friends!

    Tazabi, I just wanted to emphasize that we’re not lucky folks to have had a good and reliable and responsible and trustworthy govt and hence my distancing of myself from such thinking and urging you to do likewise, if you saw my points, which you did and I’m glad. Even to refer to future govt in Ethiopia we perhaps need to wait for at least a generation and as you said it’s unlikely that we’ll even see such a desirable govt while we’re alive.

    Fiseha, by the way, I’m not sure whether I’m a facilitator of this discussion. I’m just a discussant/participant like everyone else. I happened to have my article (that triggered this discussion) posted here and my role is limited to that. This is not my blog in case if you had such an impression.

    Yes, I can be aggressive and speak the truth without being politically correct, at times, about things political. You might be surprised to hear some day that I’m not against everything that the govt in power in present day Ethiopia has done, esp., about issues of ethnicity. I’m not a politician, nor do I have any political agenda to grind.

    When I see/notice things worth reflecting upon and then sharing I do. When this or that govt does this or that properly or otherwise I can speak my mind as I do now. I never referred to any govt in power in Ethiopia my govt as I said before and this is just to say I had no say in how this or that govt came to be where it is. Even if this govt or that is in power in the right sort of way, I was not part of the deal and I can still refuse to identify myself with any govt without necessarily being against any govt at any time. I’m just being an individual, myself.

    I was about 6/7 when that imperial govt was dethroned. When I heard the story of the end of that govt I was the happiest boy in my village. I was dancing and celebrating the end of an era that I could see that I would never identify myself with. My mother then was crying at hearing that that era came to an end. I never lost that joy until now. That was at a very tender, young age. I was a child when I realized that there is a sense of identifying oneself with one’s govt and I never had one to identify myself with afterwards either.

    This, the above, I wanted to share with you since you were surprised to hear my coming out loud and clear about some issues that I’ve carried with myself since I was 6/7. I was a simple boy who loved liberty, freedom, and things that being free could give me, because they are naturally inherent in my nature, because I was/am naturally entitled to have. I think that is a simple explanation of what has become my story ever since. I love truth and freedom more than anything else: I love true freedom. Just to marry my two loves. I chose to pursue philosophy in order to realize my passion for truth, freely. I got here after many years of trying to find my way, truly and freely. Now I joined soul-mates like you, luckily for me. Thanks for joining me, my friends.

    Cheers,

    Alethia (which means, truth in Greek, and my other pen name, Veritas, means truth in Latin)

  90. Tazabi
    December 11, 2007 at 4:49 pm | #90

    Alethia & Fiseha,
    I’m at work now…….. You guys don’t have any problem blaming the present or the past Govt., (not nessarily you both have the same experiances) and then you guys totally dismissing the Govt. role in this kinds of issue. What areas do you guys see fit Govt. role in Ethiopia?
    Keeping you from foreign enemies? Weather we’re approving it in a personal level or not there will be somebody out there to run the show. I just don’t like the idea of dismissing the Govt. role from the people.

    Fiseha,
    Your chinese language comment is not a bad idea. Watch out! the new buzz is now “Chinese Empire”. I understand Alethia’s concern to have us all a civil discussion, but i’m a big girl, i can handle you :-) Your historical reference, your knowledge in Ethiopian politics is very impressive and it makes me feel that i’ve no place in this discussion, but i’m enjoing the Ride!! Talk to you later.

  91. Debela
    December 11, 2007 at 5:34 pm | #91

    Dear Fiseha,

    I truly liked your classification of Ethiopianists and Liberation fronts. I believe that the struggle between these two groups is what keeps the country in the mess from which we may not easily come out. Having said this, I explain what I meant in my previous post and also comment on what you guys said.

    In my previous comment when I say, “the vague Ethiopia in which the basic identity of individuals is not respected can not be a country to all of us. It should be someone’s country …,” yes that may imply the quest for cessation. I believe that the question of self determination is not a taboo. If successive Ethiopian regimes were not arrogant, they could seen the question of self determination as an important signal that we need to deal with rather than blaming the very question they caused or pretend that the questions are not important. I believe that this question would stay as long as fundamental human rights are violated and people are denied the right to freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. That is why people’s right to self determination is also a universal declaration under UN charter. I also believe that rights to self determination are part and parcel of the basic human and democratic rights.

    The next logical question then could be to ask why we have liberation fronts in Ethiopia at the first place. The very existence of liberation fronts are related to the historical injustice and repression that these groups experienced in Ethiopia. The denial of people’s right to freely choose their political status and pursue their socio-economic and cultural goals has given birth to liberation front struggles. This historical development has violated Fiseha’s claim that “No one group is more Ethiopian the other and so one individual has purely Ethiopian blood than the other …” These historical irregularities made some people more Ethiopian than others. As a result some group fight to break away from it while others try to protect her at any cost. Hence, with our different historical experience, we could end up being in either of the two major classifications and that is why I said the vague Ethiopia could not be a country to all of us.

    Do not forget that it is the Ethionianists group who loudly talk about Ethiopian unity more than any other groups. Hence, the Ethiopianists must be more Ethiopians that those in the liberation fronts group. The pseudo Ethiopian unity this group preaches would rather push the liberation fronts farther to the other extreme. Hence, if Ethiopia has to change to accommodate these two groups, some middle ground should be reached; otherwise we will remain in the same vicious trap.

    I believe that no body hates unity but the question is what type of unity are we talking about? The type of unity we carried from past is not definitely the one which will keep as together peacefully. The kind of unity we have today is a unity built at the expense of some groups’ identity. As a result we have liberation fronts, which gave up on the notion of Ethiopian unity and, struggling to break away from it. There comes the concept of new Ethiopia, Ethiopia in which rights of nations and nationalities are respected, and Ethiopia in which I can proudly say I am a Mursi/Oromo/Somali and at the same time an Ethiopian. The Ethiopia we all care for.

    Fiseha, I do not understand the purpose of your statement which says “ If these people, after forming their independent nations, face similar situation along tribal lines, are they going to call for an independent Mecha State and that of Tulama ….” It seems that you are tying to scare the liberation front group by telling them that if you break away from Ethiopia you would not live in peace either. Are we telling liberation front guys that once it (breaking away) is started there are not way to stop it, the best way is not to start it? If this is what you are trying to say, I do not think that is the best way to handle the case. The best way to deal with the peoples’ quest for rights of self determination is to directly address the question in democratic and peaceful manner. Efforts to misrepresent this genuine problem and appeal to the possibility that such question would arise again within the group would not be productive. Because the future of people who break away from Ethiopia depends on the type of government they will form and nobody can perfectly predict what the outcome would be. As I tried to say earlier different groups in Ethiopia raised arms and struggling for liberation due to lack of confidence with the present association, Ethiopian unity. I see liberation fronts as a desperate last resort action undertaken by oppressed groups. I do not think liberation fronts would get supporters if we can handled the issue more positively and properly.

    One final comment on what Fiseha said “My nationality is my choice, friends. My nationality is not my ethnic identity. My nation is a commonwealth of people with whom I willingly engage to promote common opportunities and face common challenges.” I do not agree with you on this. Currently, in Ethiopia I do not think nationality is our choice. If it were a choice we could have seen liberation fronts forming independent nations, by choice. I mean, some groups may definitely choose not to live in that country, current Ethiopia, which does not respect their fundamental identity, because of their ethnic background or color. In that sense nationality is not our choice, if it were we would not have this discussion. In other words, liberation fronts are in favor of a nationality of their own rather than an Ethiopian nationality, while Ethiopianists are imposing Ethiopian nationality on the former despite their choice of a new nationality. By that statement, I hope you wanted to say is what it should be, not what it is in Ethiopia today.

    Regards,

    Debela

  92. Alethia
    December 11, 2007 at 7:16 pm | #92

    Hi Folks:

    Now Debela’s contribution has come to be among those really important ones. Now I look forward to reading Fiseha’s thoughtful response for most of Debela’s response targets Fiseha’s response to him.

    Tazabi, no worries about our conversations about the role of govt in Ethiopia, past, present, or future. From our past experiences, what we’re sharing about the role of govt in Ethiopian politics I do not think is too far from the truth. Ethiopia has had wrong gov ts for far too long but that does not mean Ethiopia never had a govt. We’re expressing our views about lack of desirable govt, or the right one, to govt and lead us as a nation.

    I’ve never seen any govt that I could identify myself with as I said before. But then as I said in a passing that does not mean all those gov ts that have come and gone in Ethiopia have done nothing worthwhile. For whatever purposes some of those gov ts Ethiopia has had have done some things that could have been said good or in the right direction. But some actions could be performed with some evil motive and could result in some good unintentionally. We can think of some such goods when we think of Ethiopia’s past and present govt and perhaps future ones.

    A good govt does good things positively but then what we’ve learned and have lived with us Ethiopians is that some good things might result from the actions of Ethiopian govts but unintentionally so. That is how I think of some goods of some of the things done by the Ethiopian govt in the past and at the present. Perhaps at some point some of such govts in Ethiopia have done some of the things that they have done with a good motive, for a good purpose. Being humans they could get things wrong. That is trying to be charitable for they are also like us, humans, fallible.

    But some of their actions could also be evil, period. No arguments about some of these evil actions. There are some actions which are inherently wrong and nothing can justify them and make them right actions. Killing of innocent lives for political gain is an indefensible evil. Period. Even those who kill their innocent compatriots for such political purposes know what I’m talking about. They are humans and cannot fail to know right from wrong. They do know but intentionally do the evil in order to…We all know how to finish such an incomplete sentence.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  93. Fiseha D Letta
    December 11, 2007 at 8:25 pm | #93

    Guys… I’m caught up in the farm… the cattle and you know how it is…

    I will be ready by sunset… meanwhile … enjoy the lovely exchanges.

    Fiseha

  94. Tazabi
    December 12, 2007 at 1:46 am | #94

    Debela,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts here. I’m pretty sure Fiseha will respond/share soon. I just want to say something regarding your comment on Fiseha’s concerns for independent nation and the consequences to follow. Our intention here is not to scare, send messages to political groups, or telling them what to do. We’re here to share ideas, learn and understand the issue we all care about.

    My understanding from your comment is that the solution to current ethnic identity is when the liberation front demand is resolved. In my opinion, the word “self -determinsm” is very confusing and it’s destablizaing a nation. In my opinion, i don’t believe the U.N charter on self-determination written to be misinterpreted this way. I would think it’s to help people who suffered from colonization. Sadly i should say cleverly, the political groups are using the word “self-ditermination” just to get international attention under the name of U.N charter.

    I’ve the same concern what Fiseha said yesterday. Let’s say Oromo is a national minority group in this self -determination struggle and how about the other very small groups within the Oromo State? Are you going to tell them, yes, you’ve the right to get independent ? So, every household is going to claim independent then? I would think natioanl reconcilation and letting all groups to participate in the system would ease the tension and gradually the healing process will take place. I would say oromo self determination request will bring more conflict than solution. These are just my personal feelings. Believe me, I’m not influenced by any political group or i don’t have political agenda here.

  95. Debela
    December 12, 2007 at 5:33 am | #95

    Dear Tazabi,

    Let me briefly answer your questions. I do not think the right of self determination is there only for there to address the issue of colonalization. As I said last time, the right to self determination is part and parcel of basic human and democratic rights we all believe in. Wait a minute, do not you believe that people whose fundamental rights (rights to freely pursue their political, socio-economic goals) are violated have a right to ask. I believe so, and that is why I argue the question of liberation fronts should be addressed properly. If we are open and honest, what is not legitimate about oppressed peoples’ demand for their right to freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural goal? On the other hand, I understand your concern of destabilization as a result of these questions. I rather see this destabilization effect positively, because it has a power set things right. In other words, a country that does not respect group rights, as a result of which we have liberation fronts there and there, is not stable to start with. Hence, Ethiopia is not stable. For me, what makes Ethiopia instable is not the presence of liberation fronts invoking the rights of self determination; rather it is the very existence of denial of people’s rights. I hope you understand what I am saying. Note, here I am not claiming that the question of Oromos, Somalis or others who demanded rights of self determination is a question of colonization, but there are people out there who argue on those lines. Therefore, the right of self-determination is not much of a big deal if we look at it positively. It is also my belief that the question of self determination would not be an issue (an acceptable political agenda) if countries like Ethiopia respect group rights of nations and nationalities. In ideal case, new Ethiopia for example, if group rights would respected, I would be number one to say the political agenda of liberation front groups is no more valid. In its current form, however, where group rights are not respected the question of self determination would remain to be one of the biggest questions we need to address.

    About your other concern, “…Oromo is a national minority group in this self -determination struggle and how about the other very small groups within the Oromo State?” Suppose that state of Oromia to which you referred is a democratic state, which respects the rights of minorities. If that is the case, I do not see a reason why minority groups within the state would ask a question of independence. If you got me right, that is what I started with. If Ethiopia was/is a democratic country which respects the rights of nations and nationalities, i.e., respect peoples’ group rights to freely pursue their collective economic, social and cultural goal, we would not have this question to begin with.

    By the way, Tazabi, I am not also here to reflect the political agenda of any political party. It is just differences in our experience in “our country” that made us think along different lines. Thank you for your comments and I look forward to hear from you.

  96. Fiseha D Letta
    December 12, 2007 at 6:04 am | #96

    So where do I start now… you all wait for my response. It makes me sweat… it scares me… Fine! Here we go…!

    I start with Debela’s conclusion, the most difficult part of his input and something Alethia needs to intervene. Check this out, Alethia

    “By that statement, I hope you wanted to say is what it should be, not what it is in Ethiopia today.”

    I don’t much understand the the fine lines between what is and what “aught to be”. As for me, I am dealing with principles and from time to time pointing to some historical facts. What is being done in Ethiopia is being practiced around the world. The extent of repression varies in each case.

    Debela has agreed to the fact that citizenship is a choice. He agreed because he actualy assumes it to be a basic right of Ethiopians. That is why he raised the effort of liberation front. What I did not get from Debela is whether the liberation front wuold decide for themselves individually and let the rest of us to do the same or whether they wanted to ask as to make the choice. Here is where I briefly touched on conditions that allows and facilitates such huge decision. I did not expound it and I don’t think we should at this point. Let’s save this for another day. I see that Tazabi is also interested in this detail.

    My liberation is liberation of the individual person with the sovereignity limited to the one person bestowed with natural rights and responsibilities. I have no problem when group of people in a given society start to stand for their economic and social rights as long as they do not engage themselves in trying to give me my freedom. I don’t believe anyone else can take and give rights. Rights can only be denied free expression. So many freedom fighters elluded themselves into believing they better protect rights. You see I have my rights at all times. I could be denied a free expression of my rights. To be free I must use my rights and express it in such a way that I confront those that supress it. Isn’t this a process of personal maturity also where we out smart family, neighbors, cultural and religious institutions and learn to live with them in peace keeping our distance, is it nine inches.

    Don’t worry I am not lost. I am trying to show why I don’t care much for liberation fronts even though I recognize what they are trying to achieve as noble. My point is they did not give me anything so far and I don’t think they will in the future. This is me. My family, my neighborhood and the community I grew in and in fact the nation as a whole cannot gain anything tangible from these big national libration fronts. There is only one that we all gain from the struggle. Cultural and economic rights of people is kept alive because of them. That much is an achievement. On the other hand, individual rights has been supressed and in fact completely been forgotten simply because most liberators were communist in their ideology and therefore communal in overtone underminining individual liberty as selfishness.

    Therefore, Wodaje Debela… I still believe in the rights of nations and nationalities. When it comes to questions of identity and nationality, though, I would stand by my resolution as an individual person and as a committed person to the common causes. The common cause therefore is not more than us the peopel. Society in principle and in reality is a group of people with rights and responsibility to each other but the centre of their rights is not the rules and practices they were able to mold, but themselves. Therefore, the fine line that separated me from the liberation fronts is that they have not much to offer to individual liberty because they see it as secondary while I see liberty to lie fundamentally in the freedom of the individual person. In fact, the way to talk about liberty is when we learn to talk about it in terms of free expression of liberty by the individual person.

    I hear many people talk about the difference between individual rights and group rights. I don’t know how it is so different, to be honest with you. I am saying rights are based in the individual. I am not saying individual right is different from group rights. Group right is nothing unless it has individuals that live out that common value.

    Listen to the Amricans, they are good in what they say. I leave it to their conscience if they practice what they say. This is actually the President.

    “Americans are united across the generations by grand and enduring ideals. The grandest of these idealsis an unfolding promise that everyone belongs, that everyone deserves a chance, and that no insignificant person was ever born. Our country has never been united by blood or birth or soil. We are bound by principles that move us beyond our backgrounds, lift us above our interests, and teach us what it means to be citizens.”

    Do you guys see the choice and the person!

    I must declare that my identity is given to me through ways I have no control over but my nationality is my choice. I am adult enough to say this. And I stand by my choice. I don’t need organization of any sort to declare that I chose to be Ethiopian and decided to bring the values of liberty to be the national ethos of fellow Ethioians. Ethiopians ultimately choose between liberty and nothing for to choose is liberty.

    I will be back, Fiseha

  97. Fiseha D. Letta
    December 12, 2007 at 8:35 am | #97

    Wodaje Tazabi,

    I am glad you asked what use can make of government. Bear in mind … you asked for it… so I give you my position that the world has long forgotten but still holds true of what government is by its very nature. Only indirectly can I condone and speak of any use under certain conditions of social cohesion.

    I reflected over the plight of our brothers and sisters in Somalia once again. Do you understand something about the fable talk about the indispensability of modern government the claim to keep a nation together? Remember we all were nations before the state power has come to be known around the world. That is what Somalia is today.

    Somalia is a living prove that national survival is not contingent upon centralized government or their representation at the international arena. Yes, of course, the Somalis need and actually deserve their own centralized government. However, the situation is such that too many forces have intervened to counter the efforts by Somalis themselves to have their own way. Therefore, it is evident that external forces including the Government in Ethiopia wanted to have a say in the ‘how’ and ‘who’ of government formation in Somalia. It is a tragedy of this century, barbaric in its nature and incomprehensible to 21 century life, when you think of what is going on in Somalia.

    For the purpose of our discussion, however, I would like to bring your attention to the fact that they were supposed to be starved to death after years of instability and lack of central government. It is that notion that the Somalis have defeated. They survived!

    Let’s not have an illusion for a split of seconds in pursuing a wrong impression here. I am not arguing to say that there is no use for the centralized government. My point is simply limited to the fact that no nation needs a centralized government for its very survival. Nations can survive without centralized government because their survival depends vitally on something else. Survival is a function that lies in the foundation and in the nature of social fabric of any society. That is to say that the totality of factors reflected in their geo-politics and socio-economic life, of which centralized government is only one reflection of their social organization, constitutes their motivation for life. Survival in this case can simply be defined as the motivation to continue living in the face of challenges and the courage to exert extra energy by the people to out live the challenges. The Somalis, in this sense, have actually survived not only as a nation but also as a nation affected by draught and continual manipulation by extremist religious groups.

    So now why do we need a centralized government?

    There is a central issue that we need to settle before we tackle this question. A society without an order has no use of centralized government, irrespective of how strong that government may be. The prime question before us is not how strong and how wise the government in power is. Rather, we need to settle how strong and wise is the social fabric of the society that tries to make maximum use of a centralized Government. There is a good reason why we start with the strength of the social fabric rather than jumping into the nature and purpose of centralized government. Government is formed by the society and not vice versa. Government is a servant for the society establishing it through the rules that society makes available for the government to follow.

    Wherever this is reversed, there is almost always misery, disorder and strife to reign to power and peace cannot be secured. On the other hand, when the society is orderly and the rules and practice of its daily life is well outlined and known to the largest extent possible, there is not opportunity for the self-serving elites to gain power over the society and to subject the people to exploitation and personal gain of the few. Therefore, social order (rule of law, they call it in the West) must first be the guide before we talk of centralized government.

    I am mindful that Tazabi is of the opinion that government was meant to facilitate the establishment of rule of law and order in society. That is a classic case where government establishes the society. I give you a good place to look for that experiment, Afghanistan. Ahmed Karzai is the prime choice of the external forces behind changing rule of life in Afghanistan and then he later won the election legitimizing his rule over the people. He is assigned there to re-engineer life in Afghanistan. This is not a revolution from above. It is called Statism. Statism is a national level re-organization of social structure where by a State becomes an instrument and means by which a pre-determined values will be instilled in the society and re-organization and its form by the design approved and influenced by the elites constituting the State leadership.

    Does it sound familiar? Yes, it has been practiced in Ethiopia since time immemorial. Yes, the kingdom of Ethiopia acted that way for many years. For that matter both the Dergue and the Woyane system can also been seen as Statism. For me, a Libertarian, this is quite simply abhorrent. Any rational and moral mind cannot accept a situation where by elites instruct the larger society on how to conduct their lives. Sadly, Pakistan, Iraq and many others are suffering from such a move and have to make peace with their fellow compatriots if they need to come out victorious and be themselves again. Even for our poor Ethiopia, there is not other way to escape statists unless we resolve our differences in self-initiated peace deal and effectively keep out those that arrived with their pre-determined ideas of organizing our society.

    Blow off the dust from these old materials and check what is hidden there.

    Statism is not a modern religion. Even before Plato, political philosophy concerned itself with the nature, origin, and justification of the State. But, while the thinkers speculated on it, the general public accepted political authority as a fact to be lived with and let it go at that. It is only within recent times (except, perhaps, during periods when Church and State were one, thus endowing political coercion with divine sanction) that the mass of people have consciously or implicitly accepted the Hegelian dictum that “the State is the general substance, whereof individuals are but the accidents.” It is this acceptance of the State as “substance,” as a suprapersonal reality, and its investment with a competence no individual can lay claim to, that is the special characteristic of the twentieth century. (Chodorov, 1959, p. xix)

    Another quote is appropriate from the same source:

    This is the fulfillment of statism. It is a state of mind that does not recognize any ego but that of the collective. For analogy, one must go to the pagan practice of human sacrifice: when the gods called for it, when the medicine man so insisted, as a condition for prospering the clan, it was incumbent on the individual to throw himself into the sacrificial fire. In point of fact, statism is a form of paganism, for it is worship of an idol, something made by man. Its base is pure dogma. Like all dogmas this one is subject to interpretations and rationales, each with its coterie of devotees. But, whether one calls oneself a Communist, Socialist, New Dealer, or just plain “democrat,” one begins with the premise that the individual is of consequence only as a servant of the mass idol. Its will be done. (Chodorov, 1959, p. 23)

    In his later book, Frank Chodorov had to say the following about statism. In doing so, he also gave us the importance of institutionalizing ideas before it becomes social goals. Notice also that the model under discussion is that of the US and by extension the western Europe, the system our Statists dream to emulate, sadly.

    To get hold of the people an idea must be institutionalized, must be fixed in custom or validated by law; then only does it become part of that complex of beliefs which motivates men. Now, associated with the rising vogue of Freudianism was the rise of Statism; the politicians, who knew nothing about Freud, but who are very astute in evaluating any vote-getting device, instituted the Welfare State, and this fitted in very nicely with the Freudian notion. The Welfare State does indeed relieve the individual of self-responsibility, and does indeed undertake to remodel society; therefore, the Welfare State seemed to validate all that Freud claimed as to the nature of man. (Chodorov, 1962, p. 12)

    Just for the origin of statism, a citation from my dear teacher does not harm. (Notice estate is a French designation of the English word ‘state’):

    The most important event in the history of the last hundred years is the displacement of liberalism by etatism. Etatism appears in two forms: socialism and interventionism. Both have in common the goal of subordinating the individual unconditionally to the state, the social apparatus of compulsion and coercion. (Mises, p. 44)

    It is only proper then to present a self-reflection of a gentleman, and a good American in light of the current crisis.

    A belligerent foreign policy, then, will most likely lead to the wars it professes to deter. But who urges us toward this course? Rothbard arraigns the social democrats and their successors, the neoconservatives. These he accuses of support for statism at home and war abroad. (p. )

    Notice also how the international financial institutions and all multi-lateral and bilateral donors act to strengthen the state in poor countries in stead of investing in the productive capital of the people in those nations. Down with the Statists, as our communist brothers say, what option is out there? Nation-building… yes that is the name for it … as known in the literatures. So let us consider it, next time.

    Reference:

    Chodorov, Frank. The Rise and Fall of Society. THE DEVIN-ADAIR COMPANY
    NEW YORK, 1959

    Chodorov, Frank. Out of Step. The Autobiography of an Individualist. The Devin-Adair Company1962

    Gordon, David. The Essential Rothbard. Ludwig von Mises Institute. 2007

    Mises, Ludwig Von. Omnipotent Government. Reprinted with permission of Margit von Mises by the Center for Futures Education, Inc., 1985

  98. Alethia
    December 12, 2007 at 1:11 pm | #98

    Hi Fiseha:

    You’ve taken a lot of time to do your home work and that is a great job. Whether the participants agree with what has been said, I know you’re not doing anything for just people to agree with you, your effort is exemplary, I should say. Doing this takes a lot of time and in our time when many people do not seem to have time for doing a research based blog posts you’ve taken time to show us that it’s doable. I just wanted to say thanks.

    By the way, just a word or two: what you’ve shared with us about state and stat-ism is very informative and of educational value. I’m not a political scientist nor am I a political philosopher. I’m learning a lot from you. What I share here is just from my personal reflections and is not based on research as you provided us with, and that means, do not forget that you’re teaching us by doing the hard work. Much of my role here is to do some conceptual disentanglement when concepts/ideas get confused, and argue for views when I see there are better reasons for this idea or that. Of course what I do for research and study has broader relevance to what we discuss here and I’ll try to share more from what I think is imortant once I get enough time to do that.

    Look forward to Debela’s and Tazabi’s responses since much of what you shared is in response to their posts. Yes, this discussion is a great one and keep it going friends.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  99. Tazabi
    December 12, 2007 at 3:00 pm | #99

    Debela & Fiseha,
    You guys are awesome! I mean it.

    Fiseha,
    You’re going to owe me another lunch. I’m keepin it on my list. Thank you so much taking your time doing this.

    Will talk to you later guys.

  100. Alethia
    December 12, 2007 at 4:54 pm | #100

    Hi Tazabi:

    Good to see you’re having a great time here too.

    You know you kept our discussions alive for several months last year because you always would come back and say something, post your thoughts or ask questions or as usual disagree, all of these are good things to keep such discussions going. Keep doing these good things.

    Just wanted to say thank you too.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  101. Debela
    December 12, 2007 at 10:15 pm | #101

    Dear Fiseha,

    You did a wonderful job. Thanks a lot. Your most recent post is very informative and keep it up. Let me say few words on your earlier comments.

    As for the quotation, if you are dealing with principles I totally agree. That is why I said, “by that statement, I hope ‘what’ you wanted to say is what it should be, not what it is in Ethiopia today.” Because what it should be in principle and what we have today in Ethiopia are completely different.
    Dear Fiseha, I did not say the liberation front guys will bring something good for the people. You also said “My point is they did not give me anything so far and I don’t think they will in the future.” For me, neither liberation front guys nor Ethiopianists will bring something useful, something that will end the political crisis in Ethiopia. But this doesn’t mean that there is no truth to the questions raised by liberation front group. I believe that their question is the outcome of historical injustice they experienced in that country.

    I also believe that individual rights and individual freedom is the fundamental one. But the historical experience of some groups in Ethiopia made them think that, it isn’t only their individual right which is violated, as an individual, but also their group rights are denied. Hence, both individual and group rights become the questions, which we need to address simultaneously.

    Debela

  102. Tazabi
    December 13, 2007 at 2:24 am | #102

    Debela,
    Thanks for your response. We agreed on the groups struggle to gain economic, political, cultural and individual freedom. It’s legitimate human rights questions. No doubt! Our disagreement is the interpretation of “self determination” and their objectives. I would think when you put all these legitimate basic human rights question under the umbrella of “self determination” and interpreting self determination as a means of break away, the purpose of human rights questions will be defeated. Don’t get me wrong it’s a powerful concept on preserving the territorial integrity, sovergnity of the state.

    To me, when you say Oromo, it’s very broad and complex. There’re groups in our country who are indigenous people or i think they call them now “fourth world” and self -determination could apply on their situations. I’m sure the debate will continue for those groups. But, in groups like Oromo liberation front, self-administration would be more appropriate than self-determination.

    Your response on my question for minority groups within the Oromia state was very naive. It seems that you’re underestimating the human nature behavior, “what is in it for me” syndrome. Also, you’re basically reversing the exact problem what minority groups have been through from current or past govt. I know you said in your entry that you don’t guarantee what the liberation front would do or can do, but when it comes to dealing with other minority groups, your answer was so certain that everybody is going to live in harmony. Have you heard when they say “the road to hell is paved with good intention”? We reached to this point with many, many false promises and what holds for the future is to be seen. I noticed that you didn’t say anything on my suggestion to National Reconciliation. Agree, disagree? Let me know.

  103. Tazabi
    December 13, 2007 at 2:27 am | #103

    Alethia,
    Thanks for your kind comment.

  104. Fiseha D. Letta
    December 13, 2007 at 2:55 am | #104

    You all are very gracious… thanks,

    I want to push my entreprenerial agenda. Before I do that may I ask you to watch this vedio from youtube … it is excellent.

  105. Alethia
    December 13, 2007 at 3:15 am | #105

    Hi Fiseha:

    Your video link brought back good memories in an amazing way:

    Glad that you know what The Acton Institute does! I’ve been very much involved with them for about two years but missed a great annual alumni conference last June when I went back home. I hope that you’ll physically be able to attend their conferences in Grand Rapids, Michigan and elsewhere and if you’d like to I’ll nominate you, if you’re not already part of it, to attend their amazing conferences, educational workshops etc. Just let me know if you’d like me to do just that. I know one of the speakers on the video, he’s a philosopher! I’m referring to Jay Richards.

    And also, I was in Hong Kong last summer and when I saw video clips from there those memories of that amazing city just came back to my mind. I remember posting in our lasy year’s discussion spot a very pessimistic note about Ethiopia’s future when I was in Hong Kong.

    The video clip just brought back the above connections but then I want you to make your points. I shared the above because I was just surprised to see such connections emerging in the middle of our conversations. This discussion seems to be many-sided and great so far.

    I look forward to reading your thoughts. Speak the entrepreneurial agenda that will have great values for the future of Ethiopia.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  106. Tazabi
    December 13, 2007 at 4:06 am | #106

    Fiseha,
    I enjoyed reading your post. I understood most of what you said about the Govt. role, however I want to make clear to you, when I said a Govt. role in Ethiopia, it’s not the same as what the American Empire does under the name of “terrorism” to countries like Afaginstan, Iraq, Somalia interference for their own self interest.

    At least ,Debela is very optimistic on liberation front groups self determination and crossing his fingers that the group to bring us all the liberty, freedom we all longed for. Basically, his solution is coming from the group and yours is from individual. As much as I love your idea of individual liberty, freedom, you have not said much clearly how the ethnic identity crisis would get solution, though. So far, your answer is very vague.

    To me, if we’re going to limit the solution only from the individual stand point, it’s going to take a very long process and you and me might not see and enjoy what this individual liberty is going to bring us. I think Libertarian ideology works in a country like USA because there’s a strong foundation in the system, but applying a theory especailly in the area of ethnic identity issues in Ethiopia would be unmatched with the reality.

  107. Tazabi
    December 13, 2007 at 4:36 am | #107

    Fiseha,
    Thanks for the link. I’m not familiar with the instiitue and i don’t mind to read your agenda. Usually, it doesn’t appeal to me an organization who uses religion, Jesus in causes. I’ve wait and see attitude.

  108. Alethia
    December 13, 2007 at 5:00 am | #108

    Hi Tazabi:

    Hey, come on! Just wanted to hear why you would say/think that it does not appeal to you when an organization uses religion, esp., Jesus in causes? What do you mean by that and why do you think that way? Some of the most powerful arguments to mobilize Ethiopian society into a better future could be derived from distinctly living out and praticing religious values, esp., from Judeo-Christian religious values.

    As a rational person you should be able to separate your taste/likes for this or that view from the truth of the view. If a view is true, be it religious or anti-religious, whether it appeals to you or not, I do not think why a person, if rational and seeks after truth and values truth, would be selective in hearing any evidence for the truth of a conclusion. In a word: open your minds, my friend, to discuss any issue and if it’s true, embrace it, if not reject it. I’m preparing you for some arguments that I’ll share here on much similar issues when I get a chance. Okay?

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  109. Fiseha D Letta
    December 13, 2007 at 11:22 am | #109

    Tazabi,

    I did not get your basis in doubting whether Libertarian ideals can be lived in anywhere else except in places like the US. Isn’t it what we are arguing all along. I’ve been a liberatarian for more than a decade now and it helped me well to talk to policy makers as well as villagers equally. This I have done in Ethiopia. I can assure you, people get energized and commit more in life when they know that we each make own decisions for which we are fully responsible.

    The idea of liberty is cannot be contained in one party or one organization. It is a common theme of human cravings. It won’t take years to reach the most remote if only we agree on what we mean. The problem is that it is always confused with organized religions or organized political organizations or an agenda of certain modernist progressives. No one has monopoly over liberty. In addition, I don’t think we need these organizations to propagate it. For me it is citizen’s responsibility to promote their liberty. The reason it is vague to you is, if I may guess, it does not have an appetite of organized intervention in human lives. If we do that, it becomes a duty of certain organizations.

    Liberty without duty is nothing. Liberty with engagement is what we are trying to address under the topic of entrepreneurship. [you are fully entitled to your opinion on the Jesus question. I hope that is not the only thing that struck you of the video]

    So shall we move on discussing social engagement? Then individual liberty makes sense, I believe.

    Alethia,

    Yes, I used to read materials from the AI for some time now. I was not able to pay for subscription but I once got Market and Morality publication. Excellent documents. I receiving their weekly bulletine for many years now, not less than five, I don’t remember. I presented their social theories to University Students (Graduate Christian Fellowship) some three years ago. I summarized the ‘free and vertuous society’ materials they use for their workshops.

    So recommendation is timely. Please do.

  110. Fiseha D Letta
    December 13, 2007 at 2:38 pm | #110

    Tazabi and et al,

    Few things on nation building.

    Many people have confused nation building with state support. Many development litrature assumed state with nation. Therefore you hear a gift from so and so to the state and people of so and so country. The resource mostly goes into strengthening the government in power and ends up being state building.

    Nation-building in the US experiment is again state-building in its real sense. The US uses its military to influence change of regime in other nations followed by institutional formation for stability and sustaining the peace. This amounts to state building in strictest sense rather than nation-building. The other big nation-builder is the World Bank. Here again, as all of the World Bank group were known to avoid private sector support for quite sometime, their effort clearly falls under state-building. In Ethiopia, all this is nothing but statism even thoough statism has a spill over effect and some positive signs could be seen when the governemnt is strong enough and efficient enough in handling the people’s money.

    Nation-building is qualitatively different from state-building. The basic difference emanates from the basic distinction between state and nation. State is a legally defined territory, its population, central government and sense of sovereignity (rights and responsibility). Nation on the other hand is a psycho-social characteristics of a large group of people sharing acommon identity of language, ethnicity and history. Some overlaps are natural but they are not always interchangeable.

    Building a nation therefore has got to do with the affairs of the people, promoting their psycho-social make up, culture and their inner fabric. Any society has various self reflections: political, legal, economical, others. Of all these societal self-reflections, an analysis of poverty is largely dealing with the economic organization of society. Yes, nation building must address poverty and prosperity but must also see social organization as a totality. Therefore, nation-building becomes institutional building by the people for their better life.

    Here is where we sneak in human nature, as a purposeful actor. Work is a porposeful action. Purpose defines human material and psycho-social culture. In all our previous discussions we entrepreneurship but here is its best and complete application. Entrepreneurial engagement becomes relevant, for profit or otherwise, in the purposeful action of members of society.

    In conclusion, therefore, individual liberty plays a role of energizing this purposeful human action when the individual is caught up in persuit of destiney in society. In time, the actions of individuals getting engaged cummulatively creates certain allignment, and social cohesion becomes a natural outcome of free people engaged in life, in pursuit of not only freedom but because they are free to be productive.

    Enterprise is the other side of liberty. In discussing liberty we know what we break freedom from but we always wonder what we get for. The answer is quite simple. We are free from restraints of liberty to fully get engaged in work and pursuit of life. ‘Free for’ tells us the reason to we look forward to, while the ‘free from’ still looks back. Forward, therefore, we go!

    Tazabi, how about now… is it very vague?

    Fiseha

  111. Tazabi
    December 13, 2007 at 3:00 pm | #111

    Alethia,
    I’ve open mind to hear about it.

    Fieseha,
    I’ll get back to you, later.

  112. Alethia
    December 13, 2007 at 10:21 pm | #112

    Hi Fiseha:

    Good to know that you’ve been reading some stuff by the AI people. I just checked out their web site to look for the 2008 regional conferences that they annually have but they have not scheduled them now. By the way, they have other lecture series that they have for 2008 which you might want to check out from their web site. One’s the topics is this: “The Birth of Freedom: A look at Judeo-Christian Tradition to the Rise of Political and Economic Freedom in the West”, the speaker is Jay Richards. I just saw this; it’ll be on August 14, 2008.

    Any way, in order to nominate you I need to get your exact name and feel free to email me your current info at my email which is at the end of my article above.

    Tazabi, I think you should fly out to Grand Rapids in Michigan and attend the above talk in August and you’ll get a much better understanding of what I was saying get ready for what’s to come. I did not see the above topic for the talk by Dr. Richards when I said what I did but then here you go, that I just discovered something much similar to what I’ll argue for Ethiopia’s future some time in the future. I promise to do that sometime in the new year, 2008. I’ll be extremely busy until mid-January and no time to devote some time to some serious writing until then.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  113. Tazabi
    December 14, 2007 at 1:02 am | #113

    Fiseha,
    I really admire your positive thinking and attitude. Just reading your comment “it won’t take years to reach the most remote if only we agree on what we mean” gives me a great comfort and we may have a better days ahead of us.

    I’m looking forward to read your post on social engagement,…. so far, it has been very informative and educational. I’ll be on vacation starting this coming Monday to the mid week of x-mas week. If i get a chance, i’ll check on you guys.

    Alethia,
    I’m glad you and Fiseha are a common interest with AI. My experiance with your articles are proven to be imortant, helpful so, i’m looking forward to read the next one.

  114. Alethia
    December 14, 2007 at 5:07 am | #114

    Hi Folks:

    Please read this amazing story by Fekade Shewakena here:
    http://www.addisvoice.com/article/conference_of_the_oppressed__by.htm

    or on Addis Voice where it’s posted. Its title is “Conference of the Oppressed.” I could not finish it due to lack of time but I’ve found it so interesting that it was hard to stop reading it. It’s some relevance to what we’re talking about here.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  115. Fiseha D Letta
    December 14, 2007 at 12:04 pm | #115

    I couldn’t stop lauphing.

    Fiseha

  116. Tazabi
    December 14, 2007 at 2:20 pm | #116

    Alethia,
    I read half way through it and funny, but sad. It was shown & heard on the public media??? So, we’ve democracy then! Oh, well….

    By the way, last night i was at the bookstore and i run into the Former president Clinton book titled “Giving”. There’s a section he wrote “what about Govt.?” and talked about how public services by private citzens wouldn’t complete without recognizing the essential Govt. role. This’s the guy his foundation and others work involved all over the world talking the essential Govt. role. Since, you’ve Zero trust on past, current, and future Ethiopian Govt. i’m afraid, your future efforts to a better Ethiopia won’t be completed. To be honest, i get worried when i hear this kind of thinking so much from Diasporas. At least, Fiseha is against big Govt., but he acknowleged what the Govt. role is.

  117. Alethia
    December 14, 2007 at 3:40 pm | #117

    Hi Tazabi:

    By the way, I also thought the thing we’ve read on the conference of the oppressed people was a true story for moments but I realized that it’s a political satire written by Fekade S. It cannot be an actual thing that can happen in Ethiopia at the moment. I wish that were something that could happen in Ethiopia.

    No, Tazabi, I do not deny a govt has a role to play in a society. I never said that we do not need a govt? Hope you’re not saying that either about my thoughts. As I said before, I’ve never seen any trustworthy, credible, responsible, reliable govt in Ethiopia that I’d willingly call mine. Prove me wrong by showing what I’m saying is wrong, if it is?

    But then do you remember from my small comments to Fiseha the other day that you people might be surprised to hear me say that there are some good things that I can point at which have been done even by the present govt? Is that denying even a govt that I’d fault for many things can do some good things? Be a little more careful my friend as to what you conclude from what you you read in our conversations/discussions. I could argue that we do not need a govt and could have been entitled to my view, right or wrong, but that is not my view.

    There are certain things that any govt CANNOT accomplish/do like producing a virtuous people, people of character, remember from our last year’s discussion? This I will say again and say that and that is so because it’s not a role of govt to make its people virtuous, produce and cultivate and nurture a people of character. If you remember from last year, we said Ethiopia’s problems are many, too many and lots of them are our own making, not that of the govt. I’ll still defend that view if need be.

    Now just take this example: from a recent memroy, we’ve seen a tragic division and failure in character of some of the Kinjit folks? Can you say that with a straight face, that is the fault of the Ethiopian govt? I cannot see how you can get to such a conclusion from what kind of premise. We’re doomed as a society to fail again and again because we’ve failed in our own individual and collective lives lacking virtues that make an individual and a community better, grow and flourish. Do you want to argue with me about these theses, come on my friend, do that please—this is a friendly invitation for further conversation, of course. Tazabi, and that is what we’re arguing last year and I knew it’d come back because the problems we’re dealing with are about our society and they’ve not changed a whit.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  118. Fiseha D Letta
    December 14, 2007 at 3:57 pm | #118

    Social engagement… quickly…

    The thing about social engagement is that there are many of us using that word and hopefully for the same end. However, we clearly differ and sometimes antagonize how to go about it. The first such group that loves to dominate the issue of social engagement is the collectivist progressives and their socialist agenda in mobilizing people to social programs. They are known to form NGOs. Many of them enjoy the beating of drums to their standing ovations and particular attention to their personal sacrificial contribution to the society. Such a recognition provides opportunities for them to gradually hold on to public offices and government resonsibilities. No hard feelings about these people at all as long as their add certain social value in what they do.

    A variation of these is run by a social worker of odd origin. Mostly the religions organizations. They get their initial vision from an individual with a vision of social action of some sort and the vision keeps growing and the funding keeps getting larger with more and more people getting involved.

    There is another sort of group that get involved in social action. These third group is corporations moved mostly out of guilt and wanted to show that they can return some of their earnings back into the community that constitutes their for-profit venture. They sometimes call it ‘corporate social responsibility’. That is exactly what Starbacks is doing in Ethiopia and elsewhere.

    For me social action is a mature and purposeful action on behalf of self-conscious individual. An individual learns to act in society by the process of growing up. Moving from the comfort of parents house into the world takes a process of discovery by the younger generation. It is a gradual learning process. The first place to learn is a limitted community called the family. Love, care and benevolence is taught in the family. This soon extends into the neighborhood and the younger generation starts by being spectator of what the parents and other grown-ups do. Time will only tell when these young people passing through ther formative years copty and excell in what they have seen. They can also be moved by what they wanted to see and did not over the course of the years they were only spectators. Movement from being spectator inot an actor brings them into social engagement. As I said, this is a result and mark of maturity.

    Social engagement therefore becomes a natural thing to do. As we said it might take a form of business entrepreneurship or social entrepreneurship. However, it is entrepreneurial in nature.

    The first thing that some of us, conscious of this fact, need to do is to facilitate and encourage this natural social value and to see to it that society continually flourishes through it. In the process it becomes a social advocacy of some sort when we stand to defend human freedom and the social engagement of individuals in society. The encroachment of government over rights and duties of people and the damaging effects of family dismemberment and its loss of being a unit of social life must be protected for entrepreneurship to prosper naturally.

    The major mark of individual liberty based engament as opposed to a socialized engament is in that the individualists operate in their own lives first and then in their neiborhood and therefore create social ties for their own good. Even when such individualists engage in other societies they focus in helping communities to learn fishing than providing them with what they need. Therefore, the need based social action and distributive justic has no place in those that love individual liberty. For liberty to make sense the people being helped must learn to engage and participate in solving problems in their own lives so that they reach a stage whereby they again support others.

    It is therefore very important to keep away the illusion of benevolence that operates at the cost of creating false hope when the program fails and dependency when it succeeds. Any effort, when started by individuals as an individual solution for one’s future must be encouraged. Again, when individuals get caught up in their neigborhood and community, it is the sanest thing to do. When the progressives see communities taking responsibility over their lives and their neiborhood, they get threatened and want to control and silence citizens from steping into their neiborhood. Actually the progressive statists compete with the citizens. They would rather underpaly the role of the individual than promoting it so that their socialized programmes get commotional promotion.

    Let me stop here and see what you say…

    Fiseha

  119. Tazabi
    December 15, 2007 at 4:15 am | #119

    Alethia,
    Oh, I thought the link you send us was some kind stage show and broadcasted in Ethiopian media.

    It’s good to know that you’r not totally denying the Govt. role in Ethiopian society. Your Dec., 11 6:09 a.m 1:45 p.m and 7.16 p.m entries addressed to my name suggested me that you’re dismissing the Govt. role.
    Of course, it’s obvious that Govt. don’t create virtuous people. (I’m the weakest link about Kinijit’s break -ups, though). My point in this discussion was that the the Gvot. could play a big role to address the ethnic identity issues problem. Actually, what we’re facing in Ethiopia today regarding ethnic identity issues partly is a Govt. policy issue and a Govt role is a essential. If the current Govt. policy is failing, whoever replacing him should prioritize and address the issue. I’m not saying it would be solved by the Govt., but Govt would be a good starting place.

    In USA, the public media announcement advocate groups are funded by the Govt and it has a powerful impact addressing, hate crimes, race relationship, drunk driving, many many issues, even school bullying. The Ethiopian Govt. could create awareness, addressing tolerance through the media. It’s a complex issue and it’s not going to be solved by just a few.

  120. Tazabi
    December 15, 2007 at 4:47 am | #120

    Fiseha,
    I read your entry on social engagement and i’m not sure where you’re heading with this piece, though. Your next entry may clear it for me. Are you asking us to engage in something?

  121. Alethia
    December 15, 2007 at 5:01 am | #121

    Hi Tazabi:

    Glad that now you saw my points about what I was trying to communicate about the role of govt when we’ve one. I went back to my earlier posts that you referred to to see if I’ve ever denied that a govt plays a role in a society in general and in Eth in particular. What I’ve shared there was my deep-rooted skepticism about much of a positive role that the govt in Ethiopian recent history has played, if it’s played much of such a role.

    I think we’ve a long way to go to start to see much of a positive role to be played by any Ethiopian govt. We’ve already lost almost half of our confidence in the leadership of the main opposition party due to their own internal failings and whoever would replace those who’ve failed has to prove to us that there is good reason for us to have a confidence in their leadership. It’s very likely that we might not have true and trustworthy political leaders in the near future despite the fact that we’ve a few individuals that could do much good, if given opportunities.

    It’s with such realistic portrait of our present and our near future that we’re talking about govt playing a positive role and my deep-seated skepticism is based on the reasons that we’ve, in reality, not in any imagination that is misleading me or something like that. If we’ve any good reason to think about Ethiopia’s future in terms of political leadership we should be more skeptical than confident though without forgetting that there are a handful of able and so far trustworthy potential leaders, given a chance.

    You said you’re the weakest link about Kinjit’s break-up but I do not even know if you can be anylink at all. I do not know how to hold others about the character failures in Kinjit leadership and it does not seem right to say so and so should be held responsible for another’s failure. I do not understand what you were trying to say with that parenthetical remark. It’s the individuals who failed that should be held responsible for their own moral, character failures and no one else should and I’ve no idea how one can be held responsible for another’s moral and character failure. You might have an idea, but I do not have even the faintest.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  122. Tazabi
    December 15, 2007 at 10:55 am | #122

    Alethia,
    You gave me an example by saying “Now just take this example: from a recent memroy, we’ve seen a tragic division and failure in character of some of the Kinjit folks? Can you say that with a straight face, that is the fault of the Ethiopian govt? I cannot see how you can get to such a conclusion from what kind of premise”.

    So, based on the example you presented to me, i couldn’t answer for you about this particular political party, because i don’t know what caused Kinijit’s division in the first place and i don’t know wheather Kinijit’s division was caused from a “failure in charachter” or not.

    There’re a lot of internal & external factors to any political parties success, division or failure, also you cannot isolate Govt. role either. The point here is not what i know or don’t know about Kinijit, though. However, you picked wrong example to make your point here and i couldn’t tell you if there was ever a Govt. role in it or not in Kinijit Division.

  123. Alethia
    December 15, 2007 at 2:05 pm | #123

    Hi Tazabi:

    I’ve just a question or two for you:

    What do you understand by failure of/in character?

    When I hear your understanding, if we are talking about the same thing, then I’ll show whether my choice of crises in Kinjit has something to do with failure in character of some of the leadership in there or not.

    I was assuming that you’d have, as a point of reference, our extensive discussion of the role of character, virtues and vices, in a society, again from last year. Though I’m not assuming agreement between us about these issues I can assume that you’ve an idea as to what I mean by these things since I was the one who proposed the ideas first to which you’ve been responding on many occasions then.

    Now tell me what you think are failures in character or how character issues could account for failure in a political party leadership. Then we’ll see whether we’re talking about the same thing or altogether different things.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  124. Tazabi
    December 15, 2007 at 11:23 pm | #124

    Alethia,
    We’re talking about the same thing until you brought the Kinijit example. I don’t know what to tell you. I’ll ask around about Kinijit’s party division causes. You said that the party division is a “character failure” and then the Govt. shouldn’t be blamed. I cannot go back and forth with this something is not really important for both of us. Thanks for your explanations.

  125. Alethia
    December 16, 2007 at 1:12 am | #125

    Hi Tazabi:

    My question was simple: What do you understand by failure of/in character? Forget Kinjit for the moment and just share your ideas in response to the question that you’ve just read.

    I’m asking you to make sure that we’re communicating something and are on the same page. It’s a good thing for participants in any discussion to understand each other and that is what I’m asking you. I cannot see any reason why you’d want to avoid answering this simple question in a straightforward manner.

    Will you please?

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  126. Alethia
    December 16, 2007 at 2:02 am | #126

    Hi Fiseha:

    Hope that you’re following what is going on here. Feel free to jump in when there are some discussions side by side to the main one as it’s happened between Tazabi and myself. This is to clarify issues and not to avoid engaging you since you’ve already shared your ideas about social engagement and naturally would be looking forward to reading contributions from the audience, esp., Tazabi, since she’s been your most persistent conversation partner as she’s for all of us here.

    Come on and say something, Fiseha.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  127. Tazabi
    December 16, 2007 at 3:05 am | #127

    Alethia,
    You’re getting silly now. I’m not avoiding the question, you should be able to know by now my understanding of your question. If you’re in doubt that we’re not in the same page, please explain and i’m listening.

  128. Alethia
    December 16, 2007 at 3:30 am | #128

    Hi Tazabi:

    I was hoping that we’re conducting a respectful and friendly and civilized discussion but now I’m beginning to be skeptical. If you want to know why I’m getting skeptical, just re-read your previous post, every single sentence there and also your last post, every single sentence. Then tell me if I do not have a right to ask you a question or two to tell me what you understand by failure of character.

    Why do you want me to assume that you understood me rightly when I’m am unsure and ask you to make sure that we’re on the right track? Which is respectful and civilized and more fruitful, telling your friend what you mean by this or that or telling him that he’s “getting silly” for not assuming that we’re on the same page? Can’t I ask a question when I see a need to?

    I’m sorry if this is the direction you want our discussion to take? I’m still asking only one question: what do you understand by failure of character? If you mean to share your thoughts and carry on a good and fruitful discussion you owe me an answer.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  129. Tazabi
    December 16, 2007 at 3:45 am | #129

    Alethia,
    There’s plenty time i shared in last year discussion what i know and what i don’t know in the issue. When i get time i’ll pull out for you. I’m not sitting and repeat the same thing here. To come to think of it, you asked me the same very question before. Honestly, i’m getting very agitated right now and i;m felling that you’re insulting my intellegent. This’s the kind of question you asked to a 3 yrs old baby who is been told several times the same thing over and over and then demanding her/him to repeat it for you.

  130. Alethia
    December 16, 2007 at 4:07 am | #130

    Hi Tazabi:

    I do not understand what the matter is with you. Why get offended in the middle of great discussions because one of your conversation partners just wanted to make sure that we’re communicating and are on the same page?

    Are you saying that you’re the only person to ask us questions but we cannot? Why feel insulted when your friend asks you whatever question? Should others also be offended when you ask all kinds of questions as you always do which I took as a positive thing and commended you just a day or two ago? Why not just be a genuine conversation partner without thinking of yourself in certain terms, as intelligent or not etc? Why all the worry? Why take things personal when you’ve no reason to do so?

    Do not forget that I brought up a mirror that shows us who we really are; the issue that came up was about character and you’re doing what you’re doing either out of your character or in accordance with your character. It’s sad that a great conversation can descend into such a pity state overnight just because your friend wanted to understand you better!

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  131. Selu
    December 16, 2007 at 6:02 am | #131

    Hi Fiseha:

    :There is another sort of group that get involved in social action. These third group is corporations moved mostly out of guilt and wanted to show that they can return some of their earnings back into the community that constitutes their for-profit venture. They sometimes call it ‘corporate social responsibility’. That is exactly what Starbucks is doing in Ethiopia and elsewhere. ”

    Could you please explain this paragraph one more time. I am perplexed by the way you associated things in such narrow sense.It is not clear for me to understand corporate social responsibility on the way you asserted it.I am curious also to know about Starbucks and the implication of corporate social responsibility to ethiopia.To be honest it is too narrow to understand.Please, correct me if I made any mistake.

  132. Tazabi
    December 16, 2007 at 6:55 am | #132

    Alethia,
    Let me give you friendly advise to you. I don’t think you’re a bad guy, however, i noticed that your profession is getting on your way in this blog discussion. I’m not sure if you’ve recieved similar comment from others or not. Also, when a person disagree with you and explains to you his/her disagreement, or when a person pointing out your mistake, you should give respect to the person and move on instead of being very defensive about it. After all, we all humans and you’re no different.

    I don’t mind getting questions and i’m not afraid to answer what i know and what i don’t know, however, i found your question very offending because you’re asking me what we’ve been discussing, exchanged ideas for several months, we even carried it over under ethnic identity discussion especailly, after we had so many agreement in character failure issue in our society.

    How do you feel after so many valuable discussions based on your articles here, if i say to you by the way you don’t live in Ethiopia and what’s your understanding of Ethiopian society or ethnic identity? You may say, i already answer this, or why she’s asking me now, or does she really think i was just blabbing all these time without understanding Ethiopian society. You see my point? By the way, you just answered in your last paragraph what you were asking me about character failure. The difference in this is that your assumption about me, but the concept is the same. So, you don’t need to seek answer from me :-)

  133. Fisseha D Letta
    December 16, 2007 at 8:02 am | #133

    Tazabi and Alethia,

    I hope you both got time to reflect. And I hope we get back to the substance of our discussion.

    Dear all,
    Two things:
    [1] I was away for more than a day and did not get access to internet. That is actully why I missed the awkward exchanges of our good friends above.

    [2] I must appologize that my last post was so obscure in many ways. I drafted it online in my email window and then posted here. I did not reread it and my Amharic in English tood out. Some of the statements does not say much and when it tries to say something it does not mean anything in English. Sorry about that. I will try to write a little carefully next time.

    Selu
    I am asked to explain about the guilt of corporations or what they call corporate social responsibility. And I am trying here…

    The example of Starbucks is a nice one. I assumed you all knew about Starback’s support in Ethiopia because it has been an issue for some time. Let me first quote Starbucks:

    “Doing Business in a Different Way Contributing positively to our communities and environment is so important to Starbucks that it’s one of the six guiding principles of our mission statement.”

    What they mean is… the the following. (Personal commentary) They have been trading without no regards for the people and trading links up/down the supply chain. Gradually there is international pressure on fair trade and similar initiatives. Therefore, Starbucks like many other corporate entities have also designed a mission that gives back to the communities that produce their marketable supplies.

    So did Starbuck did something in Ethiopia other than buying coffee at the price it does. Yes! Check the following as an example

    http://www.starbucks.com/aboutus/pressdesc.asp?id=746

    Okay! Now we know Starbuck and many other like it can contribute out of guilt to do something for the communities that actually produce the products that made them global giants. However, for the future of Ethiopia and for the purpose of our discussion this is not what we hoped for and expected would change the foundation of our social engagement.

    Our discussion point has nothing to do with the sum of money that comes out of corporations. Besides, we should not be negative for however small contribution these entities make. When we speak of engagement, we must primarily discuss about ourselves. How integrated are we in our society would be the prime question. We must talk about our social organization and personal standing in such endeavors. Therefore, it is not the purpose of my entry to focus on what corporations were doing in Ethiopia. I was only showing who else, beside ourselves, were socially engaged in Ethiopia. I thought it was enough for us to note that there is such an effort by corporations.

    One thing I did not mention there but would like to emphasise is this. What Starbuck has done can be considered a social engagement of people in Strarbucks. But the topic of our discussion was not to know how much other nations and citizens of other countries are socially engaged, even when their engagement is in Ethiopia. Our purpose was to outline the basis for and the motivation upon which social engagement occurs. Apparently, I failed to make a good sense in my effort. I will keep on trying until my point is made clear. My objective is not to convince anyone but just to put it on the table what I so strongly affirm and see what other options might possibly other see.

    Tazabi,

    Yes I am asking every enlightened Ethiopian to sit and reflect and confirm with me that the most natural way of engagement is still the best way forward for our communities. That is to contribute to our own smallest locallity that can actually start with our selves and our family. Just look at the number of development association that were formed in Ethiopia since 1991. To hear that each people group as a Development Association gives you a strong sense of duty. What is different in what I am saying is the process of formation of such Associations. I completely reject the way development Associations were made. They are all formed starting from the national umberella organization. It probably started with the Tigray Developemnt Association and the rest just copied that experience. My recommendation is just to reverse that process. Start with what one can do for the satisfaction of oneself. Cooperation and collaboration and to some extent complementing one another comes along the way and through process. In time, in my humble opinion, personal commitment to commitment creates a strong social network. Notice that I don’t believe in putting structure in place. I would rather leave it to the people on the ground in expand the pratice the way they see fit and determine on their level of integration depending on the situation they see theselves in.

    When each one of us do our part, each community gets more active forces and the voice of positive future does not just change the current dormant current of silence but it will electirify it and families and communities will be revived.

    This is what I personally do. I am not a good communicator. But whenever I try to, the basis of my discussion with my siblings, friends and relatives, anyone of my region or my country in general including friends I was able to make around the world looks like this. I ask them about their lives. I focuss on where they stand today. Try to talk to them where they want to get at. Then the disucssion naturally moves on towards the gab between the with and the currnet state. Then we speak of alternatives. Many times people do appreciate this kind of talk and will take time to update me where they are some time later. So where ever I can I give more suggestions. Whenever the situation allows, I get involved personally. I am growing in my presonal commitment to humanity with particular focuss on my own people.

    So what it requires is a just a simply change of attitude and stay positive. The human soul is strong that whatever the circumstances, when someone seems to stand by it, can almost always get charged for actions that can achieve great things. So let us stand for one another. Let us do it in the most natural way, in the family, then the community, then the nation, then (why not) internationally. Too idealistic? You tell me… But I can assure you it is a rewarding thing to do and with small reflection you will find out that you were also doing it without thinking of it as a social engagement.

    Fiseha

  134. Alethia
    December 16, 2007 at 10:21 am | #134

    Hi Tazabi:

    Two things:

    First, if you really want to understand me, your conversation partner here, please understand this: what you call my profession is my identity. I do not have a profession that I can put off, set aside at one moment and put on at another. If you understood this or others who thought similarly, such a comment or piece of advice would have not arisen in the first place and now it’s irrelevant.

    If you do not understand what I’ve just said, since I do not want to to take our valuable time off the direction of this valuable discussion, I’d say, I’m sorry for your failing to understand who you’re talking to, and live with it for a moment or two until you see it. Next time, if something similar happens, I’ll simply point at the same thing hoping that you’d understand and do not feel offended.

    Second, the example you gave me, whether my not being in Ethiopia would be irrelevant to what I wrote and our discussion here, IF you really said and meant it, that would only show that you did not understand one of the key things I said about what it takes to have an ethnic identity in the first place. You do not change your ethnic identity no matter where you live and I’d have simply said that as an answer since your example, if taken seriously, shows you misunderstood the concept and also misapplied the concept I was trying to explain. My friendly advice to you then would be would be: please try your best to understand the others and their ideas before you share your thoughts. Try your best to explain what your friends ask you to instead of giving an entirely different talk which simply could be seen as evasion of the point., which is what has exactly been the case in these mini exchanges between the two of us.

    When someone asks you to explain yourself, just do it if you believe that your explanation would add some value to the on going discussion rather than assuming that others should assume that you understood what they’re asking you to explain. We’re all human and might miss what others mean to communicate and a question for more explanation should have been taken as a virtue of a good, and mature discussion than an insult, which appeared to you, which I’d never see how one could take things in such a way.

    I’m not going to respond to another of similar exchanges since it does not seem to be right for us to talk to each other when our other friends are expecting our contributions as we’ve been trying to do some. Good luck understanding your conversation partners.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  135. Selu
    December 16, 2007 at 6:13 pm | #135

    Thank you Fiseha,

    I got your points now ,basically My disagreement emanated from the universal meaning of corporate social responsibility(which is the approach that an organization takes in balancing its responsibility toward different stakeholders when making legal ,economic, ethical and social decisions),but not from the context of Ethiopian or Africa at large or the central points of this discusion. We ,all of us now what Shell oil company did in Nigeria several years ago in the name of corporate social responsibility.

    I am curious to read the materials you linked about Starbucks ,so I preferred to stay abstained until I read those materials.

  136. Tazabi
    December 16, 2007 at 6:53 pm | #136

    Fiseha,
    You’ve such a noble idea. I don’t mind sharing with you my experience here. In a recent years, i’ve this changes of attitude gviing to the community and then even with the changes of attitude i’m experiancing and my increasing desire to give, i don’t see changes in my action. I believed in giving back to the community in any way i can, but again i’m looking for the most convenient way doing it. The company i work with that we’ve a United Way payroll deduction which allows you to contribute from minumum $2.00 to whatever amount you wish to give and you get to choose an organization you wanted to contribute to, also, the organization also sends you a progress report that explained what they’ve done with all the contribution they’ve received and that’s about it. When they send out this letter, if the envelope grab my attention, i may open, read it, otherwise it goes right in the garbage with other pile of junk mails. It’s funny, i do complained a lot about organizations who don’t reveal enough their activities to the public and here i’m, when i recevied the report, i’m the first person to pitch it in the garbage.

    The other area of United Way contribution available to me at work is a community volunteer’s work day so, it depends on the situation the company will compensate your time off. Basically, you spent a day or two to help out your community services where it’s needed. Guess what, my last day at the community volunteer was almost 5 years ago now. You won’t believe how much effort they put in just to have us a 15 minutes to the point, short, at the same time interesting annual campaign broadcasting message. Oh, yes! i’m one of those people who gets so bored and looking at my watch every second to watch the end. Mind you, I’m talking about only 15 minutes!

    My point here is that my heart desires, but when it comes to action even when i’ve the most convenient way available to me, i don’t do it. Also, i feel that “somebody will do it anyway” attitude or always there’s another time to do this and that. I think these are the hardest bad habit to break. I hope my experiances will give you some idea what’s going on in some of us.

    Fiseha,
    As i said, i’ll be on vacation starting tomorrow until the mid week of X-mas week. I’ll look forward to read more in my return.

  137. Tazabi
    December 16, 2007 at 7:31 pm | #137

    Fiseha,
    I’ve one more thing to mention to you here. The United Way campaign in my company is also, it’s part of the Corporate social responsibilty program among many other programs they do. They matched funds in millions and they contribute.

  138. Alethia
    December 16, 2007 at 8:53 pm | #138

    Hi Fiseha:

    I do not have much knowledge about social engagement when it comes to the corporate world and things like that and hence my contribution to such discussions has been kept to the minimum. Yes, I’m in the middle of writing papers that have strict deadlines and hence my activity has been reduced to short comments here and there and not much as you’ve seen.

    On the other hand, I’ve also said a lot last year about the value of character (virtues and vices) in a society’s development in various ways and what you’re saying, about individuals and a community is complimentary to what I was trying to communicate with much similar audience here.

    I’m more interested trying to see why we, Ethiopians, as a society, are where we’re and have been there for a long, long time and then to recommend what should be done for us to move out of the situations we got stuck in for a long time. That was the spirit with which I was discussing issues about character in the context of the Ethiopian society in general with a hope to eventually develop a theoretical model that can help us see the problems for our failures and provide us with recommendations as to how we can move forward and leave behind a very unacceptably painful situations that are like our identities as a society. Mymore active contribution would be in such areas for my mind is restless until I see plausible and satisfying explanations for why we got stuck as a society they way we have.

    I’ll jump in when this conversation moves in a direction that is more conducive to the way I can contribute to the discussion. Hope that we’ll stay here and share more of our reflections about various issues that matter to us.

    Tazabi, have fun in your vacation and look forward to your contribution when you get back.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  139. Selu
    December 17, 2007 at 5:23 am | #139

    Hi Tazabi:

    Thank you for your recent comments, but I have some reservation here, I taught the way Fiseha sees the corporate social responsibly and social engagement is not in the way you forwarded it in your recent comment. Please, I am not miss- quoting you; rather I preferred to mention it since we are blogging as well. Fisehas’ social engagement is based on individual commitment, willingness, honesty and responsibility to work for the society for which some basic and important elements is missing for its bare survival or existence, it is not as simple as the one you mention it regarding your company’s contribution, I think again even its essence is also quite different than the way you noted it in your recent post. If I made some thing ambiguous please let me know.

    Thank you,

  140. Alethia
    December 18, 2007 at 2:56 am | #140

    Hi There:

    Where are you, Fiseha?

    We were told that Tazabi wouldn’t be here for a few days; but are you there? I think Selu and I are around.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  141. Fiseha D. Letta
    December 19, 2007 at 5:55 am | #141

    Hello friends,

    Very sorry for disappearing without an announcement. I was a little tied up, again.

    I checked where you guys are at least two times over the days but did not get time to draft any meaningful response.

    Thank you for your patience.

    I’m glad Selu is clear on his Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) queries. I didn’t read about his allusion to Nigeria on the same topic. Sorry, again. Yes, his comment on Tazabi’s line of thinking is also very accurate. Even though I still want to encourage Tazabi for the level of involvement in corporate efforts, the point of our discussion here must be linked to personal initiative and the target is to get it to our people in Ethiopia.

    Of course, Alethia felt that we’re digressing into CSR. However, we’re just clearing the ground to quickly get back to our topic, reflections on our identities. What we intended to do by referring to CSR, among others, is for Ethiopians to get sufficient motivation to take responsibility in the most natural way and engage in our own community for social capital formation.

    As I said before, for me, social capital formation accelerates when individuals engage in meaningful endeavors whether or not their effort produces more of personal gain than others. As long as individuals are fully committed into certain engagement that has some returns (personal financial gain or moral reward for societal achievement) our mission in life becomes more meaningful.

    Yes, I did throw in few more words that I did not use before but I couldn’t resist the temptation that this opportunity gave me. This meaningful social engagement brings about social capital. Social engagement is nothing in itself unless it continually motivates purposeful action of the individual members of society and it again brings about the productive social capital of communities under consideration.

    This requires that not only did individual liberty takes precedence over any collective motto of all sorts, but that individual liberty must be assured and be seen as a realization of the fact that all rights do not have any more meaning unless the individual person is absolutely free to positively and productively engaged in society. After all, whatever we consider to be a collective motto is acted upon and protected by the individual person.

    What only starts as a change in attitude of our mind, has the power to change our lives as an individual and goes beyond to build communities of individuals with forward thinking. This is not a community of the enlightened only, but a community that learns from each other. A place where an opportunity is open for all to emulate what others have done. Positive action has a power to awaken even the most dejected persons in the community.

    By ringing more and more people into engagement, the society will be positioned on the path of change for the better where the future is not only positive but within the reach of each person’s actions.

    We are speaking in terms of natural world. We are stretching ourselves into saying that we will be controlling our tomorrows. That, I believe, is a little far fetched and goes into our individual beliefs rather than a discussion on social engagement. Therefore, it is just enough for me if I say that our future is the result of our standing today. Engaged, we move forward and engaged we face tomorrow boldly without the guilt of inaction or without overburdening ourselves with irreparable failures. In stead, the future is now, where we decide to be positive and active.

    I think I said more than I should. And repeated myself, again!

    Fiseha

  142. Alethia
    December 20, 2007 at 5:24 am | #142

    Hi Fiseha and all:

    Sorry for disappearing again. Yes, it’s about taking care of some things that have strict deadlines.

    When I get a chance to get back I’ve some very interesting stuff to share with you: just to whet your appetite for now: I’ve started to read books and articles on ethnicity and identity and citizenship issues in the Ethiopian context and am exchanging emails with the writers too. I’m trying to get permission to share some of their writings with you all. Very interesting stuff and very relevant to what we mean to be discussing here. If we make sense, who knows the writers themselves, time permitting, might join us to share a thought or two.

    Hope to get back with you soon.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  143. Fisseha D Letta
    December 21, 2007 at 4:41 am | #143

    Great, I’m looking forward to it.

    Just to stay on our topic, can we now move on to issues of nationalism? I have this notion that our sense of nationalism could be among the extremes of the world. I have the impression that Ethiopians sacrifice their own life for what we don’t fully understand.

    I am aware that nationalism is a natural child of the sense of uniqueness and independent as a nation. We have alluded to the nations and their nature as with or without a state. The case in point was the unstable state of Somalia. Many other states in the world fall within what some categorize as ‘failing states’. I think the State in Ethiopia is also by and large within that category. However, our sense of nationalism is not shaken. In fact, our sense of nationalism could as well be the cause of our weakness than our strength in our national standing.

    We know nationalism is not citizenship. We touched upon citizenship before. Not in great depth in fact but enough to separate it from natural identity and to see citizenship as a choice. When it comes to nationalism, however, it is a totality of our attitude towards of ‘us’ as opposed to ‘them’. Nationalism is a belief and a political stand that promotes uniqueness of societies as opposed and compared to other societies. So it is what we believe about ourselves.

    Let me not delve into it and bore you with my negative impression of Ethiopian nationalism. See if this fits into our discussion and let us move forward.

    Fiseha

  144. Selu
    December 21, 2007 at 6:02 am | #144

    Hi Fiseha:

    Yes ,we are Ethiopians and we,most of us are proud of by being an Ethiopian ,for which we do not diserve,given the prevailing economic ,social political and economic condition of our country,I know we are patriotic as well as nationalist in terms of attitude ,but we ,most of us do not fulfill or obey the criterion of true nationalism or even patritism.We are among the falling States ,therefor we have to learn more about our ods,which means we will get a way to find a remedy. I know the prescription might be soar and better,but we have to talk about hard truths in order to cure one another.Please ,do not hesitate to speak about your negative impression of Ethioan nationalism.that is the only loop hall that can help us to learn and solve our acute problems.

  145. Girmay
    December 21, 2007 at 11:44 pm | #145

    As long as Woyane is in power, the problem with ethnicity will continue. We are proud in our nationality, except for those of you who lives abroad that thinks know everything for us and trashing our country images. If you’re not proud and deserve being an Ethiopian that’s your personal problems so, leave Ethiopia alone and don’t come back. We’re sick of hearing from you, ethiopia is this and that. If you care so much aout Ethiopia, why don’t you people come back and serve your country instead of talking.

  146. Fiseha D Letta
    December 22, 2007 at 9:08 am | #146

    Dear Girmay,

    May I respectfully tell you that your conviction is out of place. We are discussing here. You are entitled to your opinion. You don’t know where the peaple reading this forum live. You don’t know if the ones abroad are there for good. If where Ethiopians live to choose seems to be a problem to you, just say it. If, on the other hand, you are here to disrupt our discussion find another forum. We are not playing the blame game.

    for me personally, let me tell you this. No body tells me where I should live. If you are sick of Ethiopians discussing the current state of their country, that is your own problem. But I must tell you that you have no rights to tell other people where they are supposed to live. Ethiopians are free to live where ever they choose to live.

    Woyane is in power. So what? What is your point. You say you are proud of your nationality. Say it out for there is no obvious nationality in Ethiopia. Is there? Educate me, if you will.

    Fiseha

  147. Girmay
    December 22, 2007 at 3:25 pm | #147

    We have been told by Ferenje how to live, to think our lives for many years. Alitaia may be a greek man or Woyane messanger and he’s telling us Ethiopian identity. You are dividing us with your illitrate knowledge of Ethiopia. you are ashmed to call yourself Ethiopian go and live in somalia, sudan. we don’t need a divider anymore.

  148. Alethia
    December 22, 2007 at 6:04 pm | #148

    Hi Girmay:

    It’s only Greeks or the Woyanne messengers who talk about Ethiopian identity. That seems to be how far you can think and that is your profound contributions to this forum. Thanks!

    Please do contribute such profound thoughts about what it means to be an Ethiopian and we’ve been missing out on such significant insights as to who we’re. With people like you and your thoughts about Ethiopia, whatever it is, you want us to go back to the Middle Ages. Or, at the latest, to the 18th century.

    Be proud of such thoughts and we’ll have more reasons to be
    ashamed of those like you who are not willing to think for themselves and start to experience freedom of thought and the meaning of fist being human and then whatever else, Ethiopians or Greeks.

    As a person I feel ashamed of ignorance and even more arrogance based on ignorance and that is one of the reasons for my being here to contribute some challenges to some of us who’re not willing to think genuinely about their identity and what it means to be an Ethiopian.

    If you think what it means to be an Ethiopian is the way you showed us here please find others who’re like you and who’re willing to be proud of their ignorance and proportionally arrogant. One of our jobs here is to expose such ignorance for what it is and help minimize the degree of arrogance that has done the greatest damage to Ethiopia. You’ve all the right to remain ignorant and arrogant too but leave us alone since we’re trying to do some good against both such things.

    Do we sound anti-Ethiopian? If so and if you know how to argue and show where we’ve gone wrong, show us. But you need to tell us what it means to be an Ethiopian first since without such a clear understanding there is no reason to think that so and so is anti-Ethiopian. We’ve just begun to try to uncover some of our own and others’ thoughts as to what it means to be an Ethiopian.

    Do you have a clear idea about what you want to defend, go ahead please. Are you blindly and ignorantly calling yourself an Ethiopian and desperately wish others to follow you in and out of ignorance? We just said no (!) since we desire to understand.

    We declared our desire to be free agents who’re willing to choose ideas and values and shape our identities accordingly. We consciously declared to be free from some imposed ideas of what even Ethiopia is and you will not have a chance to impose anything on us. That is gone. We’re freed at last. We chose to be free from those who want to impose their anything on us. Have you seen the spirit by which this discussion has been conducted? I bet you have not. Show us if we’re wrong about what I’ve just said. Good luck.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  149. Fiseha D Letta
    December 23, 2007 at 9:29 am | #149

    Dear Girmay,

    I am Ethiopian and stand in front of you and anyone else on the face of this as just a simple Ethiopian. As regards what I did, and do now, and continues to do for my beloved Ethiopian has nothing to do with you. I want you to know, though, that I am willing to live not only with Somalis but in Somalia as well as in Sudan with Sudanese. Living and/or visiting anywhere in the world did not and does not change who I wanted to call my own, fellow Ethiopians. And if you only enlighten yourself, Girmay, those people we now call Somalis and Sudanese were once Kush and in the same embrace of what the antient Greeks called Aetheopia. Notice the Hebrews before them called the same land Kush (Cush). The we them division you seem to hold so dearly against the Sudanese and Somalis is only a scheme of Imperial powers and colonizers. I sincerely hope you know better than that.

    Since you have a claim to knowledge, in your post above, about Ethiopia, you have a self imposed responsibility to explain yourself and educate us, the people you not only dispised but called illitrate.

    Over to you, Girmay! Explain yourself… isn’t this what you wanted? You have the floor!

  150. Fiseha D Letta
    December 24, 2007 at 2:31 pm | #150

    There are four core debates which permeate the study of nations and nationalism. First among these is the question of how to define the terms “nation” and “nationalism.” Second, scholars argue about when nations first appeared. Academics have suggested a variety of time frames, including (but not limited to!) the following:

    Nationalists argue that nations are timeless phenomena. When man climbed out of the primordial slime, he immediately set about creating nations.

    The next major school of thought is that of the perennialists who argue that nations have been around for a very long time, though they take different shapes at different points in history.

    While postmodernists and Marxists also play in the larger debates surrounding this topic, the modernization school is perhaps the most prevalent scholarly argument at the moment. These scholars see nations as entirely modern and constructed.
    It should not be surprising that the third major debate centers on how nations and nationalism developed. If nations are naturally occurring, then there is little reason to explain the birth of nations. On the other hand, if one sees nations as constructed, then it is important to be able to explain why and how nations developed. Finally, many of the original “classic” texts on nationalism have focused on European nationalism at the expense of non-western experiences. This has sparked a debate about whether nationalism developed on its own in places like China, or whether it merely spread to non-western countries from Europe.

    In this section of The Nationalism Project you will find a collection of quotations from prominent scholars of nationalism. Of course, individual quotations are not a substitute for reading the important books being cited, but I hope that you will find this resource a helpful introduction to the scholarly views of nations and nationalism.

    If you would like to suggest further additions to this section, please contact me.

    - Eric G.E. Zuelow

    Source: http://www.nationalismproject.org/what.htm

  151. Alethia
    December 28, 2007 at 11:09 pm | #151

    Hi All:

    It was eight days back that I promised to share some interesting stuff related to what we mean to discuss here and here is some of that.

    First, for anyone who really wants to get an insight into the nature of identity and issues in such domain with particular focus on the meaning of individuality, autonomy, the ethics involved in such things, read the following a must read book by the Princeton philosopher, Anthony Appiah, titled, The Ethics of Identity (Princeton UP, 2005), 383 pages. Try to get a copy of this book, which is reasonably priced and read it and share it with friends please and I think we can learn quite a lot from it. At least, I’ll.

    Now the best thing to do to see what this book is about is by listening to a radioa talk by the writer on The Philosophy Talk here: http://www.philosophytalk.org/pastShows/EthicsofIdentity.htm

    Second, as for literature on the issues of ethnicity and identity here is one doctoral dissertation online which we can read and learn a lot from as I’ll. It’s done by a Scottish political scientist, Dr. Sarah Vaughan, for her PhD at the University of Edinburgh in 2003. http://www.era.lib.ed.ac.uk/bitstream/1842/605/2/vaughanphd.pdf

    The title and content of of her dissertation, Ethnicity and Power in Ethiopia, is so relevant to our discussion and you’re most welcome to read this and also contribute to this discussion.

    There is more to share but I think what has been shared is more than enough for an informal discussion such as this for some time to come. And also, once we get a hold of some relevant literature we can of course continue to do our own researches and add to our research and reflection on issues we’re interested in and are trying to share here. If some of you are already aware of the above info I just shared that is great; if not, that is also great for we can add to what we already have or learn something new from others.

    I’ll try to come back when time permits.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  152. Fiseha D. Letta
    December 29, 2007 at 11:22 am | #152

    Hello Alethia,

    It looks like the American holidays are enjoyable. Tazabi is not yet showing up, Girmay is silent for some reason, Selu did not say anything, just to mention the most recent contributors here.

    You are resurrecting the discussion and pushing it towards question of identity. Yes, I read a review on Anthony Appiah. Buying the book for someone in the cash economy is a little far fetched. But I can gather enough material from the internet as the discussion proceeds. Of course, the Phd thesis of Sarah Vaughan is a material with good coverage of Ethiopia’s specific issues. One thing about that material is that it does not really reflect the efforts of Ethiopian elites whose major contributions are overshadowed by the Socialist Nationalists such as Hadis Alemayehu and Gebre Hiwot Baykedagn of old. However, one must admit that the thesis fully covers the socio-political undercurrent of the current ethnic federalism being practiced by the TPLF/EPLF in Ethiopia.

    Of course, we have enough on the plate for sometime to come. Apart from the identity issues you are trying to focuss on may I suggest that we also squarely check the larger nationalism question in line with discussions in http://www.nationalismproject.org/what.htm.

    Til next time, take care of yourself, and all the people around you!

    Fiseha

  153. Alethia
    December 29, 2007 at 6:47 pm | #153

    Hi:

    FYI, I’ve said something on a different yet somewhat related topic in one small piece on Addis Voice.

    Fiseha might want to read it for it’s partly an application of our previous, last year’s discussion here.

    You’re most welcome to share your comments there or wherever, too.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  154. Tazabi
    December 30, 2007 at 5:14 am | #154

    Hi Alethia & Fiseha,
    I was just checking to see what has been going on and i saw a few links. When i’ve time i’ll take a look at it. I’m insanely busy now, because of the quater end and year end. Hope, you guys have fun holidays.

    Selu (i’m not sure if he/she’s stopping by),
    When i mentioned United Way contribution from payroll deduction in my corp., i’m actually contributing money to an agency who’s helping on women & children issues in Ethiopia. The point i was trying to make was that eventhough i’ve so much desire to help, having many available methods, ways to contribute to the society where i live now and where i came from, i’m struggling to make it work and i’m not doing it enough. Hope, this answer your question.

  155. Alethia
    December 30, 2007 at 5:26 am | #155

    Hi Tazabi:

    This is to say, welcome back!

    We’ll continue our conversations whenever it’s possible time-wise. We all seem to be busier these days than usual and that is understandable.

    Cheers,

    Alethia

  156. Fiseha D Letta
    January 2, 2008 at 6:06 am | #156

    Dear all,

    Allow me a little holiday digression.

    It looks like we are gradually appearing from our cyberhideouts. I hope we come back refreshed by the entertaining events of the holidays – Muslim holiday followed by that of the Jews and now the European Christmas and New Year. We also anticipate the Ethiopian Christmas soon.

    Speaking of the holidays keeps me safe from the things that overburden me; I mean the misery of lack of hope in Ethiopian politics and my growing distrust of the politicians. It’s been said long ago, “maninethen inde’negrih, wodajihin assayegn.” Was it Waldo Emerson who gave us, “what you are shouts so loudly in my ears, I cannot hear what you say.”

    With Kenya following our 2005 pattern and the blame game being outplayed we can now reflect on how politicians play out the 21st century game of staying in power. What Kibaki does to Kenya is not what he himself is able to do. Rather it is what he has allowed to happen and continue to enable that takes Kenyan soul down. More importantly see and listen to the rhetoric of election observers. Does it sound familiar. Yes, it is the 21st century game. Blame it on the politicians and in whatever you do never empower the people unless you know the worst is to come out of them. You know what that means. It is a way of justifying the need for strong government that controls the people. The evidence is self explanatory when you see the level of violence and how the people become self destructive. Focusing on the issue of controlling the people’s anger covers up and districts us away from how it all started or who was the first cause, or what was the real question of it all.

    What has this got do with your point here when we discuss Ethiopian identity. Reflecting on what is happening next door and even further away in the world, gives the 21st century game plan, rule and control the people and show them how important is peace and stability that comes only from good government. It is a complete lie. Peace and stability does not come from government or any other entity hiding behind the institution of the government. Peace and stability of society lies in the heart and mind of the people. Violence is a reflection of their frustration. It is the point at which the people seem to demonstrate their strongest power. However, it is a point in life that the people loose hope and let go their emotions. So it is their weakest point. People are stronger when restrain takes over not when we let emotions control the best in us.

    But when you are a politician you don’t make that distinction. You use it instead. You let the people go violent and then tell the world that you need a power and wisdom that controls and suppresses it. Sounds familiar? No! Let me give you this. A minister in Ethiopia has lost his power for saying that ‘not only did they win war, they can also create it.” Now it makes sense, I hope.

    This is only to say that our discussion of identity in Ethiopia in such a civilized way is a high call of the day. Even though we may be dragged into the holidays this season, our heart and mind continually get caught up with the plight of our people and the evil forces that is at play every single day and each passing moment with no respect for holidays. You see why I don’t trust politicians? I hope you do. Whatever you do, don’t allow the politicians drag us into the 21st century game. We have done a great job of civic lessons here. Let us move on and build a better us by changing no one else but ourselves.

    So happy holidays, once again.

    I hope I did not depress you

    Fiseha

  157. Selu
    January 6, 2008 at 5:48 am | #157

    Hi Jack:

    I hope you will give as some clue about Tony Buzan self improviment book as you you finish reading it if it has some relevance with the the topic under discussion.

    Fiseha and Alethia.

    Do you guys both agree on the issue of identity as a common treat for Ethiopia ?or Is the issue of idenitity is the way to find a majore solution to Ethiopa socio economic problems?or did I missed something fron long streched discussion has been held so far?

  158. Selu
    January 6, 2008 at 6:04 am | #158

    To All,

    I was so impressed and inspired by Fisehas very last sentence “Let us move on and build a better us by changing no one else but ourself ” a quotable quote ,period.that is what my soul and mind believe in ,let us be genuine ,honest responsible and hard working indiviuals,that is the the center of civilization to me ,that is the point where the springboard is situated , and the rest will be just a mile away from us .

    thank you,

  159. Alethia
    January 6, 2008 at 10:28 pm | #159

    Hi All:

    I’m sorry for failing to show up here recently. I got caught up in another venue where I’m engaging some ideas that I’ve found worth engaging and responding to; when I get some time I’ve bee trying to contribute something there. I’m referring to the debate on Addis Voice about the political crisis in Ethiopia.

    With capable contributors here I’ve been looking forward to reading more posts lately but then I don’t see much and my hope is that this discussion will go on when I get back to contribute my share, hopefully, pretty soon.

    Cheers,
    Alethia

  1. January 3, 2008 at 2:18 pm | #1

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