May 2, 2017
Any human society does not exist without problems. We lead our lives by giving proper solutions to the problems that we encounter along our paths. Prevalence of problems and conflicts is the modus operandi of any society. The issue that should be raised is not whether or not we encounter problems. The question there is whether we are controlling our problems or the problems are controlling us. Are we encountering them proactively or trying to solve them reactively in fire-fighting mode? In this article I have tried to present a viewpoint on contemporary problems of our society in Ethiopia, namely Weakening of Mass Base, Inflated Middle Class, Corruption and Chauvinism.
Weakening of Mass Base
The base class maintains the society by producing the basic necessities of society and the elite classes solve critical problems of society and ensure progress of the life of the whole society. Such, I think is the covenant that exists between the different classes of society. When the covenant is respected then the society becomes stable and progresses forward. Otherwise, chaos, disturbances and instability creep in. It is preferable to have a stable society with lower rate of economic growth than a society with high rate of economic growth but operating at the verge of instability. Thus to make a stable society, the base class should be humbled through education, propaganda and legal measures. In the case of Ethiopia, the current base class is the farmers’ class. If the farmers become cunning and calculative to get high profits, then many relations get turned upside down. But this should not mean that all members of the base class are sealed only to that group. There should be ways and means where the bright and brilliant of the base class get promoted to the upper classes as there can also be low performers from the upper class that may go down to the lower classes.
Inflated Middle Class
The middle class (a.k.a. petit bourgeois) is the most destabilizing force of society. It is a class with voracious appetite for consuming all industrial and agricultural produces. In the Ethiopian context the class has passed through the turbulent revolutionary period of 1974 and through the introduction of materialistic ideology then, it has lost its moral constraints. It has become a Godless class which worships only its belly. It looks more like a consuming machine than a human being. When it is not fully engaged in the workplace as was the case during the Dergue era, it becomes a factory for fabricating all kinds of devilish ideas as the adage tells “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop”. It uses all the tricks in the book and continues to fabricate new ones.
Inflating the middle class should not be seen as a sign of societal progress. The middle class is the one which should be controlled very closely.
The measures that can be taken to minimize the middle class may include overhauling the education system, minimizing agencies and enterprises to those that are only essential to society but closing out those that are desirable but not critical to the functioning of the social and economic activities of the society, etc. Job creation should not be seen as a reason for establishing new organizations. It is more of a problem than a solution if you can’t engage the key workforce of the organization even to 30% of the working hours of the week. Many organizations in the previous regime were established to fulfill the ego and power needs of their proponents.
Nowadays, corruption expresses itself in different forms. It is accepted by many to be societal ailment that could, unless controlled, lead to its degeneration. As everybody accepts, corruption is rampant in today’s Ethiopia. Unless it is checked effectively it may become one of the major causes for social disaffection and instability.
The problem with corruption is that once it has established ground in the socio-economic system, then it becomes very difficult to uproot it easily. Society is like a flowing river. You can’t just ask everything to freeze where it is and do the purging. But there are measures that can be taken to fight corruption along the process: a) political commitment is needed from the leadership b) strengthen the ethics and civic education in the elementary and high schools c) implementing the wealth registration program for civil servants (and taking measures on illegitimately acquired wealth) d) overhauling the bureaus and offices so that capable people are in place in decisive positions, etc.
Many people say that chauvinism is dead and buried in today’s Ethiopia and is no longer a threat to the political process of the country. But as to my observation it is not fully dead but only changed its face and expression. Chauvinism is an ideology which was in power in Ethiopia under different masks in different regimes. Currently the ideology resides in individuals of various educational, economic and social statuses. They recognize each other and their binding ideology is Chauvinism.
The main characteristic of the Ethiopian Chauvinism is that the people that hold the ideology claim sole proprietorship of the country. They consider that the other nations and nationalities are only temporary phenomena that will pass away sooner than later. That is why the other nations and nationalities have fought bitterly to liberate themselves from its grip.
There are three types of chauvinists in Ethiopia: Elite Chauvinists, Innocent Chauvinists and Ghost Chauvinists.
These are the ones who exactly know what their philosophy means and have fully embraced it with all its implications. They are the ones who were directly or indirectly in power in the previous chauvinistic regimes. They were total in ideology and merciless in action. They were the people who ridiculed and called names to the other nations and nationalities. They were the people who said that “they need only the land of Eritrea not its people”. They were the ones who bragged to make the other people “fertilizers” of their political process. They knew the pain and agony they were inflicting in the other nations and nationalities and did it on knowledge. These are the ones defeated in the battlefield and fled to foreign countries…..These were preachers of unity verbally but practitioners of divisiveness in reality.
We can call this class benevolent because in most cases they are ethical, humane and gentlemen in behavior. But they were beneficiaries of the Chauvinistic governments by virtue of being member of the same nationality. They do not actually understand the problems inflicted upon the other nationalities. They ask ‘why all this fuss regarding nationalities?’. It is like somebody has some kind of pain, say migraine, but if you never had experienced it before, you do not understand how painful. I have many friends from this class of chauvinists (actually it is better to call them Citizens rather than chauvinists. They enjoy the status of citizenship (1st grade) in the country but do not as such practice chauvinism. These are the ones who are building the nation in cooperation with the other nationalities of the country.
These are the most nuisance type of chauvinists. They are from the oppressed nationalities but they act like extensions and wings of the elite chauvinists. Sometimes to demonstrate their absolute loyalty to the elite chauvinists, they act in a harsher way than their masters thus trying to become ‘more catholic than the pope’.
They were beneficiaries during the heyday of the chauvinists which in most cases got it as reward to their act of betrayal and selling out of their brothers from their own nationalities. However they are cunning enough to have opportunistic behavior too. They gauge and evaluate the balance of power between the chauvinists and the nationalists and shift their stand in accordance with the dictates of the wind.
Whereas I know the elite chauvinists from distance through media outlets, through their decrees and orders, etc. on the other hand, I have close personal encounter with the Ghost Chauvinists. It is through the word and actions of the Ghost Chauvinists that I understand the existence of a network of the Chauvinism-proper itself.