Gezaee Assefa 02-12-20
Almost every nation/society in the world is experiencing some kind of political, economic, ideological, social and cultural conflict. Today, these conflicts accelerate from time to time to when they are not forcefully addressed by a society. The common proposal for resolution is in one direction, a direction of self-empowerment and absolute power by one group over the other. Whatever the reason or rationale behind the differences might be, there is constantly a push to claim victory over the other and vice versa.. Victory by one side is seen as justification for whatever means are used to attain it. In fact, the justification given by the aggressors to defend their actions is usually described in terms of “peace, prosperity, security and stability." Someone has to ask why aggression is acceptable in the name of peace, security and stability while the very premises of its foundation are being violated by the same group to achieve their own objectives and goals. This paper is calling for each peace-loving citizen of Ethiopia to engage in peaceful dialog to overcome the injustices that are imposed by the international as well national actors, states as well as diverse actors within societies.
Nowadays, with the ever-growing world population and the transformation of new and old cultures our world has become less safe. The unequal material and power demand by individuals, societies and countries make the world a more dangerous place to live in. This can be seen the invasion of a sovereign state to access natural resources or it can be seen as the slaughter of an entire village to gain political power within a national border.
To bring justice into existence (by justice I mean economic, equity, self-reliance, mutual understanding, harmony, security, and lasting peace and stability), culture can be used as a unifying force to mobilize and achieve this noble goal. According to the anthropologist Havilland (1993) "people maintain cultures to deal with problems or matters that concern them." This is true because culture enables or teaches everyone in the community and in its. surroundings to be aware of others and the natural environment. It is also true that culture was created to differentiate acceptable from unacceptable values, to provide services to and protect the community from fear of the unknown. I strongly believe that our ancestors created culture for these reasons. Thus, the goal of culture, now as then, is meant to be the same- formulating a predictable and safe world. Ethiopia is the home of many ethnic identities. There are more than 80 ethnic groups and about 60 indigenous spoken languages with up to 200 different dialects spoken in Ethiopia. In my entire life I have witnessed ethnic conflicts constantly. In recent memory ethnic conflict in Ethiopia started back and end in (1769- 1850) was known as” The Zemene Meshafint,” meaning the era of kings. Self-made kings came into existence using their ethnic identity to unify people in their respective regions to gain political power. The kings mobilized people in the name of ethnic identity/religion in their control regions to launch war against other ethnic groups. Throughout our history, this strategy was established as a means to gain power. This in tum created war after war, mistrust, and hatred among the people toward each other. For more than a century, the people of Ethiopia paid a tremendous price in terms of human and capital losses. A single war consumed a considerable amount of money and one can imagine how much resource a country could spend for multiple wars in a century. I have come to believe that not paying attention to our cultural and ethnic differences, and the lack of an effective ethnic dialogue between diverse ethnic groups, have profound consequences. Unless we devote our full energy to exercising active engagement and concern for others and find sustainable solutions to our problems, we will be less effective in bringing peace, prosperity, security and stability.
According to Triands (1995, p.121), "vertical cultures accept hierarchy as a given. People are different from each other. Hierarchy is a natural state. Those at the top "naturally" have more power and privileges than those at the bottom of the hierarchy." This theory reflects the Ethiopian culture. The modem Ethiopian people are a legacy of the feudal system that maintained the idea of hierarchy in the form of monarchy and class structures. Until recently many people believed in this approach. Throughout our history, those who are privileged and represent different ethnic groups imposed their will to prolong their hold on power. They used their ethnic “cards" to divide the people.
In the past few decades, the people of Ethiopia as a whole are communicating and talking to each other and they're saying, "enough is enough." They are sending their message to the "representatives" or “traditional elites" by saying- "enough dividing us along ethnic lines." This is a new phenomenon in the history of Ethiopia. For so long, we pretend to deny or avoid our ethnic conflicts by turning a deaf ear and a blind eye. The missing link was cultural communication along ethnic boundaries, with an open heart. People were defensive, uneasy, suspicious or even shamed or embarrassed to talk around ethnic differences. These taboos are now in the process of fading. A new dialogue is promoting awareness, sensitivity and understanding for dissolving cultural differences.
Referring to the future, according to John Ungerleider in his article "Bicommunal Youth Camps in Cyprus" "it will be people who want to live together, like the kids at these camps (referring to Turkish and Greek Cypriot youths). These young people want the politicians and fanatics out of their way so they can get to work building peace on their island." The people of Ethiopia to a greater extent have experienced a division across ethnic boundaries for more than a century. Thus, they too are now talking the same talk as the children of Cyprus. They want the “incompetent politicians” and “fanatics” out of their way to live peacefully.
It is not that politicians and fanatics are the sole problems in Ethiopia as the lack of effective cultural communication also has a profound effect. To cite anexample here, within the boundary of Ethiopia, people who experienced living in different corners of the country seem to have established good inter-cultural communicational skills. These skills are obtained by sharing personal and cultural information across ethnic boundaries. The more a person exposes his/her self to new environments, to new cultures, the more knowledge and information he/she gets. The dynamic of cultural communication at play simplifies and eases the communication between two cultures. This is the link for better understanding and harmony among cultures. As a result, people will be able to find common ground to share ideas and values, and be able to see things across the cultural spectrum.