Ethiopia is in a rigidity-induced suicidal mood
Yohannes Aberra, PhD
The last few weeks in Ethiopia have seen perplexing developments in the political sphere where the Country is speeding towards its own doom as if it is in a bus that got its brakes malfunctioning or its gear shifter stuck. What is happening to the Country is also perfectly analogous to a man angered by something, that could be easily resolved with patience and consultation, climbs to the roof of a 40-story building and tries to jump down to the street below grinding his bones into pebbles. A huge crowd in the street below is warning and begging the man not to do it; telling him to seek other solutions rather than ending his life. As we often see in the movies a hero would climb up to where the man is standing precariously and try to talk him into changing his mind.
Rigidity (mental rigidity), according to Aquilar and Galluccio 2007, refers to an obstinate inability to yield or a refusal to appreciate another person's viewpoint or emotions characterized by a lack of empathy (understanding and entering into another's feeling). James Coplan 2016 made a list of things that could occur if a person with cognitive rigidity does not fulfill their rigidly held expectations: agitation, aggression, self-injurious behavior, depression, anxiety, and suicidality. The last in the list is what has characterized Ethiopia in the last few weeks.
One should ask: Are the list of problems in Ethiopia so impossible to solve peacefully that the only solution is the self destruction of Ethiopia, a Nation which endured too much over the centuries but remained intact? Should this generation of leaders of Ethiopia be so selfish that their destructive ego drives the Country to a point of no return? Sadly, it is not us who are worried about Ethiopia, it is others from outside Ethiopia who are warning us that we have become too busy destroying a Country the world loves and admires much more than we ourselves do! It is hard to understand why leaders in Ethiopia fail to realize that any next war in Ethiopia means the end of Ethiopia. The threshold of resilience of the individual, the society and the economy is already reached. Any next war in Ethiopia, however easy and brief it may seem to carefree and myopic politicians, will be the last straw on the backbone of the Nation. History may remember these words of warning after we are long gone; but it is world history not Ethiopian history that will have the chance to record the self-destructive mood Ethiopia is in induced by its shellfish current generation of leaders and politicians.
The only reason why Ethiopia is sliding into self-destruction is Tigray elected its leadership because it felt that the decision by the Federal bodies to postpone the election was not based on a sufficiently legitimate reason. Isn't this just a matter of opinion? Isn't it silly and irresponsible at the same time if this leads to exchange of bullets rather than to legal and political debates, and give and take compromises? In fact, later developments proved that Tigray was right in holding elections. The Federal government was only looking for legal excuses to punish TPLF and by extension Tigray, and it was lucky to get one. This legal excuse did not last long enough because the decision to postpone elections (which incriminated Tigray for holding elections) was annulled a week after "the illegal" election in Tigray was done. Now the legal squabble about election in Tigray is only a case in history! The Federal government is accusing Tigray for holding elections violating the decision to postpone which is already annulled and no more binding. Let us take a related example, not exactly the same though. A law is passed prohibiting the killing of elephants. A tourist is accused of killing an elephant. In a surprisingly quick reversal, before the court case of the elephant poaching tourist is over, authorities pass another act and allow killing of elephants. What happens to the elephant killer? Should a sentence be passed on it while elephant killers are rejoicing their freedom to kill elephants? Tigray cannot be accused of doing some "offence" in the past by a law which ceased to exist. How is Tigray expected to undo its election in which millions participated willingly and millions of public moneys was spent on it? When people have elected already how realistic and practical is it to ask them or try to coerce them to elect again? Isn't it too much rigidity, at all damaging costs, to stick to something impractical and make it a guide for action with disastrous outcomes? Albert Einstein said, "If I am given one hour to solve a problem, I will use 55 minutes for thinking about the problem and the rest 5 minutes for thinking about the solution". In Ethiopia, politicians take less than 5 minutes to think about the problem and they take the rest 55 minutes or more for thinking about the solution. Why does it take them so much? Because they rush into action before they fully understand the problem. They don't understand the problem, and therefore, they only think of solutions based on their feelings, emotions, biases, historical enmities, hasty generalizations, obsession with power, which have little to do with the right solutions the problem demands. It takes them 55 minutes because they will be lost in the wilderness of the problem. They did not study the nature of the wilderness adequately, hence they will have no way out of the wilderness after they rush into it.
If the wellbeing of Ethiopia is the center of our lives, our thinking, our aspirations, then it is easy to solve the current problem. If leaders in Ethiopia genuinely consider themselves below Ethiopia, not the lies and hypocrisies that are often told in public, then they have to leave the problem solving to those who can do it best and do it genuinely and honestly. It is customary in the developed world for officials at all levels to resign if they fail to get tough when the going gets tough. Leadership in Ethiopia should be felt as a burden not as convenience for self indulgence. That is what acceptable change means. Ethiopia was catering for the independence of Africans from colonialism, it has been sending peace makers and peacekeepers to several African countries. It has now become suicidal unable to solve its own problems peacefully. The only solution to differences in Chivalry-dominated Medieval Europe was sword fight to death. In the American Wild-west cowboys abhorred discussing. They thought that was cowardice. They happily face one another in the downtown street, a shouting crowd watching, and kill one another. They are individuals; they are forgotten soon after that and life goes on. BUT having trigger happy cowboys as leaders of Ethiopia? That will be the end of Ethiopia!!