In Les Misérables, Victor Hugo, French poet/novelist, said armies cannot stop an idea whose time has come. This is because “one resists the invasion of armies; [but] one does not resist the invasion of ideas”. Hugo was trying to explain how great ideas (liberty, equality, and fraternity), conceived during the French Revolution, became universal values. These enlightenment ideas continue to live to this day.
One could make at least four inferences from Victor Hugo’s phrase that no army could stop an idea whose time has come. First, people cannot resist good ideas. Good ideas add value like the goods and services we buy at the market place. Second, people can resist great armies. This is because war is unpredictable. Clausewitz tells us nobody knows who will emerge from the fog of war. Sometimes armies with greater resources (e.g. Lincoln’s army’s victory over Confederates) prevail. Sometime armies with scant resources win (e.g. Alexander the Great’s victory over Persians). Third, it is not easy to produce good ideas. Otherwise, most regimes would not be oppressing their people. Fourth, regimes afflicted with an idea deficit use force to stay in power. As Machiavelli might say “if they won’t love you, they better fear you!”.
Democratic ideals ancient Greeks conceived, the laws ancient Romans enacted, the consensus ancient Britons forged (Magna Carta),the idea of sovereignty Medieval Europeans spearheaded(Westphalia), and the constitution that American founding fathers drafted continue to live to this day. But the great militaries of Pericles (navy), Julius Caesar (infantry), Ghengis Khan (cavalry), Napoleon (artillery), and the notorious Red Army (nuclear) are long gone. Great ideas never die.
The Weyane Revolution (1991) introduced self-determination to the Ethiopian polity. Today, Weyane is situated in Tigrai. Yet, the people of Oromia, Sidama, Welayta, Gedeo, Agew, Kimant,Welene, Kucha, Gedeo, and many more fight for self-rule. Note than none of them command a large army. The WeyaneMesmer has spread across nations, nationalities, and people of Ethiopia. Derg 2.0 (2018-Present) attempted to replace the WeyaneMesmer with a pipe dream dubbed Medemer. But who is talking about Medemertoday? Even Derg 2.0 has abandoned it. Isn’t the demand for self-determination louder in Ethiopia today? Note that none of them expect Weyane to deliver them. If this is not a self-propelled quest towards self-rule, then what is?
Out of frustration, Derg 2.0 has resorted to use (or, at least threaten to use) force to hold its nominal grip on power. This appetite to cling on power springs from a serious misconception about power. Russell, Morgenthau, Nye and others say power is the ability to influence others to behave in a manner one deems preferable. Power is not matter (physical); it is mind (psychological). The army chief of staff submits to the civilian commander in chief. He wields a gun (hard power), buthis boss does not. Yet, his mind tells him to obey the commander in chief for all sorts of reasons. Power is not imposed by force; it is assumed by will. The difference between real and superficial power is like the difference between love and rape. The former is consensual; the latter is not. That is why ideas matter. A great idea attracts people (it is powerful). A great army repeals people (it is powerless). Those who cannot influence seek to oppress.
Derg 2.0 is making unceremonious descent from soft to hard power. Even international human rights bodies have noticed its decline. They are reporting Derg 2.0 is saying “goodbye!” to Nobel Peace Prize and flirting with the International Criminal Court by committing egregious human rights violations. It seems Derg 2.0 has given up on soft power. It is afflicted with the idea-deficit.
What does this idea-deficit look like in Ethiopia? The idea deficit of Derg 2.0 is vivid in the political, economic, and social dimensions. Derg 2.0 does not subscribe to democracy- i.e., a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. That is why it evades elections (government of the people), self-administration (government by the people/federalism), and national interest (government for the people). Derg 2.0 does not focus on economic development. It has flunked the UNDP development indicators across the board. There is neither economic growth nor improvement in social indicators (schools, hospitals, etc). Derg 2.0 denies the cultural mosaic in Ethiopia. It strives to impose assimilationism under the pretext of national unity. It seems Derg 2.0 believes governments are there to “be” (stay in power), not “do” (improve well-being).
How does Derg 2.0 conduct government business? It seems Derg 2.0 employs a Machiavellian management style. According to Rue et. al. (2012), Machiavellian managers believe:
rulers should not be concerned with being virtuous but rather should use whatever means, no matter how wicked, to achieve desired results of making people obey. It is in this light that Machiavellian has come to mean an unscrupulous, crafty, and cunning management style (p.24)
Derg 2.0 is rife up with “unscrupulous, crafty, and cunning management”. This crew is willing do to whatever it takes, “no matter how wicked”, to get what it wants. A Machiavellian leader will call people “engines of Ethiopia” today and call their leaders “hyenas” the next day. A Machiavellian leader will call people “elephants” today and build monuments of their past persecutors tomorrow. Machiavellian leaders cheer for “Oromara” only to brag about how they broke“neftegnas” after a while. A Machiavellian leader pledges to the Egyptians he will never harm them and then alarm Ethiopians of an imminent Egyptian invasion. Machiavellian leaders host Shabia generals while soliciting support from former Weyane top brass. They attack activists at dusk and deny involvement at dawn. They conspire mayhem against rivals behind the curtain and attend their funerals the next day. They shamelessly preach Machiavellianism is evil (read how Irkab’ina Menbercompared Tewodros II with ISIS) before taking power and practice Machiavellianism after taking power.Machiavellian leaders are devoid of conscience. Hence, they incapable of forging sustainable alliance.
In conclusion, one wonders why Medemerhas faded in Ethiopia. One also wonders why the demand self-determination (Weyane’s Mesmer) is the dominant voice among the masses across Ethiopia. The masses in Oromia, SNNPR, and other regions do not have great armies that can stand up to Derg 2.0. Yet, they continue to resist Derg 2.0. Why? Hugo answered this by saying no army can withstand an idea whose time has come. Eventually, Derg 2.0 will understand that force is futile and resort to Machiavellian tactic. But deception can only last for so long. As Lincoln put it: “you can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time”.
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