The countdown to our life span, and what did we contribute to our nation Ethiopia?

By Gidoen Bahtemariam
Dec. 26 2010

Is Ethiopia an orphan child, abandoned by her intellectuals and educated elites who were supposed to nurture her with expertise, cultural, educational, and political development?

Starting from me, the average age for the first Ethiopian educated elite is well in the late fifties to early sixties. This means, we only have 25-30 years left on this earth? We have lived more than half a century in this world? In the half a century we lived, what major questions have we asked, and answer pertaining our nation? What is our contribution?

I believe we the educated class completely neglected our responsibility, and we have no legacy to speak of. We the educated class of Ethiopia, have not put a dent in the educational, cultural, political, and cultural development of Ethiopia. If we apply a strict test, and measure our accomplishment, we will find out that we are the most infective educated class in the world.

Our contribution to cultural development
Cultural development for the most part should be the work of the intellectual or the educated class of the society. The role of the educated class in development the culture could be in many forms. It could have been done through the use of art, drama, novels, and lectures. As we speak our societies understanding of the world has remained the same as it was three to four hundred years ago. There are many harmful cultural practices that our people continue to practice. Among the most concerning and dangerous are sexism, ethnisim, elitism, illiteracy, witch craft, and fortune telling. The existence of these harmful cultural habits has made our country venerable to disease, poverty, and has made our enemies feel safe in their attempt to deny our natural rights. We the educated elite chose to shift our responsibilities to the government of the day. We forget that the educate elite has an obligation to serve society regardless of who is in the leadership position. Instead we adopted “the philosophy of If”, and run away from our nation to serve foreign lands.

Ethiopian intellectuals, and our “IF” philosophy verses the “Moment” philosophy
During Haile Selassie regime, we protested, and agitated for change. We proclaimed that” if” “Haile sellasie regime disappears we will be able to create a utopian society”. Haile Sellasie regime disappeared, and Mengiust showed up. Then we said “if” the Derge disappears, then we will build a beautiful society. Then finally, EPRDF comes, and as usual we are saying “if EPRDF” disappears we will build a perfect society? Since our philosophy has always been the "if philosophy", we never were able to control the density of our nation. Our strong adherence to the” IF” philosophy does not allow us to question our role, and what we can do at the moment? We never questioned ourselves, that the “IF philosophy” effectively absolved us from our responsibility to our nation. We allowed the” if” philosophy to tie our hands, and shut our mouth, from helping our people to progress culturally.

If we never were the cult followers of the” IF” philosophy, we would have realized that we could have done so many things to change our nation. Those of us, who were skilled in science, would have volunteered our time, and efforts to improve the farming techniques of our people. Those of us, who were scientist, we could have developed a technology that was useful to our nation. And those of us, who were trained as social scientist, would have weeded out the harmful practices such as witch craft, and many others. We would have also preserved the cherished valuable cultural practices. Ladies and gentlemen, this is not what took place in the last half a century. All of us regardless of our expertise chose to be politicians. All of us became experts at politics. And the majority of us, abandoned Ethiopia, and run to foreign land to admire and share their life.

Society became naked, because intellectuals are the cloth and shelter of society. We run for a better life, while the peasant that educated us remained stuck with all the problems associated with illiteracy and poverty.
Our educated class used the education that Ethiopia provided them as a tool to escape from their nation. Where is the nationalism instinct in us? We were the soldiers that Ethiopia needed, but we raised white flag, and abandoned our land. We did not stand firm and brave, to protect, and nurture our society. What makes me even angry is that, some of us speak with pride. When I speak about this I speak with guilt, and shame. We are the weakest link in our society. Think back during the time you fled abroad, which highly educated Ethiopian wanted to stay in his nation? Of course some of you will say the government chased me out of the country? This is only partially truth. A committed and a dedicated soldier never surrender to his enemy. Our intellectuals who were given the mission to educate and enlighten society through higher thinking, stoop low, and fled to enrich themselves. This is part of the most tragic part of Ethiopian history. Nobody has documented this tragedy. How does one expects for a society to survive, and make a quick turn around when the individuals or soldiers given that mission decided to abandon their responsibility? Is there a lack of nationalism in our educated class?

Nationalism is not a coupon that can be given or taken by the government of the day
Our educated class has also whined about the lack of nationalism that exists in the governments of the day. They accuse the governments of the day that they are not teaching the people nationalism? When a government teaches the people nationalism, it’s actually fascism, or self-destructives, like the one we see in Eritrea. A true nationalism is built by the intellectuals of the society. A true nationalism is built through discussions among all members of society. A true nationalism is also built through love, respect, humbleness, and services to our fellow countrymen. For example, the intellectual or educated class visit all the regions of Ethiopia, and give a one day service to the poor, how would the Ethiopian people feel about the act of kindness ? They will feel good and be proud to be part of the greater Ethiopian family. Unfortunately that is not what is taking place in Ethiopia. Instead our intellectual has the guts, and the nerve, and accuses a poor farmer in Ormia, Amhara, Tigray, for not been nationalistic, because they did not understand Ethiopia the way he does? As I have said in my earlier writing, Ethiopia is full of angry people. There are angry Ethiopians in every region. The last thing an Ethiopian intellectual should accuse them is of been less Ethiopian, or been more Ethiopian. As I have demonstrated above we have been useless in the past, and how can we change the future. How can we give back to our country Ethiopia? How about initiating an honest national dialogue among all members of Ethiopian society. This dialogue that I am envisioning is a dialogue that reaches every village, town, region of Ethiopia. The dialogue is not meant to manipulate the people to accept our political believe system. The dialogue is an honest discussion that will address the most pressing issues in our nation? How do we tackle, illiteracy, Aids, mass immigration, PHDS visa to the west love affair, and some harmful cultural practices? The dialogue is also to reach every ethnic tribe in Ethiopia. The dialogue is also a chance for all Ethiopians to embrace each other, with the full awareness of the beautiful different cultures and languages that exist in Ethiopia. In other words, this dialogue will be the beginning of a true and fair relationship between the peasant and the educated class.

In the past the educated class or elite did not only flee his nation after obtaining his PHD, he had the nerve to try to manipulate the peasant from his comfortable sofa, from a high rise building.
Through ought modern history, the educated elite or class, viewed the peasant as tools, or as primitive people that they were not worth respect. In fact, the educated elite or class, made a conscious effort to formulate a new clothing and behavior style. The educated elite or intellectuals, viewed the peasants as backward, and they were only used for political manipulation. The elite only needed the peasant when he felt that they would help is political career. Other than that, no elite or educated class invested his time to study and document the history of Ethiopian peasants. In fact, if you search for books, most of the books that were written about the peasants were written by European travelers. The elite never documented the rich history of all the beautiful culture and languages. He never advocated for the preservation of the rich and beautiful culture of Ethiopia. I can safely conclude that the elite for some reason hated the Ethiopian peasant. Even though the educated elite will argue that it was the successive Ethiopian governments that oppressed the elite, the educated class and the intellectuals were also guilty of that crime.

Our political views might be fragmented, but the love for our country is higher than all.
In today’s Ethiopia there are a lot of political views, and I think it is a good thing. Even though our political view might be different, the love for our nation must bring us together. The love for our nation must make us determined to bridge the gap and work together. The love of our nation, and the acknowledgement, that we all went through so many pain, might make us think twice about who did what to whom? Ladies and gentlemen, we must not sleep one night, with a hateful thinking for our fellow countrymen. At the end of the day, we all carry the name Ethiopia in our heart. Let me share a story with you, I am sure many of you have gone through this same experience. I have been working for an engineering company for twenty seven years. In those twenty years, I came across many Americans who know a little about Ethiopia. We start some discussions, and then I get excited because I want to tell them about the achievement of my ancestors. Unfortunately, before I start my lecture on the history of Ethiopia, they cut me off by saying, “is there still famine in Ethiopia?” “So tell us about “the famine of 1980’s. At that point, I almost start to tear, but I had to hold it back. I wonder how many of you went through that pain. I am not so much worried about who said what about our country; I just want us to work hard to make sure that ugly history does not repeat itself. We cannot just glorify the past, and forget the recent history. We need to evaluate the historical events of the last couple centuries, and ask ourselves what really happened. Our historians tend to write a lot about our glorious history. I am glad that they are doing that, but they must spend a lot of time writing about the couple centuries, that are full of nightmares. When society, goes through a complete self introspective, then it will be ready to embrace itself, and move forward for a better future. The intellectual should be responsible in trying to provoke a society’s attitude, and cultural progress. As society continues to dialogue, a great understand, and respect is created among all members of society. Hopeful, this will be the new conscious of Ethiopia. If this conscious is created, our society will be sheltered, and the enemies of Ethiopia will not penetrate it to create confusion and hate. The new conscious, which will create silent nationalism, will be the shelter and guardian of our society.

What is Silent Nationalism?
All of us Ethiopians, strong people consisting of 80 million people, need to start practicing silent nationalism. One who practices silent nationalism has no one to manipulate his mind, and his feeling toward his nation. Silent nationalism requires us to have love, compassion, obedience to our beloved nation Ethiopia. Silent nationalism does not require you to support or oppose the government of the day. Silent nationalism requires every member of the 80 million families to do something small to his country. And as I mentioned before, you do not need to tell your neighbor or, your friend what you did. Silent nationalism it the right form of nationalism that we need.

Take one day of the year for the nutriment and celebration of silent nationalism
Society, intellectuals, businessmen, government, opposition leaders, citizens, all of you are members of the eight million strong families. As members of family, there is one family chorus we have to perform, and this family chorus, is to take 15 moments, and say what gift have I gave my country Ethiopia? This is also a time when everyone sets his views, and difference aside and only thinks of one small thing he can or she can do to help Ethiopia? To help Ethiopia, and Ethiopians of all walks of life and start to think of silent nationalism for the common good of society. When you walk down the street, where ever you are, weather it is, South Carolina, a small town in Gondar, or Addis, and look at your fellow Ethiopian, and say hello. Do not fear your fellow Ethiopian.

Silent Nationalism requires discipline, and perhaps higher thinking.
Our enemies, biggest gun against us are not the F-16 they have, or how many Tanks they own, or how large their economy is? Our biggest enemy is our ignorance. The enemy uses our ignorance against us. The enemy cleverly, systematically, cultivates, and breeds our ignorance, in the midst of our communities. It’s very evident that the enemy has succeeded to some extent because; in the Diaspora a tremendous confusion among Ethiopians is taking place. As you walk down the street you come across another Ethiopian, he or she immediately wonders what political movement you belong too? Or, he or she may cleverly try to extract your political believes, and the main reason, to hate you for it. This has become the accepted behavior of Ethiopians living in the Diaspora. I ask everyone to please stop this practice. Have the discipline to be decent, and you do not have to bring politics to everything in this world. Second, political believe is a private matter. One should have the right to be a supporter of the government, and opponent of the government, and a neutral. I believe that our silent nationalism should be the one that bring all of us together. Yes we may hate each other’s political views, but when it becomes the economical, cultural, development of our nation, we must agree to work together.

Finally, in 80 million people, can we get ten learned men and women who will think above society? We need intellectual giants who will not be involved in politics. We need these intellectual giants only to shape, and nurture a healthy culture. These giants job will be to guard, our culture, and nurture, our society with good values, while the politicians fight it out. Unfortunately, now days scientist, professors, doctors, political scientist, and philosophers, are also in the dirty game of politics. I feel that it is ok for these learned men to be part of the political development, but we also need neutral thinkers, that will be the guardians of our culture. We need these learned men to teach us the values of silent nationalism. Stop war at the modern trenches immediately.

War from modern trenches or forts
The trenches or forts of the intellectuals are the Ethiopian websites. All of us know them as Aigaforum, Ethiomedia, Ethiopianreview, Tigraonline, and These websites have become the trenches of the Ethiopian intellectual. He sits on his computer, and shoots out his ideas and frustrations to the other intellectuals that are based on the other trenches. At the end of the day, I am sure he is realistic that he has not affected Ethiopia in anyway. From this day on, I challenge the intellectuals of these trenches, to be real and contribute to society in a more meaningful way. Help Ethiopia develop silent nationalism. A true nationalism the one that is printed in our heart, not the one printed in our shirt.

Concluding Remark
As a member of the educated Ethiopian class, I would like to ask my mother Ethiopia for forgiveness. I have been educated by your resources, and my weakness and selfishness has been the main guide of my life. As my life span nears, and as it is inevitable, that my grave will be in the land of my ancestors, I would like to ask for forgiveness for not doing my part to alleviate your suffering. I apologize for always giving myself an excuse to not help my fellow Ethiopians in their time of need. At the moment, I am thinking twenty years from now; I will be on my bed nearing death. I will ask myself, what have I done to help my nation Ethiopia? As my life nears its end, I realize now that the call to serve your nation is not a call from above; it is a call from within. All of us can contribute something meaningful to our nation. We all have the right to oppose or support the movement of the day, but we all should be held accountable for not contributing to the betterment of our fellow countrymen. We should not be one dimensional intellectual, where the focus is always politics. We need to start to multi-task. As we oppose or support the government of the day, we must also look into ways we can improve society. In this type of societal structure, Ethiopia as a nation wins. This means regardless of political view, Ethiopia is been built by eighty million Ethiopians? This means all of us regardless of our political believe, belong to a powerful national that consist of eighty million people?

Furthermore, I would like to emphasize that the duty of a citizen to his nation is personal. One does not have to tell how much he or she did for his nation. I end this article, by asking each and everyone, what are you doing for your nation at this moment? What are you doing to alleviate the suffering of your fellow men and women? What are you doing to end the suffering of the little children in Oromia who lack hope because their parents have no means to help them? What are you doing for the little children in Tigray, Amhara, Gurage, and others who are in the same situation as the little children in Ormia? What are you doing at the moment to let an Ethiopian girl know that her fortune is not the Middle East where she is abused, and humiliated for trying to make a living? What are doing to help a poor girl from becoming yet another victim of the deadly aids virus? In order to answer this questions do you have to see eye to eye with the government of the day?

Brothers and sisters in all over the world, we need to wake up and answer the call to serve our people. “We must abandon the philosophy of “IF”, and adopt the philosophy of the moment”. WE must abandon the philosophy if I am not ruling the country let it burn to hell. We must stop that and start practicing silent nationalism. We must work hard to build a strong Ethiopian society. Remember our enemy’s biggest weapon is our ignorance. If we deny our enemy this weapon, the battle for victory is half way done.