Monday, October 7, 2013

NEVIS Review No 25, Section II, Ref# 25.2

NEVIS Review No 25
Section II
Ref# 25.2 ( Danny Arku’s section)
October 7, 2013

Miscellaneous Aphorisms on some observations on Ethiopian society, and with special emphasis on the younger generation
By Danny Arku

(1) The danger of flattery

"Away, away with thee! thou evil flatterer!" cried Zarathustra mischievously, "why dost thou spoil me with such praise and flattery-honey? "Away, away from me!" cried he once more, and heaved his stick at the fond beggar, who, however, ran nimbly away” ~Fredrick Nietzsche, “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”

I have seen people with good potential to lapse into a futile, vainglorious "Now, I am at the top of world" feeling after some "good" work they produced. By this, I don’t mean that they should not get recognition. Of course, they should get recognition! And I thank them for their work! My point is, however, the recognition that they get is too high/too uncritical that it throws them into "inflated self-esteem" which then precludes or discourages them from revising their standard further/higher, and which makes them fail to learn from their mistakes in past works so as to come up with better and more perfect work. Hence, we also need critiques that show that there is a even a higher standard to which they should strive, who point out their good and weak points. Anthistenes and Nietzsche come to mind in this regard, with the former saying: ' It is better to fall in with crows than with flatterers; for with crows, you are devoured when you are dead, in the other case with flatters while alive”
(2) Hero-worship?

It is always good to appreciate when and where one deserves it, but what I see these days is too much hero-worship in our generation .As educated persons, we are supposed to be skeptical and critical of every one and everything. If one is hero-worshiper, the logical result is this : the worshiper cannot be critical of his master, but will blindly follow, be easily gullible and be subject to be easily proselytized to his hero's point of view, however flawed it may be. Moreover, By hero-worship and personality cult, we also groom future dictators.( July 12, 2013)
(3) Awko Yetegna….

There is too much truth in the Amharic proverb: “Awko Yetegna bekesekisut aysemam”
(How highly applicable it is esp to Ethiopian political and economic discourse and its belligerent debaters who are ready to fight and defend their own view with out even for once stepping back and reconsidering that what they say may be possibly wrong). ( May 20, 2013)
(4) Primacy of friendship?

Most of the time, and by most people, reality/objective fact is subordinated to friendship. The primacy of friendship ( or affiliation) is the rule in most societies. Although it happens to some degree in every culture, I am very much convinced that it is very conspicuous and more pervasive in Ethiopian national culture, as collectivism seems to permeate the whole social fabric- group-think reigns supreme- to the extent of which the independence of judgment declines.
(5) Truth or friendship?

It is better to speak the truth-or what you think is the 'truth'-and/ or even correct your friends if you think they have it wrong, logically or factually. If the friend is offended, then his friendship was not worth having it in the first place! As the great philosopher of antiquity, Aristotle, long ago reminded us, both friendship and truth are of course valuable. When the philosopher boldly set out to criticize his teacher, Plato, he remarked, “For though we love both the truth and our friends, piety requires us to honor the truth first.”Hence, it will be dishonest to give more value to friendship than the 'truth' -or what you think is the truth.
Moreover, it won't be helping some one, at least in the long run, by feeding his vanity and boosting and inflating his ego by telling him that he's done perfect work when in fact you see defects.
So I say : Dare to honestly but respectfully criticize the IDEA (not the person of course), even at the risk of losing a friend.
(6) HDI movement of Ethiopia-

The upward movement in the Human Development Index (HDI gains) of Ethiopia should be lauded and given credit; but the ranking is still much below-at the bottom of the world- or lagging behind even when relatively compared with most African countries. The index, in absolute magnitude, is still too low. Complacence can't be the way to go forward , but honest appraisal which acknowledges and delights in the upward movement but also not denying that the index is too low, and that the ranking very dismal. Denying the HDI gain is not solution (as some opposition do); and exaggerating the gain is not a good solution (by the government). (Relevant Data: Ethiopia's HDI= 0.396 : Ethiopia's Ranking= 173 of 186 : Sub Saharan Average= 0.475)
(7) There is no change with out temporary inconvenience

I have always said that we Ethiopians have the habit of complaining too much about temporary short-term inconvenience, quick to blame, but have no habit of appreciating good endeavors when they are due.
I see people complaining bitterly about temporary inconvenience like road being blocked/re-routed because of the ongoing light rail construction. There has never been an investment without cost of whatever type for whatever time- how could one want a good infrastructure, roads/trains and yet complain about the digging up and re-routing for some time. There is price to everything we do. It becomes unavoidable that some roads need to be blocked to result in alternative route which may unfortunately be a longer one and may take longer driving time. Still, the extra mileage and additional driving time and/or incremental cost is not a bigger price to pay as compared to future long-run economic and social benefits of a better infrastructure.
( A comment inspired by a friend, January, 2013)
(8) Timket

"Timket is one of my favorite holidays, together with Meskel, both because of their colorful celebration. I am not to talk here about how colorful it is since every Ethiopian knows it. It is even getting more beautiful every year. Typical example of the intermarriage of culture and religion! What I am more surprised by is the cooperation and discipline of the youngsters (mostly from 15 to early twenties) during the eve and the Timket day. They were helping the people lay the mat, flagging the streets, beautifying the city. Some of them with little-to-nothing to eat and with poor clothes, but their faces radiating joy, enthusiasm, pride. Most of all, they are, as always respectful, no violence, no youth mischief! (it become more remarkable especially when one compare them with youngsters of the same age in large cities of the so-called the developed countries like in the US).Moreover, it seems that Ethiopians “national culture” (in the sociologist’s sense of the word) is in such a way that people seem to be even well-disciplined without or with little presence of police surveillance. I like this "collectivist" kind of cultural phenomenon with its foundation and its moral equivalent called the "natural morality" or Hegelian Sittlichkeit (as a result of customs, habits passed down from generation to generation) as opposed to what Hegel calls moralitat-subjective morality, (typical of Western "individualist" societies) . These are tremendous “social capitals” we have to be proud of, guard and nurture so that it won’t gradually corrode" ( JAN 2012)
(9) Why the Ethiopian brightest obsessed with politics?

It is sad to see the best Ethiopian minds in facebook and other social media engulfed in only political affairs, pushing aside historical, economic, cultural and global and universal issues. Why are the best Ethiopian minds have all their energy directed to and are obsessed largely, sometimes solely, by current political analysis/affairs?
Politics, important as it is, is only one aspect of a society's life. There are other issues that also matter! We need to have a multiple engagement which include politics of course, but also that includes social issues, culture, literature,books, music.... ( July 2012)
(10) Brief passing t remarks on two books
Hiwot Teferra's "Tower in the sky"- I was enthralled by her superb story telling, excellent command of English language ( as if it is her mother-tongue), and enthused by her ability to put even the details into her motion-picture like story. Infact, I have reservations when she ended her story with renunciation of every collective effort but solely focus on ‘personal development’, and aversion to anything politics/Marxist, however understandable that may have been following what she and her generation went through. I overall think that she has written a good book, as I see it. But what struck me more than anything else is this- how was it possible that some cadre -some ignorant dilettante, an "Abiyot tebaki"-can go and just shoot a human being- just as simple as that- shoot just because he was found reading or possessing over EPRP's newspaper...How cheap was human life during the Dergue?! Bizarre period of Ethiopian history.


Prof Mesfin's "Mekshef ende Ethiopia Tarik” seemed to be an amalgam of very lucidly written philosophies of history, Ethiopian history, a very remorseless (and honest) social criticism ( and sometime seething with anger condemning some social values which he thinks are holding us back as society; and also his frustration on the "Hige Arawit" (Hobessian "State of Nature"?)- his recurrent theme.
It also tries to show some ways forward so that Ethiopian history won't "mekshef" again. Of course, don't agree with some of his distorted assertions and embedded faulty assumption and of course some of his outdated shibboleths-For example, I believe that it is not a big deal to talk about changes of the names of institutions through time, which they may rightly do as the function and scope of the institution changes through time or, if someone, for example, Tigist is called TT or TG-,although it can be taken as manifestation of neo-colonization, it is only a symptom of another problem However, overall, I strongly suggest it as a good read.
Ed's note
Danny Arku is Editor-In-Chief of NEVIS Review and welcomes comments and suggestions on his writings.The above short interesting notes above are written in different times as facebook updates, and Danny decided to collect and share it with NEVISers.Finally, as usual, NEVIS ET’s disclaimer: we would like to remind NEVISers that all the opinions which are expressed in all the series of articles in NEVIS Review are the authors' personal opinion and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of NEVIS, the society or the NEVIS editorial team, ET