A Call for Decency

Aug 31 , 2019
By Eden Sahle ( Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law with a focus on international economic law. She can be reached at edensah2000@gmail.com. )

I sometimes struggle with how to respond to people who believe it is their right to mistreat and disrespect others. While walking on the street or sitting in a hotel lobby or restaurant alone, oftentimes, I get beleaguered by complete strangers. It seems there is an epidemic of disrespect going around, especially in the capital.

Most of us have been verbally abused and mistreated by people we do not even know and will never see again. Recently, I was leaving my dentist’s office when a stranger pulled me by my hair. As I was not expecting his inappropriate action, I accidentally dropped my phone on the floor and smashed the screen. Suddenly, the man turned apologetic, asking me to allow him to fix my phone. At the moment, all I could say was to ask him what he wants and why he had to pull my hair. He replied that he did not know he was pulling natural hair, since women these days often wear long human hair. I was very confused by his reply and got away from him as quickly as I could.

Unfortunately, he is not the only one. Over the years, several men and some women on the streets told me to work and do something better in my life instead of putting so much human hair on my head. What is strange is why I go through such an endless verbal abuse for styling my natural hair. It’s unfortunate how abusive people can be to those they do not even know. Whenever I encounter such persons, I feel sorry for people who live with them as I can imagine how painful it must be.

I have nothing against women wearing human hair; neither should anyone. We should know people have the right to choose anything they want. In the era of human hair, its sad people forget some have their own natural hair too, to style in any way they please. To put an end to this verbal abuse, I started to pull my hair up and tie it. Not surprisingly, the abuse regarding my hair stopped. In Ethiopia, I do not remember a time when passers by or people in general, allowed others to be whatever they want. This is one of the great things I enjoy whenever I travel abroad. I love how people mind their own business and allow others to be themselves.

In Ethiopia, most people want everyone to fit into their worldview. When they focus on human hair, they forget there is long natural hair. When they believe in one political view, they forget there is the other side which disagrees. When they follow a certain religion, they forget others have a different approach. I believe this is an epidemic of disaster flourishing at every corner now.

When we see the bigger picture, it has to do with the lack of ethics, integrity and not having many role models. It’s common to see parents bad mouth each other, politicians disgrace themselves by belittling opposing views and society tolerating unethical characters.

Whether we like it or not, everything starts at home and the schools we attend. These define our moral values and life principles early on. In the school I went to, Lideta Catholic Cathedral School, we had rules and regulations we had to abide by. On top of the list was having ethics and high regard for all people. Aside from my family, my school shaped me into respecting and being compassionate to others. I recently heard that higher institutions in Ethiopia are going to start giving courses in ethics. Although this is a highly commendable act, it should begin early in childhood, not when people have already shaped their personalities.

It’s great that the country realises a lack of ethics and integrity has a severe adverse impact on society. People in Ethiopia seem to have erased their ancient good values of ethics and respect, which used to be the cultural norm.

Societal harmonious existence involves trust, respect for others and cooperation, not to badmouthing and disrespect. In the postmodern world, ethics is perceived as something relative, but I would argue it is absolute. Ethics comprises the principles, values and standards to guide our behaviour as humans.

In an ever-changing Ethiopia, where ethnicity and politics fiercely collide, integrity and ethics are being eroded. People carry out unethical activities without any guilt. For what it is worth, being unethical is more complicated than otherwise, because our morals are already given to us naturally. We just need to activate it and use it effectively to make it a habit. The pattern of unethical behaviours can only hurt us even more while providing little benefit. While the law is there to govern public conduct, ethics is there as a self-governing system to create a balance between self-interest and the good of society.

Good things are contagious as much as bad things are. The more we practice decent behaviour, the more it becomes our societal norm. Integrity and respect are the most essential values in any society, for the simple reason that without that, society does not function properly.

PUBLISHED ON Aug 31,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 1009]

Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law with a focus on international economic law. She can be reached at edensah2000@gmail.com.

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