December 26 , 2020
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 email@example.com. )
Politicians and members of society are angrier than ever. They are mad, because they trumpet a particular outlook, built on a certain narrative that they have constructed themselves on stories that they want to believe.
“Truth is the most valuable thing in the world but oftentimes is hidden by a bodyguard of lies,” Winston Churchill once said.
Truth is probably the most violated concept in our country. Society considers everything it wants to accept as absolute. The negative result of this is that it leads to the disregard of reason and the norms and values that society needs to function.
It is a disease that afflicts deep in the marrow, even breaking families apart.
A tragedy was visited upon a couple that have been married for over 30 years and whom I came to know recently. In a reflection of our politics and societal dysfunction, the wife recently left her husband and father of five children. It was because they were from different ethnic groups, and she could no longer accept her husband’s political outlook.
The children caught up in the middle have to choose, not just parents, but ethnic identity and a political outlook to boot.
This anecdote is a terrible reminder of the crisis we have reached as a society. We are unable to bridge the ever-widening gap of societal division and dysfunction that is getting worse by the day.
It is no wonder then that such division, which is ripping apart families, is also creating conflict. It is chilling and distressing to hear the endless loss of lives and destruction that is leading many to flee their country. It is heart-breaking to find that Ethiopia’s name is again being raised for violence, displacement and injustice.
This problem arises from our failure to understand where our disagreements occur and how we can reach a consensus.
How could we when we believe facts selectively?
Constructive debates can only occur in an environment where facts have a place. Emotions are terrible substitutes for facts. The consequence is segments of society who talk past one another.
If any progress is to be made in Ethiopia amid the shifting sands of political and social change, it is imperative that the country understand where any meaningful dialogue can begin. Too much is at stake and too many lives will continue to be lost if the nation is unable to agree even on the starting point.
This is not to imply that a political and social moral consensus can be reached solely by discussions. But overlapping and divergent narratives lead to chaos. At the very least, through constant dialogue a semblance of stability could be achieved.
Knowledge, upon which social and political structures are erected, is based on truth, morality and technique, according to Aristotle, the Greek philosopher. Truth is key, from which morality and technique flow. Today in Ethiopia, assumptions reign supreme, morality is mocked, and truth is relative.
Fortunately, all is not lost. There are individuals who continue to call for the moral re-awakening of society and the establishment of truth.
Still, the question remains: how do we arrive at the fact on which narratives hang and by which politics and society must be organised?
At the least, it starts from having leaders who understand the essence of leadership, which is to serve and protect the public and the national interest. It requires having public servants committed to the rule of law.
Society’s future also lies in having an independent justice system that is trusted and free of political interference, a system that protects the poor and the weak against the powerful and upholds democratic and political rights – one that checks the executive.
Such corrections in our political culture and system will create an environment where narratives that come from institutions can be trusted. It also allows discussions to take place. It will not solve all our problems, but it will help steer us away from violence.
PUBLISHED ON Dec 26,2020 [ VOL 21 , NO 1078]
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