Make A Stand, Avoid Taking Sides

Dec 19 , 2020
By Tigabu Haile ( Tigabu Haile who has interests in business and entrepreneurship. )

A decade ago, I was studying law at Meqelle University. It was a five-year college study, giving me a lot of time to wonder about life, the state of Ethiopia and Africa.

Constructive were the debates we organised, together with our cohorts in the economic department. Instructors from both sides also took part in the debate by providing a concluding argument, supporting their respective department. The focus was on local as well as global issues and was popular to the point that we would sometimes run out of spots for people to attend in the halls we were holding them.

Looking back, it is clear to me that we identified and agreed on the challenges that were keeping Ethiopia back. It had to do with the country being among the least developed in the whole world. This translated into a huge percentage of our population not having access to basic needs such as electricity and clean water and having some of the poorest health outcomes.

Unfortunately, much of our energy is not going into discussing these issues. We have become thoroughly political, and facts like the above are afterthoughts. What we prioritise are these endless arguments that attempt to justify the actions of one political group or another. We are investing in negative arguments that only serve to perpetuate outrage and ill-feelings against groups.

Look no further for evidence of this than social media. Many of the leading figures are politicians or activists not business people or innovators. Many of the most popular digital media accounts and platforms are focused on politics. It is as if we expect them to provide answers to all of our predicaments.

Many of those who are backing one side or the other have good intentions - at least I hope they do. But that alone, without being able to reach across the aisle and consider challenges not necessarily related to politics, is not enough. In fact, it can have negative consequences.

Taken as a whole, many of the destructive events in history have had good intentions, at least from the perspective of those that saw them as a measure of last resort. It is in the name of love that society has been hypnotised into madness and self-destruction.

Once we take a side, like it or not, the way we see the world changes. We begin to consider ourselves part of the in-group and interpret ideas and facts from such a perspective. Go a little deeper and, before we know it, we are justifying the negative actions of the group we support in the name of keeping the flames of the movement alive.

This goes deep into how we think as a society as well. Most people I know assume that the government is responsible for every problem that goes on in the country, even over things that seem to be their own doing.

Ironically, this confers undue power for the government. It is given consent to solve every problem we encounter. This makes the government unnecessarily powerful and the society unnecessarily powerless as the result making change nearly impossible.

We should advocate for independent thinking, be a society that believes that it can change its fate. A society able to transform itself and no longer playing to the tune of those with power, both inside and outside government, will create a different country.

But if society divides itself by supporting players that are obviously contesting for power and are not sincere over what is good for society, it will lead to strife, loss of lives and the destruction of property.

If we want to build the tallest skyscraper in the whole world, just build it. Let us not go around tearing down skyscrapers so that our small one can look bigger.

Power is not in the hands of politicians, not if society is willing to coalesce around democratic issues and pay as much attention to its economic predicament as its political one.

Finally, as a great philosopher once said: “A leader is only as good as his people.”

Let us focus on self improvement and contribute to our country as citizens. It is the small changes that create the big ones. Be a change-maker, not a trouble maker.

PUBLISHED ON Dec 19,2020 [ VOL 21 , NO 1077]

Tigabu Haile who has interests in business and entrepreneurship.

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