A group of men surrounded our young Ride driver, threatening his livelihood. “You’re working with the car your father gave you!” one of the men screamed in between the profanity he slurred. These were men who drive the old blue taxis in town. They are angry that the Ethiopian version of the Uber-pioneered new ride-hailing technology has arrived in Addis Abeba, and the new business model is not to their liking. The young and more tech-savvy drivers of these new ride-hailing companies, with their newer cars, are a threat to their old business model, and they are doing everything they can to stop them. Unfortunately, that includes illegal means like violence.

These young men were holding on to their victimhood as tightly as the khat tucked into the right corner of their mouths. They feel disenfranchised. While their frustrations are understandable, their reactions will not render the result they are hoping for.

We are brewing an angry generation. One that has learned to crave a past they never knew, unable to breathe in the existence of today. This discontent has been brewing a version of a future everyone would like to attain but not work for.

A group of men surrounded our young Ride driver, threatening his livelihood. “You’re working with the car your father gave you!” one of the men screamed in between the profanity he slurred. These were men who drive the old blue taxis in town.

The International Crisis Group recently issued its list of ten conflicts to watch in 2020. This is a list they compile every year showing the countries of the world that are in the middle of serious conflicts that they advise need to be closely watched. Ethiopia is third on this year's list next to Afghanistan and Yemen. While those of us living in this nation would like to believe otherwise, the reality is the country has been unstable for a few years now. Many in our communities are learning to use violence as an option to bring change.

While living in Hawassa, I heard a Bajaj driver talking to passengers about tariffs casually mention, “We demanded a change to the fare, and if the government does not react, we threatened to burn down the industrial park.” The nonchalant manner in which an action clearly detrimental to the country’s economy was being mentioned was all too shocking. This was not the first or only time I have heard such statements.

As citizens are learning new ways of gathering information and communicating in the new media world, they are being slowly pulled away from the social norms and values they had in their communities. They are being desensitised to actions that used to be frowned upon before. The gap being created among people is widening as uncertainty looms.

In truth, our current enemy has no name we can recognise. It is just that opportunists have swarmed our nation and are trying to bleed it dry. They use new technology to disillusion those who are vulnerable. Through creating fear among those who were once allies, some have made themselves centrepieces of society, convincing us peace can only be attained through them.

True peace is found within ourselves. While not all conflict can be the same, ours is becoming more and more of our own making; turning on one another. The kind of life we want to live requires more reflection. We have become active participants in spreading fake news, hate and dangerous propaganda. This may be a good time to calm down, take a deep breath and make a course correction.

As some parts of the world enter the year 2020, we sit in reflection of what the last decade has been. We often underestimate what can take place in 10 years and overestimate what is possible within a year.

This decade has brought with it many challenges for Ethiopia, and as many young people have found their voices in the last decade, others continue the search. Time seems like an illusion, as generations of great minds have taught, written and sang.

As time can be a great deceiver, which is why many pass along without achieving much, we need to take the lessons we learn from time seriously. The change in the calendar year can help all of us reflect and be mindful of what has passed and how we have reacted in the process of it all.

While we do not need a new year to make resolutions or to reflect on the direction of where our life is taking us, it is still a solid reminder that forces us to remember to reflect even when we were not intending to. Let us choose to be mindful each day we are on this earth.

PUBLISHED ON Jan 04,2020 [ VOL 20 , NO 1027]

Hanna Haile is the founder of Zellan Creative & Cultural Center. She can be reached at (hannahaile212@gmail.com).

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