Responsible Emancipation

Aug 24 , 2019
By Kidist Yidnekachew

They say freedom comes with responsibility. I have always been fascinated by this abstract concept, which I believed was highly correlated with happiness and its many forms. Bob Marley's “Redemption Song” often comes into my head when I think of freedom: “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery!’’ If only it was that easy.

What is mental slavery anyways when being different is considered odd, weird and sometimes insane? Fascinated with the idea of emancipation for awhile, I tried to do things my way. I even made an oath to myself not to be restrained by convention and rebel against the status quo. I have not always been successful at emancipating myself, but I have tried.

Often times I gave in to society’s demands, being dragged down by yelugnta. I don’t think we will find an equivalent of that word in any other language and be able to translate it, because it only exists in Ethiopia or some other unknown island. Yelugntaroughly translates to: too much consideration or care on one’s part for another person or restraining yourself from doing something you want and avoiding what you don’t want for fear of somebody else’s opinions on the matter. I can write a book about the things I did out of yelugnta. I even wanted to get a T-shirt that reads: "Not my problem; I don’t care!"

Anyways going back to freedom, I believe freedom starts in the mind. No matter how free we are physically, if our minds are slaves to fear and chained to stereotypes, then we would never break free of the bondage and genuinely be free.

Freedom is self-determination, free will, autonomy, choice, among others. Remember what I said about freedom and responsibility at the beginning of the article? Well it is funny but true in a way. Let me briefly share my personal experiences with you to shine light into the link between freedom and responsibility. My mom, may her soul rest in peace, was a strong woman. She loved me to the moon and back, but she was also controlling. She made sure I studied even when I did not want to. I remember one day when she caught me watching Mortal Combat on TV when I was supposed to be studying.  She came out of nowhere and turned off the TV.  I was so furious that I actually ended up studying after mumbling and complaining for awhile.  My mom made sure I studied, did my homework and got good grades.

This changed in high school and worsened in college. After my mom passed away, I started living with my grandmother, aunt and uncles. They were so loving to me and spoiled me. Unlike my mom, they did not tell me what and when to study. In their eyes, I did not need to be told what to do, because I had it under control. My grades plummeted, because I also changed schools, but mostly because I was too busy enjoying my new freedom and indulging myself in movies and everything else of which I thought I was deprived.

College was a nightmare. I bring this up, because most of us do not like being told what to do or being bossed around. So whenever our bosses are not around, we slack at our jobs, at school, we make a slight effort to fulfill requirements and do things half-heartedly. We achieve mediocre results when we are capable of so much more.

I think there is a very good reason why our parental figures, teachers and those who are close to us tell us what to do or nag us until we accomplish something, because otherwise we may simply get distracted or sidetracked. They are the alarms that keep us awake. Yes, maybe we are grownups or even know what we want, but that does not always mean we do just that. We need a little bit of reality check and reminder here and there. Parents, ask if your children are doing something they want, studying something they are passionate about and nag them constantly until you see them through to their dreams. Be their alarm, their compass, and guide them, because every now and then we all get lost.

On the other side of existence, there are people who wear the freedom hat responsibly. I have friends who have moved out of their parents’ house. These are the most responsible of all of us who are still living under our parents’ roof.  These friends of mine are free to come home as late as they like. They do not have curfews. But contrary to the belief that young girls living on their own or moving out before they get married exploit their freedom and open doors for addiction and guys, these friends lead a very responsible life. They work hard, sometimes two jobs just to afford the rent. They are breadwinners. They take care of their younger siblings and even sometimes send money to a family member in the countryside. They take evening classes and try to better themselves.  Yes, they had the freedom to do whatever they want, but they choose to be responsible.  So before we say we want freedom, let’s think twice if we are truly prepared and cut out to handle the responsibility that comes with it.

PUBLISHED ON Aug 24,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 1008]

Kidist Yidnekachew is interested in art, human nature and behaviour. She has studied psychology, journalism and communications and can be reached at (

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