The Fine Line between National Pride, Arrogance

Aug 14 , 2021
By Kidist Yidnekachew

There is a thing many Ethiopians share in common; that is our national pride. We take pride in our rich history, civilisation and customs. This is especially evident whenever we travel overseas and meet other nationals. We brag about not being colonised, about being multilingual and about having one of the oldest civilisations to have independently developed a writing system and farming. It is alright to take pride in all of these things but not at the expense of other nations.

Funnily enough, we are often too quick to say, “Oh! I didn’t know that,” whenever we are confronted with a foreign national that tells us something we did not know. I only realised this recently when I met an expat that came to Ethiopia for research purposes and spent over a decade here.

“You Ethiopians like bragging about your history and your country,” he once told me over coffee. “Don’t get me wrong, I love your country too, but I am well travelled and have visited many nations like you with rich history and civilisations. Just like you, other countries are multilingual, had great dynasty and ruled much land.”

I was surprised. “What made you come to that conclusion?” I asked.

He mentioned how many people in Ethiopia are assertive in talking about their civilisation. Still, when that of others is mentioned, they often look surprised and say something along the line of, “I didn’t know that. I thought that was only exclusive to us Ethiopians.”

“Part of the problem is that most Ethiopians are not well travelled,” he added. “One needs to step outside and experience different cultures, meet different people before concluding that theirs is just the best.”

Unfortunately, travel is a luxury for the majority of Ethiopians. It requires time and, more importantly, money. Only the rich find it easy to travel while the rest are too busy trying to feed their families on a nine-to-five job. But the expat had a point. Even when people manage to make money, they do not often attempt to be more cultured. They get into material possessions, such as houses and cars, but barely aspire to travel the world.

Few cultures in Ethiopia encourage us to step out, explore the environment, and be adventurous. These things require being risk-takers and, by nature or nurture, we are not known to be risk-takers.

It is also the case that, when many of us talk about our history, it is usually biased. We either know the history we are taught at school or that is passed down to us from generations, which sometimes lacks accuracy. We do not do further reading and examine historical accounts written by diverse authors, limiting ourselves to non-fiction that subscribes to our political views. He also added we Ethiopians rarely show interest to learn other nations’ cultures.

Much of this is regrettable, for there is much wisdom to be gleaned from our history. The ancient Ethiopians and the older generation were knowledgable, the expat added, but it has barely been developed subsequently by later generations.

“For instance, I have met lots of young people who seem sceptical about the use of certain herbs their ancestors believed held medicinal values,” he said. “But research is proving the use of these herbs in healing some illnesses. Of course, not everything has scientific backing, and some of the things are questionable. But they are still useful to draw on further scientific research.”

Many of us are proud of what our history tells but not appreciative of what we have and the potential for growth. It is not wrong that we have an appreciation for ourselves and our country as a people, but that we need a sharper eye to criticise what has not worked and build on what has shown provable positive results. This needs us to be more honest, and to be patriots, people who love their country and are proud of it for what it does, instead of nationalists, who are proud of their country, no matter what their country does.

PUBLISHED ON Aug 14,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1111]

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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