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Harmolantica ፡ Youth of Ethiopia Following Anticipations from the National Dialogue Commission

We, the Youth of Ethiopia, Resoundingly Would Like to Mirror the Following Anticipations from the Ethiopian National Dialogue Commission (ENDC) for Our Better Future! 

Youth Ethiopia _ National Dialogue
The author

(Tibebu Taye)

Dear members of ENDC,

Navigating Ethiopian politics is akin to being thrust into an interminable concert of cacophonous and arrhythmic music, all in an unintelligible language. The path forward demands a strategic attenuation. Our most potent arsenal lies within the constitution, no doubt! Yet, it too must undergo a careful process of refinement and recalibration, complimented by other vital elements to serve its purpose effectively.

Dear members of ENDC, we understand that politics is fundamentally about crafting compelling arguments and persuasive narratives, it is all about positioning the public. The speech delivered by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (Dr.) at the opening ceremony was a clear endeavour to align the outcome of your collective efforts with his vision. Representing all youth, I would like to express gratitude for every effort you are putting in this undertaking. We also believe that the youth too should pitch their voices to position the outcomes around your national mission and Ethiopia’s future. As a dedicated and concerned citizen, it is our duty to contribute responsibly to our nation’s future political sojourns. 

Having that in mind, in this piece, I will delineate five pragmatic measures, adopting an ecocritical perspective, which thoughtfully acknowledges the all predominant stakeholders in our political landscape, and the interrelated factors that altogether brought us and our politics where we are today (see my previous article). The subsequent propositions are put forth with the conviction that their efficacious enactment will constitute foundational support for Ethiopian National Dialogue Commission (ENDC) and its forthcoming policy recommendations aimed at fostering peace and reconciliation to our nation and to all its kind and much deserving citizens. 

First is first, how did we arrive here?

In the distant past, politics primarily revolved around the politics of ‘being/the body’: either as a personal sojourn to identify the-self – to discover the essence of being and defining oneself in relation to all other beings; or as a social quest for humanness – as a distinct form of being. It was equally an embodied as well as enacted bodies commonly experiencing the being out there-ness in nature, in a seemingly open-ended and somewhat stable but uncertain world.

In the nearer past, time and space came to the consciousness of man’s existence and enticed him to exercise his potential to connect the self with other selves and spaces. In these recursive processes, man developed the affective potentials to ‘connect with others’, possibly with like-minded ones or the kin-groups – reflecting his desire for locating himself with someone with whom he feels the sameness or belonging, or with somewhere where they feel safe and secured to call it at-home.

Just before today, it came to mean ‘to partake’ – whatever cause is initiated, it is a just call. To be entails turning on the potential to both affect and be affected simultaneously. Being only serves to rationalise the fact that your body is no longer what matters most, it is the activated sentiments that are given top priority. It is not that the-self either (the humanness) that is the guiding principles for life, but rather of contagious affect and emotions that drive our perceptions and actions. It isn’t even our connected self or physically located body that ensures our security but the transcended self-the radical body – that connects us with someone or somewhere in the real or in the virtual that alludes to our sense of being, belonging, or partaking.

Today, we might have become strangers to ourselves and lost touch with our sensations and emotions because of non-ending affective initiations and instantiations. I really doubt that any of the outdated terms, like ethnic or body politics could adequately describe this phenomenon. Meanwhile, I will continue to confine myself to ‘affective politics.’ Indeed, it is possible to literally link it to ethnic or bodily politics but let me add to that- ‘ethnic or body politics have already been activated.’ Because our bodies are not merely atomized machines designed only “to be” and “belong,” but also to be impacted and simultaneously “to partake” in activities that may reward, punish, or stress us. I have no doubt that you are aware of the potential harm what politically charged emotions could do to us, to our people, and to our very sense of being, belonging, and partaking! What I am suggesting here is the need to urgently and determinately attenuate/modulate the already activated affects in our politics. 

To give you a glimpse of our troubled conditions:

  • Our political landscape often reduces ideologies to either “unitarist” or “ethnonationalist.” However, the world is more multifaceted. Our political behavior and reasoning should evolve beyond these binary categorizations.
  • Ethiopia grapples with recurrent civil war, and we cannot shy away from this reality. The youth are emotionally disorganized due to long standing ethnic politics. We demand attention and support to regain our psychological well-being.
  • The youth are often overlooked in resource allocation and decision-making. Politicians, including figures like Jawar, argue that the nation’s economy is monopolized by parastatal bourgeoisie groups with close ties to the regime. The regime lacks a clear vision for the youth, and its focus on war and militarization disproportionately affects young people.
  • The academic system reflects intense ethnopolitics within the country. The proliferation of universities, driven by competition and prestige among ethnic groups, fails to foster innovation and creativity. Infrastructure and curricula mirror the prevailing political order, resulting in an educated youth primarily destined for unemployment or to be deployed in the war economy. 
  • In our increasingly digital world, we find ourselves entangled in the attention/surveillance economy. As digital subjects, we face risks to our rationality, long-term memory, psychological health, and personal security. Countries like Germany and China have robust policies to mitigate the impact of digital media, but our government seems less concerned, even participating in the attention economy.
  • The role of mainstream media in conflicts, such as the Tigray war, cannot be ignored. politically affiliated media, exacerbate disruptions. They have become a ticking clock of uncertainty, instilling profound fear within us. Their actions are shaping our community into ghostly shadows of society, eerily echoing their own presence. True and genuine change must start with reforming the roles and accountabilities of these media outlets.

Come rain or shine, we expect the following outcomes from your actionable recommendations

  1. Immediate return to truth: establishing a ‘Constitution of Truth?’

We become further removed from reality the more information that is thrown at us. In politics, we cannot determine if any information is fact or fiction, but we can reach some consensus. Even while we cannot agree on everything, we can at least establish a social compact, which assumes that disagreements will inevitably arise. The truth in this case is found in the constitution. It should be noted, however, that while we cannot establish a national truth, we can establish a set of norms and guiding principles that serve as a basis for governance for all of us. This is known as the constitution of truths. 

It is a call to undergo a multidimensional ‘U’-turns to truth”

Meaning, 

Creating reality-based communities- a community built on consensus-based truths based on rational persuasion, 

this also signals, 

Experience, not revelation should be the source of knowledge.

Because,

In a compromise between truth and deceit in the act of piousness and politicking, one can only imagine the irreversible nature of death. 

Over time, this can serve as a powerful solution to ethnic and political conflicts surrounding historical narrations or mythical clashes. By establishing a shared epistemic framework for determining truths and/or facts, it can help bridge divides quarrelling over ideological supremacy and promote understanding, sympathy and solidarity among diverse groups. In the political context where there is disagreement in historical narratives, conflicts often arise due to differing interpretations, biases, and selective memory. 

The Constitution of Truth can provide a neutral and objective basis for evaluating historical claims, ensuring that the pursuit of truth takes precedence over passionate personal or group agendas. By adhering to the principles outlined in the Constitution of Truth, such as objectivity, transparency, and the inclusion of diverse perspectives, conflicting parties can engage in constructive dialogue based on evidence, logic, and critical thinking. This epistemic and logical framework encourages and revibrates a spirit of cooperation and collaboration, allowing for the exploration of different viewpoints and the discovery of common ground. 

The Constitution of Truth also promotes the importance of rigorous research, fact-checking, and scholarly consensus-building. By encouraging historians, researchers, and experts from all sides to engage in a collective pursuit of truth, it helps establish a credible and reliable historical narrative that is built on reliable evidence and rigorous analysis. These grand narratives and truths remain pragmatic and open to correction as new evidence becomes available (Rauch). 

Additionally, the Constitution of Truth can facilitate the recognition of multiple perspectives and the acknowledgment of historical injustices. By fostering empathy and understanding, it allows for the reconciliation of conflicting narratives and the healing of historical wounds. Overall, the Constitution of Truth can act as a transformative force in resolving ethnic and political conflicts surrounding historical narrations. By providing a shared foundation for determining truth, it promotes dialogue, understanding, and the pursuit of a more inclusive and accurate historical narrative that can contribute to a more harmonious and peaceful society.  

  1. Return politics to the parliament: ‘Parliamentary Reinstatement’

Social media made political coalitions easy to organize but difficult to win. Social media pushed leaders towards the right wing and left the political mass irreversibly polarized! Social media disrupted our knowledge base and social production, and it left truth and facts unacquainted. Social media turned education from “being the transmission of culture down through the generations into the overturning of a culture on the basis that a culture was illegitimate, colonialist, and racist.” Social media changed the concept of society from a sociological thing to a Right-Wing concept and siloed people in the league of the extremists. This is what guides most part of our politics today. 

The essence of this proposal is to encourage a return to conducting political affairs within the official parliamentary setting, instead of outside of it. They convey the notion of re-establishing the centrality and values of the parliament, not the ministers or mobsters and their personal ‘visions’ and aspirations, as the primary arena and premise for political decision-making and deliberations. 

Dear members of ENDC, in proposing parliamentary reinstatement, we aspire for a political climate where 1) parliamentarians are unburdened by intimidation of imprisonment or undue anticipations. It is our hope that they engage in discourse, deliberate, and partake in the legislative process and critical decision-making with unfettered freedom; 2) all members of parliament, including the Prime Minister, operate within the boundaries of their designated authority and job responsibilities. Our belief is that the parliament, as an institution, wields supreme authority over its individual members. According to Michael Howard, “What is Parliament for if it is not to be a means to make ministers accountable for the services for which they are responsible.”

It is perhaps of a great importance to learn from the British’s understanding of the essence of a parliament,

Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests; which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where, not local purposes, not local prejudices ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole. You choose a member indeed; but when you have chosen him, he is not a member of Bristol, but he is a member of parliament. Edmund Burke.

Thus, we highlight the call for politicians and stakeholders to actively engage in parliamentary processes, ensuring that critical discussions, debates, and policy formulation take place within the designated democratic institution. By emphasizing the value of parliamentary procedures, we seek to promote transparency, accountability, and the inclusive representation of diverse voices. 

  1. Immediate return to moral instinct: ‘Path to Awareness and Accountability’

Dear members of ENDC, the transgression of the constitution as well as established societal norms and values in contemporary Ethiopia is a grave concern that is perpetuated by people in all levels of society, from ordinary citizens to top-level elites and government officials. We do not have to mention all here, just look back at the past 5 years to illustrate the severity of these violations. Corruption, organized robbery and property crimes, arbitrary and extrajudicial killings, forced displacement, attempt for genocide, ethnic cleansing and forced displacement. Without restoring a threshold for what is acceptable and unacceptable, there is a risk of perpetuating a cycle of violations that undermines the very foundations of the nation’s legal, ethical, and moral frameworks. 

According to Mahatma Gandhi,

Good government is no substitute for self-government.

We wish to underscore once more that our moral instinct is the cornerstone for reinstating accountability and transparency. It is this very instinct that lays the foundation for effective self-governance. 

In this proposal, we call for a national action aiming at fostering a culture of priming social responsibility in all areas of life and throughout the country. It echoes the importance of raising awareness about pressing social issues, promoting active participation in addressing them, and holding individuals, organizations, and communities accountable for their actions. This attitude encourages individuals and communities to recognize their role in building a more equitable and inclusive society. 

The idea also calls for transparent and ethical practices encouraging media companies and organizations to prioritize social responsibility in their reporting, operations, supply chains, and interactions with stakeholders. In relation to the media, journalists, and academics, this call recognizes their crucial role in shaping public opinion, disseminating information, and fostering critical thinking. For media professionals and journalists, it encourages them to prioritize objective and balanced coverage of social issues, avoiding sensationalism or biased narratives. Furthermore, promoting adherence to professional codes of conduct. 

The ultimate dream in this call is to create a society where individuals and organizations actively contribute to addressing societal challenges, refusing to neglect or deny the truth. Through increased awareness and collective action, we can build a more responsible and compassionate nation. 

  1. Urgent psychological rehabilitation of the post-war Ethiopia: ‘Affective Modulation’

Never undervalue the impact of social media in pre-pro-post-civil war Ethiopia. Our traditional ways of community building, social interaction, and information exchange have undergone significant changes as we are surrounded by more and more diverse sorts of digital technologies. Our cultural venues have expanded, social events and activities have increased, our modes of living have changed, and our basic sense of humanity is itself “compromised.” Perhaps we might be evolving into cyborgs – hybrids of people and machines (maybe not?). More evidently, it has altered how we conceptualise “relation and compassion, embodiment and action, remembering and forgetting, living and deceasing… ” 

We are now using digital technologies to share our memory agency. Today, we rely on those media to help us (or without our will?) remember the past with episodic recollections of traumatic or other prior occurrences. Our memories dictate our decision making in regretting, forgetting, trusting, reconciling, or to move forward… To reconcile is to simply be able to move across all the places where our senses of being, belonging, and part-taking occur at the same time and face our emotions, memories, and traumas that are unfolding all around us. 

It is evident that the majority of young Ethiopians are dealing with one of the following psychological traumas in silence.

Pre-War Anxiety:

Anticipation of Conflict: The youth grapple with anxiety long before the first shot is fired. The uncertainty of impending conflict weighs heavily on their minds.

Disrupted Normalcy: Schools close, families disperse, and dreams remain unfulfilled. The disruption of routine amplifies stress.

Wartime Trauma:

Witnessing Violence: Youth become involuntary witnesses to violence—homes destroyed, lives lost, and communities torn apart.

Loss and Grief: The death of loved ones scars their hearts. Bereavement becomes a shared experience.

Forced Recruitment: Some are conscripted into armed forces, their innocence shattered by the brutality of war.

Post-War Desolation:

Survivor’s Guilt: Those who survive carry guilt—why them and not others? The burden of survival haunts their nights.

Displacement and Disconnection: Displaced from their homes, they grapple with loss of identity and belonging.

Psychological Scars: Anxiety, depression, and PTSD linger, affecting relationships, education, and aspirations.

The scars of war run deep, but healing is possible. As a nation, we must recognize that investing in youth mental health is an investment in our collective future. Let us dismantle the stigma, listen to their stories, and provide the balm of compassion. Only then can we mend the invisible wounds and empower our resilient youth to shape a brighter Ethiopia. 

  1. Return to compassion: ‘Harmolantica’

As a concept, our recommendation for Harmolantica embodies the idea of transitioning from investing in divisive political and cultural underpinnings to fostering a peaceful and harmonious lifestyle. It encourages a shift towards unity, empathy, and understanding among individuals and communities. Imagine a world where we prioritize cooperation over conflict, where diverse perspectives are embraced, and where collective well-being is at the forefront.

Dear members of ENDC, in this proposal we are not remembering the story of the Israelites in the land of Egypt or reiterating ‘Derrick Bell’s Parable of Afrolantica’ in which he dreams that “Out in the Atlantic Ocean a new continent suddenly begins to emerge from the water 900 miles off the coast of South Carolina … with inviting topography turned out to be hostile to all but African Americans.” In our vision of Harmolantica, we lure for harmony and peace in the place where we are at right now. We call for channelling our affective energies from the divisive to the unifying and building bridges rather than walls. It is essential to recognize that our collective well-being hinges on the unity of purpose and action. Thus, it is time to transcend the narrow confines of political and cultural divisions and absolute projections that have long hindered our progress as a global community.

Harmolantica, in the context of ethnic conflicts and civil war, signifies a transformative approach aimed at moving away from investing in polarizing political and cultural agendas towards a peaceful and harmonious lifestyle. Within regions experiencing ethnic conflicts and civil war, Harmolantica recognizes the urgent need to address deep-rooted divisions and promote reconciliation. It emphasizes the importance of building bridges, fostering dialogue, and finding common ground among conflicting parties to establish lasting peace. 

Therefore, a movement to Harmolantica is not merely a call to action; it is a profound commitment to transform the very fabric of our society. For the pursuit of peace and harmony is not a passive endeavour; it is an active and deliberate choice to foster understanding, empathy, and cooperation. 

Let us, therefore, stand together in this movement with unwavering determination, guided by the principles of mutual respect and inclusivity. For it is only through collective effort and a steadfast resolve that we can achieve the lofty ideals of peace and harmony that we so dearly aspire to. This is our call to action, a clarion call for unity in the face of division, and a beacon of hope for a future where peace and harmony reign supreme.

Declaration

I am an independent thinker and writer, educator and peace activist. Trained as an anthropologist and my interest spans as an affect reader, a cultural analyst, and science and technology researcher. I am willing to collaborate with any governmental or independent organizations in areas of positive youth development, modulating political affect, and policy recommendations. 

Editor’s note : Views in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of borkena.com

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