Living With the Culture of “NO”

It saddens me to say and most of all realise over this short life that we live in a culture of ”NO”. I understand that women might disagree, especially when looking at the number of young girls’ lives that have been ruined for refusing love proposals. So allow me to elaborate.

Have you ever noticed how people’s faces change the moment you stop them on the street or anywhere else for that matter to ask a question as simple as directions? In fact, many of them change their face back to some normal gesture when they find out that the queries are innocent like what time is it or anything along those lines. What I am trying to state, from my observation is that, in any given situation and faced with any given request the instinctive answer is always negative. I often hear many complaining about the fact that we are non-cooperative, especially when we are in a position of power. Many times, we tend to go back and forth on this subject, and I try to enquire about this notion to as many people as I meet and seem to be getting to the same conclusion.

Unfortunately, it seems our ability to cooperate with one another as a community is destitute when compared to many communal societies of the world. I find it heartbreaking that we tend to casually comment on how we are ‘Mekegna’ – roughly translated as ill-disposed or spiteful to each other. Is there any hope of change with the coming generations?

I wonder if the educational system is playing a part in allowing people to work together more with various school projects. Do you think that children who learn how to collaborate from a young age be it in helping each other with housework or in school grow up to be team players as adults, then can we grow up, as a society, to be positive as well?

If the same logic applies, then I would like to think that it is evident for a child always to want to cooperate when raised by cooperative adults. Meaning, instead of always refusing what kids ask to do, play with or say, permitting them, considering that it is not harmful and with healthy discussion will without a doubt make them cooperative adults. With respect to this, there is something fundamentally wrong in the way we raise children in Ethiopia. Parents do not really understand the negative consequence of not becoming open and cooperative for children. They believe that limiting the choice of children makes them disciplined. Sick!

With that settled, let us bring back the obstacle that power or responsibility tends to reflect in uncooperating adults who become semi-aggressive in refusing anything and everything. Now, this is mostly reflected in clerks, guards and the like. Most say that these people are frustrated because of their living situations, are more aggressive and proud members of the culture of ‘No’.

What was flabbergasting most times is that some people do not even bother listening to the question before they throw a negative answer at you. That wonders me as to why that might have been, and lately, I believe to have found one of the other explaining factors, which is the fear of being wrong.

A long conversation with a Psychology graduate had me understanding that there are no real solutions to any societal bugs that we might notice. In truth, there are apparently no solutions or rather time slowly manages to resolve them. This eye-opening conversation had me wondering how you, readers, perceive our capacity to evolve in this twenty-first century as members of a community that cooperate.

Do you think that endless jokes and expressions that highlight our inability to do so help or are they rather harmful? Repeating incapacities or failures only ensures downfall and not improvement. However, without pinpointing the gaps, then we would not know where to fill. In this manner, is there something that we could start doing differently to ensure that we build a stronger, helpful and cooperating community.

By Christine Yohannes
Christine Yohannes writes about social change, performs at public events and conducts poetry workshops in schools. She has established a monthly event entitled

Published on May 20,2017 [ Vol 17 ,No 890]



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