Question Authority

Have you noticed how simply asking questions turns some people prickly? Maybe you have faced the same reaction.

I have noticed that the negative responses surface when the age gap is wide and there is a gender difference.

Let me explain. Recently, I found myself in an odd situation when I was confronted by three men who showed up at my doorstep regarding housing issues at 9 PM.

The hour seemed odd to me so I naturally started bombarding all three with questions. I must admit, my questions weren’t welcomed as coming from a need to understand the situation but rather as insolence. I was then informed by my landlord that one of the men told her that he could have been my father and that I should not have disrespected him.

Little does he know, had it been my father, all of the questions I could think of would have been welcomed with an answer and a smile. So I started asking myself what kind of children this particular man would raise and what kind of citizens we are raising as a society. The men on another day understood where my safety concerns had come from and we have since then established good communication. That being said though, I found their first reactions not only questionable but quite alarming.

Why is it offending to be asked questions?

This got me wondering where this feeling stems from. I had wondered the same within the settings of the university, where lectures are often one way communications directed at the students.

Then that thought led me to the understanding that in the way that we are generally raised we are rarely encouraged to ask questions or even hold conversations with adults. I wonder how we can learn and expand our knowledge of the world we live in.

Have you ever wondered whether children ask questions in school or not, if at home they aren’t allowed to?

I wonder if raising questions about God and religion, isn’t this an untouchable topic.

Imagine the kind of citizens could roam our streets if as a child we are raised not only without the courage to ask questions but more importantly not knowing that we have the right to. I took up this conversation with one of my friends and tapped at the circumference of this topic without delving too deep – as it would otherwise take us a couple of decades to fully grasp the why of the how.

We however came down to the understanding that it is a real issue and that it is fundamentally lacking in our society. For some, asking questions is asking for trouble and is a sign of insolence.I wonder how we are we bringing up the generations that will replace us.

What kind of examples are we giving and/or leaving them for them to be better citizens?

My friend then pointed out that even for services that we pay for, we rarely ask for the details in our bill, or even question the final amount. How important is it though, to be informed regarding not only services we pay for but everything that we do. If we don’t ask the right questions at the opportune time then we will almost never get the answers. Another thing I found amusing on my quest to find out why we despise questions so much was our innate ability to accept it from foreigners.

That being said, I have also come to understand that there are times even foreigners, with the privilege of asking questions don’t have that privilege all the time.

I am not addressing this topic with intent to point out the different treatment of our nationals compared to foreigners (that will be for another time) but rather to point to the fact we have accepted our incapacity of asking questions.

It isn’t normal for an Ethiopian, especially young woman, to ask questions but quite acceptable coming from someone else. I wonder if that is in our pride, why asking questions and not knowing answers close to is sin. I am asking you, fellow readers and citizens of Ethiopia – why do you think that is?

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 Jan 19,2017 [ Vol 17 ,No 872]



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