There are a group of young Ethiopians leading a progressive front. Even though it is hard to put labels on them, as they vehemently refuse to be labelled, they exist in different spheres of our community.
These are young men and women who do not see the need to comply with societal norms that attempt to label them. They are not afraid of asking questions, nor do they take offence in opposing ideologies.
They find energy from intellectual conversations and challenges. One can easily recognize them in the passion of their arguments, even on subject matters that may seem trivial or may have obvious answers.
The point is in conducting a discourse to state the non-obvious. They are not defined by their religion, and they entertain ideas that are not clouded by traditional norms. They reason, philosophize and do not feel the need to be right. They allow ample space for change of hearts on any subject as long as it is adequately argued with reason.
Such people give me hope about the state of the country and help me feel connected to home. I was fearful that the general public would marginalize them for their unorthodox views, yet they seem to be thriving.
They have created communities among themselves, a fragile yet strong ecosystem of intellectuals and artists. It is only through spending time outside of Addis Abeba that one begins to appreciate a growing cosmopolitanism.
The few that are, in a word, “woke,” are effortlessly confident because they do not feel the need to prove themselves to anyone. They work hard and try to find enjoyment in various artistic and entertainment avenues that are in rare supply. They are not desperate to get married, yet are open to finding life partners.
I was inspired by four young professionals at a domestic airport as they raised facts, and analysed and disagreed on subjects, all the while speaking passionately about current affairs. They debated the recent political climate in a manner that I had not heard spoken of lately. They were not overly idealistic but were critical. They spoke of institutional change and prospects for hope.
They were well-informed, and yet were unassuming when they said, “it’s too soon to tell,” or “we don’t have the facts just yet,” while discussing a scandal.
Their level-headed approach to complex matters was refreshing.
This young group of people reminded me of the many that I knew and wished our country was full of. They are the bookish sort with an unquenchable thirst for curiosity about how things worked instead of accepting norms as they are. They are doers, creators and trailblazers. They are not always employed yet continue building careers, making important connections and contributing. They want to be a part of more than the confining dogma that surrounds them.
They are such a rarity that I wanted to ask them if I could join, yet I was not so brave. In that shabby small airport, they reminded me of how much hope our country has.
These open-minded feminists and radical intellectuals are the types that will catapult Ethiopia to the next stage. Their ideas will be spread across Ethiopia, and even around the globe, impressing all those willing to listen and recognize with their wit, nuanced thoughts and pragmatism. We will be proud that they are Ethiopians.
I think our nation is lucky to have young minds that are working towards building a nation. While some have projects fail because they existed ahead of their time – the failed projects have given way for others to build on top of.
I am happy there is a generation that is interested in building and not simply tearing down. A generation that is environmentally conscious, meditates, seeks alternative career paths and is living consciously.
Like many, my heart has been broken by the passing of Simegnew Bekele, chief engineer of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). I am inspired by his passion for something greater than himself.
Many have been shaped because such people walked the talk on what they preached. Fortunately, we have a young generation ready to step up to the challenge of continuing to build our nation.
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