Understand Thy Neighbour

I have little interest in politics for I am a social worker. I try to have the best interest of the community in mind under any setting of government. Social workers should not have affiliations with any political party, but support any policy and ideology that upholds the rights of minorities.

I am too young to have known a sort of government apart from the one dominated by members of the EPRDF’s coalition parties. Before, it was the Dergue regime, which did not give people much hope. Yet many fell in love, made sacrifices, and chose to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I remember the few stories that were told by aunts and uncles about the terror that took hold of Ethiopia. My uncles would laugh as they told stories of shenanigans to escape being drafted into the army to fight rebel forces. But there was usually a feeling of uneasiness about the era that had transpired. The times were terrible, and their silences and comments here and there betray a history that was dark.

But idealism prevailed. And almost three decades later, here we are, where the road continues to be rocky.

Being an Ethiopian is a privilege and a heavy burden. I am continually learning about the country, and not because I was born and raised in Addis Abeba. As an adult, I began to see parts of my country that most could not even build in their imaginations.

My work enabled me to spend time with people I would otherwise never have the opportunity to. I got to spend over a week with farmers in the south, with mothers in the north and, young brides, teachers, dropouts and those contemplating illegal migration across the Mediterranean. The chief customs might have been different, but in their essence, the similarities of the family structure, roles of women, and care for strangers was the same.

Back in Addis Abeba after each trip, a sense of dread comes upon me. Just as I approach the big buildings and the crowded roads, I would wish I could have stayed longer wherever I had come from.

Some residents of the capital incorrectly think that the city is the best in Ethiopia. I admit that most things run slower in regional states – there is less hustle-and-bustle. Yet the fast-paced world and the detachments we have created in our city has left many of us out of sync with the rest of the country.

Whenever I get a chance to visit my only living grandmother outside of Addis, I learn some of the values we are missing. Take the countryside, where one is closer to a neighbour than a blood relative. Neighbours spend more time together – knowing each other’s goings and comings to form a strong bond over the years.

I cannot say the same for myself. I do not know the names of my neighbours just as Addis Abebans do not have a clue about Ethiopians outside of the capital.

There is a lot to learn about one another’s culture and ways of life. If one tried, it is possible to see more of what makes us similar, the struggles of our people as well as the strength and accomplishments. But this takes the audacity to look beyond what our perceptions may be.

Most who are born and raised in the capital have no clue as to what is happening beyond their immediate realm. But as we each build on our dreams, we should look more onto the overwhelming majority of people in the country.

As an informed people, we are necessary to keep things moving in our country. And if we are blind to what our country needs, we fall short of becoming a nation that cares for the downtrodden.

In moments such as now, we need to see beyond the mirage of conversations and really look to the people to provide better solutions to present to our communities. We must be problem solvers, not mere observers or problem instigators.

Destruction can never be a solution; we must build. And those in the capital must contribute to the parts that need fixing. That would require us to travel more and learn about our immediate vicinity. It would require looking beyond what is pointed out to us by those who harbour their own hidden agendas. It would require that we open up to learn about ourselves and why some of us pride to call ourselves Ethiopian.


Published on Mar 24,2018 [ Vol 18 ,No 934]



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