Below this latest Ghion Cast is the article that gives context to the interconnected nature of injustice that gashes billions throughout the world.
It saddens me to write this. Witnessing my once homeland Ethiopia sink further into the abyss of political turmoil and societal upheaval truly weighs on my heart. I left Ethiopia when I was seven years old as the Derg government fractured a nation that survived intact for more than 3,000 years by unleashing mass terror upon the people. A student led movement demanding change during the era of Emperor Haile Selassie became the pretext that Mengistu Hailemariam used to gain power and spread unimaginable horrors throughout the country.
My parents sought political asylum and left behind a life of upper-middle class privilege in Addis Ababa to become working class immigrants in America. Gone were the days of eating the finest tire tsega (steak) in Bole and attending Lycée Guebre-Mariam private school, our new reality became Raman noodles in Alexandria and the school of hard knocks. It was an exodus away from my birth land that induced the first wounds in my heart. Tragedy is seemingly striking twice in my life; I’m now witnessing the the same political chaos and social upheaval we fled when I was child blossoming in America—factionalism is tearing apart the fabric of our nation.
I’ve been reflecting on the tribulation that gashed my native land and subsequently imbued my youthful heart with sadness the past few days. This whimsical introspection was caused by the unexpected developments that have been rocking Ethiopia this week. The sudden resignation of Prime Minister Desalegn Hailemariam was a political earthquake, one which underlines the decades of repression and authoritarianism that has been the calling card of the TPLF government since they deposed Mengistu Hailemariam and decided to keep his iron fist. This most unexpected bombshell is seen by some as a hopeful breakthrough that could deliver Ethiopia from the hands of the brutal TPLF regime and chart a new course towards good governance.
As much as I want to partake in the optimism, I sadly see what is taking place in Ethiopia through a more disquieted lens. This is what I know to be true of America as much as it is of Ethiopia and most corners of our planet; the vast, complex and interconnect ideology of gluttony and capital greed that is diminishing hope and reducing people into the valley of despair and distress is a lot bigger than one man or one political faction. We have become a society so affixed on personalities that we lose sight of the policies and the overriding of larceny that is the root of global suffering that we have come to accept as a norm.
I could spend the next few paragraphs trying to professorially break down this system and who is responsible for the wickedness of this world. That would be hubris on my part; trying to figure out where evil begins and where compliance starts is as vexing as trying to ascertain the meaning of life. Instead of pretending to know more than others, let me focus on the things that I do understand based on my own experiences. Evil exists because people give allowance to it. I truly believe in my heart that we could have a modicum of coexistence and peace in our time if only a critical mass decided to revert back to our true light.
We have been conditioned over our lives and through generations of indoctrination that we are the greater when we chase our own individual success. Humans are supposed to be communal; we find fulfillment when all feel a sense of ownership and when opportunity is shared by society instead of being hoarded by the oligarchy. This essence of community has been replaced by materialism even as our gains come at the cost of the collective whole. Yet the more we chase individuality and self-wealth, the more we get mired in individual misery and the poverty of the spirit. Our political discourse is a reflection our our individual choices; a society sickened by tribalism, indulgence and the need to assuage our egos first will get a government that treats us and gives back as such.
The more we fight about politics, the more we get away from our connective source. This is, of course, how those in power want us. The same way that the savage TPLF government shattered a once cohesive nation into a million pieces by introducing a form of neo-Apartheid they call ethnic federalism, governments throughout the world have been pitting people against each other in order to pillage all apart. Leaders from former PM Hailemariam of Ethiopia to President Trump are the public faces who give cover to a nefarious and insidious cabal of plutocrats who run the world through a mix of cash diplomacy and weaponized currency. Click To Tweet
In a world that has an abundance to feed tens of billions more, these same moneyed aristocracy have convinced the planet that scarcity threatens us all. They create a crisis only to pretend to be saving us from that which they hatched—be careful of wolves who use charity as wool. These are the very elites who foster and further tribalism as a means of sowing unrest and driving us into poverty and dependency. We have been programmed to think through a prism of greed instead of striving for collective wealth. Ethiopia has enough natural resources to feed the entire continent of Africa and enrich all, instead the masses are suffering in deficiency as a blessed nation is reduced to beg for international aid.
The wealth gap between the haves and have nots in Ethiopia is astounding. As a privileged few lead lives that would make sultans in Qatar blush, there are teeming masses of children in Addis Ababa who have been sentenced to a life of homelessness and indigence. On the same block that the Addis Sheraton—”the pride of Ethiopia”—dominates the skyline, the young and old alike are linked by the dire straits of panhandling to survive. It doesn’t have to be this way; if only we return to the spirit of togetherness and communal sharing that kept us for centuries, the suffering would be lessened and opportunities might be shared by more.
But too many have been convinced that the way forward is to chase modernity and attain individuality above all. This is why some brag about the economic development of Ethiopia and the way money is flowing into the nation from abroad. But what good is developing buildings if the foundation is cracked? The foundation I speak of are the people; a society that hoards the riches for a few and spreads the suffering for the rest is a society that is spiritually broken. This spiritual brokenness is now being manifested into political turmoil and social unrest. The new government of Ethiopia just declared a State of Emergency as the nation spirals into a tailspin of uncertainty and strife.
Leaders intent on enriching themselves and an opposition hell-bent on gaining power for the sake of power are undoing Adwa (watch video below) and delivering us into the bondage of colonialism. We once had worthy rulers who served the people; Queen Taitu repelled Italian invaders and Atse Tewodros II rescued Ethiopia from Zemene Mesafint (age of darkness) and united a fractured nation as one. This age is long gone, we are now led by mercenaries who serve their colonial masters as they enrich themselves and gift famines to the people. Government and opposing parties alike partake in a sham, they pretend to be for us as they wipe their Armani boots on our backs.
What is needed in Ethiopia most is not a new leader nor a new government. What we need urgently is for the people to pause, reflect and start to heal from within. My homeland has never been the same since the Derg government rose to power by murdering hundreds of thousands and terrorizing millions throughout the land. We are a nation that has been deeply traumatized and separated from our soil and our souls. A campaign of suspicion and collective anxiety destroyed a culture of shared values and shared sacrifice. The elders used to guide the youth and the youth would listen to their elders; this heritage is disappearing as the young and the old would rather validate their egos than serve their people.
What I write about Ethiopia is equally applicable to my new home America. We live in a nation that has more wealth than 90% of the world combined, yet here too the gap between the rich and the poor boggles the mind. We too need to pause, reflect and to heal from within. Medan in Amharic means to heal; we can’t expect the world to mend if we don’t fix what is broken within all of us first. Too many of us would rather prove the superiority of our ideas than strive for equality for all. We let our egos drive us more than we allow kindness to lead us. If we do not find a way to make forbearance and empathy be our North Stars, one day soon we will all be made equal through mass poverty and hardship.
I don’t write these things to disparage all Ethiopians or to cast aspersions towards all Americans. Too often those who act with malice are the most visible while those who give through love toil is anonymity. Through the worst of times, we find the best in all of us. A two year journey throughout America awoken me to the plight of the masses as I a trek into the wilderness of adversity and destitution removed the scales of tribalism from my eyes and revealed the struggles and hopes that binds all of us irrespective of our identity and ideologies. In my most vexing tribulation, I saw the best in humanity and realized that unity is the only way we can stand up for justice.
The deep hurt I felt as a child being snatched away from the country that gave birth to me was salved by the tribulation I endured for two years in America. I finally realize the wisdom behind a verse I used to curse, I learned to count hardship as a blessing. It was this wisdom earned through adversity that made me understand why one of the most vivid memories I have of Ethiopia is the remembrance I hold on to the most. When I was six years old in Ethiopia, I used to venture here to fro. One day, I traveled further than usual. A walk into the woods soon enough led me to an opening where I saw a hut (gojjo) made out of mud.
An elderly lady saw me and her first reaction was not to ignore me or to shoo me away. She embraced me and treated me as though I was her child. A poor woman in the woods fed a child who was living a life of a prince in the city. This is the memory of kindness and love that has always bonded me to Ethiopia. We are a people who love to give our first and last bite; we eat together, we pray together, we celebrate together and when life comes to and end, we mourn together as well. We have let conformity eat away at this unity, in the quest to become wealthy, we have become poor in our spirit.
Martin Luther King once said that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Likewise, the suffering of a few in times becomes the reality for many. The only way we can stand for justice is through inclusiveness. Disavow politicians who try to convince you that your struggle is different and walk away from demagogues who try to inculcate a sense of vengeance and vindication in your heart. They are roiling you into antagonism and angry discontent for a reason; a people led by vindictiveness are easier to rip asunder and oppress apart.
Instead of trying to monopolize pains, let us seek a spirit of collectiveness. When we start to judge our advancement by the wellness of the least among us and realize that our hopes and pains are interconnected, perhaps we can start to make progress as a people. If not, if we keep chasing wealth for ourselves as we ignore the plight of the masses, all we will find is emptiness. The only people who thrive in this paradigm of pervasive rancor and selfish pursuits are those who get paid to perpetuate hatred and animosity, the rest of us who turn to anger to drive out hate are only adding logs on the fire that will one day consume us. We should really think on these things and ask ourselves if the legacy we want to leave our children is that of acrimony and distrust.
I pray for my once home Ethiopia and my new abode America. I pray for all throughout the world. May we realize before it’s too late that our fates are interconnected and united as one. The vast majority of humanity has come under the yoke of a few who have turned us into their possessions and chattel. It does not have to be this way; their strength is only evident as long as we are fractured. Our might is in unity; their power is our disunion. When we put humanity above tribalism, a new day for Ethiopia, America and the world will be upon us. #MedanThroughLove
“A thousand spiders can tie up a lion” ~ an Ethiopian proverb
Today’s “contribution campaign” will be earmarked to Seeds of Africa, a non-profit dedicated to giving hope and a future to disadvantaged children and their families in Ethiopia. Find out more about Seeds of Africa by clicking HERE and give as you are able so that they can give as they can. Thank you.
Check out this Ghion Cast where I discussed how unity and togetherness has always defeated oppression and colonizers from Ethiopia, Haiti, America and beyond.
This article is inspired by this video by Getish Mamo about the unity and love that is the story of Ethiopia. Le zelalem tinur Ethiopia.
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.