Yesterday morning, I shared a conversation with someone I admire greatly that truly saddened me and injected a sense of hopelessness in my heart. As I was preparing a meeting agenda at a local coffee shop for a conference call that I was due to host later on in the afternoon, I ran into a friend whose name I shall withhold and entered into a friendly debate about my recent activities and the situation taking place in my birth land Ethiopia. As I explained my position on the way for Ethiopia can move forward, he told me that he has given up on the idea of the greater good and that he was instead focusing on defending the tribe I was born into.
“Teddy legna man aleh”, he asked matter of factly in Amharic. As in who is there for Amhara people. He then told me that Ethiopia can only be saved by God and that it is time for Ahmaras to rise up. I asked him how that approach is any different than the way the TPLF rose to power by fighting for one tribe and turning the rest of Ethiopians into second class residents. I know he is a good man and someone who is full of wisdom, but years of tribal politics turned a once idealist into a realist with an ax to grind. This is nothing new; people can only take so much maltreatment before they eventually become vengeful.
Here is what I know to be true: the minute you give your hand to hopelessness and decide to fight iniquity with anger, you have lost the battle for justice and you instead turned yourself into a tool of the status quo. I don’t write this to judge or dismiss people; rather I proffer this missive in hopes of reaching people before they turn away from love and embrace indifference and retribution. I do so knowing that I will be hated by many for daring to preach inclusion and seeking unity; we live in a time of tribalism and those who invoke togetherness find themselves in no man’s land catching flak from all sides who would rather saunter in the ghettos of self-interest as they disavow a common cause.
The part that struck me the most is that my friend who was effectively telling me that my effort was useless and that it’s better to focus on saving “our tribe” is someone who has a great reservoir of knowledge and a deep appreciation of Ethiopianism. It hit me at that point that my birth land is on an accelerated path towards a final dissolution. After 17 years of Marxist lawlessness and the wanton destruction of an institution that kept Ethiopia united for 3,000 years, a tribal based government swept into power in 1991 promising change only to deliver Apartheid rebranded by way of Ethnic Federalism. Forty-four years of despotism conditioned a large swath of Ethiopians to believe in tribe above nation. Even those who believe in patriotism have been beaten into submission—every man is out for self as we race towards disintegration.
Lest you think this virulent form of tribalism is endemic to only Africa, rest assured that tribalism is even more prevalent here in the United States and throughout the “developed world”. Whereas tribes in my native land are based on ethnicity, here in America, tribes are more insidious. Black, white, Democrat, Republican, believer, atheist, gay, straight; the ruling class have carved out an endless array of identities and convinced us that we are better off wrapping ourselves in the cocoons of artificial constructs. This is how a fraction of humanity can literally subjugate billions; as long as we are fighting over our differences, we will never come together to defend our common interests.
The establishment have perfected divide and conquer to a science. What use is there for guns and bullets to oppress humanity when they can just brainwash us into believing that our plights are not interconnected? After splintering us apart, they then brilliantly manipulate us to have malice and indifference for those who share our suffering. Politics, news and entertainment; media has been weaponized to induce factionalism and seduce us with the apple of animus. Like crabs in a barrel, we would rather claw at each other instead of clawing at the barrel that oppresses all. As we bicker over crumbs, the well-to-do are taking our cakes and eating our livelihood too. Click. Clack. Kapow. Toil in pieces humanity.
In all honesty, the only reason I have arrived at this place of understanding is because I went through the fire of poverty and hardship not too long ago. However, I don’t recount that part of my life for pity or out of some sense of victimization; through brokenness I was made better for I had the cataract of prejudice seared off my eyes. There was a time not too long ago when I believed that “white people” were the source of all this world’s ills and that the only way to fight for justice was by putting them in their place. However, after enduring two years of homelessness and residing next to broken souls of all stripes and shades, I realized that injustice and suffering do not discriminate and that the only way to stand up for equality is through inclusion. The same way that Malcolm X had his awakening in Mecca, I had my Mecca moment in shelters and missions in South Carolina, Iowa, Tennessee and Colorado.
The only reason you are reading this article at this moment is because I was lucky enough to not remain bitter when life handed me a truck full of lemons. After losing everything I had worked all my life to attain, going from living in a luxury condo to sleeping on concrete pillows and becoming the laughing stock of my community, my first reaction was to become vindictive and to seek vengeance. Livid from the feeling that an injustice had been committed against me, I saw red and wanted payback against all who wronged me and took advantage of my naivety which I mistook for kindness. Upon arriving in Greenville, South Carolina in March of 2015, I made it a point to get back at all who mistreated me. Within short order, I expended all my energy only to find myself in the dead end of unending sorrows that had me contemplating dark thoughts of a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
My life did not turn around until I stopped seeking revenge. When I recount my faith and thank God for getting me out of the dark hole of homelessness, I don’t do so to convert others but to let people who are mired in dejection know that there is a tomorrow of hope after today’s sorrows. I know I am not the rule but the exception; most people who enter into indigence never exit until they breathe their last breath. There are many reasons for this fact; poverty is a social stigma that is harder to erase than Trump’s ego and Hillary’s cackle. However, as much as society judges the underprivileged, there are internal issues that institutionalize people into a life sentence of deficits. Chief among these self-imposed chains is vindictiveness.
I recount this story for a reason, in a lot of ways my life story is a parable of what is taking place in my homeland Ethiopia and my adoptive home America. In a paradigm of pervasive outrage and inequalities that are indenturing humanity into capital chattel, it is easy to give our hands to antipathy. But doing so is precisely what the status quo wants; the surest way to lose agency and become impotent as a people is to turn away from love and embrace hate.
I plead with all who are willing to listen, please do not let your hearts be infected by hatred. I know most of us want to make a difference in this world and to fight against injustice, but as Martin Luther King Jr. once wisely noted, “hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness, we must meet the forces of hate with the power of love”. You can’t overcome racism, sexism and the endless stream of prejudices by emulating the enemy’s tactics. If our aim is justice, we must be about all or we end up fighting for just us only to be marooned on islands of loneliness. #Ethiopia #America #Humanity #MahnAlen Click To Tweet
I return to the statement that my friend made that inspired this article with respect to God saving Ethiopia. A very wise man once noted that faith without works is dead; we cannot outsource the dispensation of justice to God while we in-source malice and indifference. We have to do our part to make a positive difference in this world. Effecting change through love is hard, if it was easy we would have had peace on earth by now. However, if our objective is equality for all, we must say no to tribalism and hold on to our common humanity. Failing that, Ethiopia is headed down the path of Hotel Rwanda and America will follow in her footsteps.
Let me take this last moment to clarify one thing to people who have followed my work for more than two years who might feel a sense of whiplash by my seemingly sudden change of course when it comes to my political and social outlooks. Let this article be a perfect example that I have not given up on standing up for justice and that my heart is still firmly entrenched with the plight of the oppressed. Just because my focus is on Ethiopia as we try to restore the monarchy within a constitutional framework does not mean that I have given up on the issues that I’ve been advocating for more than two years at the Ghion Journal. In fact, my decision to accept the chairmanship of Ethiopians for Constitutional Monarchy was in many ways made because I realized that it is almost pointless to bash the establishment from the outside and decided to build an institution that will speak on behalf of the marginalized humanity. May God Bless Ethiopia, America and the world.
“When spiders unite, they can tie up a lion.” ~ Ethiopian proverb
I dedicate this song to Ethiopians everywhere and everyone throughout the world who has tasted the bitter pill of exclusion. I ask you to not let your hearts be infected by anger, be love in defiance of injustice. This video by Mesfin Bekele is one that speaks of our common humanity, proving that music is a universal language, even if you can’t understand the words, listen to the music and watch the visual, let us unite for our children’s sake.
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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.
Latest posts by Lij Teodrose Fikremariam (see all)
- First They Replace Your Name, Next They Erase Your Existence - June 10, 2019
- Who is there for Us? When Suffering and Hopelessness Give Way to Tribalism and Hatred - May 26, 2019
- Judge Not… - May 16, 2019