Changing the Debate: Unity by Vision – Dubale

September 21st, 2010 Print Print Email Email

The ethnic politics of Woyane has, without a doubt, orchestrated two irreconcilable political, social, economic, and even religious visions in Ethiopia. According to social scientists, “visions are silent shapers of our thought and men/women will do almost anything for their vision”. One of the curious things in this theory is that‐ vision is so engrained in human’s mind and some may even mistake it as reality, therefore, we may not even think about them to evaluate their validity. Visions could set off to subconscious actions and produce unintended results in which ordinary citizens suffer because of it. Citizens should be actively engaged in the political process to avoid subconscious decisions and actions. We Ethiopians need to think about our vision so that democratic processes and institutions flourish and make our Ethiopia a livable country where human rights are respected, efficient and fair judiciary system thrived.

In political history some observed that the same group of people is lining up on the same side time and again on different issues. The same is true in Ethiopia politics, the same group of people are lining up on the same side again and again on different issues. This is the consequence of “constrained” and “unconstrained” visions of human nature. The difference between the two visions is not in what good things they wish for citizens but in the ways how to achieve the intended good results or goals in society.

The constrained vision sees the nature of man “selfish and unchanged” and unconstrained vision sees human nature “malleable and perfectible”. In public policy application, the constrained vision sees the society ills as a process characteristic while the unconstrained vision sees it as a result/outcome characteristic. For adherent of constrained vision, the solution for inequality, freedom and justice, is fixing the process while the unconstrained vision is fixing the outcome such as distribution of the resources.

Equality, freedom, and justice which have been the predominant cause of Ethiopian revolution are envisioned in different terms by the adherent of constrained and unconstrained visions. For adherents of constraint vision, a social process that assures equality is important for freedom and justice. If the process is equal, the resulting inequality is the consequence of individual capacity that can not be totally avoided. “If the process treats everyone the same, judges them by the same criteria, whether in employment or courtroom, then there is equality of opportunity or equality before the law”. Therefore, any inequality resulting among individuals or groups is a result of capacity to produce something goods for the self.

For adherent of unconstrained vision, the results should be equalized than the process. Therefore, “applying the same criteria to those with radically unequal wealth, education, or past opportunities, and cultural orientation negate the meaning of equality”. To them, equality means the probability of achieving equal results whether in employment or courtroom. Therefore, they expect government policy or legislation to compensate for the inequality that could be created by individual capability.

The perception of a role of government is also different between the constrained vision and unconstrained vision. For unconstrained vision, government can be perfected and can play a fair arbiter role in society and they put considerable effort to create a perfect government and expect individuals to be equally committed to government and public good.

A prime example for unconstrained vision is the ideal of French revolution. All inspired by French revolution historically placed the solution for society problems completely on political leaders or government. The political activists of the time falsely assume that all individuals should be equally committed to socialism. Any person deviant from their ideal is condemned to be an evil traitor that deserves to be thrown in the dungeon and/or isolated. Similarly, when they were disappointed by their leaders’ corruption or disagreement in line of thinking, the same politicians are seeking solution by either disposing or executing the leaders assumed to be culprits. The wrong assumption that all men are equal in their commitment and the desire to perfect government do not leave a room to accommodate for any variation to exist.

By contrast, the constrained vision sees government or political leaders possessing not only deficiencies but also evil, just like any individual possess multiple negative characteristic. Government is not expected to either distribute resources or curtail inequalities. Humans are perceived as inherently selfish and possess different capabilities resulting unavoidable inequalities. The government role is primarily protecting individual right, executing rule of law, and securing territorial integrity of a nation rather than regulating inequality among citizens. Since governments are not seen different than individual human, they do not expect perfect government that would fairly arbiter issues in society. Therefore, the constrained vision favors check and balances in the government or political leadership to minimize damages government could inflict on individuals and would restrict unlimited power of the government.

The vision of Ethiopian political elites can also be broadly categorized and explained on the basis of the two visions. A point to note is that visions are hardly distributed on the basis of ethnicity or geographic locations. In other word, vision is an individualistic phenomenon not societal phenomenon and a particular vision cannot be attributed to particular society.

The past political processes of the 1960 & 70s in Ethiopia, particularly the socialist aspirations of the students movements, middle class elites committed for change, and ethnic struggles promoting freedom (loosely, the likes of Derg, Woyane, EPLF, OLF, EPRP, etc. of the time) are all protagonist of the French revolution. All has been inspired by ideal of perfect government of French Revolution. The politics of this generation is still commits to unfettered loyalty to their political leaders in creating the perfect government and willing to give absolute power to this perfect government for curtailing inequalities.

Constrained vision appears to be espoused by new generation of Ethiopia and multi‐ethnic parties with pan Ethiopia agenda. This outlook of the new generation and multi‐ethnic parties is shaped by pragmatist behavior developed through living under difficult political and economic conditions of the Derg and Woyane era. and increased globalization, the internet information, and increased interaction with international community.

There could be a lot conversion from unconstrained vision to constrained vision or vice versa, but rest assure the unconstrained vision of the old and the constrained vision of new generation are in constant conflict. .

In the current politics of Ethiopia, the banner bearers for constrained vision of process equalization are multi‐ethnic political parties. They aspire to bring equality and freedom for citizens by keeping the process equally and fairly accessible to all citizens irrespective of ethnic origin. The new generation is looking for a government that assures equal opportunity for all individual. They are aware that their vested interest of individual freedom will not be protected by absolutely subscribing political power to fragile coalition of ethnic government.

The current banner bearers of the unconstrained vision remained to be the ethnic parties. They are mobilizing support under the subliminal assumption of protecting resources from other ethnic groups (feeling of ethnic entitlement) and equal distribution of resources to its own ethnic members. Woyane is a good example for the fallacy of ethnic parties to rein in inequalities. The political dominance of woyane has neither equalized ethnic groups nor made all Tigres beneficiaries. Of course, the upper functionaries of woyane such as Meles and his cohort grew powerful and richer, the rest of Ethiopians including Tigres grew poorer. That is because ethnic based organizational structures place neither accountability nor checks and balances to limit absolute power of the leaders.

In the last two decades, the new generation has witnessed, firsthand, the outcome of increasing concentration of power in the hands of few ethnic political leaders stifling individual freedom and encouraging ethno racism and rivalry. In this political climate, the prime interest of citizens is to keep away corrupt kebele officials and ruthless cadres from intruding in the day to day life by spying on them and imposing constant threat of political vulnerability.

The debate should be between embracing forward looking vision that has potential to make societal process fair and make opportunities available to all individuals irrespective of ethnic origin or indulging in cyclic ethnic rivalry which demands endless sacrifices of citizens in the false hope of equitable share of products.

The Author can be contacted at ethio_nation@yahoo.com

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