Cultural Decadence By Teodros Kiros

January 14th, 2011 Print Print Email Email

A young man reports to his friend with teary eyes, that his lady of many years, to whom he gave his heart whole and pure, had been dishonest to him and went as far as secretly marrying a lover whom she had kept in secret, and now he finds himself, nursing a heart, that he knows is beyond healing. He repeated to his friend that he cannot and will not love again. (more…)

A young man reports to his friend with teary eyes, that his lady of many years, to whom he gave his heart whole and pure, had been dishonest to him and went as far as secretly marrying a lover whom she had kept in secret, and now he finds himself, nursing a heart, that he knows is beyond healing. He repeated to his friend that he cannot and will not love again.

He told further that he had shared with her everything he had, loved her family, that he ignored all her shortcomings including her illiteracy, thinking that love would overcome all their differences, that he closed his ears to all that he heard about her past.

His embarrassed friend tells him that this is our culture and that everyone he knows, is walking with a broken heart. He explained further that in the practices of ethnic x, a woman has a lover, suppliers and service provider, and that this is a common practice. The woman does all this with the full knowledge of the lover, whom she has promised to marry, the suppliers, and her family. The only one, who does not know, is the one who has given her his soul. His friend concluded by noting that both men and women are doing it to each other and justifying the actions as custom, which is unique to their ethnic groups.

A second Ethiopian reports bitterly that it is pointless to go to churches any more, because they are framed by ethnicities and that the congregation does not listen to the priests, and that some of the priests themselves have skeletons in the closet, and that they are not spiritual exemplars but rather politicians.

What angers the friend the most is that he hears church goers plotting to break marriages, contaminate friendships by conspiring to put their best friends behind bars by fabricating stories about their sexual lives, spreading rumors which never happened, if their friends are perceived to be supporters of the existing tyranny.

A third tells of a story at a party about a friend of thirty years who used him profusely and then betrayed him. He had nursed this friend when he was sick, he had fed him when he was hungry, and he had found him a job when he lost one. His friend used him and then abandoned him.

These heart-wrenching stories are emblematic of cultural decadence and I know hundreds of them, which I am compiling for a future book.

I also know my readers know thousands more.

The above stories, however, are representative samples. These examples are manifestations of decadence. By cultural decadence I mean an utter moral disorganization of the self.

In the stories above, not a single example is reflective and other regarding.In all the stories the inadvertent abuse of the other is the shameless preoccupation. Each person is advancing his own interests. The ends are shortsighted. The actions are justified by tradition and treated as natural.

Classical Ethiopian culture, however, was not so callous. Our greats wrote about love because they have loved, and also because they can love. Some of our ancestors were deeply religious and honored the sacraments of marriage and the depth of loving a person.

Modern cultural decadence has produced a population, who does not read, who ridicules the learned by openly insulting them. This is a generation who seriously asks, what love is, and wonders if there is such a feeling, such an emotion. This is a generation who cannot and does not read our great poets and writers, although our literature is replete with this dreamer/thinkers.

One way by which to correct this deadly cultural decadence is to engage in thinking and attending to the fundamental condition, of our souls, that I suggested in my recent article, “ Regime change without cultural transformation is empty” (Ethioquest, Ethiomedia, Ethiosun, ECAD, Addis Voice, Ethiosun, and Ethiopian unity

That question is; what is the condition of my Soul? I strongly suggest that we examine this question, every single day.

This question can be engaged only in the absolute stillness of being alone, away from our ethnic circles, from our contaminated churches, but always in the company of the Transcendent (God). Attending to our souls is a commitment, a moral duty, an attempt at organizing the self with the passion of knowledge, and the will to be educated.

Cultural decadence is addicting us to hate those outside of our ethnic and religious circles.. The commitment to knowledge will help us to overcome our addictions. There are certain steps that we must follow when we are seeking to know one another.

While attending to our souls we must make a commitment to ourselves that when we meet fellow Ethiopians at public spaces, we must smile at them and engage them in a conversation. Should we find out that they did not speak our language, let
us make an attempt at founding a common language. They may not reciprocate. That is fine. Your moral task is to try and leave an imprint in their minds. It is like the love situation. One does not love in order to be loved. One simply loves. The rest is destiny. So is the firmament of any encounter. We must smile without being smiled at. We must see without expecting to be seen.

Attending to our souls is the task for us. It is an excercise in the care of the self. It is an attempt at purifying ourselves for the world, so that the world could be a better place for it.

The Ethiopian world requires this particular attention from us. When we attend to our soul, other Ethiopians may be inspired to do the same. Sometimes, the world learns by examples.

We must not assume that we already know other Ethiopians by the ethnicity of their names. At the minimum that is shallow. Instead let us approach any other Ethiopian that we meet as a mystery, as someone who might enrich us, if we get closer to him/her lovingly, openly and curiously.

My forthcoming articles, inspired by private response of many readers will be a careful dissection of cultural transformation. I will develop steps of overcoming cultural decadence.

  1. abay
    | #1

    Dear mentor,i really appreciate your articles these days.It just touches my soul.May be i will add my own experience later.Rick Warren in purpose driven life says”You are not an accident.
    Your birth was no mistake or mishap, and your life is no fluke of nature. Your parents may not have planned you, but God did. He was not at all surprised by your birth. In fact, he expected it.
    Long before you were conceived by your parents, you were conceived in the mind of God. He thought of you first. It is not fate, nor chance, nor luck, nor coincidence that you are breathing at this very moment. You are alive because God wanted to create you!”

    Hence,if we know that we have greater purpose ,we will strive to be the best.The problem is we don’t have much knowledge.Educating our people is the best medicine we have.educate people not only science but also how to play with science.How to live with each other.etc

  2. Gash Polisu
    | #2


    we are alive because God wanted to create us, I can see from your quote. and this I accept with great qualification/reservation. Consider this: assume Woyzero Belaynesh is polyandrous (maintains many sexual/marital partners)and has mothered one child for each of her spouse, and let us say, has five children. if we follow your twisted logic, then the five kids were borne because God wanted to create them. However, in some other chapter, the same God instructs us that marriage is sacred and that polyandry or polygamy is a sin. thus, God does not approve extra-marital relations, and by extension having children out of legal marriage is condemned.

    additionally, what can be said of the thousand conceptions that are crippled from the very outset, say through contraception, abortion, or at worst through infanticide? can we say God did not want or approve the conception? or He did not have the will to protect them?

    i believe that nothing in this world occurs without the knowledge of our Lord for he is the only all knowing Lord. but i dont think that every event occurs because God wanted it. when you are cheating your wife, keeping secret relationship, and thereby having another child(ren) hidden from your wife, can we say that God wants all this to happen? your claim that everything (especially the birth thing) happens because God wanted it does not seem to make any sense, in fact it shifts the blame from irresponsible men and women who act to bring such events because of their sheer greed or lusty misdemeanor

  3. Tad
    | #3

    Almost accurate article, if you can diagnose both love and justice at the same time.
    Don’t undermine the problem with ethnicity in ethiopia.

  4. Idiot dictator
    | #4

    Culture, ethnic identity, or Religion should not be the basis for unity.How about common interests Sir? freedom, choice, justice, capital, etc. Do you think the USA used religion, ethnic identity, and culture to bring unity? you can preach your relgious, cultural, or ethnic believes every where you wish if people accept you, but don’t dream they will bring us together. This is not the failed Gothic Era in Europe.

  5. Fikre
    | #5

    Dear Dr. Teodros Kiros, You have pointed to a good topic that needs to be given due consideration if we are to succeed as a nation in this traumatizing times. I always admire your vision and insight. I left Ethiopia recently and i nearly suffered mental breakdown before I left Ethiopia partly from the discrimination unjust treatment, human right abuses i received from the EPRDF regime for long and partly by the level of hatred and opportunism some of my own colleagues displayed in a bid to gain favor and advantage at the expense of other people. EPRDF took advantage of this decadent cultural hole and is now able to pit one group against another.
    I was considered as a threat to the government. Meles Zenawi , of course, does not know me at all, and does not need to know me at all. However, the people around me locally convey such messages and paint a picture of me being a danger to a nation and the EPRDF (Tekawami). I am a proud and respectful Ethiopian and law abiding citizen, and i have never been a danger to my people, my beloved country and was not in any way a threat to the EPRDF under any of the circumstances. I am a government worker who respect the rules and work to fulfill my responsibility and as any ordinary poor citizen i dream of good future for my self , my people and my country. But out of the blue i was labeled as a traitor! I have suffered long and endured the suffering but it had taken its toll on my health.
    I have two sons and my wife died 10 years ago. if i die, or suffer a mental breakdown, these two children of mine will be orphaned or will be homeless and will be with out parents. For me it was always mentally agonizing to think of this possibility. There is a lot of ethnic cleansing, ethnic-based discrimination and mistreatment under a platform of governance that EPRDF set up which at time means grossly mistreating one ethnic group who happen to work in another region. I have to tell you, the Tigreans suffer double because they are considered as government collaborators and those people in the regions take advantage of the “do whatever you want” power given to them to show their misplaced hate to the Tigreans. There is no where to complain to, it is a no go affair.
    The government boasts that all is well but knows too well this system is decadent but uses it to stay on power. Since i was working in a branch of a federal government organization, I came with a petition letter to the ministry in Addis stating the ghastly mistreatment i unjustly received and submitted the letter to the minister office. I came to the ministry several times, travelling long distance often with my two sons as they are not safe to leave at home alone when I am not around. But every time I come to the ministry office, i was being told that i can never see the minister and the paper is still on the minister’s table and the minister did not read the petition. They have already been misinformed beforehand that I am a threat to the nation and enemy of EPRDF. I have been told not to waste my time and transport money to come to Addis.
    Several months later I begged to be transferred to some where else and came again to the ministry with petition. They told me, my original petition is still not read by the minister and this one will also be queued for reading some time in the future and that meanwhile I should go away and that there is no way in which I will see the minister. My heart was broken. I cried inside, the world turned black on me. I felt I wish I killed myself had it not been for these two kids. I felt guilt for having given birth to these two kids. I had no where to go and I was in a serious state of desperation and depression. Knowing that I can not go anywhere, I then started searching for jobs abroad day and night over the internet; something i never did before. By pure chance, I happened to strike at a job abroad with a salary of over 20 times the salary that i get in Ethiopia.I could not believe it. I was desperate to leave Ethiopia. I have left Ethiopia before for my MSc and PhD studies and I have turned down the offer to stay abroad because I wanted to go back to my country. The first time was when I was in England for my MSc. That was the time EPRDF was closing on Addis Ababa. As I finished my MSc studies, my supervisor asked me to stay further and continue with my PhD. He was so impressed with my performance as I scored straight A’s in all the subjects I studied including the individual project I did. That was the time EPRDF just took power. I turned down my advisor’s plea and came back to Ethiopia and my suffering began right away. After I got this job, I thanked God and left Ethiopia immediately. I have to be honest with you i felt complete pain and grief when i boarded the Ethiopian air lines. I could not control my emotion. I felt as if i was being chased out of my own country and as if i do not have the right to live in that country. I can not now go back to Ethiopia as the memory of my past is still too fresh and will be revoked once again and i can not stand this. I am also not certain if EPRDF will not imprison me out of malice and there is a good possibility of that happening. I am certain that there are many, many compatriots and citizens of my country who suffered and are suffering like I suffered in the past.
    Coming to the cultural backwardness, i am appalled these days by the level of greed people show to one another and how one ethnic group mistreats another for the sake of getting government resources and enriching themselves overnight. I doubt if we the citizens are acting and behaving as citizens of one nation when seeing we are turning against each other like day light hyenas while the incumbent EPRDF monitors us from a distance. Yes i have witnessed moral decadence of gossip, hate, adultery and malice of one Ethiopian against another Ethiopian. My memory is now filled with a lot of grief and i am always wondering and am at a loss about the direction my beloved country Ethiopia is heading to.

  6. teodros kiros
    | #6

    I must thank Abugida for posting all these heart wrenching stories. Fikre’s narrative brought tears to my eyes. What a story and how well he tells it.

    The time is now ripe to really do our soul searching as Fikre and others did. I am so humbled that my lovely brothers and sisters are reading me and thinking critically. That was my intention, and it has just began happening, after twenty years of writing.

    How gratified I feel and how proud I am of my Ethiopian people.

  7. Seken Malet Degu
    | #7

    I do not venture to voice my opinion either way… have Ethiopians progressed or retrogressed, culturally, morally? The conclusive answer MUST be given in a scientific way. To my knowledge there are very few, if any, studies that are conducted in the broad question of the direction of cultural evolution in Ethiopia. It is encouraging to see some people actually presenting their observations soberly. This is the foundation of many more all inclusive consultations and studies on the subject.

  8. Drama
    | #8


  9. abay
    | #9

    Gash polisu,
    Rick warren says ‘While there are illegitimate parents, there are no illegitimate children. Many children are unplanned by their parents, but they are not unplanned by God. God’s purpose took into account human error, and even sin.’and indicated the story of David and Bathsheba and king Solomon in 2 Samuel 11.

    As you know,this is a trillion dollar question that great minds were trying to figure out,and i don’t think we have the answer yet.My point is if someone has greater purposes in his life,probably he will be good person(the article is about our cultural decadence).

  10. Tegga Lendado
    | #10

    We are discussing cultural decadence in Ethiopia. It did not happen over night. It is a cumulative effect of tolerated or neglected or unchecked evil in the pretext of underdevelopment, poverty and political rivalry, etc. We cannot point fingers only to the governments. It takes two to tango! Government, religious and community leaders are agents of their respective mission. There is sin on their bosom. There is corruption everywhere at all leves. These agents may and may not be good or bad per se. They may adopt their own utilitarian coprporate culture or value system. But, true agents of truth, love and peace are gifts from God to a society. I agree with most of what the author and his bloggers said. We need to search our hears and make it right with ourselves and our Creator. It would take a lot commitment and sacrifice to stand for the truth and other virtues to lighten up among our people. When such people brighten their corners, cultural change will be nigh! The good thing is that they are there among the people but they have to speak up and louder. They may be sacrificed but their blood would bud million others. The serious problem is if they compromise truth and keep quiet. Truth triumphs when it is revealed and relieved!

    The question of evil is a theological moot. Differnt religions or philosophies may have differnt arguments. We may not need to bang our heads with the wall for this. But, one thing I believe is God being Omni-potent, Ominicient and Omni-present, his perfect will supercedes his permissive will. That He allows evil (spirit, power, acts, thoughts) does not make him its promoter. In fact His against it allowing it to take its toll. Man’s responsibility kicks in here. Here should our moral antenna and disposition stand up. Prayer and personal dedication to God’s perfect will as revealed in His Word would have to be taught and caught. I believe this will change the society bit by bit. However, we have to uproot the sins of pride and hypocracy first with the power of humility (not greed and its associates) and truth (not deception and its associates) just like Our Lord, Jesus Christ. For further clarifications, please, read some of my pertinent articles on google. God bless every one. Thank you, author.

  11. Habesha
    | #11

    Truely compared to our forfathers this generations has been lacking in morality indeed. Our ancestors had self respect, honor, and honesty. Having siad this they were no push over fulls either. They were truely virtues. After the coupe of 1974 is when Ethiopian morality, honer and self respect began to crumble. This process has been accelerated during the time of the EPRDF. I think this generation that is of age (35-60 years old) is truely lost. The future is hard to predict also. There are signs of hope but also signs of despair. I hope the gene of our ancestors reserects itself in us once more because our moral demize is really an issue of national security greater than any government or foriegn aggressor.

  12. teodros kiros
    | #12

    Dear Lendado;

    I write to express my heartfelt thanks for a penetrating read of my article. Although a profound sinner I am, my unbounded love God, bonds me with you, my brilliant brother.

    Thanks again for teaching me so many fundamental matters about our rich culture.

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