Cultural Transformation Before Ethiopianity By Teodros Kiros

April 16th, 2014 Print Print Email Email

Our able thinkers, Professor Messay Kebede and Dr. Tesfaye Demelash, have recently written two eye-catching articles challenging article 39 of the Ethiopian constitution by arguing that this article justifies the division of Ethiopia into ethnic enclaves. Â I will call this proposition A, which I would like to contrast with proposition B which states that A can be transcended only after all of us Ethiopians become culturally transformed and cleansed from the DDT of destructive ethnicity.

The possibility of A is ground on the foundation of B, or else, all the writings are empty dreams. Â Aristotle, the great Athenian thinker once remarked that virtue is nothing more than the activity of the soul in accordance with excellence, or at least, not without it.

The two key terms in that remark are Virtue and Soul. Virtue and Soul are not foreign to classical Ethiopian moral imagination; they are only becoming increasingly uncommon to contemporary Ethiopian cultural life and thereby causing the prevalence of cultural decadence, as I argued recently in “ Cultural Decadence” (Abugida, Ethioquest, Ethiopian Review, Ethiosun, Addis voice, Ethioguardian, Quatero, Teoclahagos, Jan 14,2011).

Infact our historic Christian sensibilities preach the relevance of virtue and soul. Unfortunately, the message has not been internalized. The churches push the message but ordinary Ethiopians have not made the practice a living part of their everdaylives, and this is a serious problem, which needs to be solved.

The first step of cultural transformation is the moral organization of the self. The care of the self demands that the individual attends to her soul by developing an internal relationship between self and self, and not self and the church. The latter relationship is remote and external to the soul. The soul must be activated from the inside and the relationship between self and self is internal to the soul. The activity of the soul is a conversation that the self enters into privately, as a conversation between the creator and the lost soul, or the soul, which wishes to become virtuous, become good. The internal parts of
the soul, which must be activated, are reason, the desires and spiritedness.


These three are the engine of the soul. Should we want to be good we must cultivate the relationships between these three parts in accordance with the foundational principle of conversing with our creator.

Modern Ethiopian politics is infested with ethnicity. Â The existing regime did introduce this ethnic disposition to its mode of governance; ever since then, thinking ethnically has become as natural as drinking Ethiopian coffee. Â The learned might not openly avow it but their visions are marred by it and their practices have cemented it. Â Until after all of us Ethiopians examine our individual souls deeply no new party is going to cleanse us from this disease.

As in the medical situation prognoses must be preceded by accurate diagnoses and my personal diagnoses of the Ethiopian condition is that our souls are in cultural crises and the crises must be attended to by individual Ethiopians by developing a new culure of self-examination.

Teodros Kiros
Professor of Philosophy and English (Liberal Arts)
Berklee College of Music

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