Ethiopia, as most poor country on earth, has claimed to have attempted in recent years, and still plans, to solve the harsh long-standing poverty and build some better nation, unspecified as it may be.1
Civilization is not on the air though. Pillars hold it stand and many can be said of them. One among these many, is in the sociological fabric. Specifically, a discernible overarching cultural identity of the people. Culture guides the manners, thought-making directions, traditions, interrelationships, togetherness, norms, social-rules, etc. of the society. Binds it, gives it power, meaning, humanity, and a lot more. Without it, civilization is unfounded, unthinkable.
Ethiopia has cultures. In two ways indeed very rich. These are depth, at least in archaic terms, and multiplicity. Meaning, varieties of cultures exist and they have fair content to guide the members in different moments of life. Traditions, languages, discipline, understandings, color, dances, outfits, manners, behaviors, oral traditions, and many more exist everywhere. Hence, the culture, or at least the widely encompassing style of life, has been around at the same time poverty has ruled the nation.
The trouble comes to Ethiopia upon its wish to develop and be a modern country though. Clearly, the nation need to grow fast into that modernity no matter how late. At first, in the last century, Ethiopia commenced the same efforts of modernization. And efforts since has been bearing a zigzag of results; by now at least a series body of urban dwellers, few industrial centers, and modern business services has germinated.
The question lies just here. Ethiopians at central country level, in these “modern” spots, are not from a single cultural background. They are gathered from varied cultures, and in time, two factors affected their original cultures. First, the time itself became too long that, urban life reduced the original culture and life styles they used to have faded away. Much care to keep original identities with modernity absent. Urbanization took it unquestioned that abandoning these cultures that had been in rural areas, as a matter of fact, is a necessity. Most recognized that without difficulties, old cultures are useless and reflecting them in urban Ethiopia is backward, or unsupported. At times, it is even a harsh taboo. Looking like new and like an urban dweller is a source of pride, social acceptance, norm and then the unquestioned-yet-underdeveloped way of life.
Second, modernity towns and cities, especially the modern culture’s hub Addis Ababa, brought new manners of living to the nation that got examplehood in time. Time prohibited looking back at cultures that have their source in rural societies. No matter how one wishes to learn them from their center, new identities have brought this new generation only in urban cultures. Finally, the nation in its modern centers became different from its rural areas.
Now, mixture of people of different cultures caused it difficult to attempt hone one original culture. And poor understanding of values of culture and seeing only modern urban centers brought this vacuum. No matter not full yet, some wild understanding of urbanization has made the society not confident, poor common psyched, scattered, unpowered, and weird. Human level relationships and societal stands at common level are unbuilt and reduced to nearly inexistence. Mere common sense rules. Culture, as established norm of life is null.
Not adopting the fullest modern cultures from one of the successful urban centers of the world, or not extending the original cultures into urban centers, is why all this standstill occurred and all-encompassing modern cultural courage becomes unavailable in modern Ethiopia. The Oromos, Tigreans, Amharans or others who would have such a tradition around the hear such as at the beginning of summer, harvest, etc. seasons, and give life a color in it, now in towns do no Thanksgiving-like, solemn marriage-like, or any eventful and psychological tradition or teach the offspring. Or those camping, prom, get-together, home-coming, and alike charming elements of cultures are not incorporated well. We have the cultural clash and sadness, emptiness, weirdness, intergenerational quarrels, being not confident, and much more.
The modern Ethiopian in cities and towns passes life yearlong almost totally dependent on religious ceremonies and vibes. No matter how culture is a lot more and dictates life, manner of connections, belongingness and more, the urban has failed make one distinct root for itself. Political, business and economic, and other societal influencers like celebrities in sports, science, journalism, and art, etc., are either carless to share or build publicly theirs. And what can or should be common and lead cities into one urban culture, if government is oblivious? These public figures, they possibly fear involvement and leadership, or naming and shaming because some ethnicity or religion affiliation might be inferred. It seems, nobody sees these vacuum. And children see no distinct culture except blank families and ignorant society. The youth are alone. Moral and ethic values are low. Elderlies are ignored and ignorant (illiterates for the modern spots). The solemnly human-level life has been washed away. Economic, political, and national consciousness is marred. Generational crisis is hitting the nation hard. Poverty has found it fitting. A glue that makes us who we are, our respect-worthy silent leader, common vibrant culture, has died of the attempt to grow.
One way or another, life in urban centers has changed. The people in it has origins of cultures. Bad economic and urban planning and foul political plays has caused urban life to be too harsh for the society. Ethiopian Samurai or Bob Marley do not exist to fight bulky importation of modernity or cultures. At least, no one of series national caliber asks why we do not see Japan-like or Chinese, or Indians-like, or Zumra’s-like, modernity aspirations for that keep basic identities, cultures, traditions, and pass them with stern faces into children, cities’ and their buildings or life, urban-traditions, and simply way of life, thereby causing Ethiopian-colored modernity.
Unsettling and unnerving towns and cities that do not incorporate everyone culturally, has now crippled the human out of the Ethiopian modern society. Safe to conclude. The individual or small group such as friends, cliques or families might do their own cultures. But, as a nation, the country is facing a distinct absence of culture. Political and economic bargaining power of the public against mostly dictator or inefficient governments is also washed away as a result of cultural disconnectedness. Democracy is dead. Sour poverty, power grips, injustice, and national-carelessness are overflowing. The fight against these failures is failure as a result of less connectedness of the society culturally, among other strong reasons. Political aspirations and fights thereof, are growing alarmingly weaker and weaker as vacuum in cultural belongingness has eroded the societal force behind now the alien-like citizens, at least culturally.
Dire Dawa, mostly fair city that seem to have a distinct urban culture that calls for everyone’s participation in there, is too far away to the centralized nation to become example. Their some communist-like, live simple and simply at the moment together, is famous all over the country but not mirrored anywhere else. Not even Tv series or films show the glamour in their culture that seems to be not productive politically, but fairly great at its human-level success. 2 As life is too cumbersome at any place, and culture comes only from Addis into other areas. Totally, it is evident that to the people, culture seems a too far-fetched portion of life.
Before much gaps accrue to halt us from being a decent human being in a modern nation, what politics and poverty denied us, robbed us as a nation – our human nature – shall not be subject to a more folly, series throwing away. Our urban identity, unbuilt yet, holds a defining portion of our future as a nation, feeds our work, hospitability and life. As well, our economy, politics and international identity lies in it. New generation of Diaspora Ethiopians, or international guests, shall not run into the sticks to learn our cultures. Or go into one of those expensive high-end market-oriented cultural food and dance destinations to grab only basic notions. Cultures are meant to be how everything is mannered around. Grips all, from the rags to the riches. Makes, every single citizen together and one. And as rural Ethiopia keeps sacrificing it, urban Ethiopia has gone wild, with further dark future potential, through the shaming vacuum.
1 Political propaganda reiterates that becoming world power like ancient Axumites did is government’s goal.
2 The EthioEritrean bigtime author, Tesfaye GebreAbb, wrote in his “The Immigrant’s Memoire”, that life at Dire Dawa was extremely lively and vibrant social bondage; hospitality exists uniquely all around and lures anyone. Sadly, as his story culminated, he returned empty handed in few days because he could not save the money he took there to import some goods to Debre Zeit, and start a clothing trade. He lost his money because the close friends and family like hosts he was given requires money to be taken a communal resource, even if informally. Economically, only their social bondage seems to help them and works well as even hotel and restaurant customers order meals and drinks to themselves and to ‘the Wall' meaning to anyone hungry on the streets. If the board contains any receipts bought as such, then at anytime, anyone claiming he is hungry and have no money can pick and order the meal from it. Their carefree and communist like (humanity-wise) culture is though as said, a clear cultural identity taken to be unique around modern Ethiopia.
Welkite, 2020 December.