bY binyam HAILEMESKEL Kidane, March 22nd 2021 G.C.,
Among apparent countless tasks, the Ethiopian society needs properly understand what civilization is. Much error has occured in defining civilization’s basic notion as many believe there is what they worship, ‘Indiginous Civilization’. It is a useless effort to “citizenize” civilization.
This piece is brief discussion aiming to set up the fact that there is no indigenous civilization in Ethiopia, or on earth, and also, then, define real meaning of civilization, which will bounce back and legitimize our preceding conclusions.
To begin with, why do we see a fiction (indigenous civilization) as real while on earth, no single thing like it exists. (Of course) Except in three errors. 1) Probably it is said only to mean the naming and calling of a civilization. For instance, ancient Greece civilization, or ancient Ethiopian civilization, etc., make sense only as a name used to call a certain place of civilization. And naming is not being. It is just categorization for simplification, for ancient Greece civilization is for instance a name for studying and democracy is a universal concept. 2) A mere propaganda creates it. The case partly the one that makes us write this is this factor as will be explained latter. 3) At times, simply misunderstanding civilization’s meaning causes to believe there is a thing called indigenous civilization, something too poor understanding.
Why does no indigenous civilization exist? Because civilization is a notion peculiar to humanity as opposed to nations. Then what is it?
Civilization is a human’s answer to existence. Mankind understands himself as a creation (species) in the globe, and is required to survive and thrive. Many inputs help him achieve those goals such as the fact that it is a mere species, is given suitable pair of pawns with many fingers on them that made it easy to build, mold and so on, and so on. So the principle of civilization is to help human exist, and thrive.
Then, civilization, as a means to make up humanity, has by no fundamental base own nationality. It is neutral from boundaries. Anywhere, whatever mankind did and we called it civilization, is nothing other than a survival and thriving attempts.
The second thing is, civilization once built as answers for our existence questions, is different in space-times, only because of resources, understandings, population numbers, leadership, sustainability, etc. Some places and times understand civilization as where women are at home and wear much garments to cover body, others understand it as a place where God is worshiped, posterity is duly considered and so on. Hence, what we see, differences in civilizations, occur. But, not the civilization has differed. It is always, basically, to answer our questions of existence. It is like, civilization is the same exam paper. How answered by different people in different times and spaces, is the only difference. Hence, our situation, not civilization’s, change in time and spaces. Making civilization a neutral and usually so reality.
Further facts or arguments to prove independence of civilization.
Early civilizations are named generally as early human’s civilizations. It is know in which countries they happened. But, general reference is usually made as human’s early civilization. We say, man started language, writing, farming, and husbandry, and so on. We do not say it was indigenous civilization to some country. Rarely we use the geographical specifications by naming the places nearly only as a matter of merely locating for critical assumption makings etc., as opposed to identifying it as a civilization solely of one nation. Second, in recent history, we are seeing civilizations going global, or regional. Much is said on this, as no nation today lives by itself. Making it clear how civilization is existing and thriving.
What is the case of Ethiopia?
Ethiopians have a solemn misunderstanding here. Ancient civilization has been made in the country. But, for thousands years the nation is poor and backward. In too recent days, (starting by EPRDF) a propaganda has it that the party will take the nation back to its ancient glories. Such a propagated buzz ended up with the nation believing there is indigenous civilization in Ethiopia. In ancient days, civilizations existed. Ethiopian civilization might be the one may be even the pioneering. But it was not indigenous. It was the day and the place, answering its own existence’s questions in its own wisdoms.
That is not the purpose of this piece though. It would have been a simple error. The trouble is much as the ordinary public and some entities kept reiterating that there is indigenous civilization and it is the one to be used for the country’s future. They claim Ethiopia must follow its own unique paths to civilization. And classify public and privet activities as alien civilizations.
Now, the misunderstanding of civilization is series, then, requiring us clarify.
What do they mean when they say “indigenous civilization”? Basically, it means to use home languages, magnify traditional architectures in giant structures, using much traditional songs, meals, norms, individuals, teaching traditional skills such as weaving or alternative dispute resolution methods or medicine, in formal education, and so on.
These are never civilization. They are very little issues and too basic elements of understandings. They are rather civilization’s colors, and manifestations of national identities or interests in it. They are results of ignorance, and not thinking. If you understand civilization, you would simply incorporate them and not advocate about them.
First, let us see an easy point, how is Ethiopia today? We see the nation as a collection of scrambled attempts to answer our existence. We have used many skills and wisdoms, tools and aids, to build whatever there is now already. Starting Emperor Menilik II, bulky modernization has been flooding in, bringing us to today. Hence, it is nearly impossible to focus on “indigenous civilization” while we are built in our modern side through civilizations imported from every other nation. Second, we have ourselves contributed to the civilization in the world and the globe today functions through world-wide civilization and not indigenous civilization. As said, no country on earth have that.
Our reality and alternative?
Clearly, first, we have to know that we have gone far as a species. None of us live today in a solemn society that is not linked to a globalized human’s civilization. And no indigenous civilization exists in this reality. We are, as a globe, built from historically massive sharing of wisdom, resources, and so on. Hence, the basic idea that we have to have an indigenous civilization is a factual impossibility. We are using our imported education system and therefore knowledge and skills, let alone communication techniques and tools.
Second, we have to believe much and fundamental differences do not exist anywhere. Everyone moves towards betterment of life anywhere it is. As said, because it is a humanity’s answer to existence, basic similarity exists across the species.
Third, learn that historical legacies, traditions, religions, and norms, can, and must, be used and reflected in Ethiopia’s current and future civilization but without a misunderstanding. It is must and necessity, to incorporate local understandings, traditions, and other elements into attempts of civilization. In fact, a civilization is never whole, and impossible without embracing these local elements.
But, it has to be seen not as “indigenous civilization”, it is simply a civilization. Distinguishing civilization (a means to survive and thrive) from traditions, norms, religions, and so on that are simply other components of our existence is a necessity.
Last but not least, embracing diversity of colors in civilizations is another form of top and honest civilization itself. If civilization owns colors, (what others called “indigenous civilization”) then, embracing such is also a value dictated to be Ethiopian. A nation that kept telling itself to be hospitable, needs to exist as such, and expand the value into all encompassing tolerance. In fact, that is also a source of innovation, creativity, and more, as argued by Fareed Zakaria who argued America shall support the influx Mexican-border migrants during Biden’s early office days, stating much will be lost by the nation without positive support to them. In deed, no civilization in the 21st C., is unique. We are mixed. Our psychology is itself not indigenous that our future innovation, thoughts, etc. are not going to be so. Not anywhere. But, regarding the color of our civilization, clear reference needs to be made as such as opposed to impossible idea that indigenous civilization exists.
Made by the globe’s contribution especially since Menilik II, today’s especially central Ethiopia, is in need of more human’s civilization that answers its fundamental questions of existence, than a quarrel on futile issue that cannot be made.
This piece will return with a discussion as a reply to some discussions over this indigenous knowledge issue aired on ESAT’s ጥለት ኢትዮጵያ show by Abdul Hassan Abdullah with bigtime political figure Andargachew Tsige.