by: Alemayehu G. Mariam
When I listened to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed introducing his Prosperity Party to a gathering of youth at Millennium Hall in Adds Ababa a few days ago, I had two reactions.
The first was pure elation.
In my lifetime, I have never heard an Ethiopian leader teaching the youth to put peace above politics, humanity above ethnicity, civility above nationality, amity over animosity and prosperity above poverty.
The Ethiopian “leaders” I know always talked about using violence to force people to submit to their rule. The military socialist Derg that took power in a coup in the mid-1970s massacred 60 top officials of the imperial regime and later waged a campaign of Campaign of Red Terror in the name of “class struggle”. Some 500,000 people, most of them young, were killed and tens of thousands more disappeared.
The regime of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) that replaced the Derg similarly undertook its own campaign of “ethnic struggle” under the name “ethnic federalism” and massacred tens of thousands of young people committing atrocities worse than the white minority apartheid regime in South Africa, as I have previously documented.
Today, we have a young Ethiopian leader who is teaching the youth:
Don’t die or kill to please your politicians or for politics.
Don’t die or kill for what you believe in because you could be wrong.
Cast your votes to fight for your cause, not rocks.
If you don’t like me or my party, punish us by withholding your vote not spreading violence in the streets.
If my party loses, I will hand over power within 24 hours and become the loyal opposition.
If your party loses, accept the people’s judgment and live (not die) to fight another day.
Our problem is not the politics of identity and ethnicity. Our problem is poverty. Lack of prosperity. Lack of empathy.
We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, not our brothers’ and sisters’ jailers, torturers and tormentors.
The time for divide and rule using ethnic and religious dog whistles to grab power is over.
Prosperity is as much a state of mind as poverty is a physical state of existence.
You are what you think.
If you think of yourself as always being in poverty, you will never achieve prosperity.
If you think hate, you become haters.
If you think love, you become lovers.
Negative thoughts produce negative actions. Positive thoughts produce positive actions.
Negative energy is disempowering. Positive energy is empowering.
Fear produces inaction and indifference. Courage produces action and change.
In the end, we all become what we think.
Think solutions. Feel solutions. Don’t wallow in problems.
Work hand to achieve prosperity. Aspire prosperity. Dream prosperity. Hope for prosperity.
Don’t become friends with poverty for it will take you down and keep you down.
There is a poverty of mind. People who hate and use violence are sick in the mind.
Avoid the poverty of spirit. People who have no faith seek to lead the faithful into perdition.
For decades, you have been taught to feel like victims because of your identity, ethnicity or nationality. You are victors not victims. You are victors, captains of your fate.
You cannot be winners thinking like losers. You must always have a can-do attitude.
Fight your common enemy POVERTY with the powerful weapon of MEDEMER.
It is simply mind blowing.
I could talk about a paradigm shift in leadership in Ethiopia with PM Abiy.
In a political paradigm shift, one restructures the way one thinks and does politics.
PM Abiy is changing hearts and minds of the youth in a way I cannot fully explain.
To the best of my understanding as a member of the Hippo Generation (older generation), his approach to the Cheetah Generation (younger generation) seems straightforward: You can make Ethiopia a great and prosperous nation only if you can convince the young people to put their noses to the grindstone, shoulders to the wheel and their eyes fixed on the prize.
In order to convince the youth, you must first win their hearts and minds.
To do that, you must be able to inspire them, uplift their spirit, touch their souls and stoke up their creativity for Ethiopia’s prosperity.
In short, Abiy Ahmed is campaigning not to win votes but to win hearts and minds!
I believe the 2020 election is going to be a referendum, a verdict on Ethiopia’s future, not an election of leaders for a government.
Ethiopia is at a crossroads today. Whichever road it takes will determine what will happen for generations to come.
The opportunity Ethiopia has been granted today, I believe, is divinely ordained.
Learning from the selfish child who became President of the most populous country in the world
PM Abiy was teaching and preaching to the youth with real life examples and metaphors.
He talked about a story he had read about Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Xi was a selfish little brat when he was child. He cared only about what he wanted and did not care about others. He could not keep friends but always blamed his friends for not liking him.
One day, Xi’s father wanted to teach his son a lesson in how to make friends and influence people. He prepared two bowls of noodles and placed one egg (a holiday delicacy during Xi’s days) on one of the bowls. Xi’s father told his son to choose one of the bowls and start eating. Xi instantly chose the bowl with the egg on top. Xi’s father started eating from the other bowl and covered by noodles at the bottom of the bowl were two eggs.
Xi was disappointed. His father noticed and gave him a piece of advice. “Son, what your eyes see may not always be true. By being greedy and taking advantage of others, you will eventually lose.”
A few days later, Xi’s father made two bowl of noodles and asked his son to choose one and eat. Xi, having learned from his previous experience, chose the one without the egg on top. But when Xi stirred to the bottom of the bowl, there were no eggs.
Xi was terribly disappointed missing out on the rarely available delicacy. His father gave him another piece of advice. “Son, do not trust too much in previous experience because life can be unpredictable.”
A few days later, Xi’s father did the same thing and asked his son to make a choice. But this time Xi had learned his lesson. “Father, you deserve to make the first choice because you have sacrifices so much for our family. Please make your choice.” The father made his choice with the bowl with an egg on top. Then he gave him another piece of advice, “Son, always remember, when you think about others, good luck will come your way.”
PM Abiy changed part of the advice. “When you think about others, the Creator will help you.”
I learned the profound lesson PM Abiy taught to the Ethiopian youth today in my own youth long ago from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:
Every man [and woman] must decide whether [s]he will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgment. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’
Dr. King taught us the method for “Conquering Self-Centeredness” in his 1957 sermon. He said, “one of the best ways to face this problem of self-centeredness is to discover some cause and some purpose, some loyalty outside of yourself and give yourself to that something.”
True it is!
The allegory of the good and bad wolf in all of us
PM Abiy used the allegory of the two wolves that are always fighting in the hearts and minds of every human being. He said:
There are two fearsome wolves that live in every human being. One is a bad wolf who is filled with hate, discriminatory and likes to belittle others. He is lazy and trash talks those who work hard. He lies, steals and cheats. He is greedy and self-centered.
The other is a good wolf who speaks truth, works hard and loves his neighbor and is willing to forgive others. He understands history and believes in making progress my practicing Medemer.
If you should ask which of the two wolves will win, the answer is, “the one would you feed the most”.
If you feed jealousy, thievery and hate to the bad wolf, he will grow large and eat the good wolf.
But if you feed the good wolf truth, honesty, good will and altruism, then he will grow large and swallow the bad wolf.
So, the choice is yours.
Beware, the wolf that’s grows in you, whether good or bad, will not be limited just to you. The bad wolf will eat you and all that is around you. If the good wolf wins, he will spread love, goodness, forgiveness around you.
So young people, put your energy knowledge efforts to do good and may the Creator enlighten your hearts and minds.
My apologies to Ethiopia’s youth: How much I regret my generation which has been wolfed down by the bad wolf!
I wish there was a leader to teach my generation what PM Abiy is teaching this generation.
I am full of regrets.
On behalf of my generation, I apologize to the present generation what folly it is for my generation to have fed the bad wolf in Ethiopia the raw meat of ethnic hatred, national disunity, communalism and sectarianism.
I regret and apologize for my generation that has been feeding the bad wolf a high caloric diet of hate, anger, division, strife and ethnic superiority.
I regret and apologize for my generation that has raised and nurtured the bad wolf that has beaten down, torn to pieces, overpowered and crushed the good wolf living in the hearts and minds of the young people of Ethiopia.
I regret and apologize for my generation that has taught the young people of Ethiopia the proverbial, “Man is wolf to man.” (homo homini lupus) and create a toxic political environment of ethnocentrism, communalism and sectarianism.
My hopes and dreams for the young people of Ethiopia: A future of Peace, Prosperity, Progress and Liberty
I say to the young people of Ethiopia, never look back. “The only time you should ever look back is to see how far you have come.”
Do not be worried about that big bad mangy old wolf that once roamed the Land of 13 Months of Sunshine wolfing down everything in its way. He is gone, gone forever. He will never, never come back!
I know today that big old bad wolf is huffing and puffing to blow down the Ethiopian House.
Never fear. The Ethiopia House is built from stone and bricks and the big bad wolf can huff and puff until the cows come home. The Ethiopia House shall not be mover. It shall stand strong atop the hill.
So, know that the old wolf pack is disbanded, discombobulated, disheartened and disinherited.
Indeed, the big bad old wolf has inherited the wind, gone with the wind!
How sweet it is to see the big bad wolf curled up under the rock from whence it came.
Now that the big bad wolf is gone, it is now your responsibility to raise the good wolf!
Young people of Ethiopia:
If you allow the bad wolf of negative thinking and hate to rule your hearts and minds, you will deplete your mental and spiritual energies. You will become angry, hateful, bitter and even violent.
If you allow the good wolf in you to feed on love, reconciliation, forgiveness, tolerance, civility and humility, you will be energized so you can build a great society and shining city upon a hill.
I am supremely confident you have the will, the capacity and determination to raise a strong, fearless and determined good.
You must know it is not the size of the wolf in the fight that determines the winner. It the size of the fight in the wolf that does.
The young good wolf of prosperity can and will beat the bad wolf of poverty, illiteracy, disease, hate and strife.
The young good wolf you must now raise shall have many names. Peace. Love. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Prosperity. Tolerance.
For ages and ages, Ethiopians have lived together in holy matrimony, as brothers and sisters, as friends, as neighbors and as compatriots.
We have always been “man is man to man”, not “man is wolf to man”.
We have lived our daily lives in hardship, in fellowship and holy worship.
Have faith. The victory of the good wolf is preordained.
My warning to Ethiopia’s young people… Ethiopia’s destiny is in your hands and in your hands only!
I would like to share the allegory of the boy, the bird and the old man with the young people of Ethiopia.
In a small village lived a wise old man to whom everyone turned for guidance and advice. One day, a young boy decided he would trick the old man with a question that he knew the old man could not answer correctly.
The boy’s plan was to find a little bird and hold it cupped in his hands hidden from sight. He would then ask the wise old man to guess if the bird he holds covered between his pals is alive or dead. If the old man said the bird is dead, he would open his hands and let it fly showing the old man is not as wise as everybody believed. If the old mad said the bird is alive, the boy would squeeze and kill the bird proving the old wise man wrong.
So, the boy approached the old man and asked, “Wise old man, can you tell what I have in my hands?”
“Of course, I can,” replied the old man. “From all the feathers sticking out of your hands I can tell you have a little bird.”
“That is true! But as wise as you are, can you tell me if the bird alive or dead?”
The old man paused for a moment, looked at the boy compassionately and responded, “ “Whether the bird is alive or dead is in your hands my child. The choice is yours.”
So, it is with Ethiopia. Whether Ethiopia will live to be a land of peace, prosperity, progress and liberty in in your hands, Young People of Ethiopia. And only in your hands!
On a personal note…
I believe the 2020 election will be a referendum on Ethiopia’s future.
As I think of my generation, I regret how we weaponized the bad wolf of tribalism, communalism, socialism, communism, Marxism, sectarianism and all the other “isms” in our feeding frenzy for power, influence and money.
In our obsessive quest for “what’s-in-it for I, me and myself”, we have decided to feed the tens of millions of poor Ethiopians who can barely feed themselves to the bad hungry wolf.
Luckily, we are the last of our breed.
The young good wolf is rising and winning the hearts and minds of the common struggling people of Ethiopia.
I believe in my heart and mind, without doubt or reservation, Abiy Ahmed is wholly and fully committed to lifting Ethiopia up from poverty with his Party Prosperity.
I believe Abiy Ahmed is campaigning for the future of Ethiopia, its young people.
I believe Abiy Ahmed carries the cause of generations to come. He does not look at the rearview mirror to drive Ethiopia forward.
Some countries pride themselves as “Land of the brave and home of the free.”
I know as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow that Ethiopian will one day be known as the “Land of Peace and Home of Prosperity and Liberty.”
With age, I suppose, comes a certain amount of poetic sentimentality.
I shall indulge in such sentimentality for the benefit of the Ethiopian youth paraphrasing a verse in Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken”:
YOU shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood in Ethiopia, and YOU—
YOU took the one less traveled by,
That road named “Peace, Prosperity, Progress and Liberty”
And that has made all the difference for the coming generations.
LET US ALL HOLD HANDS AND TRAVEL ON THE ROAD TO PEACE, PROSPERITY, PROGRESS AND LIBERTY IN ETHIOPIA!