By Assegid Habtewold
It has been more than ten days since my article entitled “The Necessity of Cultural Reform: Working with time, not against” has been posted on some Ethiopian websites. Some readers reached out to me via email and expressed their appreciation for taking the bold move to talk about a well-known challenge of our community. They’re right. It’s a known issue and, at the same time, a taboo where we don’t complain about it, let alone do something to change it. However, a couple of them suggested for me to continue educate our people about the necessity of time management. I didn’t promise them a lot except to indicate my willingness to continue talking about it. This is mainly because I planned to write one article per month on different themes, and I really wanted to move on to my next topic.
However, after a couple of days later, I thought they were right. This long-standing challenge of ours doesn’t go away with just one article. My initial thought, however, was that I’ll keep posting blogs about time on the Facebook page that I created a couple of months ago called Standing for Ethiopia. It has over two hundred fifty people as fans, and on average, more than 150 people read each post. I thought that isn’t so bad until I shared this idea to one of my colleagues who encouraged me to open this page. He was disappointed. He argued, “You’re undermining our people. There are many Ethiopians who could lend their hands and take this and other important messages that are aimed at empowering our community leaders, professionals, and business owners. Don’t limit your ideas just on a fan page. Share your challenges. You’ve great contents. There’re others who have platforms and resources to compliment your efforts.”
Well, he was persuasive. That is why I’m talking about it here and decided to become vulnerable. Normally, I don’t want to sound in my writings as desperate or preachy or needy. But, it’s not about my ego, right? Here is what happened when I made that decision: My mind opened up and I could see some possibilities. The first thing I told my colleague was that I work with world class training companies and I’ve trainer colleagues so if I get some financial supports, I could bring many trainings to our community. And, we could empower our leaders and transform our people, and turn around our destiny. Again, he found me shortsighted. He intervened and said, “Why don’t you start first with our own resources and people.” He was right, again. For that matter, it occurred to me that I’ve great partnering human resources development companies owned by Ethiopians, and I’ve also some well skilled Ethiopian trainer friends. My friend added that I could also approach our community organizations, which have conference rooms, training infrastructures, and some funding. Well, if you read this article and think that you could be helpful in this endeavor, you may please contact me and let’s do something about it. For now, I would like to share with you my recent conversation with a friend, and a follow up blog that I posted on Standing for Ethiopia Facebook page. Please note that I made some editing to the original post.
Yesterday (this was a couple of days ago), a good friend of mine asked me why I’m not talking about the ongoing uprisings in the different parts of our country, and the brutality of the regime in killing civilians. He wondered why I rather talk about time management in the midst of this challenging TIME. Some of you my friends here on FB (now the readers of my articles around the world) may ask the same question. Therefore, let me spend some time and talk about it. Yes, I admit that our people, mainly out of despair are fighting with their bare hands (recently, we start to see some with guns) against a well-armed brutal state. It’s sad and shame at the same time to witness the irresponsible acts of a government while the international community is watching from a distance.
When are we going to sit down and talk like civilized people, and work together without resorting to violence? I know the current regime takes the lion share of the blame and responsible for where we are right now. It could have facilitated a smooth and non-violent transition to democracy. Understandably, the people of Ethiopia around the country are forced to resort to uprisings and violence. We all know where this road leads, don’t we? Isn’t it a deja vu? I don’t want to go in detail and analyze the situation and predict what is going to happen. TIME will soon tell how this recent movement ends.
Call me skeptic, however, that we’ve had almost similar protests in our recent past. Our Muslim and Oromo brothers and sisters have been protesting for a couple of years now. What has changed? Don’t get me wrong. I admire their courage and also honor the sacrifices they’re paying. As I indicated in one of my recent articles, lack of leadership was the main reason why the commitment of these great people hasn’t been able to produce any meaningful fruit yet. If we had strong leadership that strategizes, plans, executes, and evaluates its progress and make amends and continues to lead toward the GRAND goal- which is establishing democracy, the rule of law, and freedom, and making the country a free and equitable land for all its people, by now, we would have been talking something else :-) lol
Our leaders should stop FOLLOWING (and watching from the sidelines as the youth is trying its best regardless of the lack of well coordinated, strategic, proactive, and smart leadership) and begin LEADING. Otherwise, we end up having the same old results: Tyranny continues. Even if this tyrant regime goes away by failing to sustain the continual assaults from our youth, another one substitutes it and we don’t have any clue whether the latter would be any better than the current. As you all know, many hoped the Mengistu regime would be better than Haileselassie. In the late 60’s and early 70’s, the then youth and students continually demonstrated and opposed the regime, and finally played a major role in overthrowing the regime. What were the end results? The outcomes were big disappointments and disenchantments when a more brutal killing machine took power. Again, we didn’t learn, we thought the current regime would be better than the military junta. Many fought against the regime while others watched its demise from the sidelines. Again, after more than a quarter of a century, we remained stunned and found ourselves disappointed badly as the rebels who fought for freedom and democracy turned killers, jailers, and tortures. Let me ask those of us, who keep raising our hope and expect better outcomes than what we’ve had in the past, every time we hear rumors of war and revolts. What makes you think, unless we work with TIME and learn from our past, and change course by being proactive and SMARTER, we get a better government this time or in the future? I may be cynical here but when are we going to learn from past TIME? Why we keep on doing the same things and expect a different result? That was why I recently wrote an article on the theme ‘Our Insanity: Doing the same thing again and again expecting different outcomes.’ Are we mastering insanity? :-)
Maybe I am tired or missed something here. What do we expect from chaos, spontaneity, and any movement that doesn’t have clear strategies, contingencies, plan, and outline of the future? We don’t have any control of such a future. Therefore, are we just hoping to have a bright future somehow and in some ways from this and future uprisings and protests? We can only have a future that we DESERVE. The ways things have been going on thus far, we don’t seem deserve a better future. We need to earn it. That is why I’ve been calling for a reform in our culture- that is the root cause. We need the right environment to develop the right mindset so as to achieve different results than what we’ve accomplished so far. As a society, when it comes to establishing a government that is accountable to its people, we failed miserably, and more than once. We couldn’t be able to form a government that is elected democratically- a government that serves as far as it earns the confidence of Ethiopians. We have been restless, anxious, and doing everything we could for decades now regardless of disappointing results. We should stop acting like fire extinguishing brigades :-) chasing flames, as they break loose. It’s great we care, we cry for our people, and it’s also admirable for some of us doing what we could to help. Please note, nonetheless, that this approach doesn’t change the underlining situation. We’re just reacting! We’re not being proactive. Understand that this takes to work with TIME and become proactive… That is why my recent appeal was let’s work with time to strategize, prioritize, and plan, not against it.
Let’s stop talking, talking, and arranging events to rebroadcast the same things we already know. We know the regime is bad. We know we need to come together. We know things must change. We know this and that. What we need isn’t news, talk, and complaining alone. Good to be informed but we need to go beyond that and this is the responsibility of our leaders. But wait, our leaders are the products of our CULTURE. I’m ready to be corrected, many of our leaders too are talking, complaining, and hoping- like the general public – things may change for good this time without playing their unique parts. They forgot their critical role. Of course, I’m well aware of the sacrifices some leaders have been already paying, especially those that are back home who have already died, and those who are currently fighting on the ground, and those that are in prison. My hat is off to these heroic and heroine leaders. The question is when are we going to harvest their sacrifices? Should we just keep feeding our leaders to death row, prisons, and also watch our innocent youth who have a great future ahead of them die and get injured just because our leaders couldn’t come together to strategize and plan, and put in place contingencies if the former don’t work as expected? This CULTURE must change if our desire is to see true and lasting change. We cannot just gamble with people’s lives and future. We should clearly see our future ahead, identify smart strategies that are pathways to lead us to our future, and come up with short and long term plans that would help us tap into TIME and other resources wisely, monitor our progress, and if necessary, make changes as things on the ground change.
I presume, some people may counter my argument above by saying that they already know the importance of this approach and also they may claim that they already have strategies and plans in place. They may think that the problem is somewhere and someone except their inability to outsmart the regime in power by coming up with better strategies than the regime already has that helped the latter withstand the constant revolt and opposition from our people. As I indicated in one of my previous articles, the regime had, for that matter well before they came to power more than two decades ago, a 40-year strategic document. Can you imagine what they could do now while they have state power, tones of money, and western allies in their disposal? The regime hires strategists, planners, and advisors (and of course on top of lobbying).
Unlike the oppositions who have good intentions, the regime’s leadership doesn’t depend on their own competency alone, they seek help from experts including from outside of the country and invest on things that give them advantages. They’re proactive, and that is why they’ve been surviving. Please wakeup. Don’t assume that the regime’s leadership depends only on their guns and money. They depend on time, use latest technologies, process, and work with time very well, of course, to do bad things that don’t contribute toward our long term national interests, and of course, to harm innocent people. Even if I don’t like the outcomes, unfortunately, we cannot do anything about it; they tapped into a principle that works.
Any ways, for those who think the problem isn’t being proactive and the lack of using time ahead to strategize, and those who may think that they have covered this part and the problem isn’t a lack of PROACTIVENESS and STRATEGIC leadership, well, the true test of any strategy is: Is it working? What are the results you could show to us?
Leaders of political parties, community organizations, youth associations, journalists, academicians, and other stakeholders should understand that they need to be a little ORGANIZED (this takes change in mindset that has been nurtured by our culture not to be friendly with time) to make sure they tap into the enthusiasm, zeal, and commitment of their followers. Turing our people’s anger into useful outcomes requires having well thought-out strategies, contingencies, and effective planning. Please work with time, use latest approaches, tools, methods, and CREATE circumstances that change the destiny of our country and its people. It’s possible! It doesn’t cost that much except humility to admit that what we have tried so far didn’t work and the boldness to try a new approach, and creativity! Admitting something doesn’t work and adopting new approaches isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s rather wisdom, and humility.
Remember this: When we fail to make TIME our friend, CHANCE rules us and the latter is a bad master :-)
Here is my short answer to my friend and to you if you are also wondering why I keep writing about cultural reforms (right now about time management, in the future, some more reform suggestions) while there are many burning issues at hand including the current protests and killings. Well, everybody knows about what is going on wrong, and we’ve hundreds of platforms to talk about it. There’re great organizations and media outlets that provide these services. I don’t want to duplicate their efforts. I rather want to focus on addressing the root cause. I’m well aware that I won’t be popular for poking at our culture and its weaknesses. But, that is what we need (a little motivation to change) while doing what we could to redirect the current anger, unhappiness, frustration and determination of our people into something that brings lasting change… Let me stop it here and look forward to hear your perspectives…
By Assegid Habtewold