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Extremism Begets Extremism
By Daniel Gizaw

Ethiopian politics is mired, unfortunately, sadly, by reprehensible passion overtaxing important debates of our time. The driving force behind this passion, its oxygen and its vigor, at least in our case is tribalism. As much as we like to think how far we had come – from a perfectly insolent tribal beginning to a harmonious alliance – we are still wide awake and energetic when we hear our song.

Such primitive instinct, however, in this fast moving global unison is a huge drawback. It makes our political discourse a pedestrian chitchat. We become whiners than doers. Pitiless bickering becomes our instinctive, frisky move replacing honest, intelligent lecture.

Of course, it makes us fools! Lagging far behind the civilized movement, we fail to see the shape and picture of our deformities that cause us to crawl. The binding behind an idea – not tribalism, not race, not religion – is still a farfetched dream in our political landscape. Yes, we are still crawling! We are still far behind, at least five hundred years behind, to catch up with Spain. My figure, in this case, may be a wild conjecture, but the point is clear. 

Having said that, I must applaud Dr. Ghelawdewos’s recent article, entitled “National Reconciliation and National Development in Ethiopia” for its profound insight and wisdom – and for his courage – by exhorting his readers to find a middle ground in our political thinking. True, as he aptly put it, we are divided into multiple pieces and remain in myopic, stifling boxes, all gleaming at our own shocking inanity. Here is how Dr. Ghelawdewos separated the boxes. “…1) Diaspora Enclave Opposition; 2) Diaspora and Home Patriotic Opposition; 3) Non-Committed Diaspora Ethiopians; and 4) The EPRDF-led Ethiopian Government. 

In particular, I like to take the one group he identified as the Diaspora Enclave Opposition. For example, these post-Derg Diaspora elements, aberrant and utterly one-sided, too often describe the current Ethiopian government as a buffoon state, its leaders as a bunch of mafia wannabes. Or outright criminals!

Political commentary, when it is temperate and deliberate, makes sense. However, when it is exorbitant and intemperate, it drives people away. I see the latter as a huge problem. The extremist position is always one-sided. It is also typical with other extremist Diaspora position that had miserably failed. Take a look at the Cuban Diaspora, the Iranian Diaspora, the former Soviet Union Diaspora, or even the Mexican Diaspora of the 1970s. History shows us that all of them share same political passion, same extremist view, with each violently anathematic toward the regimes they opposed in their respective countries. In almost each instances, however, because of their extremist position, they all had missed the opportunity to achieve victory and reclaim “their country.” In this case, Castro is still in Cuba, the Mullahs in Iran have a firm grip on the country’s fate; and, hear this: the demise of the Soviet Union had nothing to do with the dissidents’ movement abroad.

Ask this question, therefore: why couldn’t the Iranian Diaspora, deemed a financial juggernaut and a biggest political force outside of Tehran, is capable to oust the Iranian clergies who control the country’s fate today?

The answer is simple: For every extremist born in the Western hemisphere, the clergies in Iran created two or more loyalists, just as passionate and impudent followers as their counterparts produced. It is therefore safe to say that the political circumstances among the Ethiopian Diaspora, in which an extremist point of view dominates the dialogue – doesn’t offer too much room to relax, much less tolerate, along democratic lines.

My point is simple: Embrace moderation!

In the mean time, we have to stop that melodramatic play of an extremism hate mongering. It didn’t work for the Cubans. It didn’t work for the Iranians. It certainly will not work for the Ethiopians for as long as we continue to demonize, abominate and execrate Mr. Meles and his government. I will quote Montesquieu here. “Man is quite insane. He wouldn’t know how to create a maggot, but he creates gods by the dozen.” 

At least in Montesquieu we have gods, but in extremism we could beget monsters. When we Ethiopians vehemently demanded Emperor Haile Selassie for change for the betterment of Ethiopia, it was perfectly legitimate, but we have gone too far on the continuum of extremism as we brought a monster by the name Derg. It’s therefore a perfect time now to stop the creation and fabrication of false deliverance, phony emancipation and delirious charges emanating from extremism. 

In closing, I must applaud Dr. Ghelawdewos for his thoughts, and I believe his ideas will be enjoyed by graduate students as well as coffeehouse dissidents like me here in the United States and elsewhere.