Do we need a political ideology without a boogeyman or should we

Do we need a political ideology without a boogeyman or should we navigate in the vacuum?

Allowing the present ideological vacuum to continue into the distant future means allowing love (synergy—መደመር), hate, fear, romance and sympathy etc…be the organizing principles [of our politics]….
Do we need a political ideology without a boogeyman or should we navigate in the vacuum? A defining challenge (moment) for the political class in Ethiopia

It is not breaking news that we are experiencing critical (turning) moment in the Ethiopian political history

This historical juncture has also brought in its wake a very significant paradigm shift which reveals the upsurge of the nascent popular force and the passing away of the old order (transition). The present momentum can be defined as moment of an epistemic change, the emergence of new narratives and discourses), with unfilled vacuum of political ideology. Furthermore, this historic episode redoubles the role of Ethiopian leading political class in coping with the dramatically changing situation and in filling the yawning vacuum with efficient, functioning political ideology. In other words, the time of political climax can be described as a testing ambiance for our political elites whether or not they could be able to maintain their high moral ground, intellectual integrity and imaginative power.

The defining characteristic feature of Meles era was the reproduction (proliferation) of ideologies after ideologies with its accompaniment of fabricating false enemies or boogeymen. During his reign we also remember the constantly shifting ideologies such as, Marxism-Leninism, revolutionary democracy, a dominant party ideology and finally the ideology of the so-called development state. The central objective of each ideology with its corollary boogeymen was meant to preserve the hegemony or the monopoly of TPLF in the political space and deflect the attention of the people from its internal antagonism.

It is also worth recalling the so-called revolutionary democracy with its false ideological embodiment of “chauvinism and “narrow nationalism”. The overriding purpose of the boogeyman of “chauvinism” was meant to denigrate and attach the Amhara political class while the boogeyman of “narrow nationalism” was intended to dehumanize the Oromo people and its political leaders. Again, I found very intriguing enquiring into the present official ideology of the ruling party, the EPRDF. What is its present guiding ideology? Which one is currently in force? Revolutionary democracy? The dominant party democracy? The ideology of development state still further መደመር (synergy) or liberal democracy? Or are we operating in an ideological political vacuum?
Almost for the last century, the practices of borrowing or adopting a foreign ideology and fabricating external or internal enemies have been political tradition in Ethiopia.

Globally, the aftermath of September 11 put an end to former global boogeyman of the cold war and brought another global boogeyman, “the war on terror”, Islamophobia and anti-migration in place. September 11 has not only brought the gravitational shift in the center of the proliferation of false enemies but also visualized an extraordinary shift in the global stratagem. Rather than fighting the real threat of the real enemies, the “war on terror” became an instrument in the hands of authoritarian regimes in silencing the genuine voices of freedom, democracy and human right. Consequently, the war on terror became a perfect hypocritical pretext for the authoritarian regimes in securitizing, militarizing and narrowing the political space. One of the beneficiaries of this shifting strategy was the late Meles Zenawi, the former Prime Minister of Ethiopia. The aftermath of the shifting global strategy in its turn has exposed the fragility of “liberal democracy.” Since then, manipulating the loophole (porous) created by this ideology, the populist national forces succeeded in capturing the political space in every corner of the word. It is a wakeup call for those who want to copy and adopt liberal ideology in the new Ethiopian political environment without making any change to it.

In the above discussion, one fact has been unequivocally clear. Borrowing a foreign ideology be it liberal democracy or Marxism-Leninism is automatically followed by the necessity of certain embodiment of false enemies (boogeyman). On top of this, the indissoluble marriage between the ideology and its boogeyman becomes imperative. History attests that both Western and Eastern ideologies could not survive (sustain) without creating a boogeyman or an imaginary enemy. We have also experienced that the consecutive shift from one variety to the other ideologies are meant to perpetuate political power and maintain control. It is rarely possible to find another solo political protagonist than Meles Zenawi in maneuvering, navigating, crafting ideologies after ideologies in the Ethiopian political arena. With the passing away of the ideologue dictator the country is left with an ideological vacuum yet to be filled.

Almost all Ethiopian political classes unanimously agree that the future leading political ideology should be democracy. The main difference arises when it comes to the question of which variety of democracy to be chosen. Attempting answering the second question, some try to copy the western liberal democracy and directly apply on the Ethiopian political landscape without making any modification. Others continue to cling on the dogma of Marxist-Leninist or Stalinist ideology simply making a sort of linguistic or insignificant semantic mitigations. Still, the rest are trying to resuscitate the fledgling indigenous democracy and put in place which I personally subscribe for.

The absence of an articulate, sounding and functioning ideology, I do assert that create a fertile breeding ground for political fundamentalism of every shade. The exigency of time demands a relevant and all-embracing ideology. In the mean time we do not see the forces of change (reform) proactively stepping out of the shadow and providing an organizing political ideology. Furthermore, I propose that the indigenous Gada Oromo democracy can be the best alternative (official ideology) to fill the yawning vacuum. In the universe of indigenous Oromo democracy, there is no need to fabricate an ideology that is characterized by a binary opposition and corresponding boogeyman. In the Gada political practices, let alone create an imaginary enemy, even one cannot come across the negative vocabularies such as opposition, enemy, etc. The concepts such as Walaanna and Qadaadduu only indicate the democratic multi-party (plurality) character of the system.

Finally, with current transformation (reform) we observe the shift in the center of the geo-political ground of the country (the centripetal and centrifugal political players exchanging places) that is to mean what was on the periphery occupying the center ground and vice versa. The exchange of places among antagonist political forces made one truth crystal clear: reshuffling the former power imbalance and reducing the hegemony of the previous political class to the level of one among the equal partners. Unfortunately, the advocates of the previous oppressive system are not ready to accept this reality and be part and parcel of the present multi-national federal arrangement which is ideally based on the voluntary union of free and equal peoples. The recent revanchist movement and its subsequent sporadic attacks substantiate the intransigency of the standpatters among the forces of reform in the country. Added to this, the lack of a pertinent political ideology has significantly contributed in exasperating the uncertainty of the situation!

To sum up, allowing the present ideological vacuum to continue into the distant future means allowing love (synergy—መደመር), hate, fear, romance and sympathy etc…be the organizing principles [of our politics]………….
This implies creating a favorable condition for the rise of political fundamentalism and playing into the hands of wishy-washy populism.

Via : Girma Gutema

1 Comment

  1. Dear Girma Gutema

    Thanks a lot for taking your time and trying to tackle a big question: ‘do we need political ideology….’?

    Since we hope that there is a possibility of transition into order from the current chaotic situations in the country, holding back from jumping onto any sort of ideology might be wise, at least for now. As it is all common place that ‘just when things seem secure, the unknown can loom, unexpectedly and large. Conversely, just when everything seems lost, new order can emerge from catastrophe and chaos’. That is, the country may seem to be like a ship in a troubled water when we look at the violence and conflicts instigated by unethical “journalists”, social media activists, extremists and hate mongering lunatic fringes, who ride on the back of savage armed militia. Nonetheless, the majority of Ethiopians seem to be more optimistic than anytime in the country’s history, which can be motivational incentive for those committed to transiting Ethiopia into democracy.

    Ideology is a ‘system of ideas and ideals, especially one which forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy’. Simply put, ‘ideologies are simple ideas, disguised as science or philosophy, that purport to explain the complexity of the world and offer remedies that will perfect it’. What is more interesting is that ‘ideologues are people who pretend they know how to “make the world a better palace” before they’ve taken care of there own chaos within’. That is why ideologues are extremely dangerous when they come to power, like the Meless Zenawi mentioned in the article.

    Democracy, on the other hand, is a system of government in which people are governed ‘typically through elected representatives’. That means that democracy is a kind of government rather than ideology. Different kinds of governments may have different ideolgies whether they are democratic or otherwise. The kinds of government systems can be categorized as oligarchy, aristocracy, monarchy, democracy and so on. Ethiopia has a chance to become a democracy if not only the Etonian government but also ordinary Ethiopians are determined to create a new Ethiopia in which all ethnic groups are included, in exercising their full rights as Ethiopians.

    Finally, at least for now, I think that we do not need to have any ideology or to create a “boogyman”. Focusing on answering the fundamental questions of the peoples, which ushered in Dr Abiy’s government, must take precedence to any kind of ideology.

    Best wishes

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