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“Addisitu” Ethiopia Facing Double Crisis: A Reminder

Fisseha Tadesse Feleke
This is not urgent, especially for active players in the field of realpolitik. Maybe it is.
What I want to say in this piece is in fact not urgent in the sense that it doesn’ t ask,
let alone propose, as to what ought to be done about what could currently be
perceived as a burning issue. But I think it is extremely important in that it tries to
evoke thinking about what needs to be thought, in order once for all to encounter our
(burning) Present face- to- face, even before posing the aforementioned question: What
needs to be done with respect to this or that specific problem.
Understanding the nature of the overall crisis we find ourselves in is the necessary
condition to propose the type of diagnosis to any of our specific problems. My
intention here is therefore to call for a direction of our attention toward developing a
particular perspective from which we may gain a proper understanding of the overall
crisis that has befallen us ever since we are said to have belonged “to the bloc of our
[the Western] modern world.”
Let me first state the obvious: we are in crisis—in a self- decentering crisis.
No doubt, we are not alone in this. Since modernity in itself generates crisis, the
modern world as a whole has all along been in crisis. One German sociologist
identifies the crisis in the loss of rationality of the early 20
Century that gave food
for Freud’ s and Weber’ s thought as “difficult modernity,” and the situation between
the two great world wars with which such radical thinkers as, inter alia, J unger and
Bloch, Lukacs and Schmit, Reich and Gehlen were engaged as “un- beloved
modernity.” He goes on to describe modernity—at the center of which lie The Gulag
Archipelago, Auschwitz and Hiroshima—as “catastrophic.” Who can deny this? It
indeed is catastrophic! For which reason, some notable scholars have been in pursuit
of what they call a second or reflexive modernization: modernizing the modernized.
Let me now try to express what may seem to be unobvious: ours is a double crisis.
That “Ethiopian modernity, ” if this phrase makes any sense at all, is not in the
slightest degree on the way to become “reflexive, ” and was not even neatly “simple”
from the beginning, but has for the most part been problematically “imported”
modernity, doubles the crisis for us. What is more, one could even add other factors
and redouble the whole thing so as to speak of a “triple” or “quadruple” crisis. But I
don’ t want to engage in duplicating problems. We have more than enough of them!
Let me ask rather: why is it that modernity “is inherently crisis generating”? This is a
very interesting question and it has taken the unswerving devotion and relentless
effort of a whole bunch of “crisis thinkers” from diverse schools of thought to analyze
it. However, I do not want to dwell on this but to simply mention that there are
certain natural consequences of modernity’ s crisis that trouble us at all levels
(personal and societal; national, sub- national and supra- national) especially when we
buy its ideas in toto.
Here is a similar question worth asking: why do we still rely on importing ideas?
Indeed modernity involves emulation and borrowing. And this only confirms the
wisdom contained in our own traditional sources long before the birth of modernity:
ምንት ብከ ዘኢነሣእከ እምካልእከ? (what hast thou that thou didst not receive? [the Geez
version specifies and says: ]… እምካልእከ = from your “other”/ your “friend” [Look: in
Geez Mind, the other is primarily conceived as a friend!]). This doesn’ t mean,
however, a passive reception of whatever comes from those who are deemed to be
ahead of us.
Even when we emulate or borrow, I think we should nonetheless try to go beyond
oscillating between old “ism- tricks” and new “neo- retro- games” so as to creatively
appropriate whatever is good for us without having to leave our own standpoint. What
makes a certain system “German” or a certain theory “French” etc.? (German Idealism,
French Theory, for instance) Can’ t there similarly be something “Ethiopian”? You may
want to reply: indeed there can be! Or you may even say: we had had our own
ሥራት/ ሥርዐት! Do you see that even a positive rejoinder remains somehow short of
satisfying us in that you will be forced to put it either in (an undeterminable) future
or in (a dead) past tense? A mere wishful thinking about the future and an equally
mere pride about the past expose the actual nature of our present: a present that is
disconnected from the past out of which it emerged and from the future towards
which it is supposed to be oriented. Beware thus: the issue comes down to this: do
we still have a characteristically Ethiopian standpoint intimately connected both to our
past and future, however wanting it may be in transformation?
A 19
Century Russian writer once said: “for the most part, I curse, praise and
describe that which is Russian. ” Either to curse or praise or describe, or to go beyond
curse, praise and description toward an engagement in genuine transformation, I think
we need to honestly recognize the richness, and strongly will the continuity, of that
which is Ethiopian.