One of the known distractive behaviors in a human psyche is denial. Experts tell us a person who accepted a weakness tend to fix it faster and better than those who are struggling to concede the problem to begin with. This same behavior can manifest itself in group thinking, the way companies run or the way countries governed. Think for example the way the housing industry crushed in the beginning of the great recession. We all remember how it was announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac delisted from the New York Stock Exchange, yet the biggest mortgage companies still airing their toxic loan advertisements in the television. Denial my friends, is a bitch!
I remember about the same denial when I read and see news from back home. How government of Ethiopia and fans like to get high in the news of “success story” “10 percent growth” “middle class country in 20 years” and so on. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong in wishing to be the best and striving to change the narrative. The problem is, Ethiopian government and supporters, only like to see the rosy image and totally deny the problem. Remember, denial is a bitch.
Allow me to explain. You remember the scene from the movie “Titanic” how calm and beautiful the ship was while the rich guests mingle with a heavenly sound of a classical piano and fine wine. The most complicated and state-of-the-art ship ever built by mankind carrying rich Europeans and poor servants in its belly. The perfect example of gilded age (the late 19th century, from the 1870s to about 1900. Which satirized an era of serious social problems masked by a thin gold gilding) about to come crushing. Then go back and see the scene where the ship was sinking taking all with it, indiscriminatingly, the bubble bursting in the middle of the dark ocean. Sad end of a world of greed and denial. For the riches on the top floor the world they were enjoying was “success story” but for the servants and maids in the bottom belly of the ship, the world was “unfair” “biased” and “not worth living”. Same people, same place, different feeling about their life. Yet, all died dreading each other.
This is the same thing I am seeing in today’s Ethiopia. Few Ethiopians are accomplishing the impossible. Building multiple buildings, buying shares in big companies, Everything they do succeeds. “ I was broke ten years ago, then I started investing in housing and now, I own a big company” said an investor in todays Ethiopia while explaining his riches in an interview. This same guy who was broke decade ago now owns multiple companies and he thinks people in Ethiopia will able to invest in his million birr apartments because all he know and see is success. His optimism and drive is infectious only if it is not denial and phony. His success is phony because his riches come from a looted land from poor farmers. His success is phony because the people that are able to invest in his business did not work for their money yet get it just like him by looting others. His building and villas are bubbles because the land that he is selling for $10000 per square feet was taken from a farmer for $4 per square feet and even that sometimes not paid right to the farmers. (if you don’t trust me listen to Abay Tsehaye at 15:15min mark). This is not to say there are no hard working honest and law abiding investors in Ethiopia. In a positive light, those who worked hard, and invested their hard earned money are known by all Ethiopians. Their money and how they got it, is known by all. Yet the one I am talking about are those that just pop up and buy everything. The “tarike Bachiruwoch”
Now let’s see how the other Ethiopian live. Ethiopians from North to South, East to West, regardless of where they are, what ethnicity they belong to, As long as they are not the part of the political elite or local one-to-five cadres or lower rank spies and sympathizers, they all identify with the victim category. The category of tens of millions with food shortage and farmers that are kicked out of their land, the civil servant boxed in the cubicle of bureaucracy and the silent majority that eat once a day. Those who are day laborers, shoeshine boys, snack vendors, and beggars. They eat gursha, handfuls of restaurant leftovers served from plastic bags. Families go for dumpster diving to feed their kids and once landowners now they are gate keepers and servants. Just like the servants in the bottom belly of Titanic, they too see the system as “unfair” “biased” and “not worth living”.
So the blatant denial of Ethiopian government and supporters is only a remedy for the race to the bottom. It is a race to a bottom to not address the legitimate question of Oromo protesters and shoot and kill unarmed students and children. It is a race to the bottom to point finger on each other rather than taking responsibility and deal with the consequences. It is a race to the bottom to deny about corrupted officials when we are witness villas owned by officials in the middle of the city while millions starve. It is a race to a bottom not to properly acknowledge the downward trajectory of the country and buy the success story while the blood on street is still fresh and the children belly left empty.
It is only denial that make a government to brag about economical growth in the same press release while the next topic is asking aid for tens of millions starving. It is only denial to claim protesters are terrorist in the same interview where an official acknowledge theft and corruption by government officials justifying the protestors. It is only denial to say “Oromo people know who stole from him” while the glaring buildings and sprawling farms hold their name and titles in public. I tell you denial is a bitch.
Armed with denial, soon we all crash to the bottom of the ocean like Titanic, or we can face up to our problem and change our future together. The answer is in our hand.