By Haile-Gebriel Endeshaw
“Intellectual is a person who is engaged in thinking about ideas and non-material problems using the faculty of reason.” This was stated in a book, “Intellectuals in Developing Societies”, which was authored by a Singaporean university professor, Syed Hussein Alatas. Another writer defined the term intellectual that it “is a person who engages in critical thinking, research, and reflection about society, proposes solutions for its normative problems and gains authority as public figure. Coming from the world of culture, either as a creator or as a mediator, the intellectual participates in politics either to defend a concrete proposition or to denounce an injustice, usually by rejecting, producing or extending an ideology, or by defending a system of values. …The intellectual is a type of intelligent person who uses reason and critical thinking…”
What we can clearly see from these important notes is that intellectuals are expected to deal with things in rational and responsible ways. They are the ones who possess intelligence and knowledge to articulate problems and lay out possible solutions… They possess the ability to do everything with critical thinking, wisdom, unbiased outlook, impartiality and genuine views. They are always ready to give best solutions, arbitration and suggestions… Intellectuals usually belong to a social group that strives hard for the existence of humanity, equality, liberty, peace…
Our local intellectuals, particularly those who are involved in the current politics of extremism and activism, seem to alienate themselves from these realities. Even if they know the basic principles or values of intellectuality, they don’t want to abide by them. To say it bluntly these few local intellectuals (activists, university professors…) are not living up to public expectations. What we all should ask is whether they are applying their ‘visions’ for the purpose of developing or transforming their community… Are they involving in the national efforts of creating forward-looking citizens? Are they shouldering responsibilities to lead the young people forward with a belief of tolerance and peaceful coexistence? Are they using their intellectual capacity to lead the people for better life? Are they free from racist outlook?
Unfortunately, these few of our extremist politicians and activists are far behind this positive thinking. Hate, discrepancy, disagreements, contempt, enmity, hostility, disunity are the main themes of their political agendas. It is a pity for us all that these intellectuals incline to push their followers (young people in particular) to engage themselves in fighting and killings… These intellectuals use their media to disseminate harmful speeches and to promote addictive drug, khat. They are seen and heard while fooling and preaching their admirers and followers with loathing… For them politics is business. They are using their dirty politics as means of income. In this way they amass financial resources on the expense of poor and uneducated young people. They are seen while enriching themselves through blood and sweat of others. It seems these individuals who call themselves activist intellectuals do not care for the wellbeing of the young people who follow them. They don’t care whether or not these poor young people go to school. For them the ignorant and jobless section of the society are the ones who can easily be led unknowingly to pitfalls of civil conflicts and loathing. Such irresponsible politicians don’t give a damn to the national unity and security of the country and peaceful coexistence of the people.
In such a way many politicians (party members) and activists who claim to be intellectuals seem to be engaged in what we can boldly say destructive and racist activities. They are trying to trigger wave of civil conflicts through speeches that arouse sentiments among the young people. These groups miss the major point that politics is an art of compromise. They don’t want to realize that if politics is treated or managed in a careless manner, there can be a possibility of turning the ‘art’ in to artillery. It means politics which is not handled in a careful manner will cause irreparable harms to human lives, materials and nations at large.
If these intellectuals, who turned themselves to racist politicians and activists, are working for the real justice and wellbeing of their community, they do not speak ill of others… they do not encourage others to trap themselves in addictive drugs and thereby push them to involve in civil conflicts or crimes… If they are intelligent and critical thinkers, they do not preach their people to stop using languages of other ethnic groups. This is a shameful xenophobia. (I am sorry, but no other words can express my view in a better way.) If they are really concerned about the betterment of the society, they will apply their knowledge to shape the young nation-building section of the society. If they are really for peace, love and unity, they do not show disrespect to others… But it is unfortunate that we hear from their side sentiment arousing hate speeches… These activists and extremist politicians have thus become sources of havoc and instability. They are foiling sinister motives among the young jobless section of the society…
“A society without a functioning group of intellectuals is deprived of a certain level of consciousness and insight into vital problems.” Yes, for lack of genuine intellectuals or civil society groups and for their failure to shoulder responsibilities, the poor nation in general has long been wallowing in the quagmire of misery and poverty. Yes, we all agree that currently this poor country of ours does not have sincere intellectuals who take bold measures to come forward to denounce those racist activists and politicians. Due to this sad fact, it has been very difficult for us to extricate ourselves from political, economic and social chaos.
It is the civic responsibility or citizenship right of other candid intellectuals and civil society groups to come up with counter speeches and share good experiences or knowledges to the people. They own a duty to support and educate the misled young people in particular. Ethiopia is on the verge of collapse because of the destructive acts of irresponsible racist and extremist activists and politicians. We are thus afraid of the dangers that lay ahead. So, civil society groups and candid intellectuals who feel responsibility should devise ways to approach the people at grass root level and convince them to work and collaborate for their unity and stability of their country.
It is also surprising that the incumbent government has not yet taken due and legal measures to deter all these destructive and racist movements. These days Ethiopians are expressing concern that things are taking wrong directions. Watching the destructive actions without taking any legal measures can undoubtedly label the government as collaborator of the radical activists and racist politicians. Therefore, stop the lunacy of these irresponsible activists.
It is still fresh in the minds of all Ethiopians that the incumbent government has promised to ensure peace unity, love, national reconciliation and democracy across the country. These things are associated with good governance. Where there is good governance, there can surely be security, peaceful co-existence and delivery of social services like health, education, drinking water, electric power… Unfortunately, many people are deprived of their rights of access to these basic supplies. People in many areas are currently suffering from internal displacements, conflicts, joblessness… You get internal displacement with misgovernment. Thus, the governing body should come forward to give practical responses with confidence to public demands of assuring good governance and rule of law. The government should listen to those who are complaining of wrong doings. Otherwise, no doubt it can be labeled as an entourage of the extremists and racist intellectuals.
The writer can be reached at gizaw. firstname.lastname@example.org