Choosing Decent Over Indecent Political Life
April 26, 2015
Indecent political life doesn’t ameliorate any social ill—since it’s the sign of a failure to resolve an acute or benign political difference. It’s for this reason therefore that decent political life makes up the essential part of civil, democratic and peaceful discourse. And it helps a great deal if contending parties and individuals have it, especially in an open market of election where ideologies for sale collide, not necessarily to stir up violence, but to refine ideas that are fitting to the development of a people and a country such as ours.
Indecent political life leads to a losing posture in the face of political discourse—the life of which is mediated by good characteristics of citizenship if not comradery. In other words, the goal of decent political life is to firmly stand for the common good—even in the aftermath of losing an election to a contending worldview.
Furthermore, the goal of decent political life is not to have a feeling of pervert jubilation—the “enjoyment” of life by likeminded comrades, savoring the ills and weaknesses of those with differing worldview. If politics is about savoring the ills and weaknesses of your own citizens of those with differing view and hence your own country, the whole world would have been an unimaginable place of pervert political life. Of course, almost all of us Ethiopians don’t want to live a pervert political life in our country and abroad. But the very few, as you might have figured this out at the outset, live an indecent political life; at home and abroad.
An indecent political life is mad, hateful and cowardly. It’s cowardly because it’s fearful of a democratic forum. And it’s mad and hateful because it salivates to savor the ills, weaknesses and downfall of its own citizens. More than anything else, however, indecent political life lives, wanting to empower itself in the aftermath of a complete destruction. Decent political life, in contrast, wants to keep destruction at bay, by inviting those with indecent political life to take part in civil, democratic and peaceful discourse. And all they have to do in their part in return is follow the rules.
Rules are central to arbitrate contentious political issues and to keep a discourse civil, democratic and peaceful. And actors who take part in such a discourse should abide by the rules, since rules are the bare minimum requirements that they should fulfill. But it’s also advisable for them to be mindful of the fact that, rules may be are narrow or broad and they may not be homogenous or universal.
Rules may be are tailored broadly or narrowly, depending on the nature of the interest to be protected. For example, rules protecting the individual’s right to free speech may be are narrowly or broadly tailored, depending on a specific rationale. Rules of the right to free speech are broad when they have little to no restriction over what an individual can say. In contrast, rules of free speech are narrow when they prohibit a specific form and/or content of “free speech,” in lieu of protecting a mosaic of fabric of many nations from deterioration. In other words, what may be a case of the right to free speech in the U.S., for example, may be is a case of nation-tearing criminal offense in Ethiopia.
The right to free speech in the U.S. is broadly tailored to an extent that an American citizen may forgo his own tongue for his money to do the talking. Hence, money talks in America and it constitutes part of the right to free speech. Similarly, an American citizen may silence his millions of dollars in a vault in lieu of his tongue to do the talking. When he does, there is no limit to what he can say; and he can even call African-Americans “monkeys” over public airwaves. Not only that, he can take his lifetime to denigrate and defame an entire people’s history, culture, religion, language and nationality. The only exception: He may not shout “fire” where there is none, creating life-threatening panic in patrons of a movie theatre and the like.
In respectful, developing Ethiopia, in contrast, it’s more than indecent politics to denigrate and defame an entire people’s history, culture, religion, language and nationality. The underlying reason for these different take of the right to free speech is found in the disparate ideological value that Revolutionary Democracy and Neoliberalism ascribe toward the individual and the community.
Neoliberalism is rooted in Locke’s principle and rights are always individual rights, and that the community or society as a whole has no rights whatsoever. Apart from the individual that comprise it, according to Locke and Neoliberalism of the kind that Margret Thatcher staunchly observed, the community is simply an abstracted personification with no life, moral and political standing. In contrast, Revolutionary Democracy is rooted in the hardcore principle of empowering the community. And hence, rights are primarily communal and the supreme emphasis given to the right of the individual in Locke’s principle and Neoliberalism is unnecessarily exaggerated and superfluous.
For these aforementioned reasons, therefore, if the ideology of a contending party in Ethiopia mimics the ideology of Neoliberalism, it has to be set or reset to follow the rules, for it cannot legally and rightly claim the right to free speech of the kind that Neoliberalism uses to denigrate and defame an entire people’s history, culture, religion, language and nationality. Because such a claim of the right to free speech, if any, is really a claim to a pervert right to hate speech and it’s dangerous. Dangerous because it begets violence and it has to be capped.
Predicated on our core value of decent political life, almost all of us Ethiopians say no to denigrate and defame an entire people’s history, culture, religion, language and nationality. Instead, we say yes to uplift it to the zenith by fully crowning it the majesty of democracy—the right to self-determination—“…determination of one’s own fate or course of action without compulsion…”
The right to self-determination is the mother of all rights, and it is not at all a recipe for violence as the International Crisis Group (ICG) and other Neoliberal propaganda mills want us to believe. It is quite the opposite. A recipe for violence is not engendered by the crowning of a nation with the majesty of democracy, but by depriving it such a right. And more than anything else, a recipe for violence is concocted by those who knowingly or unknowingly infuse their pervert ideology of the right to hate speech into our political consciousness.
Hate speech is undesirable. But revering all nations and nationalities of not only Ethiopia but the rest of the world is desirable. And most importantly, understanding that hate speech is predicated on self-aggrandizing and society-hating Neoliberal culture of political economy is a must. For this precise reason and to put it succinctly, therefore, almost all of us Ethiopians choose decent over indecent political life.