By Abel Merawi
June 3, 2020 (Ezega.com) -- When we think of democracy, we hear the following words echoing: A government from the people, by the people and for the people. Whether you live in the US or in Ethiopia, do these words represent your relationship with the government? Do you accept the government as part of you? Does it represent you and your values? Most importantly, is the government serving you or the reverse? If your answer is affirmative, then you trust your government; perhaps with a blind faith by accepting its fantasy narratives. But if you respond in the negative, perhaps you don’t trust or at least have doubts about your government. I am inclined towards the later and assume this is the feeling of the sober majority.
History is packed with government-sponsored incidents, which eventually made people skeptical of politicians. At the beginning of the 1930s, Germany was ruled by President Paul von Hindenburg of the Weimar Republic. As the popular support for Adolf Hitler grew, the president wanted to gain his favor and made him chancellor. But Hitler was aiming for absolute power and becoming chancellor did not quench his thirst. Hitler and his party came up with a diabolic plan and executed it on February 27, 1933. It is believed that they used a dramatic arson attack on the Reichstag (German parliament) in Berlin. Afterward, Hitler and his cronies, claimed that the fire was part of the communist attack to overthrow the government. In consequence, Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler stood as the defender of Germany to seize absolute power. To this day, the term ‘Reichstag Fire’ is used to represent the government’s use of planned national disaster to accomplish its personal agenda.
We find a more recent equivalent of the ‘Reichstag Fire’ in the 9/11 attack on America. There are various conspiracy theorists that blame the Bush administration. Whether their theories are correct or not, the attack was used as a pretext to declare a war on terrorism - a war on Iraq. Furthermore, it was used as an excuse to increase surveillance on the shocked American citizens in the name of security. The war in Iraq has continued to the present, but the weapons of mass destruction were never found. Various security laws were introduced in the US, and it has been profitable to big businesses who took over the task. After destroying Iraq, multinational businesses have settled in the country, claiming to rebuild the nation. Simply stated, the US government has used shock as an excuse to invade a foreign country and take control of the private lives of its citizens.
In Ethiopia too, the government has used deception to gain the favor of the people at various occasions. Citing some concrete facts, without even mentioning the alleged ones, will be enough to show the truth. One example is related to how the government uses its ‘naming power’ to denigrate opposition parties. Naming power can be simply defined as the way of the powerful and popular in labeling others in any way it desires.
The 2005 Ethiopian general election has left a mark in most people. During the time, there were some opposition parties, who were disgruntled with the outcome of the election. They, nevertheless, won the heart of many people. This was when the government used its ‘naming power’ to brand them as terrorists. Then, the show and the fireworks began! In almost every Media, we saw gruesome killings and pillaging of villages being presented as the works of the former opposition parties who turned terrorists. Then most recently, we were suddenly told that they were actually oppressed opposition parties! So they returned to the country and reached a peace agreement with the government. I personally don’t think anyone has the right to simply switch cards and play both terrorist and political parties. Sadly, no one went through the justice system for a fair trial to identify and punish the criminals. When we put a show of ‘forgiveness’, we are disregarding the innocent lives lost to political games. And even now, we find it difficult to trust any political party or even the media.
The aforementioned orchestrated events and voluminous more have eroded our trust in government. Politicians around the world and throughout history have played tricks on the people as a magician does to its audience. But unlike magicians, the tricks of government have real consequences on people. We have witnessed how election campaign promises were left unfulfilled. At least, in theory, the government exists to serve the people; but in reality, the people have served the government for so long.
The profile of most governments around the world had created a huge gap between politicians and the people. Whenever we hear something from the government, it is easier for us to search for hidden agendas. As the promise of democracy has never been fulfilled, the word government has become the representation of the few ‘elite’ group.
Following the coronavirus pandemic, the role of the government has become so important that people have no choice but to trust their government. But once again there are some signs pointing to the deceitfulness of government. Not only people but even governments don’t trust each other. We have seen the blame game played between China and America, with each blaming the other for the COVID-19 outbreak. In a time when we are faced with a global pandemic, what we need is global unity. We need to communicate and share reliable information. We need to share medical equipment and other necessary resources. This is important because as long the pandemic exists in even a single country, the world is not safe. Most importantly, people want to know that their government is there to protect and serve them.
All is not lost yet. COVID-19 has presented world leaders with an opportunity to regain trust. The historical mistakes can be forgiven if nations stand together as one and work to fight the pandemic. Individual nations who have lost their people’s trust can prove their reliability by protecting their people without using the pandemic as an excuse to introduce a new law. Hitherto, governments have failed us, but it is not too late to change. Nations prosper only when the people and the government share the same vision.
Abel Merawi is Addis Ababa-based contributor for Ezega.com. He can be reached through this form.
Other articles by Abel Merawi:
Our Online World
Fame Mistaken for Expertise
The Heavy Burden of Healthcare Workers
A Time to Reflect
The Plague by Albert Camus: Fiction Becomes Reality!
History of Pandemics in Ethiopia
Human Struggle Against Pandemics: Historical Perspective
You Can Make a Difference
Rule of Law for a Free Society
The Origins of Law
Determinants of Market Value: Part II
Determinants of Market Value: Part I
Your life Matters Too
Manifestations of Artistic Expression
Achievements vs Natural Accidents
The Grip of Sacrifice
Injustice is Never Justifiable
Education Demands of the Future
Job Security, Life and the Unpredictable Future
The Shift From Racism to Culturism
Sacrificing Meaning for Power?
Culture and Market Forces
Seeking Cosmic Justice
National Myths: Makers and Destroyers of Nations
Are We Truly Free?
Maturity: The Prerequisite to Freedom and Democracy
Loyalty to Truth, Not to Group
The Value of Work
The Flaws with Ethiopian Political System
Intellectuals and the People
Where Are Our Pathfinders?
The Allegory of the Cave and Its Lessons to Leaders
The Truth Behind Humanity
The Seven Virtues
The Seven Deadly Sins
What is the right thing to do?
Building National Identity
Adey Abeba and the Spirit of Change
Living the Truth as a Human Being
Hubris - The Tragedy of Not Learning from Others
The Era of Group Mentality: Us vs Them
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