People in the Diaspora, be it in Melbourne, London, Copenhagen, Stockholm, California, Washington DC, etc. might have come there either due to direct political cases or due to lack of opportunities. The latter one is enormously true because, these days the living standard of the common person in Ethiopia has gotten from worse to the worst. Here in the USA many Ethiopian born elders who lived for over 30 years in the country tell us that they were the first to reluctantly remain abroad as immigrants. They tell us that nobody that had the opportunity to do so liked to remain in the Diaspora. Young people who got the opportunity to study colleges or universities used to count their remaining days of their graduation. Their excitement was not to participate in their graduation ceremony; it rather was to return to their home country. They tell us that those new graduates did not even waste their time until the graduation date. Any graduating student used to arrange for one’s diploma to be sent later to Ethiopia and flew home before the graduation date. I myself remember having been to Germany for training having had visa to move to Vienna and Rome, felt defection that is betrayal of one’s motherland and the people as the gravest guilt. However, after 20 years some situations changed and my wife won the Diversity Visa Lottery; I still struggled with myself and finally made up my mind to join my family in the Diaspora. Immigration through deserts was a rare and unheard case.
Nowadays, however, we hear horrible stories about refugees. Young people and even families immigrate to different foreign countries while they very well know that they can face dangerous situations on the way out. Some of such migrants were eaten by beasts; some of them died from suffocation while being transported like goods in metal containers by greedy human dealers; others sank with boats and perished in the sea or were swallowed by sharks; before even reaching their destinations many refugees were butchered by other human beings who sold their body parts and left them to die in the desert. The other worst scenario was manifested by horrible treatments of these refugees who made up their ways to foreign countries that many of them ended up serving as slaves in Arab countries.
Hence the first issue of an immigrant could be security and legal issues. Then follow issues of work permit, finding jobs, residence, health insurance, and other basic needs. Then, even after they settle at their destinations, come social phenomena such us handling family disputes, issues related to crimes, and funeral ceremonies on one side and self-identity, self-expression, wedding or graduation ceremonies, longing for traditional holiday ceremonies, etc. on the other hand. These social phenomena reside among many families behind the curtain taking the toll of their paranoia and often hurting them.
Behind the curtain, we know that individuals suffer from different emotive consequences since family disputes could not be solved in a traditional way. Children have nowhere to go and quench recreation facilities that their families need and learn about their cultural heritages. For many families, participation in sports activities was taken a luxury issue. It has been very difficult to assimilate with the new ways of life abroad. We have encountered our own parents who came abroad as visitors and found themselves confined to four walls attending boring TV programs where they lost their opportunities of spending their time with other folks of similar ages whom they could have shared their houghts –worries and appreciations.
It is believed in modern science that the whole humankind is social animal. As there is no part without a whole, there is no individual without a society; and hence individuals cannot exist without a society and a society cannot exist without individuals. People may have individual interests; but individual interests exist as a subset of common social interests. It might seem depressive to realize that we are full of contradictions. We can see this through many manifest things around us – love and hate, male and female, negative and positive, sale and purchase, profit and loss, etc. In fact modern thoughts show us that we cannot live without contradictions; because contradiction is the basis of existence of life itself. It is the unity of contradictions that creates a bond. The best treatment of contradictions creates a useful bond like marriage. A bond also can be likened by a bomb that consists of charged particles. However, it becomes destructive whenever it is loose. Individual conflicts that include conflicts that distort family lives are reflections of loosely held or improperly balanced social interests. Competing parties in a country with differing ways of economic, social and political affairs make a bond. Federation of independent states is a type of bond. We like bonds but we hate contradictions that exist in them. We cannot avoid the existence of both; what we need is to make equilibrium or balance. Conflicts explode when the bond is loosely held.
The whole social conflict arises from the failure to match individual interests with common interests. It is the necessary mutual understanding and respect that enables the best management to create the equilibrium. Abraham the Patriarch said, “There is a single law: The law of nature, the law of equilibrium, the law of unity, the law of infinite love. We exist within it. It covers us like a mother covers a child. If we correspond to it, we will prosper; if we don’t correspond to it, we will suffer.”
So comes the need to think not individually but socially. That is where we avoid greediness, sectarianism, tyranny, and so on. As individual righteousness and ethicality can constitute to form the integrity and reliability of a whole community where individual worries are resolved by the community, and hence the latter is a reflection of the former and vice versa.
In the eyes of the people we live in, we are observed as a unique people with unique culture and behavior. They all recognize us as Ethiopians. We may have some differences; however in the Diaspora, all our differences lose any significance. Therefore, it necessitates a community organization free of politics and other creeds. Essentially, politics has no helping role in the community and such baggage should be deterred entry permit to the door of our community. Of course many of us pronounce this concept; however, it needs broad mindedness in order to abide by this principle of détente. We need to learn how to hold back other interests in order to give room to a peaceful life and promote common advantages that we miss by being separated. An African proverb says, “If you want to go quickly, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” And a Swiss theologian, Hans Urs von Balthasar, put it this way, “Even if a unity of faith is not possible, a unity of love is possible.” So we need to get a space to enjoy life and express love to each other by pending our other differences. We need to have a room to appreciate and respect each other so that we can live in peace and harmony. In Amharic there is a saying, “ሽማ በየፈርጁ ይለበሳል”. That means setting aside the dark side of unfavorable person in order to get along with the person and promote common interests.
We cannot be completely happy by hiding ourselves from truth. We need to know realities and find out virtues out of them. It is our attitude that determines how to get along with our adversaries. What dominates the society affects us, we cannot hide from it. We would not have been what we are and where we are if politics had not affected us. As nobody wants to close ones ears to the news of an epidemic disease, since knowing how to prevent it is instinctive, so do we need to be aware of our civil issues so that we can prevent ourselves from evil activities and live in peace.
In the land of citizens where basic human rights and the pursuit of life and happiness are instituted in the constitution, families have become devoid of their like ones; they at times find themselves in a pitfall of loss of social life where especially children suffer from loss of self-identification. These children are generally attracted to each other and would like to be with each other regardless of their family attachments to religion, race or language. They are predominantly attracted by the color of the Ethiopian skin, the way they comb their hair, their national costumes, names of food like enjera, kitfo, kay wot, and even their emotional expressions. Although we have some variations, we have common shared values, common culture that made our diversity mosaic. Our differences fit to each other and make us Ethiopians. We understand the value of an Ethiopian family while other societies may not. For example, we all have ethical ways of disseminating grief to any person while a western man may announce such sad news on the street. Most families respect egalitarian life where individual problems are shared by groups and emotional issues are contained and managed within relatives or friends. So, an individual relies much on Ethiopian folks of one’s relatives and close acquaintance. Our folks call each other and contribute all they can in kind, cash and time to comfort an aggrieved person. Participation of more people in social ceremonies such as weddings is valued by all Ethiopians from any corner. However, consolidation of a community organization would have made such efforts less expensive, simpler, and systematic.
We also ask the same office for Visas, enter through the same port when want to, and the same officials have authorities on the everyday life of our families at home. We have more common things (fortunes and misfortunes, prospects and destinies) than our differences and hence more common destinations. In the Diaspora, it is an Ethiopian acquaintance that can understand and share the values of any other Ethiopian during critical times regardless of ethnic, religious, political, and other backgrounds. We do not concentrate on our differences when an acquaintance is grieved; we ignore these things when an Ethiopian calls us for a graduation or wedding ceremony of one’s child. Many of such cleavages are bridged and difference wane and fade away when our kids love each other and declare marriage bonds as a result of which we families often feel self-complacent by pretending as if differences had not existed at all.
A Community organization can serve as a resource center. Individuals with different professional backgrounds – medical, sociological, psychological, legal, etc. can freely volunteer to avail their knowledge to help others who need help in sentimentality of belongingness to each other. Recreational facilities from physical exercise to cultural shows can be coordinated and provided in the center. Kids can go to the center to relax and at the same time learn about their traditions. Elders can use the center to share their experiences and contribute to the collection of cultural heritages. A well-functioning community can bridge unavoidable differences that exist among social groups and serve as a venue to coordinate governmental and nongovernmental institutions to obtain benefits that can promote common livelihood interests of the whole people.
Now since we are far behind the world that is constantly moving forward, it is time to make a turning point. Nobody from heaven is going to work for us. It is no use to watch the woes of our society and lament in closed doors. We should stop cursing our luck or blame somebody else, but need to ask ourselves as to what we did. Without a good society, individuals are naked and no better than monkeys in the wilderness. Our community is our umbrella; without the umbrella we are exposed to a bad atmosphere. We need to carry our umbrella together so that it can protect us. Elders and spiritual leaders need to be up to their expectations; they need to look for disputes and make mediations. They should set examples of reconciliation and forgiveness. Educated people should take their initiatives to contribute a drop of their knowledge to the well-being of this society. Lawyers should defend righteousness. Other professionals should respect their oaths in serving the public and individuals should stand for their civil rights so that civility can prevail. We should not complain about the luck that we got but need to make individual efforts so that dreams come to be true. Adam Smith, the famous Scottish moral philosopher, put it this way, “When we’re constantly thinking about ourselves, our world shrinks.” In conclusion, we need to promote collective interests since our individual happiness is born out of collective interests.