History is the cornerstone through which we build our identity. It shapes how we view the world and how we decide upon the future, but history is not always a recording of actual events but rather a fable agreed upon. If you look closely, you can see how the perspective of history changes through the centuries. Certain events have been exaggerated, others have been reduced and some were erased.
This article is written as a partial response to Shimeles Abdissa’s speech but on a larger context, it is trying to address how we view history as a nation. It does not take much to realize that how we view history is very one sided, romantic and dangerous.
Ideologies based on religious, ethnical or ideological perspectives tend to shape past events to fit their rhetoric. We saw this recently when the deputy president of Oromia, Shimeles Abdissa, made an inflammatory comment that has no actual basis in real history. He reduced a complex history that spans several hundred years into a statement of “Us Vs Them”. Mr. Abdissa had stated that the “ነፍጠኛ” ethnic group has been subjugating Oromia, Which is ridiculous when you think about it, since both ethnic groups have a complex history that spans many centuries. Their interaction as implied by the deputy president was not just that of conflict but of trade, culture, religion, governance, marriage and migration to name a few. Therefore, it raises the question, who actually belongs where? because if you actually count back a few generations every person belongs somewhere else but this is not something that ethnic nationalists like to contemplate. It muddies their idealized history.
Sadly, this is not an isolated incident expressed by few overzealous politicians. It speaks volume to how we perceive history, not as something based on evidence but rather on emotional appeal. This problem is not just evident on ethnical level but also on a nationwide scale.
We all grew up with a romanticized history of our nation’s past that at times bears little resemblance to actual events. Because of this, we equate the morality of our time to events centuries past and we forget that theirs was a harsher world governed by different rules and ideas. They cut the hands of thieves, behead their enemies and wage war constantly. They were the product of their time as we are of our own. So why do we judge when we do not even understand them properly?
Look on history, as a detached Arbiter with no illusions, a kind of brutal catharsis happens, when seeing history for what it actually is.
A second part of this article to be released tomorrow will discuss the impact of idealized history on a national scale.