By Robele Ababya, 11 November 2010
“Man was/is born free; and everywhere he is in chains.” Jean-Jack Rousseau
Rousseau’s continuing influence on politics
It is widely argued the philosophical works of Jean-Jack Rousseau, one of the most influential thinkers during the period of the Enlightenment in the 18th century Europe, gave significant impetus to the onset of the French Revolution of 1779 – some even go as far as saying it could not have started without Rousseau’s brilliant thoughts.
The French Revolution (FR) was the first of its kind in history rooted in the period of Enlightenment in Europe. The FR had considerable influence on and provided intellectual food for thought for subsequent revolutionaries. Notably, Karl Marx, Lenin of Russia and Mao Zedong of China are said to have benefited from the experiences of the FR and the works of Rousseau.
His major work, “A Discourse on the sciences and Arts” was a prize winning response to an essay contest conducted by the Academy of Dijon in 1750, in which he argues that the progression of the sciences and arts has caused the corruption of virtue and morality. Emphasis added. This is not to say that he was against the arts and sciences for his Discourse “ends with the praise of some very wise thinkers, among them, Bacon, Descartes, and Newton. He embellished them with the accolade that: “These men were carried by their vast genius and were able to avoid corruption.”
The sciences and the arts have made phenomenal advances since Rousseau’s death in 1778 at the expense of virtue and morality left lagging far behind. He (Rousseau) was right in view of the widespread level of greed and corruption that are rampant on a large scale in our global society in the 21st century. It is even sadder that in our time virtue and morality are relegated to the backburner; it is a shame that some scholars argue that there should be tread offs between human rights and economic development thus giving justification to despotic leaders like Meles who terrorizes the Ethiopian people.
“The Social Contract” – Rousseau’s major work on political philosophy, was published in 1762. This work was immediately banned by Paris authorities and led to his exile. The social contract is an agreement between the people and the government specifying the distinctive roles and responsibilities assigned to each; as such it is equivalent to the modern day constitution. Tyrant Meles too has a ‘constitution’ imposed on the Ethiopian people that he routinely breaks.
Rousseau said: “Ultimately, the delicate balance between the supreme authority of the state and the rights of individual citizens is based on a social compact that protects society against factions and gross differences in wealth and privilege among its members.”
The kleptocratic government of Meles and his family does not protect the Ethiopian society. Therefore it is bound to fail miserably sooner than later buckling under the weight of cumbersome government that will not able to provide its bloated expenditures.
In the aftermath of the French Revolution
Genius intellectuals in their individual capacity conceived and developed the philosophical thoughts from which ideas and principles by which a modern society should be governed were derived. The FR left a trail of atrocities; the ensuing “Red Terror” claimed the lives of tens of thousands under the guillotine. The king and his queen met similar fate. The “White Terror” as a counter-reaction took its toll of lives.
However the struggle for a modern democratic society continued. Individuals formed social groupings of their liking. Modern democratic society survived because freedom of the individual, liberty, prosperity and pursuit of happiness took center stage in their political platform. Other revolutions that chose collectivization failed or are on the verge of failing notably the power awesome might of the former USSR that shattered to pieces in 1991 after 70 years in power. The 1989 democratic uprising in China, which almost succeeded was ruthlessly crushed by military might at Tiananmen Square. The series of uprisings of the past including the recent ones shall inevitably culminate in the victory of the quest for liberty and freedom. That said, although Communist China severely restricts civil rights, it jealously guards its independence and territorial integrity; it wants Taiwan back just as it successfully got back Hong Kong under one country- two systems arrangement; separation of Tibet is unthinkable; any attempt for secession is met with brute force mercilessly. By contrast, shameless Meles has sold and is selling vital national interests barrel-and-stock! What a political blunder second to none in the world!
The world witnessed two world wars that had claimed the lives of 16 million in the first instance and between 62-78 million; and probably up to the present as many lives as the combined total of the two wars due to other major wars, small scale clashes between countries and internal conflicts attributed to ethnic and religious differences among others. The world is awash with weapons of mass destruction.
Conventional weapons of murder are inundating the developing world which buys them with the tax money collected from the poor; ironically, that money goes to manufacturing companies in the industrialized democracies.
The ill-conceived action by Bin Laden on 11 September 2001 shocked the world. It seems that the protracted struggle that some attribute to clash of civilization may not end any time soon. Adding to this the draconian issue of climate change, economic crisis, greed, corruption and other vices, one would come to the conclusion that humanity lives in a dangerous world.
Bloated EPRDF government
The speedy manner in which key positions were filled in a matter of two sittings of the new parliament mainly reaffirms the non-existence of democracy; it underlines absolute dominance of all aspects of political, economical and social life in Ethiopia by one-party; subservience to one-man rule and contempt for the Ethiopian people.
The meteoric rise to power of Desalegn Haile-Mariam took me by surprise. He is Deputy Prime Minister (D/M) and Foreign Minister in the ‘developmental government’ in charge of implementing the five-year ‘transformational’ plans. According to experts the plan is too ambitious and unachievable. The Herculean task of fixing the badly tattered international image of Ethiopia wrought by his predecessor Seyoum Mesfin will take a good part of his time. Under the circumstances, Desalegn will be at the mercy of tyrant Meles who will put all blames for failure to achieve targets of the 5-year plan or inability to reverse the tarnished image of the tyrant internationally. Desalegn’s party in the TPLF/EPRDF coalition is weak to protect him. The DM is liable to the writing of his obituary because fatigue from his draconian burden of office is bound to hasten his collapse.
Stalin spared did have no mercy to purge even sincere deviant colleagues in his Politbureau. The same fate will await comrades Desalegn et al in the Executive Committee of EPRDF. Incompetence, recrimination and other concocted character assassination will be used as reasons for purging.
The Cabinet consists of 29 members including the Prime Minister and his two Deputy Prime Ministers (DPMs). Each DPM also holds ministerial portfolios for Foreign Affairs and Agriculture.
There are 48 Ministers of state 39 of which are assigned to Ministries.
There are only two ladies in the cabinet and two others are ministers of state. So it is a male-dominated cabinet.
The EPRDF boasts 5.6 million cadres. All pillars of democracy are totally under the strict control
of the brutal regime. The army and all security agents are under the command of tyrant Meles. He is the incontestable supreme boss of the Executive Committee comprising 39 members –nine each from the coalition of four constituents of the EPRDF. His rubber stamp parliament of 547 members hardly do any constructive work; God knows whether they will be allowed to meet with their constituencies and listen to their views including grievances.
For comparison the Chinese government consists of 22 ministries and five commissions with 13
organs under the ministries and commissions – this is in a population of 1.35 billion and land area of 9,569,901 square kilometres of land area. The National People’s Congress (NPC) comprising of 3000 members are the highest power of state and meets only once a year. The standing committee of 175 members, functions fulltime fulfilling some legislative functions delegated to it by the NPC and implements laws passed by the NPC. The TPLF/EPRDF parliament is proportionally 3.2 times greater than its counterpart equivalent standing committee of China in terms of per capita computation.
Born free, everywhere in chain
What Rousseau said in his life time (1712 – 1778) in the 18th century is as true today as it was then, in fact exacerbated manifold in the 21st century in terms of repugnant greed, deterioration of virtues and morality, state-sponsored terrorism, grave violation of human rights, abject poverty, curtailed freedom of thought, highly restricted freedom of movement, insecurity engendered by despotic governance.
Everyone is subject to mandatory security checks to get access to airports, government offices and facilities; to United Nations offices, hotels and restaurants, ad infinitum. Everyone is at the mercy of security agents that are serving despotic rulers!
Most worrying is the lack of statesmanship on the world scene capable and trustworthy of solving
the multiple problems in our global community made increasingly worse by Al Qaeda and other extremists.
The sciences and the arts have made phenomenal advancement whereas virtues and morality have lagged far behind to the disappointment of Rousseau if he were alive today. Attributes like morality, decency, dignity and integrity do not exist in the lexicon of the thugs at the commanding height of the TPLF regime comprising the kleptocratic corrupt family of tyrant Meles.
There are some similarities between the conditions leading to the French Revolution and today’s environment, which seems impregnated with a new revolution. Depth of financial debt, rampant unemployment, wide gap between the living standards of the poor and the rich, disputes over taxation that triggered the French Revolution are afflicting modern society everywhere – including powerful ones such as the USA, United Kingdom, Japan and other industrialized countries. The global community is caught in a maze of economic, political and social problems which it has been unable to resolve or formulate a unified strategy to extricate itself from the mess of its own creation.
The debate between the merits of a slim and a big government has been going on for decades to this day since the period of the Enlightenment in Europe. The central theme is the cost of running a big government and curbing of its pervasive presence in the freedom of citizens. The protracted debate for several decades on the size of government between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party in the USA is a good example; so is the recent similar debate in the United Kingdom that culminated in drastic slashing of government spending in the face of stiff opposition by the Labor Party which lost in the last election.
In view of the above paragraph, implosion of the repressive EPRDF regime is inevitable sooner than later; the poor tax payers, especially peasants living as slaves in serfdom cannot afford to support the bloated army of non-productive parasitic cadres of the regime.
It would be naïve to expect some donors to withdraw direct financial support to the brutal Meles regime on moral, political and economic grounds. They will find excuses to keep their surrogate regime afloat.
Therefore, it is the collective responsibility of the global community to stem and reverse the erosion of virtues and morality. On the other hand, it is our duty and obligation as Ethiopians to act in unison in order to save our country from catastrophe perpetrated by a regime that has been behaving as an invader for the last twenty years.
LONG LIVE ETHIOPIA!!!
Release all political prisoners in Ethiopia!