Evolution of data and artificial Intelligence, AI, is changing the world and the future of humanity whether we like it or not. The data evolves and forms new algorithms and those algorithms already trap us into the social media bubble that we are each in. Unless of course we actively seek out others, we stay only hearing those who sound like us. Reinforcing our beliefs in our politics or morals. We gain support and encouragement because the algorithms match us to those who also like the same feeds, comment the same #s, share the same videos. This is changing dramatically the political atmosphere of the world. And I will get to how and why this is related to Ethiopia in a moment.
But first this data evolution of the human experience is something that now has started. And cannot be changed without causing massive human consequences. This happened many times in history. Humans create a thing. And it takes over because they become completely dependent on it. One example is wheat. When humans discovered how to manipulate wheat it gave rise to more sedentary societies. People for the first time in history practiced agriculture. Their days became structured around the wheat. Their meals, routines and lives changed completely. They were ‘given’ free time, they started new social arrangements, philosophised, discussed the possibility of creation, came up with mythology, morphed their understanding into religions, they then morphed into new religions which then set off to catapult another form of human evolution.
More recently industrial efficiency gave birth to the liberation movements, political ideology changes, commonwealth economic systems, modern republics, capitalism and the list goes on. The birth of the stock market is a by product of this industrial evolution.
How does this change in society impact Ethiopia? Well my believe is that Meles and the many members of the EPRDF realised one thing most westerners chose to ignore or downplay. The majority of Africa has not completely caught up in the last evolution of the human experience. The scramble for Africa started at the end of the first big milestones of the industrial evolution. The increased efficiency required iron, allowed more efficient labour and gave birth to new forms of economic systems and trade. Companies were invented and transport was overhauled. Medications were being invented. And the combating of disease allowed the industrialists the ability to take these new ventures abroad.
Europeans sought to increase their imperial reach in turn it was thought that would improve their profit margins. The capturing of coastal regions gave them a base to expand their markets around the globe and securing waterways was an important factor into their locations. However I believe they grossly miscalculated the time it takes for societies to change and shift into what their ideas of society were. I believe even with any form of humble intentions (highly disputable) that the Europeans were completely unaware of the societal evolutions that took part in their continent which led them to the industrialised state they were currently in. They had not effectively assessed their past before imposing their views of the present onto the indigenous peoples around the world.
Prior to the scramble the Europeans already knew of Abyssinia. Through the long term influence from the Portuguese and English connections with self made “emperors” of the region, it appears many of the English and possibly French decided, imperialising the region was rather useless. They appeared to be a lot like them, they are Christians, they have a King/Emperor like figure, they sell and capitalise on trade. And my assumption is that the British and French in particular went, well these guys may be an ally rather than a foe. Let’s encourage them and if they grow, we grow. Early on in the piece they engaged the assistance of local Kings to help them fight the Mahidists of Sudan and had many missionaries reporting back to the governments about the state of the empire. This all comes crashing down of course when the new and overly confident state/ kingdom of Italy decided their bellies were bigger than their English and French compatriots and set off to colonise those deemed non required. The death of Yohannes IV and subsequently delayed decision making of his replacement created a power vacuum in the north and power hungry Menelik creeped in and made the treaty of Wuchale with the Italians. Due to his diplomatic efforts the empire of Ethiopia is now known to be one of the only non-colonised states in Africa. And that is when the state of Eritrea was formed.
I have searched for years as to when this title was given to this particular locality. And I am yet to find it. Ethiopians are in fact mentioned in the Bible. But the particular location is not determined and that is perhaps because of the neutrality of the word. It literally translated to people of burnt faces. That could have been anyone from Indians to Polynesians to even indigenous Australians.
But in what appears to be the style of the North Shewan / Bulga elite, fabrication of the past to give legitimacy in the present is common practice. It is at this time I ask you to re-read the creation of the 1270 Solomonic dynasty. And ask yourself, how did all of a sudden, the Solomonic line, which is historically connected to Axum and is perceived deceased after the fall of the empire in the 800s just reappear 400 years later? And to consider the history of the Northern parts of Ethiopia and modern Eritrea as a seperate entity which in time only joint forces with that of the southern high-landing Solomonic empire just prior to the scramble of Africa. Then ask was this by friendship or as a by product of the weapon revolution of Europe? It’s in my believe this claim to the ancient kingdom of Solomonic heritage is what gave the church and thug like rulers the internal mandate to enforce Christianity over indigenous people, better known as those who were still very much Cushitic in culture. And then later the use of weapons that forced the north high-landers to submit to their story as the truth to be told to the outsiders.
It may appear I have digressed. But I assure you there is a point to this background information.
My belief is, part of this data evolution is a new type of scramble. And that is a scramble for information. Never in the history of humanity have we been able to get access to as much information as we currently can. We can access books and research articles efficiently, find what we need to know. Quickly. Present it back to our social media network and gain instant gratification that our thinking is validated. And that’s it, problems solved and truth is established in our minds. Alongside this another power vacuum in society has been created. The catalyst of the liberation and philosophy revolutions started the slow death of the religious institutions. People who have for some reason or another have been designed to worship and fear not having the meaning of life explained or under control from an external source are now in place to theorise new meanings. Giving birth to a cult like fashion in the west to believe fully that the world is being controlled by hidden agendas and secret societies and giving birth to the plethora of conspiracy theories. This information scramble coupled with the instant gratification of your social media network is truly distorting the way we as humans interpret the data and information given to us.
And so, Ethiopians find them self in a state of complexities and I feel like at a stagnant point in the middle of two western societal evolutions. Just like the modern world is stuck in a data evolution that if changed would catalyse mass destruction to the world meaning we have no other choice but to try and navigate our way to the best of our abilities. And by the mere nature of evolution we will grow to accept the new normal. The state building of Ethiopia was catalysed by the industrialism of Europe and the powers since have been trying the best they can to navigate the evolutionary change in the state of their society whilst trying to play catch up to the industry of the rest of the world.
The Information Age and the scramble to produce information has seen many factions of the Ethiopian diaspora work very efficiently in spreading the history of Ethiopia as they perceive it. This includes reconstruction of narratives that Ethiopia was a happy and united utopia for centuries. Paying respect to efficiencies of information access, this myth is being slowly disproven. And the complete lack of homogeny of Ethiopia is being challenged by the masses, whilst others fight hard to suppress it. There is a battle of ideological standpoints that I have written on previously that is up against he one thing Meles tried to erase, the poverty.
A false belief that Ethiopia was comparatively similar to that of the Europeans and homogenous at the time of the scramble, Hailie Selassie, the modern equivalent to a reality star of Ethiopia, set off on a grand world tour to further solidify this global narrative. However failed greatly in modernising the country and pulling the people out of desperate poverty which would have given some legitimacy to this claim. The Derg, getting caught in the middle of the communist revolution sought to fill this gap but instead realised the challenges where far greater than expected and reacted by committing Red terror. Failing again to bring the people into the modern world around them.
The period of the EPRDF era is a time I see as the Ethiopian leadership, reflecting and looking around at what the whole world they were in was truly about. They took the time to assess the reality. Although the leaders of certain groups in the past, such as, Suseynous, Fasiladis, Tedworos, Yohannes, Menelik etc tried to catch their people up to that of the European evolutions of industry, land titles, trade efficiencies etc they were unable to do so. Europe took off. And they were left behind. The cold reality is, that the society they inherited was so culturally different in and of its self within its state borders that it was in no ways comparable to that of Europe as their predecessors claimed. So by using theories that worked in other countries, amalgamating them to the society of Ethiopia, treading the delicate line of going to far into the western culture and economic structure and holding back the democracy to ensure the vision was foreseen, Ethiopia for the first time played a successful round of industrial catch up. Which sadly neglected some of the ideological differences between the people and held back the histories of many groups being told in its entirety, ie, the Myth that Tigray was in fact buddy buddy with north Shewa for hundreds of years. Or that the Agaw where the indigenous majority in the modern Amhara state for the majority of history. Or that the Hadiya used to inhabit a much larger land mass. These are stories of Ethiopia that are so easily accessible but not known by many. The only reasoning I can come up with is that by having the masses know these histories it would be of no benefit to the growth of Ethiopia as a United front. So perhaps Meles thought that the Information Age was to be held back until the society passed through the industrial and economic ages.
Now due to the use of modern AI, algorithms, social media instant self approval and the conspiracy theory culture the facts of actual state of the civilian lives in Ethiopia is being used as a weapon for ideological superiority. When an Oromo, Tigrayan, a person from Benshangul or Gumuz, a Kimment an Agaw, a Wolyatian a Sidama an Anuak a Nuer and even an Amhara, (everyone other than those in power) speak out about their reality under the current administration their experience is completely denied. Their claims are considered false in social media circles and laughed at by the masses online. Then those taunts are used as political evidence to justify further killings. This is filtering into the Addis Abebean society and a callous culture of denial and even approval of more weaponised force is being promoted. Sadly those with the most desperate plea for the unity of Ethiopia are failing greatly to pause and reflect on the world they are in. The state of Ethiopia is at the mercy of a cult of social media instant gratification junkies. Who have failed miserably to learn from the mistakes of the past and appear to have no clear vision as to how they will catch the people up to at least the basic industrial standards that the Europeans afforded prior to their scramble. The information scramble to sell their story seems to be more valuable in trade than the commodities that would help their civilians.
So I conclude by asking my reader, is the current Ethiopian leadership any better at reflecting on the past, reading the current and planning for the future any more effective than the earlier colonisers of the continent?