It’s heartwarming to have a trickle down version of an ideological debate on Aiga Forum, especially when it seriously concerns our beloved country—Ethiopia. Civilly done, debates of the various kinds benefit a country such us ours to have a well-informed citizenry. Well-informed citizenry in turn facilitates for a knowledge-based vote to adjudicate a democratic contest between acutely differing political parties. The party that wins the heart, mind and interest of a well-informed citizenry in turn becomes the dependable bastion of a country that the well-informed citizenry calls home. And this kind of democratic and knowledge nourishing process should be encouraged, for all the time to come and for the good of Ethiopia’s economic, political and social life.
Not all ideological debates are premised on substantive points of contentions. Some ideological debates may tend to employ ad hominem—the kind that attack the person or the political party that’s making the argument. Some debates go off on a tangent guided by conspiracy theory, to question the opponent’s motive instead of focusing on the argument being made. And some debates on political ideology are simply out of touch, and there are even some more with many more defining characteristics.
Great ideological debates are born to be raised by those debaters or political parties who have done their homework thoroughly. Many more qualities may be afforded to debaters, but for the purpose of this piece, great debaters are made from great readers, listeners, and those who tolerate ideological viewpoints completely contrary to theirs. Tolerating viewpoints other than ours induces in us the positive capacity contrary to that which induces hate and resentment. In other words, truthfully tolerating viewpoints other than ours brings sanity to our thinking and civility to the way how we argue against ideas that we think are utterly flawed. Hate, resentment and a complete doubt in the sincerity of those who hold views other than ours inevitably kill the spirit of great debates even before its inception.
With this in mind, I welcome Kifleyesus’s scribbled debate on Aiga Forum, titled, “Bashing Liberalism: Can “Revolutionary Democracy” Be Democratic Without Espousing Liberalism?” For the purpose of clarity, I find it imperative to quote Kifleyesus’s introductory statement and his core argument. His introductory paragraph goes as follows: “I have been following the recent debates in the run up to the 2010 elections in Ethiopia. It is sad to observe that most, if not all, opposition politicians seem to be unable to defend “liberalism” from the ideological attacks of EPRDF politicians. Their inability was most visible when Lidetu Ayalew, the usually witty and gifted orator, could not respond well to Bereket Simon’s characterization of the EDP’s (and other opposition parties’) views on liberalism as an invitation to western domination. What is even more saddening is that the EPRDF and its acolytes including one Adal Isaw attack liberalism as a recipe for disaster in the Ethiopian context”
Now let’s read Kifleyesus’s core argument, bearing in mind the content of his introductory paragraph, and, his core argument goes as follows: “The attack on liberalism is based on confusing two terms: liberalism and neo-liberalism. I do not think that the EPRDF or its supporters [are] unaware of the distinction between these two terms. Adal Isaw’s piece on Aigaforum.com clearly shows that he is aware of the historical and philosophical roots of liberalism as his references to Hobbes and Locke testify. The simple explanation of the confusion is thus that there is a deliberate attempt to befuddle the debate and push an agenda that the EPRDF is not comfortable to pursue publicly.”
Kifleyesus’s piece shows that he failed to do his homework thoroughly, since he never made the concerted effort to refute the major points that a revolutionary democrat raises to criticize liberalism. He didn’t defend the excessive and superfluous individualism, which is being espoused by Ethiopian liberals in relation to the greater issue of economic and political development of Ethiopia. In addition, his defense of liberalism might have benefited a bit more or less, had he read my article thoroughly between the lines. Instead, what Kifleyesus did in his piece is to let his readers know, first and foremost, how saddening it was to hear and read EPRDF, Bereket Simon and the “acolyte” Adal Isaw bashing and attacking liberalism. Kifleyesus didn’t even spare “…the usually witty and gifted orator…” Ato. Lidetu Ayalew, “…for his inability [to] respond well to Bereket Simon’s characterization of…liberalism…”