Intellectual Dishonesty Costs Civilizations

April 9, 2011

A few years ago, I talked with a friend from Ethiopia, who is now on a graduate study leave in one of the universities in the western hemisphere. As it often happens in this kind of conversations, I was curious to get his views about the current political atmosphere in the country we both come from, Ethiopia. I have been away from my country of birth for a relatively much longer time.

To my dismay but affirmation of my previous observations, he told me how shocked he has got by watching blatant falsities coming out of the mouths of the officials of the current Ethiopian government in some of the highest positions. It was evident in his conversations that he observed a sharp contrast between his cultural upbringing of abhorring making false statements and the falsities conveyed by these officials. He told me that he had never before imagined that personalities in such official positions would so unashamedly propagate such blatant falsities.

A few years ago, Dr. Berhanu Nega, one of the leaders of the former Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) and later Ghinbot 7 Ethiopian political grouping, went on a privately owned Ethiopian Television broadcast from North America and expressed similar observations. He expressed that what was once considered shame, making false statements, is becoming the culture of the political organization that is currently ruling Ethiopia.

A new wakeup revelation to this recently imposed culture onto the Ethiopian civil society’s age old trajectory of civilization that has vetted intentionally making false statements as shameful and abhorrent is Dr. Beyan Asoba of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF,) a political organization that claims to struggle for the rights of the Oromo people in Ethiopia. He expressed this in his recent interview with Abebe Belew of Addis Dimts Radio, which is based in the U.S.

These observations of a similar trait that appears to be being imposed on today’s civil society in Ethiopia don’t appear to be isolated. Instead, this trait seems to have a global dimension.

Here in the U.S., Mr. Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House and an upcoming presidential candidate, succinctly described this kind of imposition as done by the intellectually dishonest who don’t understand what they are doing. He also once described his observation of the current political environment in the U.S. as alien to America’s history and traditions.

It is arguable that there is a convergence of the opinions of these four independent individuals based on independent observations of what appears to be imposed on the civil society against its long trajectory of vetting out abhorrent characteristics. While the questions of why 1) the civil society chose to vet out these traits starting a long time ago and 2) independent individuals from different corners of the world and with different political views made very similar observations today and taken by surprise that those orchestrating it are not ashamed to do so can be left for further studies, there should be little argument that this imposition is not unlikely to cost civilizations.

The protagonists of this imposition have dubbed it sophistry. Learned observers, however, have already called it archaic opportunism. Therefore, it can easily be said that, if humanity has been stretched, in the name of leading humanity in the age of globalization, between what some consider “archaic opportunism” that others have subscribed to as “sophistry,” narrowing down this stretch itself may be bound to have a huge cost. Further stretching humanity between the two ends may well be leading it to global anarchy that every party involved may come out as a loser.

To its credit, the Ethiopian government since the aftermath of the 2005 legislative elections has admitted to have learned its lessons, especially about its ignorance of the cost of wanton political destabilization of the country and region. The lessons it learned have been expressed in the aftermath of these elections by some of its members, including its current Ambassador to the U.S., Ghirma Birru, who seems to be a send-away because of his acknowledged technocratic capability with a level of honesty that may not be fit in the imposition machinery’s inner circles. Aiga Forum, a committed partisan advocate of the ruling party, was quick to admit in the aftermath of these elections that the country was saved miraculously. Surprisingly, these inner circles seem to be currently busy in trekking in the new direction but without putting down their old habit. This is even more baffling because it is happening after they admitted to have learned their lessons. This is a revealing sign that there was subconsiousness to what they were doing and a possibility of the its continuation even after overtly pledging to have subscribed to a new course for the country and its people.

To the extent that the old maxim that a problem identified is half solved holds true, Mr. Newt Gingrich may have come close to identifying the contemporary problem we may be facing collectively as global citizens and inheritors of a trajectory of humanity’s history and traditions. Understanding the values of this trajectory for our collective progress, upholding them, and defending them should remain far more important than a populist venture for provisional votes from a less informed constituency. Failing to do so through intellectual dishonesty for political expediency is likely to have an uncalculated cost to our collective civilization and the progresses we have made so far as global citizens.

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