The Burden and Legacy of History

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      The past weighs heavily on our political imaginations, and drags us from freeing ourselves from old grievances and feelings of enmity. Whether it meets historians’ empiricist standards to pass as ‘truth’ or is shared in popular narratives as a collective memory, the past gets used and abused by politicians and activists. Ethiopia’s millennia long history, particularly the most recent centuries, is not only a source of pride, it is also an endless mine of grievances for ethno-nationalist and religiously inclined activists and politicians. This is not inevitable though. We need to collectively start the journey to close the past chapter, forgive but not forget, remember and take lessons, and create a new slate to stride towards the future. Moreover, we may need to construct and agree on common heroes, symbols, narratives and moments of pride to inform our future and/or to imagine a new future as a shared space and time preceded by a memorialized but healed, negotiated past. This task of ‘starting from a clean slate’ in making the political future is further complicated information sharing and circulation of narratives, without validity, is democratized and easily reaches millions instantly at the ontology of the present.

      The author is expected to show how the past is (ab)used currently by different actors; build a scenario for where we will be a generation later if current trends continue; and what must be done by this generation to reach the desired scenario.

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