The Tigray War and Our Collective Moral Failure.

“A culture that does not grasp the vital interplay between morality and power… which fails to understand that the measure of a civilization is its compassion… condemns itself to death.” Chris Hedges

One chilly summer evening, by what I can only recall to be a random chance, I found myself at a party at the Hilton Hotel in Addis Ababa. I had recently graduated from college and was enjoying a summer in my hometown. Unemployed yet very much enthusiastic, I had joined a group of well-dressed, well-educated, and impressively self-assured individuals who were inclined to say things like “where are you based?” instead of “where do you live?” or tell you passionately about the importance of giving back to their country as they provide a detailed account on how they happen to be doing so at the moment.

While I felt a little out of place being surrounded by mostly ambitious and well-accomplished people, I had no problems mingling with ease. You will be surprised where properly articulated English sentences and the right pair of tasteful high-heels can get you in life. Throughout the evening I met and conversed with many individuals, some of whom frequently grace us with their presence on our national newspapers and TV channels today. I met and chatted with a handsome young banker (not of your local variety), the type of man my mother wants me to bring home for dinner. He told me about his job which involves extensive international travel & frequent run-ins with important men I only know of in the media. “There is no reason Ethiopia can’t be the next China!” he had said excitedly, explaining how state led capitalism was the answer to our nation’s economic ills. I listened attentively to his invigorating talk with the occasional water sipping, making a mental note to myself to frequently glance through the pages of The Financial Times to further ease such conversations. Thankfully, my ignorance of the international financial world did not show, since after some minutes of having met me, he started calling over his friends to make introductions. “Come meet this brilliant young woman,” he had said to his friends, whose hands’ I shook politely. In case you are wondering, be assured this statement is not related to any objective assessment of talent or cleverness I may possess. It is simply that when one is in such a room, it is assumed that the fellow he or she will interact with is very much like who he assumes himself to be. So, of course, such rooms are crowded with the “brilliants,” the “trailblazers,” the “change makers,” and the “jegnits” of Addis. 

I also talked with a fellow jegnit who had gone back to school after a stint at Oxfam and was now doing her PhD dissertation on the societal perception of domestic violence on women in Addis Ababa. I listened and encouraged her passions full-heartedly, not forgetting to remind her of her brilliance before our conversation came to a close. I met another older woman who headed one of the big International NGOs’ East Africa offices, who was also kind enough to give me some advice on networking, including some names and phone numbers I should reach out to in the field. She narrated how she came from humble backgrounds to be a success and assured me I had all it takes to be an asset for my country. 

By the end of that evening, while tired from all the talking, smiling and polite nodding, my enthusiasm had not waned. It was clear much was required to join the who is who of the Addis professional elite. It was not too clear to me if I had what it took to reach the ranks and do what they call giving back. Most of the people in the room were smart; they had solid credentials to prove it, they were financially successful; talks of weddings at white sands beach resorts had already started to become a norm; they were assumably cosmopolitan; their language skills and agreement on the dullness of London’s weather hinted at it. Could I really join their rank? I was not too certain. My failure to take home to my mother even the banker who thought her daughter “so brilliant” forced me to not answer in the affirmative. 

Politics is discussed little in such settings, if at all. Globally, at the time Ethiopia was being hailed as a growth miracle, being made the poster child for the Africa Rising narrative. During those years Ethiopia was achieving double digit GDP growth, making people like my new banker friend confidently predict that the nation was destined to become the China of Africa. While everyone in the room was aware that our nation was one of the poorest in the world, they held a strong conviction that our luck was finally turning, and the trajectory now was toward the light. Through their work in civil societies, NGOs, and IFIs, these educated and forward-thinking Ethiopians would help bring Ethiopia into the 21st Century. Ethiopia offered what every young, ambitious and educated person wanted; an opportunity to achieve both prosperity and purpose, and to do so with class, style, and easy access to high end whisky & wine of one’s liking. I was lucky to be amid such a crowd, I had thought.

To be sure, my evening with the vivacious and seemingly cosmopolitan crowd of Addis Ababa paints only a fraction of the full Ethiopian picture of the time. The success stories and the enthusiasm of that evening leaves out a much darker and unconformable side. Being in that room, you would not know that as we sipped on our drinks & complimented each other on our outfits we were doing so in one of the most politically repressive nations in Africa. The 2010 Ethiopian election results reported EPRDF, the then ruling party headed by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, as having won almost a hundred percent of the votes. Journalists and human rights activists were constantly being persecuted, thrown in jails or exiled from the country. Torture of prisoners was commonplace. There was no doubt the government was ruling with an iron fist. But this iron fist was justified by the self-presumed movers and shakers of Addis as unfortunate but necessary. Many agreed that a nation cannot hope to achieve its democratic aspirations until it untangles itself from the stronger chains of poverty.

It has been a decade since that chilly evening in Addis. Several realities have changed since. Ethiopia is no longer led by the EPRDF but by the Prosperity Party, power having been consolidated under the young evangelical & populist Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed (a child of EPRDF himself). Ethiopia has abandoned pursuing a state led economic policy, instead following neoliberal economic policies led by the IMF and World Bank. The relatively secure nation that had managed to attract high levels of FDIs into the nation is now ripe with ethnic conflicts. Most devastatingly, the African Rising narrative headlines, as questionable as some of them were, have been replaced most recently by headlines of a war of biblical proportion – involving rapes, massacres, and famine – in Tigray.

Interestingly, the friends I met that evening and in many other similar get-togethers in Addis, still hold the conviction – while witnessing historical levels of human agony & devastation – that Ethiopia is still moving forward, the future even brighter. Their memory of the past has changed drastically. Now they remember those long-gone days as dark and oppressive, and the former regime as backward. The injustices they had dismissed as unavoidable for economic growth, is now viewed as the epitome of cruelty. “We finally have a modern leader who’ll take Ethiopia into the 21st century,” a “non-political” friend who, as I remember it, was quite satisfied with the nation’s former state, said to me.  

The Addis Ababa urban elite have swarmed towards the Prime Minister like bees to honey and he has certainly welcomed the embrace. The Prime Minister, for his part, has rewarded this enthusiasm for the change and prosperity he offers. More than any other time in recent history, he has welcomed into the central government a high number of urban technocrats with minimal allegiance to any specific political ideology. In the first few months of Abiy Ahmed’s premiership, I too had welcomed this change, viewing it as a sign the regime was attempting to open spaces for those who were competent, but not necessarily party loyalists. I was highly mistaken. Months into Abiy’s administration, while many still held hopes of building a genuine political arena representing all people, for those paying close attention it became clear that the Prime Minister was using these urban elites mainly as a front, a way to legitimize his regime as a liberal, democratic and modern one while he solidified his personal power in the most basic authoritarian of ways. Modern being roughly defined as cognac sipping at the Hyatt, walks at Entoto Park, spa days, fancy suits, a degree or two, and some foreign contacts in international institutions. Not too surprising, given complications and nuance rarely leave enough mental space for the “positive mindset” required to achieve prosperity of the Prime Minister’s variety .

As a thank you for the rewards of status and various privileges that come with power, the urban elite for their part have shown their gratitude unflinchingly. Some have gone from cheering Abiy as a true reformer, empathizing deeply with the unimaginable challenges he has inherited (an arguably harmless stance, albeit at times idiotic) all the way to supporting, denying and justifying systemic rape, massacres and an almost total destruction that has taken place in the war on Tigray (a painful failure the consequences of which we will no doubt reap). 

To be fair to these urban elites whose need for comfort, money and status has always been evident to the non-naïve, even human rights activists who were once celebrated for remaining neither blind nor indifferent to the abuses of the former regime, stand today alongside a Prime Minister who has openly attempted to downplay war crimes, including systemic rape of women. Today those who used to profess and stand up for ideals such as freedom, justice, and peace remain either mute or are complicit in the face of killings, rape, ethnic profiling, ethnic cleansing, harassment, imprisonment and abuse of their fellow citizens. The same individuals who preached about the inherent dignity and inalienable rights of all individuals are seen sermonizing about the difficulty and complexity of running a diverse nation such as Ethiopia. They are seen arguing openly, for a nation to prevail it might, after all, be unfortunately unavoidable – even necessary – that some groups of humans pay with their very lives. Today we are forced to assume what we thought was a fight for justice, was only a fight for power. 

Ethiopian academics and intellectuals have not been any less disillusioning. These individuals, including those working & residing safely in various universities around the world have freed themselves from the basic responsibility a decent society puts upon its intellectuals – to pursue and speak truths. Intellectuals are in a unique and privileged position to expose the lies and deception of the powerful given they can do so with minimal risk of loss of livelihood, imprisonment or physical harm (real fears the average person has). Having spent years in study and training, they have the analytical tools at their disposal to help us differentiate fact from fiction, to help us remove the veil of deceit created by government propaganda. But what our intellectuals have chosen to do is be loyal to their ideological convictions instead of truths. They have chosen to cheer as the Prime Minister declared, “there were no civilian deaths” while engaged in a war, to celebrate as free and democratic an election with virtually zero genuine competition, and to excuse and explain away systemic rape and massacres as unfortunate consequences of war. They sing the songs of liberalism, democracy and morality in the Western classrooms within which they teach in the mornings, to only sit in front of their computers later that evening solemnly spieling to their Ethiopian audience about law and order, Ethiopian exceptionalism and the unforgivable sins of their disfavored groups. If I were not alive to witness it all as it is taking place, I would have certainly dismissed it as cynically written bad fiction.

There is something particularly pernicious about Ethiopia’s current state of affairs. Not only do elite groups of all stripes – technocrats, intellectuals, human rights activists, religious leaders, media – legitimize the actions of such a repressive government through an almost sadistic level of active support, but they do so with an added air of moral superiority. They have managed to sell to the public that a war that has mainly devastated innocent men, women & children is done in the pursuit for justice, to rid us of a special kind of evil that exists only over-there, never with us. Not only are we being told that death & destruction are a necessary evil, but that it is being done for our own good, for the good of Ethiopia. We, for our part, have chosen to believe it. 

I do not know how this war, ignited for the sake of power consolidation, will end or how we will manage to move forward as a nation. Our elites want us to believe that this is only the darkness the nation is experiencing before a great dawn. This is simply false (the Prime Minister’s unexpected military defeat and the possible continuation of inter-ethnic war in the region has proved this). There is no darkness that is being experienced by a tangible entity we collectively label as “Ethiopia” that either feels pain or anguish. The darkness is being experienced by individual humans; mothers who are burying their young sons, fathers who are forced to dry the tears of their raped daughters, families who watch as everything they have worked so hard to build destruct in front of their eyes. And even if it were true – if there will in fact be a great dawn after such chaos – which part of our collective consciousness is willing to accept a prosperity that comes at the price of innocent blood spilt and the tears of anguish shed by those we once called our people? 

If there is ever hope of a dawn, I know we will never reach it if we remain on our current path ripe with lies, deception, and denials. The powerful will do all they can to remain on this current path knowing full well they will cease to exist otherwise. But you and I have a choice. We do not need any special type of knowledge to know that all other humans feel pain as deeply as we do, that every life is worthy of love and protection, that we all have a right to life and the freedom to do what we choose with it, even those we consider our enemy. There are no complexities that need to be untangled before we confidently say “no” to the dehumanization of our people, no deep thought required to take no part in injustice and no accreditation necessary to speak basic truths to corrupt power. I may not be able to state with full certainty that with truth, love and compassion, we can change the world, but I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt our rejection of them will guarantee us hell. 

Ethiopian Feminism: Revisited

“He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion…” John Stuart Mill


One of the most common critiques I received when I wrote Ethiopian Feminism, A critique was that my line of argument was a tired and common one i.e. arguing that feminism “ke’egna ba’hil ena haymanot wuchi new.” Some viewed it as a rather weak defense tactic used by Ethiopians unable to accept new ideas that might challenge their thinking. So I want to address this particular idea in this piece. Are those of us who are wary of accepting feminism as it’s currently being practiced- in Ethiopia and outside it- simply unreasonably too attached to traditional and religious ways of thinking? Are we being unreasonably resistant to a new idea that could potentially transform our entire society simply because we’re unfamiliar and lack an in-depth understanding of the ideology? Let us explore.


First, I feel it important to highlight and clarify some things. I do not in any way want to converse with a straw-man version of the movement basing my arguments simply against the loudest and extreme voices. I also do not believe that feminism should be condemned or destroyed in any way, this risks disregarding the positive role that feminists can, in fact, play in a society that can benefit much from the movement, such as increasing educational, political and economic opportunities for women who had traditionally been deprived of it, and potentially ridding our society from sexist and limiting attitudes towards women. Within the Ethiopian context, there are many real fights that need to continue to take place: female genital cutting, rape, gender-based violence, to name just a few specific ones. All of us, in our varied capacities, need to fight to make sure that girls are given the same opportunities as boys in all fields and are provided the secure space to do so. It has been my personal experience, that once you open up opportunities for women and you remove major barriers out of their way, they are more than capable of achieving the seemingly impossible.

I believe the overwhelming majority of individuals, traditionalist and religious ones including, support these ideas. The problem arises when we start looking at the specifics of some matters within the movement. From engaging in various conversations with others, witnessing the online bickering and spats and some hours of digging into the research, I’ve attempted to pinpoint the main differences between those who espouse to mainstream feminist thought and those who do not. I believe the divide stems from a number of premises that today’s feminist theory functions under, which are not necessarily accepted by the wider Ethiopian society. I’ll attempt to focus on one such premise: the patriarchy.

The patriarchy is a central concept in feminist theories. “Dismantling the patriarchy” is usually stated as a central goal in today’s feminist movements. The patriarchy is literally defined as the “rule of the father.” This, I believe, to be a historically accurate description of our societies. Historically, generally speaking, women were responsible for raising children and maintaining the home while men were tasked with going out to make a living, thus engaging in the social and political sphere. Because women were limited to their homes they lacked autonomy and authority in the public sphere. For instance, women’s capabilities to own property, to vote or have access to positions of political power were minimal at best. In some cases, women were even unable to control their daily activities and movements without a husband’s consent. This system left many women vulnerable, especially to potentially abusive men. All this is true. But today, under the feminist lens, the definition of the patriarchy has been expanded to mean beyond the simple “rule of the father” to mean a *the systemic bias* of a larger system dominated by men working actively against women. Meaning, when looking at history (and some current societies), rather than stating, “some men oppressed women” it is now considered that the oppression came from the underlying bias of a patriarchal society that actively chooses to oppress women. And here is where I believe the water get muddy and where the big divide exists.

Most people that have not been taught this idea, I’ve noticed, simply do not believe it. They do not recognize the patriarchy to be an all-encompassing evil that systematically oppressed all women. There are a number of questions that arise when one thinks of the patriarchy in such a manner. One rather simple one, and a question very much worth considering is why would men choose to systematically oppress women including their wives, mothers, sisters and daughters, for the sake of holding power? What do men gain from such oppression? To give an example, it is argued that one way our traditions and religions, as dictated by men, have oppressed women is through preventing them from things such as expressing their sexuality, upholding virginity as an unnecessary ideal or encouraging marriage for women while not doing so for men to the same extent. This reality is viewed as a manifestation of the oppression of women perpetuated by our traditions and religions. This I believe to be too simplistic of an analysis.

Consider this: the birth control pill was not invented until 1960. It did not start to be used in Ethiopia until many years later. In 1990 the prevalence of contraceptive use stood at a mere 2%. Meaning, until this point in history, sexual intercourse that lasts a minute could result in pregnancy, a historically life and death situation for women. Even today only 34% of Ethiopian women of reproductive age have access to contraceptives, meaning a single sexual intercourse, can initiate unimaginable consequences specifically for the woman and the unborn child. So, looking at it from this angle, promoting marriage, celebrating virginity and limiting sexual liberation was societies collective attempt at protecting women, children and the community at large. Men, on the other hand, were not tasked by nature with the bearing and initial nurturing of children, thus affording them fewer restrictions. Nevertheless, it is worth remembering, the type of men that our traditional and religious societies choose to celebrate are the family men who carry the responsibility of their families, communities, and nations, not those who exercised their sexual liberation. It is worth mentioning here, this is not an argument against the utility of sexual liberation, given modern technological advances that argument can be had on a different day, this is to highlight the utility traditions and religions provided to deal with the rather harsh and arguably unfair realities of existence.

I believe it is because most Ethiopians see the nation’s history from such a standpoint that, while they acknowledge that our systems have patriarchal structures, even at times oppressive ones, they fail to see that the underlying basis of that structure to be one of oppression of women by men. I share in this view. When I look at our society, what I see is a social structure that was built by fallible individuals based on basic religious ethos to deal with the challenges of existing in a poverty-stricken land that had no mercy to men, women and children. This, of course, is in no way an attempt to draw some idealized version of history where women and men were “equal” (whatever equal means). This was not and is still not the case. Men’s ability to engage in the public sphere, while women were limited to the private sphere, coupled with their lack of biological obligations of childbearing and rearing, had given them an economic, educational and political advantage that women were unable to access. But prioritizing a narrative of men as oppressors and women perpetual victims is simply not only to fail to look at the full picture but to also, possibly unintentionally, paint women as weak objects without any agency.

So, while it is possible to argue that women are dealt with a unique set of sufferings throughout history and up to this day, it is difficult to reasonably put that at the feet of all men or a system that purposefully and systematically oppressed women for the sake of power. I think of all the men we’ve sent to war to die for our nation, and the wives and children who carried their set of responsibilities on the home-front, I think of the men that take on all the dangerous jobs – the electricians, construction workers, miners – who leave their homes for days on end to provide for their families, I think of the men being humiliated daily by poverty, unable to provide for their families yet wake up the next day to fight yet again… It’s when I think of such realities that the phrase – the oppressive patriarchy – gets choked in my throat.

From my vantage point, I find it extremely difficult to view the world with all its complications and decide that the majority of an individual’s or a group’s major sufferings is a result of one cause – in this case – the patriarchy. I always try to be wary of a single-cause explanation for complicated problems. For me, today’s Western-styled feminism, the way I’ve understood it so far, seems to offer essentially one explanation to the complicated problem of existing as a woman in this world, making it difficult to accept, without due diligence, the solution it brings forth to solve these problems; especially those that are presented with the simple premise that men are oppressors and women, victims. We need to appreciate the complexities of the challenges women face and be open and willing to have conversations, even difficult ones, so that we’ll achieve what I believe we all want, a just society for both men and women. We need to acknowledge that religious and traditional teachings that have served civilizations across the globe for thousands of years might still offer explanations and solutions to human challenges, even to our seemingly ‘woke’ 21st-century ones.

As stated at the beginning of the article, this piece is not an attempt to dismiss the work that Ethiopian feminists attempt to do, far from it. This is my attempt at diversifying the conversation, to possibly add some nuance to a dialogue that seems to be dominated by mainstream feminists who are, at times, too certain that their perspectives of our societies and their prescribed solutions to Ethiopian women’s problems are the only ones worth considering. This is my attempt at highlighting the fact that those who have disagreements with some aspect of the movement may actually *not* be uneducated, ill-intentioned, nurturers of “fragile masculinity,” “guardians of the patriarchy” –  ignorant to even know that they’re being oppressed, thus “complicit in their own oppression,” or out of touch – as some have suggested. Such accusations, I find to be dangerous, intellectually disrespectful and damaging to the very cause feminism stands for. One who is standing on the side of reason and logic has no need to demean or insult. In fact, what he/she will have is the courage to engage in difficult conversations, opening him/herself up to have his/her beliefs questioned, even ripped apart, knowing the end result will be having a respectable firm ground to stand on. These conversations matter because ideas matter. Ideas we hold shape who we are as individuals, communities and nations. So, if we hope to build strong individuals, communities and nations, we need to discuss these ideas with integrity, humility and courage. The way I see it, that’s the only way we’ll be able to move forward with relative success and minimal suffering for all.


The Personal Vs The Political.

It’s 2018 and the world is ending.

As I turn on the evening news, scroll through my social media feeds or visit my local bookstore, politics is all I see. Ten years ago, this would have left me thrilled and invigorated. Today it leaves me a wee bit excited, a lot more cautious and a tad bit tired.

On the excited days, I think to myself – this world needs to change, we need to implement democracy, rights need to be respected, justice needs to be upheld, poverty needs to be eliminated, we need to overcome, I need to help usher in change!

On the more cautious days I remind myself, I don’t even do my dishes properly.

On the tired days, I drink coffee.

Political engagement is our civic duty. As the saying goes, the penalty for not participating in politics is being doomed to be ruled by fools. But in today’s world where everything seems to have become political, where we’ve all divided up into various tribes fighting for the rights of *our* group, believing the source of our discontents to be *them* and *the system,* it might be time for some reassessments, an attempt to draw a line between the personal and the political. To draw the line not necessarily to separate the two, but to fully grasp the idea that the actions and thoughts that take place in our private spaces are what will bring about the change we seek. In other words, I’m more likely to affect the world positively if I do my dishes properly, promptly and gracefully than I am screaming through twitter, pointing out your idiocy. Allow me to explain.

Political engagement today has moved beyond making our voices heard through our polling stations. Now we feel obligated to become “agents of social change,” activists in our own right. Because we live in the 21st century with access to technology that allows us to reach potentially millions of people (or 2 friends at minimum), our computers have become our podiums from which we pronounce our convictions and denounce injustice and all things we deem ill in society. Our voices get louder with every ‘like’ and attitudes stauncher with every comment. All of it feels so real, so consequential. And it might be, who knows. But there’s a little part in the back of my brain that nags incessantly, calling it all much of it bullshit.

As someone who loves politics and engaging discussions, my fingers are having a hard time putting these paragraphs together. Because, in the spectrum of political engagement, from running for office to a being an apathetic viewer, I might come off as leaning towards the apathetic viewer, which is quite unfortunate, if I may say so myself. But I have my reasons. Political discussions have almost completely ceased to be informative or productive. We’ve turned what is supposed to be a discussion to reach some sort of consensus of ideas, into a sports match where the point is to defeat our opponent at any cost. We no longer simply disagree with the ideas of our opponents, we question their moral standing, their humanity. Just the other day, there was news about a certain individual with a certain political view that was given a high position in the current Ethiopian government administration. The response to the news, from some, wasn’t about how they disagreed with the decision because of some policy this person supported, that would be too easy apparently. It was a direct attack on the man himself. He was not only viewed as wrong or ill informed on his opinions and beliefs, but as deeply immoral, almost evil.

We have simply ceased to engage, we rage. We are so caught up in our superiority, of both intellect and morality, that all we do is preach and lecture. We speak not in an attempt to articulate an idea so that it will help us move forward in finding some sort of truth, but merely to hear our own voices. We listen not in the hopes of learning something new or broadening our perspectives, but to weaponize words and attack. What most of us seek is not answers or truth, we’re seeking information to reinforce our formerly held ideas. We have an agenda to pursue and anything that doesn’t fit into our narrative is discarded as biased and flawed. We’ve rid ourselves of nuance and paint the world as black and white. Someone is either good or evil, privileged or victim, with us or against us. We think, If only our political party won, if only our side held power, if only they listened to us, if only they weren’t corrupt, then we’d be free and prosper, then we could finally rest. We, so confidently, place ourselves on the side of David fighting Goliath, unaware we might be Goliath himself.

Our political engagement has become an exercise in futility. It’s like we’re running on a treadmill all day and thinking we’re reaching our destination. We ain’t.

Thus, the utility of washing your dishes – properly, promptly and with grace.


I must have been 14 at the time, I was at the main gate of Black Lion Hospital, Addis Abeba, with my uncle (a second father to me) waiting to enter the facility. Unfortunately for us, we had arrived outside of visiting hours, so the hospital guard would not let us enter. Being familiar with the policies of the hospital (both formal and inform), I simply looked at my uncle waiting for him to follow the informal policy and slip the guard 5 birr (the going rate at the time) so he’d let us in. To my utter shock and disappointment, my uncle simply informed me that we shall wait (in the burning Addis sun) until it was time to legally enter the facility. My attempts at arguments (it was only 5 birr!) did not work. There would be no bribing that day, not from him anyways.

This incident has been etched into my memory more deeply than anything else I can imagine. I’ve told the story countless times as a kid to demonstrate how *crazy* he was and laugh. I tell it now to demonstrate that it is only through the integrity and humility of the individual that societies flourish. My uncle stood up for his principles when it seemingly did not matter much. For him, It mattered not that the system was already corrupt, that no one would really know and praise him for his actions or that in the grand scheme of things, his actions were single clean drops in a diluted ocean. What mattered was simple: do the right thing – every single, clean drop counts because that is what makes up the ocean. After that day, every time I paid trivial bribes to guards, every time I told my white lies, every time I weaseled my way through projects giving the bare minimum, I thought of him and felt a little shame – every time.

We rage against the corruption that’s so rampant in government, while everyday we pay off the police to get out of a ticket. We seethe about the lies that we’re being fed by the media, but on a daily basis we ‘white-lie’ to our friends and family to avoid confrontation and criticism. We complain of the sub-par work of every government institution, but we can’t even keep our sinks clean. If we are to believe that our personal lives are microcosms of our wider society (which it is), how exactly have we carried our personal responsibilities? If our inner thoughts and private actions were to be broadcast-ed on the 8 O’clock news, how exactly would we feel? Would we really be out here calling out every perceived wrong or would we cower in shame of our ignorance and arrogance?

“Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people, until they change what is in themselves.” (Quran, 13:11)

This is not an argument against political engagement, it’s not even an argument against seemingly silly online spats (even those can have value if done the right way) – it’s through engaging with one another, however uncomfortable, that we can move forward in our thinking and actions. What this is, is an argument against self righteousness, willful blindness to our flaws and arrogance of the worse kind – the kind that makes us feel that *we* have all the answers – if only *they* would just open their minds, if only *they* were not so ignorant, if only *they* were on the side of good, then we could surely usher in our utopia.

It’s 2018 and the world is doing alright. It can even do better, if only we can wash our dishes right – properly, promptly and with grace.