All posts by Graham Peebles

Inequality Social Dysfunction and Misery

Year on year the economic divisions and sub-divisions in the world deepen, and the associated social ills increase: The rich, comfortable, and the very extremely rich keep getting richer, and the rest, well, whilst some may be raised up out of crippling poverty into relative poverty, the majority of people continue to live under a blanket of economic insecurity and largely remain where they are.

Straddling the global ladder of economic and social division sit the Multi-Billionaires (there are now 2,208 billionaires), 42 of whom (down from 61 in 2016), according to a recent report by Oxfam, own the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of humanity combined. Together with their lesser cohorts this coterie of Trillionaires sucked up “eighty-two percent of the wealth generated [in the world] last year…while the 3.7 billion people who make up the poorest half of the world saw no increase in their wealth.”

The defining challenge of our time

Income and wealth inequality is not simply a monetary issue, it is a complex social crisis that supports and strengthens notions of superiority and inferiority, and was described by President Barak Obama in 2013 as “the defining challenge of our time.”

Today’s obscene levels of inequality are the result of the Neo-Liberal economic system. This extreme form of capitalism took hold first in America and Britain in the early 1980s when Reagan and Thatcher ruled, workers’ rights were trampled on, ‘society’ was a dirty word and community responsibility was abandoned to selfishness and greed. With the aid of the World Bank and the IMF, Neoliberalism swiftly spread throughout the world, polluting life in every city, town and village with its divisive, cruel ideology. Commercialization and competition are key principles and have infiltrated every area of contemporary life; everything and everyone is seen as a commodity, and the size of ones bank account determines the level of health care, education and housing available, as well as one’s access to culture and freedom to travel.

Social injustice is inherent in the system, as is inequality, which is itself a major form of injustice. Inequality strengthens deep-seated social imbalances based on class and social standing, and in a world where everything is classified, commercialized and priced; i.e., attributed value, external wealth and position have become the common criteria for determining the internal worth of a human being. Comparison and imitation follow, individuality is perverted and fear fostered; fear of inadequacy, fear of failure, fear of not being loved, because not ‘deserving’ love, not being able to ‘afford’ love. Resentment, anger and self-loathing are fed, leading to a range of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression and drug and alcohol addiction.

Happiness and inequality

The impact of financial inequality on the health and well being of society has been extensively studied by Richard Wilkinson; British co-author of Spirit Level, Professor Emeritus of Social Epidemiology at the University of Nottingham. In order to establish national levels of inequality Wilkinson and his team used a benchmark based on how much richer the top 20% is to the bottom 20%: Japan and Scandinavia (Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark) came out most equal, and now, Slovenia and the Czech Republic have moved towards this group. Israel, New Zealand, Australia, Britain, Portugal and USA were found to have the greatest levels of inequality, and by some margin. Recent data suggests that Russia, South Africa and Turkey should now be added to the most unequal pile. Germany, Spain and Switzerland sit somewhere in the middle.

Data relating to a range of social issues was examined: The most unequal countries were found to have lower life expectancy than more equal societies, higher infant mortality, many more homicides, larger prison populations (by 10-15 times), applied longer sentences; had higher teenage pregnancies, lower mathematic/literacy levels, more obesity, less social mobility, and, according to The World Value Survey, a great deal less trust. In more equal countries, like Sweden and Norway, around 65% of people trust others, whereas in unequal societies like America a mere 15% admitted to trusting their fellow citizens.

In all areas, countries with high levels of inequality did worse, in many cases much worse, than more equal nations. Mental health, for example, (figures from the World Health Organization): In Japan around 8% of the population suffers from some form of mental health issue, compared to 30% in America. Children are considerably healthier in more equal countries – based on UNICEF’s Index of Child Well-Being – and feel a good deal happier. Wilkinson concludes, “What we’re looking at is general social dysfunction related to inequality. It’s not just one or two things that go wrong, it’s most things.”

Look to Scandinavia

If one of the primary purposes of any socio-economic system is to create environments in which human beings can grow and live happily together, then the nations suffering under the shadow of inequality need to learn from Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland, which are not just the least unequal, they are also the happiest countries in the world. Throughout Scandinavia public services – education (which is probably the best in the world), health care and housing, are valued, and taxes levied in order to fund them properly; there are greater levels of social justice, this allows for trust to develop, and where there is trust relationships flower. The extremes of staggering wealth and stifling poverty don’t exist as they do in the more unequal parts of the world; social mobility is greater and the dream of betterment more realistic, as Richard Wilkinson says, “if Americans want to live the ‘American dream’ they should go and live in Denmark.”

The first duty of government is to protect the people; this involves not only dealing with terrorism and the like, but requires the development of socio-economic policies that contribute to the creation of a healthy harmonious environment. By supporting extreme inequality (which has been shown to fuel a range of social issues) governments in the more unequal countries are totally failing in this fundamental duty. Politicians, who in many cases rely on big business and wealthy benefactors for their funding, are either blind to, or negligent of, the inherent faults of the current system, and the unhealthy, negative way of life it supports.

The case for fundamental change in the economic order, and a shift away from the destructive values it promotes is becoming irrefutable; however, change occurs only gradually and resistance is great. In the meantime, governments (particularly in the most unequal states) need to acknowledge the connection between the dysfunction and disease within society and their socio-economic methodology, which is literally making people ill, as well and poisoning the natural world. They need to invest properly in public services, address wage differences, ban bonuses, introduce progressive tax reform, and, unlike America and France which are taking retrograde steps by designing tax codes which will fuel inequality, look to the Scandinavian countries and learn from their example.

For too long socio-economic systems have been designed and maintained to cater to the desires and interests of a privileged few, while the majority live inhibited lives under the shadow of financial uncertainty. For harmonious societies to evolve this long-standing injustice needs to be addressed and a degree of balance found. This requires that those whose table is full to overflowing share some of their bounty, so that all may have enough, not excess, enough.

As a wise man has said, “The rich must give up what they want, so that the poor can have what they need.” What the rich and comfortable must give up is greed (another car, another house, more designer clothes, etc.), what the rest need is freedom from economic insecurity and the fear of destitution, freedom from exploitation and dependency; secure, comfortable, and well-designed accommodation, and access to good education, health care and culture. Such essential needs are the rights of all; when made manifest they go a long way towards establishing social justice, and where there is social justice, functional, compassionate communities do evolve, conflict is reduced and collective harmony is cultivated.

Creating Right Relationship

Within many areas of contemporary life there is a growing momentum for fundamental change. Inequality and injustice are being resolutely challenged and environments in which Right Relationships can evolve are being consistently and powerfully demanded. The establishing of right relationships is a principle hallmark of the unique times we are living in, it sits alongside those other perennial values of goodness: justice freedom and sharing. Perennial qualities that have been held deep within the hearts of humanity for eons though consistently denied and not expressed.

Our current modes of living are characterized by certain dominant ideals: competition; reward and punishment; and desire being some of the leading players. Individually each of these creates divisions; collectively they form an interwoven barrier to all forms of right relationship, a barrier that at times seems impenetrable. Such habitual ways of living are rooted in a view of human nature which maintains that humanity is inherently competitive and selfish, and that desire for personal gain, pleasure and power is not only inevitable but is actually a positive thing, driving personal development and collective gain. Devotees of this view hold that without such motivating forces most people would be overcome by lethargy and do nothing – and then where would we be?

This argument, ardently promoted by the patrons of the socio-economic order, encourages the adoption of values and ways of living that are not only detrimental to the well-being of human beings, it is utterly false. Humanity is a group; we are brothers and sisters of one humanity – this is a fact all of us know or sense to be true, however faintly. Mankind’s early survival depended upon the ability to work collectively, and so it is again now. We must learn to cooperate once more, to build sharing into our lives and to cultivate right relationships with one another — across national boundaries, race, religions and gender, within ourselves and between humanity and the natural world.

Exploitation, prejudice and intolerance in whatever form constitute the antithesis of right relationship. This destructive, violent trinity occurs in all parts of the world; flowing primarily from ignorance, poverty and inequality it is perpetuated by the current economic system and the architecture of democracy, which revolves around money and big business. Right relationships are corrupted when excessive wealth and power reside in the hands of a privileged elite, such imbalances cultivate false notions of self-worth — high and low – feeding the destructive duality of dependency and entitlement.

Right relationship within all areas of society depends upon a number of interlocking values being in place, complementary colors that when made manifest result in harmony. Social justice is essential and this requires that equality be established: equality of opportunity; gender and race equality, equality before the law, and equality within systems of democratic governance — where equality should be inherent but is often absent. Tolerance and understanding are also required, tolerance of differences, of alternative views, beliefs and practices; tolerance of the unfamiliar, tolerance of ‘the other’, of mistakes and of failure (something education and many parents need to adopt); the freedom to say, ‘I don’t know’, and to thereby allow the brain to be quiet.

The pressure to succeed, or at least not to fail, is colossal, particularly amongst young people who face enormous pressure to adopt the all-pervasive material values, which champion individual success and stigmatize failure. This pressure is a major obstacle to the creation of right relationship within oneself and with others and is a primary cause of stress and anxiety. Fragmentation adds to the internal disharmony, which flows out into the collective atmosphere in which we all live, feeding social tensions and divisions, denying peace – or rather shattering peace, for, free from disorder, peace eternally IS.

Collective harmony relies on there being right relationship with all living forms and the complex ecological patterns of life of this most beautiful world. In order to establish this, the way we live needs to fundamentally alter. In developed nations and increasingly in developing regions, life for many has been reduced to a materialistic game of consumption and hedonism, and both are as poisonous as each other. Consumerism is the root ingredient in the global catastrophe that is climate change. Sold as a way of life by its chief benefactors, it provides a hollow imitation of happiness called pleasure and builds an addictive prison of dependency and attachment in which mental illnesses and environmental abuse proliferate. Through the agitation of desire on which its survival is dependent, discontent, disharmony and disease are caused and maintained, all of which deny the manifestation of right relationship with oneself, with others and with the abundant earth.

If social harmony, peace and environmental integrity are to be brought about, right relationship within the individual is essential. It all begins, and indeed ends with us, with the way we live our daily lives; the way we think, speak and act. Actions that proceed from a position of selfishness and attachment trample on right relationships and result in conflict and suffering; when harmlessness and responsibility are the guiding principles harmony arises. The recognition that humanity is one is the primary requirement for change; the realization of this fundamental fact will light a fuse of truth and clarity that will burn away all that is false, all that divides and all that denies right relationships.

The Shame of Injustice

Poverty is the greatest cause of death and illness globally; it strangles the lives of billions of people, denying the expression of innate potential, condemning men, women and children to live stunted uncreative lives of interminable suffering and drudgery.

Whilst the numbers living in extreme poverty (the World Bank calculates this to be living on $1.90 a day) has decreased, over half of the world’s 7.5 billion population are somehow surviving on less than $5 a day (the cost of a designer coffee in developed countries). Hundreds of millions of others live in a condition of relative poverty or economic insecurity, anxiety and worry their constant companion. The majority of the World’s poorest people live in developing countries, India, Sub-Saharan Africa and rural China predominantly, but tens of millions are pushed into the shadows in industrialized nations.  America, for example, has an estimated 44 million people, or 13% of the population, living in ‘official’ poverty. Wherever the poor are found they live on the margins of society, are exploited and disregarded.

Walking hand-in-hand with poverty is the crime of extreme inequality. Obscene levels of wealth is concentrated in the hands of a smaller and smaller number of trillionaires whilst the poor are forced to beg for the crumbs that fall from their burgeoning tables.

Poverty results from and is itself a form of injustice; so too is poor education, inadequate health care, homelessness and sub-standard accommodation. Like freedom, justice is a human right and within that triumph of common sense, the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, is enshrined as such. But our world is dominated by attitudes and modes of living that deny justice and prohibit freedom. It is unjust that billions of people live in squalor; it is unjust that the quality of a child’s education is dependent upon the size of its parent’s bank account; it is unjust that access to health care in many countries is determined by one’s ability to pay for it. The collective shame of injustice must be cleansed from our world and trust inculcated.

Like many of our problems the key to creating a just society lies in the encouragement of sharing. In various areas of life, sharing is beginning to fashion the way things are done: data sharing within all forms of government and between agencies and allies is common practice, United Nations agencies readily share statistics and education tools, cooperate with aid organizations, as well as sharing research material relating to global issues – climate change, for example. The worldwide web allows sharing on an unprecedented scale and has given billions of people access to information and ideas in a way that was impossible in the pre-internet age.

Whilst sharing initiatives are increasingly common, it is yet to be adopted as the primary economic and social principle. However, the ‘sharing economy’ of which we hear so much these days is a hint of things to come. A leading example of this new movement is the groundbreaking ‘Sharing City’ project set up in 2012 in Seoul, South Korea. The scheme has four main objectives: Reduce the use of municipal resources, create new jobs, build communities and cut pollution. There are a range of initiatives taking place in the city, including sharing unused parking spaces, leasing empty rooms, exchanging children’s clothing, and even meals; sharing bookshelves and internet access and letting citizens use idle spaces in public or government-owned facilities. As a result of these schemes, Forbes reports that, “a different culture is emerging, thanks to the support of the government, that has been proactively engaged with the public by providing the city’s resources such as unused public spaces and related data to its citizens, and providing support to sharing economy business models.”

On the whole the businesses grouped together under the sharing economy banner are functioning within the traditional capitalist system. Despite this distortion, it shows that the concept of sharing is increasingly influencing thinking and beginning to permeate human affairs: this augurs well for the future.

Sharing engenders trust

Injustice must be eradicated from our world, and the principal means of doing this is through sharing. When one shares, trust is engendered, divisions are dismantled, unity is cultivated and justice beings to flower. Sharing is the most efficient way to meet collective need, it is the common-sense approach to many of our problems, social and environmental; it is an expression of love, which is the unifying force of nature.

Without universal justice, disharmony will continue and peace will remain a fantasy. Injustice poisons the social fabric, pollutes the collective atmosphere and creates fermenting resentment, which fuels conflict. It is fed by complacency, which is the principal vice of the privileged, the smug and the comfortable; they have little or no idea of the intense suffering that billions of people are living under, and, fearing that their position of influence and control may be wretched from them, they cling to all that they hold dear – power and wealth.

Everything that causes injustice must be uprooted, within the structures under which we live, but also, and perhaps more importantly, within the consciousness of the individual. The destructive nature of conditioned ideals that encourage injustice must be recognized and rejected, and ways of living based on justice and social responsibility cultivated. At the same time, and flowing from this shift in attitudes, which in many people is well under way, socio-economic structures rooted in sharing are desperately needed to deal with systemic injustice.

The injustice of inequality has reached abhorrent levels, not simply wealth and income inequality, but inequality of opportunity, inequality of access to health care and good quality education, housing and culture. Such inequalities feed injustice and stoke division, leading to conflict. They are inevitable under Neo-Liberalism, and unless we reject this outdated and unjust way of organizing the global economy, inequality will continue to grow year on year. The promise of social mobility as a means of addressing or reducing injustice is mere propaganda; within the current system there is virtually no such thing; if you’re born into poverty or relative poverty, the chances are you will remain there.

The answer to injustice and social division is not to be found buried in the crumbs of the comfortable, it lies in adopting radically new ideas; concepts of sharing that are woven into the fabric of human nature and need now to be applied in a pragmatic manner to solve the global problem of injustice.

Crisis in Consciousness: Change and the Individual

Our society is besieged by a series of interconnected crises. Millions of people around the world know this and are crying out for change, for a different way of living, for justice, peace and freedom.

Political leaders, Prime Ministers, Presidents and the like, are apparently incapable of responding to these demands; they do not understand the depth of the anguish or the complex interconnected nature of the problems. Instead of presenting new possibilities and working for peace and social harmony, they do all they can to maintain the divisive status quo and act in accordance with the past. But life is not static, it cannot be contained within any ideology – religious, political/economic or social – all must change to accommodate the new. And ‘the new’ is now flooding our world, stimulating change, demanding response and accommodation.

The world and the individual are one; for substantive change to occur this basic fact must be acknowledged; responsibility for the world rests firmly with each and every one of us. If we are to heal the planet and create harmony in the world change is imperative, but it must first of all take place within the individual. Over the last 40 years or so a gentle, yet profound shift in attitudes has indeed been taking place within large numbers of people; the increased level of social-political participation and in many nations revolt against historical injustice and suppression testify to this development. Whilst this is extremely positive, urgent and fundamental change is required if the many issues facing humanity are to be overcome and a new way of living set in motion.

What are the crises facing humanity: The environmental catastrophe and war conventional and nuclear – global poverty, inequality, terrorism, the displacement of people, and, festering beneath all of these, the socio-economic systems under which we all live. These issues, and they are but the most pressing, are the effects of certain ideals and conditioned ways of thinking; they are the results of the underlying crisis, what we might term the Crisis in Consciousness, or the Crisis of Love. Not sentimental, emotional love, but love as a unifying force for liberation and change. Love as the Sword of Cleavage, as the exposer of all that is false, unjust and corrupt in our world.

‘Society’, large or small, is a reflection of the consciousness of those who constitute that society; it is formed by the values, relationships and behaviour consistently and predominantly expressed by the people within it. Such expressions are to a large degree the result of socio-psychological conditioning, poured into the minds of everyone from birth by parents and peers, friends and educators, the media and political propaganda. This conditioning pollutes the mind, distorts behaviour and creates a false sense of self. It colours every relationship and forms the corrupt foundations upon which our lives are set. From this polluted centre, filled as it is with selfishness, competition, nationalism and religious ideologies, action proceeds and the divisive pollution of the mind is externalized. Where there is division conflict follows, violent conflict or psychological conflict, community antagonism or regional disputes.

For lasting change to take place, for peace and justice to flower, we must do all we can to break free of this inhibiting conditioning and in so doing cease to add to the collective pollution. The instrument of release in this battle is awareness: Observation and awareness are synonymous. In choiceless observation there is awareness – awareness of the values, motives and ideals conditioning behaviour. In the light of such awareness, unconscious patterns are revealed, and through a process of non-engagement can, over time, be negated and allowed to fall away.

Realizing unity

Through competition, fear and ‘ism’s of all kinds we have divided life up; separated ourselves from the natural environment and from one another. The prevailing economic system encourages such divisions; individuals are forced to compete with one another, as are cities, regions and nations. Competition feeds notions of separation and nationalism, ‘America First’ and Brexit being two loud examples of countries, or certain factions within these countries, following a policy which they mistakenly believe to be in their nation’s interest, meaning their economic interest. Such divisions work against the natural order of things by strengthening the illusion of separation.

The natural environment is an integrated whole, humanity is One and an essential part of that whole; the realization of unity in human affairs, however, is dependent upon social justice, and this is impossible within the constraints of the current economic model, which is inherently unjust. Neo-Liberalism is a major source of the psychological and sociological conditioning which is polluting the mind and society; creative alternatives that challenge the orthodoxy, which proclaims ‘there is no alternative’, must be cultivated and explored.

New criteria need to be established for any alternative economic model; the acknowledgment that human need is universal and should be universally met, and that nobody ‘deserves’ to live a life of suffering and hardship simply because of their place and family of birth. Sharing is a key principle of the time; it must be placed at the heart of our lives and of any new socio-economic structures. Not just sharing of the natural ‘God-given’ resources of the world, but of space, ideas, knowledge and skills, all should be distributed based on need, not bought and sold based on wealth and power. The recognition that humanity is one is crucial in bringing about the needed transformation in consciousness; sharing flows quite naturally from the acknowledgment of this fact and by its expression encourages a shift in attitudes away from the individual towards the group, thus strengthening social cohesion and unity.

Sharing, justice and freedom are vibrant expressions of Love and the Crisis in Consciousness is itself the consequence of a Lack of Love. Like virtually every aspect of life, love has been perverted, distorted and trivialized. Love is not desire, it is not dependent on anything or anyone for its being: Love is the nature of life itself. Remove the psychological clutter and Love will shine forth, bringing clarity and lasting change, within the individual and by extension society.

Living in an Age of Desire and Anxiety

Overwhelmed by anxiety and image insecurity a friend’s 20-year-old daughter recently quit her university course and withdrew to her bedroom where she took to self-harming. Company and environments in which she felt emotionally secure became harder to find, until she stopped venturing out at all together.

‘Alice’ is one of a growing number of people, young and old, but disproportionately under 30 years of age, who feel unable to meet the expectations and challenges of contemporary life — whether real or imagined.

Precise figures of those suffering from mental health issues around the world are difficult to collect because many people, particularly in developing countries, do not seek treatment. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that globally 264 million people suffer from some form of anxiety disorder: around 5% of all women and 2.6% of men (this is probably inaccurate as men are less likely to admit feeling anxious for fear of being labeled ‘weak’).

What is causing this epidemic? Indeed is it possible to talk about ‘common causes’ or is each case unique?

Whilst human beings may all be ‘different’, as anyone who has travelled knows, the human condition is universal, and throughout the world people respond in similar ways to comparable circumstances, influences and conditioning factors. In addition to a shared nature all of us are increasingly subjected to the stimulants, pressures and values that are more or less the same. Individual cultures are being eroded, replaced by a standardized approach to living. This process of Cultural Homogenization is being brought about systematically using various interconnected tools of control:

At the heart of the conformity movement is the global socio-economic system together, hand in hand, with globalization. People everywhere are victims of the values promoted by the Neo-Liberal view of life. The volume of the materialistic mantra depends on where one happens to be living, but the doctrine and conditioning forces remain largely the same. The other primary factor is education; the basic principles of Neo-Liberalism – profit; i.e., success, individual ambition over group well-being and uniformity, have permeated and polluted the classrooms of schools and colleges in countries throughout the world.

Add these pernicious factors together and it becomes evident that the ground has been laid for a particular type of global socio-psychological conditioning to take place, and in a way previously unheard of when societies were more autonomous.

Conformity and Desire

The fact that the human condition is universal, and the socio-economic structures that people are being conditioned by similar, makes it possible not only to discuss common psychological causes of anxiety, but to broadly identify the societal elements that create the circumstances in which anxiety and other mental health issues, flourish. One could go so far as to say that when adopted – remembering that the process takes place unconsciously – much of the conditioning being poured into the minds of humanity make anxiety virtually inevitable.

This is no accident: an anxious, discontented population is the (unspoken) aim of the architects and devotees of the system; contentment, independence and mental equanimity are the enemies of Neo-Liberalism, because they reduce the desire for sensation and stuff, and the whole corrupt paradigm is maintained by limitless consumerism.

Everyone is subjected to the values, methods and dogma of the machine, but the under 30s, are more exposed  and it seems at greater risk from its poisonous impact. They face colossal pressures from various sources including family, the media (including online) and education – where conformity, competition and systems of reward and punishment pervade many institutions. This trinity of control is extremely unhealthy, creating the conditions in which comparison and imitation flourish and notions of superiority, resulting in arrogance and pride, and inferiority — feeding fear and anxiety, self-doubt or in some cases self-loathing — flower.

Anxiety flows from, and is a form of, psychological fear; psychological fear is woven into the fabric of desire and is fed by insecurity, and the current socio-economic systems encourage both. Insecurity of all kinds is fed, from the insecurity of having a roof over one’s head, food to eat and in some cases, access to health care, to insecurity about whether one is good enough, the perfect daughter or son, clever enough, beautiful enough, tall enough, witty enough, etc., etc.

According to WHO statistics young women are particularly at risk of anxiety, and one of the most common types suffered relates to appearance. This flows from a wider stereotype of what a ‘successful’, desirable, complete, woman looks like. A recent report based on research conducted in 13 countries found that almost 70% of women and girls suffer from appearance anxiety as a result of reductive media images of women. Throughout Asia, for example, cosmetic advertising all too often show images not of a healthy Indian or Sri Lankan woman, but of a light skinned model. This highly inappropriate representation is driving many women in such countries to use highly damaging (physically and psychologically) skin lightening or bleaching creams in an attempt to mimic the billboard beauty; in the process their complexion is often irrevocably scarred.

In Britain a report by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Body Image found that girls as young as five are worrying about their size and appearance. They state that, ‘body image dissatisfaction’ (BID) can lead to “physical, emotional and societal problems;” children suffering BID “are less likely to engage in learning and participation in school.” They lose confidence and simply give up. The report goes on to say that, “over half of bullying experienced by young people was because of appearance.”

The focus on appearance, on image, on achievement and on being a particular type of human being flows from a view that emphasizes ‘becoming’ as opposed to ‘being’. It is an approach that is tied to desire and functions in relation to psychological time. It is this movement in psychological time that allows the seed of anxiety to be planted and grow. The idea that one ‘becomes’ something – ‘something’ that corresponds to a projected and, because of fear, an embraced ideal; becomes happy, popular, married (preferably with children), becomes richer, more successful, etc., etc., gets the job, the car, the house, the woman, or man. The process of becoming is insatiable and therefore endless; an itch that forever demands to be scratched.

The projected image arises from a narrow idea of how life should be lived, what one’s aspirations and principles should be; it is an image spooned into the mind from childhood (as the APPG study found), directly and indirectly. And whilst independent thinking and creativity are warmly spoken of, the pressure to conform is intense ­– the media in all its forms and education being the principle institutions utilized in maintaining conformity. Far from stimulating creative thinking and cultivating an environment in which fundamental questions may be raised, in many countries education has become a powerful tool for conditioning the minds of young people and a feeding ground for the world of work. As Noam Chomsky has said, “Society simply reduces education to the requirement of the market. Students are trained to be compliant workers.” He goes on to state that “a deep level of indoctrination takes place in our schools.”

In addition to competition, reward and punishment, and conformity the principle coercive element in maintaining the conditioned stereotype and causing anxiety is desire. Desire lies at the very root of the chaos and is the principle factor in the problem of anxiety.

Every aspect of the present system is designed to strengthen desire; desire for pleasure, desire to live a certain lifestyle, to look a certain way, to have whatever or whoever it is that one desires. Desire to be liked, loved even, ‘love’, (so the story goes) that is achieved by conforming to the prescribed pattern and thereby becoming likeable, or worthy of love. Love itself has been replaced by desire, pleasure substituted for happiness and freedom traded in for choice.

The main reason why desire is perpetually inflamed is in order to maintain the current socio-economic model, which depends on limitless consumerism for its survival. Secondly constant desire keeps the mind in a state of unease – of discontent. This suits the beneficiaries of the machine well, for in such an agitated state a population can be more easily controlled, and crucially, made dependent upon various remedial treatments; alcohol, medication — legal and illegal — shopping excursions, holidays and the like, all of which are provided by the architects of the system.

The result of this cocktail of conditioning is an environment of insecurity, suppression and anxiety. If anxiety flows from desire and psychological time, it is equally true that freedom from anxiety comes about when there is the absence of desire and from attachment to the objects of desire. Within the current socio-economic environment this difficult task is made even harder, but as long as desire dominates the system that feeds on it will be perpetuated, anxiety will persist and discontent and conflict, within the individual and society will continue.

Time for Political Change and Social Unity in Ethiopia

Tadesse is a 28-year-old Ethiopian from the capital, Addis Ababa. Like thousands of others he took part in demonstrations over the last three years, and together with family members, refused to pledge support for the Ethiopian government. Such displays of political dissent led to him being repeatedly imprisoned, tortured and cruelly mistreated. Now safe in Europe, he is in physical pain and psychological anguish as a result of the barbaric way he was treated in prison.

His experience is typical of contemporary Ethiopia where state violence and human rights abuses are commonplace. For the last 27 years the country has been ruled by the TPLF-dominated EPRDF coalition; a totalitarian regime supported and lauded by the west – principally America, Britain and to a lesser degree the European Union – as a model for developing countries. The government has suppressed the people, reigned through fear and attempted to divide communities along ancient ethnic lines.

Despite attempts to control the population, since late 2015 a powerful protest movement has swept the country. Huge demonstrations have been taking place in Oromia and Amhara (the largest regions) and after years of despair many sense that fundamental change is now a real possibility. Unable to respond to this democratic explosion, on 15th February Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (who many say is little more than a mouthpiece for the TPLF men in grey suits) announced his resignation. The following day, in a state of confusion and desperation, the regime imposed a six-month State of Emergency – the second such measure in the last two years.

The ruling party talks glibly of democracy and freedom, but there are scant signs of either in Ethiopia – no matter what ex-US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson may say. On a recent visit Tillerson made a deluded statement that has angered many Ethiopians. “I want to acknowledge this voluntary transfer of power. We [the US] think that’s a very powerful symbol to the strength of the democratic process here in Ethiopia, and we think it’s important that the parliament, which has been elected by the Ethiopian people, decide who the next leadership be. That’s the way democracies should perform.” Well ex-Secretary of State, Ethiopia is not a democracy and legitimate elections have never taken place.

Regime Duplicity and Murder

The imposition of a SoE, which has been universally condemned, was essential according to Hirut Zemene, a senior Foreign Ministry official, to “install law and order […] and continue the wide ranging political and democratic reform the government has started to undertake.” In an address to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, she claimed that, “considerable changes have taken place in Ethiopia with regard to promotion and protection of human rights,” and that, “the demand for better governance, wider democratic space, and effective delivery of basic services has not fallen on deaf ears but prompted extensive reform measures to address them.” It is unclear what these reforms are, or why a state of emergency, the very antithesis of freedom and democracy, is necessary for their introduction.

Do these regime representatives actually believe their own rhetoric? Nothing supports her fantastical comments, while there is a great deal of evidence that the ruling party’s violent methodology remains intact: Arrests and killing of civilians, a hallmark of TPLF rule, continues unabated; in Moyale, an Ethiopian town straddling the border with Kenya, ESAT news reports that “Agazi security forces (made up of ethnic Tigrayans, same as the ruling TPLF) killed at least 13 people in Moyale town, in the restive Oromo region of Southern Ethiopia; at least 25 others were wounded according to a report by the Oromia Media Network (OMN).”

Thousands have fled Mayole and are now displaced in Kenya. Local sources inside Ethiopia estimate up to 30,000 have been driven from their homes, many of which have been burnt to the ground. In the rush to escape livestock was left behind, whilst some animals were shot and killed by security personnel. According to a press release from The Kenyan Red Cross, who is distributing food and “non-food items alongside the provision of integrated medical outreaches, health education, among other support,” the “number of displaced persons from Ethiopia has risen to 8,592. Reports indicate that the number may keep increasing in the coming days.” The majority are women and children. “These include pregnant and lactating mothers, chronically ill persons, those abled differently and the elderly.”

Those displaced tell of indiscriminate killings by TPLF security forces, these accounts published in Today ng; “Mr Harsame Halakhe, a 68-year-old father of 19, said that when the soldiers raided their homes, they ordered them to lie down and shot some of them dead. Even places of worship, including mosques, became chambers of death. ‘People were killed in a mosque as we watched. We escaped death narrowly and fled with children and cattle,’ he said. Ms Kashure Guyo, 18, said soldiers attacked them on Saturday at Shawa-bare, a town three kilometres from the Kenya-Ethiopia border. She said the soldiers shot at anyone they came across. She was injured in the leg and hand as she fled. “They just came to the market and started shooting. We had to flee for our lives with bullets flying all over.”

The ruling party issued a statement saying the civilian deaths in Moyale were an accident – the result of ‘wrong intelligence’. Apparently the security forces were meant to be killing members of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), an opposition group branded terrorists by the TPLF, although the label has little meaning in Ethiopia, where it is applied to everyone and anyone who dissents or demands the observation of human rights.

This appalling incident is but the latest of such acts of state aggression. On 5th March three people were killed and two days earlier security forces killed “at least six” people. “Residents of Ambo, Metu and Guder, who spoke to ESAT say armed soldiers of Agazi were going door to door. They shot and killed those who refused orders, according to residents of the towns.” It’s hard to see how this and similar acts constitutes the ‘promotion and protection of human rights and good governance,’ which the government says it is working towards. Such words are simply propaganda churned out for the international audience; the majority of Ethiopians don’t believe a word the government utters.

The TPLF is in chaos; they have no idea how to respond to the popular movement that has engulfed the country and the legitimate demands of protestors and opposition groups. A new Prime Minister and spurious reforms will not silence the cries for change. The SoE is another antagonistic mistake: it should be lifted immediately, all political prisoners released and early general elections announced – a year hence would be reasonable, thus enabling all political parties to prepare properly.

Simultaneously, greater unity is needed amongst the many opposition movements: ethnic/tribal concerns, affiliations and historic grievances need to be laid aside in favour of a unified vision of the country, one that celebrates cultural diversity but works to establish lasting unity. Such an approach would enrich the lives of all Ethiopians and create true stability in the country and the wider region. Unity is the way forward for Ethiopia and indeed the world – the greatest degree of unity with the broadest level of diversity.

Time for Political Change and Unity in Ethiopia

Tadesse is a 28-year-old Ethiopian from the capital, Addis Ababa. Like thousands of others he took part in demonstrations over the last three years, and together with family members, refused to pledge support for the Ethiopian government. Such displays of political dissent led to him being repeatedly imprisoned, tortured and cruelly mistreated. Now safe in Europe, he is in physical pain and psychological anguish as a result of the barbaric way he was treated in prison.

His experience is typical of contemporary Ethiopia where state violence and human rights abuses are commonplace. For the last 27 years the country has been ruled by the TPLF dominated EPRDF coalition; a totalitarian regime supported and lauded by the west – principally America, Britain and to a lesser degree the European Union – as a model for developing countries. The government has suppressed the people, reigned through fear and attempted to divide communities along ancient ethnic lines.

Despite attempts to control the population, since late 2015 a powerful protest movement has swept the country. Huge demonstrations have been taking place in Oromia and Amhara (the largest regions) and after years of despair many sense that fundamental change is now a real possibility. Unable to respond to this democratic explosion, on 15th February Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (who many say is little more than a mouthpiece for the TPLF men in grey suits) announced his resignation. The following day, in a state of confusion and desperation, the regime imposed a six-month State of Emergency – the second such measure in the last two years.

The ruling party talks glibly of democracy and freedom, but there are scant signs of either in Ethiopia – no matter what ex-US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson may say. On a recent visit Tillerson made a deluded statement that has angered many Ethiopians. “I want to acknowledge this voluntary transfer of power. We [the US] think that’s a very powerful symbol to the strength of the democratic process here in Ethiopia, and we think it’s important that the parliament, which has been elected by the Ethiopian people, decide who the next leadership be. That’s the way democracies should perform.” Well ex-Secretary of State, Ethiopia is not a democracy and legitimate elections have never taken place.

Regime Duplicity and Murder

The imposition of a SoE, which has been universally condemned, was essential according to Hirut Zemene, a senior Foreign Ministry official, to “ install law and order […] and continue the wide ranging political and democratic reform the government has started to undertake.” In an address to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, she claimed that, “considerable changes have taken place in Ethiopia with regard to promotion and protection of human rights,” and that, “the demand for better governance, wider democratic space, and effective delivery of basic services has not fallen on deaf ears but prompted extensive reform measures to address them.” It is unclear what these reforms are, or why a state of emergency, the very antithesis of freedom and democracy, is necessary for their introduction.

Do these regime representatives actually believe their own rhetoric? Nothing supports her fantastical comments, while there is a great deal of evidence that the ruling party’s violent methodology remains intact: Arrests and killing of civilians, a hallmark of TPLF rule, continues unabated; in Moyale, an Ethiopian town straddling the border with Kenya, ESAT news reports that “Agazi security forces (made up of ethnic Tigrayans, same as the ruling TPLF) killed at least 13 people in Moyale town, in the restive Oromo region of Southern Ethiopia; at least 25 others were wounded according to a report by the Oromia Media Network (OMN).”

Thousands have fled Mayole and are now displaced in Kenya. Local sources inside Ethiopia estimate up to 30,000 have been driven from their homes, many of which have been burnt to the ground. In the rush to escape livestock was left behind, whilst some animals were shot and killed by security personnel. According to a press release from The Kenyan Red Cross, who are distributing food and “non-food items alongside the provision of integrated medical outreaches, health education, among other support,” the “number of displaced persons from Ethiopia has risen to 8,592. Reports indicate that the number may keep increasing in the coming days.” The majority are women and children. “These include pregnant and lactating mothers, chronically ill persons, those abled differently and the elderly.”

Those displaced tell of indiscriminate killings by TPLF security forces, these accounts published in Today ng; “Mr Harsame Halakhe, a 68-year-old father of 19, said that when the soldiers raided their homes, they ordered them to lie down and shot some of them dead. Even places of worship, including mosques, became chambers of death. ‘People were killed in a mosque as we watched. We escaped death narrowly and fled with children and cattle,’ he said. Ms Kashure Guyo, 18, said soldiers attacked them on Saturday at Shawa-bare, a town three kilometres from the Kenya-Ethiopia border. She said the soldiers shot at anyone they came across. She was injured in the leg and hand as she fled. “They just came to the market and started shooting. We had to flee for our lives with bullets flying all over.”

The ruling party issued a statement saying the civilian deaths in Moyale were an accident – the result of ‘wrong intelligence’. Apparently the security forces were meant to be killing members of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), an opposition group branded terrorists by the TPLF, although the label has little meaning in Ethiopia, where it is applied to everyone and anyone who dissents or demands the observation of human rights.

This appalling incident is but the latest of such acts of state aggression. On 5th March three people were killed and two days earlier security forces killed “at least six” people. “Residents of Ambo, Metu and Guder, who spoke to ESAT say armed soldiers of Agazi were going door to door. They shot and killed those who refused orders, according to residents of the towns.” It’s hard to see how this and similar acts constitutes the ‘promotion and protection of human rights and good governance,’ which the government says it is working towards. Such words are simply propaganda churned out for the international audience; the majority of Ethiopians don’t believe a word the government utters.

The TPLF is in chaos; they have no idea how to respond to the popular movement that has engulfed the country and the legitimate demands of protestors and opposition groups. A new Prime Minister and spurious reforms will not silence the cries for change. The SoE is another antagonistic mistake: it should be lifted immediately, all political prisoners released and early general elections announced – a year hence would be reasonable, thus enabling all political parties to prepare properly. Simultaneously, greater unity is needed amongst the many opposition movements: ethnic/tribal concerns, affiliations and historic grievances need to be laid aside in favour of a unified vision of the country, one that celebrates cultural diversity but work to establish lasting unity. Such an approach would enrich the lives of all Ethiopians and create true stability in the country and the wider region. Unity is the way forward for Ethiopia and indeed the world – the greatest degree of unity with the broadest level of diversity.

Ethiopia: Final days of The TPLF Regime

Under relentless popular pressure the Ethiopian Prime-Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, has been forced to resign, and other members of the government are expected to follow. The ruling party responded with panic, and instead of entering into talks with opposition groups, imposed another State of Emergency – this follows on from the previous one, which lasted ten months (from October 2016), and achieved nothing. It is another mistake in a long line of errors by the government, who will do anything, it seems, to hang on to power.

In his resignation speech Hailemariam Desalegn acknowledged that, ”unrest and a political crisis have led to the loss of lives and displacement of many,” Reuters reports. ‘Loss of lives’ of innocent Ethiopians at the hands of TPLF security personnel to be clear. “I see my resignation as vital in the bid to carry out reforms that would lead to sustainable peace and democracy.”

This is a highly significant step in what may prove to be the total collapse of the ruling party. It has been brought about by the peaceful movement for democratic change that has swept across the country since late 2005. Protests began in Oromia triggered by an issue over land and political influence and spread throughout the country.

A little over a month ago, former Prime-Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, announced that the government would release ‘some political prisoners’, in order, Al Jazeera reported, “to improve the national consensus and widen the democratic space.” Since then a relatively small number of falsely imprisoned people (some western media claim 6,000 but this is unconfirmed – nobody knows the exact number, probably hundreds, not thousands) have been released, including some high profile figures (Merera Gudina, chairman of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress, Journalist Eskinder Nega and opposition leader Andualem Arage, for example). Many of those set free are in extremely poor health due to the ill treatment and, in some cases, torture suffered in prison.

Despite these positive moves and the ex-Prime-Minister’s liberal sounding rhetoric, the methodology of the ruling party has not fundamentally changed: the TPLF dominated government continues to trample on human rights and to kill, beat and arrest Ethiopians as they exercise their right to public assembly and peaceful protest.

The total number killed by regime forces since protests erupted in November 2015 is unclear: hundreds definitely (the government itself admits to 900 deaths), tens of thousands probably. A million people (Oromo/Somali groups) according to the United Nations have been displaced – due to government-engineered ethnic conflict – and are now in internal displacement camps (IDP’s) or are simply homeless. Tens of thousands have been falsely imprisoned without due process; their ‘crime’ to stand up to the ruling party, to dissent, to cry out for democracy, for freedom, for justice and an end to tyranny.

All ‘political’ prisoners, including opposition party members (British citizen Andergachew Tsige, e.g.), and journalists, should, as Amnesty International rightly states, “be freed immediately and unconditionally… as they did nothing wrong and should never have been arrested in the first place.” Not only should all political prisoners be released forthwith, but the laws utilized to arrest and imprison need to be dismantled, and the judicial system — currently nothing more that an arm of the TPLF – freed from political control.

The primary weapons of suppression are the 2009 Anti-Terrorist Proclamation and The Charities and Societies Proclamation. Draconian legislation both, allowing the ruling party to detain anyone expressing political dissent in any form, to use torture and information elicited during torture to be used in evidence — all of which is illegal under the UN Convention against Torture, which the Ethiopian Government signed, and ratified in 1994.

Unstoppable Movement for Change

The release of a small number (relative to the total) of political prisoners and the resignation of the Prime Minister does not alter the approach of the government or their brutal method of governance. It is simply a cynical attempt by the TPLF to subdue the movement for change and to appease international voices demanding human rights be upheld.

Arrests and killings by TPLF security personnel continue unabated. Reports are numerous, the situation on the ground changing daily, hourly: At the end of January, soldiers from the Agazi force arrested an estimated 500 people in northern Ethiopia reports ESAT News. In Woldia (also in the north), TPLF soldiers forced “detainees [to] walk on their knees over cobblestones. They [TPLF soldiers] have also reportedly beaten residents including children and pregnant women.” These arrests follow the killing of 13 people in the town; “several others were killed in Mersa, Kobo and Sirinka.” And the BBC Amharic service relates that six people were killed at the Hamaressa IDP camp for internally displaced persons (IDP) (according to UNOCHA Hamaressa IDP camp was home to over 4,000 people internally displaced by the Oromo-Somali disputes) in Eastern Ethiopia. The victims were protesting against the appalling conditions in the camp and demanding they be allowed to go back to their villages when they were shot.

No matter how many people are killed, falsely imprisoned and beaten, the movement for lasting democratic change will not be put down. The principle target of protestors and activists is the dominant faction within the EPRDF coalition, the TPLF, or Woyane (relating to men from the Tigray region), as it is known. This small group took power in 1991 and has controlled all aspects of life in the country including the judiciary, the army, the media and the sole telecommunication supplier (enabling the regime to limit internet access and monitor usage) ever since. The issues driving the protests are broad, interconnected and fundamental; the fact that Ethiopia is a single party state in all but name; the wholesale abuse of human rights; the lack of freedoms of all kinds; the partisan distribution of employment, businesses, and aid; the regime’s dishonesty and corruption; state orchestrated violence false imprisonment and torture.

The people will no longer live under the suffocating blanket of intimidation that has stifled them for the last 27 years, and are demanding fundamental change, calling on the government to step down and for ‘fair and open’ democratic elections. Until now the regime’s response has been crude and predictable; rooted in force, shrouded in arrogance and unwilling to respond to the demands of the people, the government consistently falls back on the only strategy it knows: violence and intimidation; as the people march in unison, the regime unleashes its uniformed thugs. But whereas in the past fear kept people silent, now they are filled with the Fire of Freedom and Justice; they may well be frightened, but in spite of the threats more and more people are acting, engaging in organized acts of civil disobedience (stay-at-home protests) and taking to the streets in demonstration against the regime. Gatherings of thousands of people, men and women, young and old, who refuse any longer to cower to the bully enthroned in Addis Ababa. And with every protestor the regime kills, beats and imprisons the Light of Unity glows a little brighter ,the resolution of the people strengthens, social cohesion grows.

The demand for change is, of course, not limited to Ethiopia; throughout the world large groups are coming together demanding freedom and social justice, cooperation and unity; the reactionary forces resist, but it is a global movement that, while it may be denied for a time, cannot be stopped. The TPLF is in chaos. Their tyranny is coming to an end.  They may cling on to power for a while yet, a few months, a year or two perhaps, but even if they remain in office, they no longer have a hold over the population. The Ethiopian people have a common foe, a unified cause, a shared purpose. The TPLF is the foe, the cause is their removal and the purpose is to bring lasting democratic change to Ethiopia, and no matter what the regime does, this time the people will not be stopped.

Ethiopia: Final Days of the Regime

Under relentless popular pressure the Ethiopian Prime-Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, has been forced to resign, other members of the government are expected to follow. In his resignation speech he acknowledged that, ”unrest and a political crisis have led to the loss of lives and displacement of many,” Reuters reports. ‘Loss of lives’ of innocent Ethiopians at the hands of TPLF security personnel to be clear. “I see my resignation as vital in the bid to carry out reforms that would lead to sustainable peace and democracy.”

This is a highly significant step in what may prove to be the total collapse of the ruling party. It has been brought about by the peaceful movement for democratic change that has swept across the country since late 2005. Protests began in Oromia triggered by an issue over land and political influence and spread throughout the country.

A little over a month ago, former Prime-Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, announced that the government would release ‘some political prisoners’, in order, Al Jazeera reported, “to improve the national consensus and widen the democratic space.” Since then a relatively small number of falsely imprisoned people (some western media claim 6,000 but this is unconfirmed – nobody knows the exact number, probably hundreds, not thousands) have been released, including some high profile figures (Merera Gudina, chairman of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress, Journalist Eskinder Nega and opposition leader Andualem Arage for example). Many of those set free are in extremely poor health due to the ill treatment and, in some cases, torture suffered in prison.

Despite these positive moves and the ex-Prime-Minister’s liberal sounding rhetoric, the methodology of the ruling party has not fundamentally changed: the TPLF dominated government continues to trample on human rights and to kill, beat and arrest innocent Ethiopians as they exercise their right to public assembly and peaceful protest.

The total number killed by regime forces since protests erupted in November 2015 is unclear: hundreds definitely (the government itself admits to 900 deaths), tens of thousands probably. A million people (Oromo/Somali groups) according to the United Nations have been displaced – due to government-engineered ethnic conflict – and are now in internal displacement camps (IDP’s) or are simply homeless. Tens of thousands have been falsely imprisoned without due process; their ‘crime’ to stand up to the ruling party, to dissent, to cry out for democracy, for freedom, for justice and an end to tyranny.

All ‘political’ prisoners, including opposition party members (British citizen Andergachew Tsige e.g.), and journalists, should, as Amnesty International rightly states, “be freed immediately and unconditionally………as they did nothing wrong and should never have been arrested in the first place.” Not only should all political prisoners be released forthwith, but the laws utilized to arrest and imprison need to be dismantled, and the judicial system — currently nothing more that an arm of the TPLF – freed from political control.

The primary weapons of suppression are the 2009 Anti-Terrorist Proclamation and The Charities and Societies Proclamation. Draconian legislation both, allowing the ruling party to detain anyone expressing political dissent in any form, to use torture and information elicited during torture to be used in evidence — all of which is illegal under the UN Convention against Torture, which the Ethiopian Government signed, and ratified in 1994.

Unstoppable Movement for Change

The release of a small number (relative to the total) of political prisoners and the resignation of the Prime Minister does not alter the approach of the government or their brutal method of governance. It is simply a cynical attempt by the TPLF to subdue the movement for change and to appease international voices demanding human rights be upheld.

Arrests and killings by TPLF security personnel continue unabated. Reports are numerous, the situation on the ground changing daily, hourly: At the end of January, soldiers from the Agazi force arrested an estimated 500 people in northern Ethiopia reports independent broadcaster, ESAT News. In Woldia (also in the north), TPLF soldiers forced “detainees [to] walk on their knees over cobblestones. They [TPLF soldiers] have also reportedly beaten residents including children and pregnant women.” These arrests follow the killing of 13 people in the town; “several others were killed in Mersa, Kobo and Sirinka.” And the BBC Amharic service relates that six people were killed at the Hamaressa IDP camp for internally displaced persons (IDP) (according to UNOCHA Hamaressa IDP camp was home to over 4,000 people internally displaced by the Oromo-Somali disputes) in Eastern Ethiopia. The victims were protesting against the appalling conditions in the camp and demanding they be allowed to go back to their villages when they were shot.

No matter how many people are killed, falsely imprisoned and beaten, the movement for lasting democratic change will not be put down. The principle target of protestors and activists is the dominant faction within the EPRDF coalition, the TPLF, or Woyane (relating to men from the Tigray region), as it is known. This small group took power in 1991 and has controlled all aspects of life in the country including the judiciary, the army, the media and the sole telecommunication supplier (enabling the regime to limit internet access and monitor usage) ever since. The issues driving the protests are broad, interconnected and fundamental; the fact that Ethiopia is a single party state in all but name; the wholesale abuse of human rights; the lack of freedoms of all kinds; the partisan distribution of employment, businesses, and aid; the regime’s dishonesty and corruption; state orchestrated violence false imprisonment and torture.

The people will no longer live under the suffocating blanket of intimidation that has stifled them for the last 27 years, and are demanding fundamental change, calling on the government to step down and for ‘fair and open’ democratic elections. Until now the regime’s response has been crude and predictable; rooted in force, shrouded in arrogance and unwilling to respond to the demands of the people, the government consistently falls back on the only strategy it knows: violence and intimidation; as the people march in unison, the regime unleashes its uniformed thugs. But whereas in the past fear kept people silent, now they are filled with the Fire of Freedom and Justice; they may well be frightened, but in spite of the threats more and more people are acting, engaging in organized acts of civil disobedience (stay-at-home protests) and taking to the streets in demonstration against the regime. Gatherings of thousands of people, innocent men and women, young and old, who refuse any longer to cower to the bully enthroned in Addis Ababa. And with every protestor the regime kills, beats and imprisons the Light of Unity glows a little brighter the resolution of the people strengthens, social cohesion grows.

The demand for change is of course not limited to Ethiopia; throughout the world large groups are coming together demanding freedom and social justice, cooperation and unity; the reactionary forces resist, but it is a global movement that, while it may be denied for a time, cannot be stopped. The TPLF is in chaos, their tyranny is coming to an end, they may cling on to power for a while yet, a few months, a year or two perhaps, but even if they remain in office their hold over the population is at an end. The Ethiopian people have a common foe, a unified cause, a shared purpose. The TPLF is the foe, the cause is their removal and the purpose is to bring lasting democratic change to Ethiopia, and no matter what the regime does, this time they will not be stopped.

Ethiopia: Final Days of the Regime

Under relentless popular pressure the Ethiopian Prime-Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, has been forced to resign, other members of the government are expected to follow. In his resignation speech he acknowledged that, ”unrest and a political crisis have led to the loss of lives and displacement of many,” Reuters reports. ‘Loss of lives’ of innocent Ethiopians at the hands of TPLF security personnel to be clear. “I see my resignation as vital in the bid to carry out reforms that would lead to sustainable peace and democracy.”

This is a highly significant step in what may prove to be the total collapse of the ruling party. It has been brought about by the peaceful movement for democratic change that has swept across the country since late 2005. Protests began in Oromia triggered by an issue over land and political influence and spread throughout the country.

A little over a month ago, former Prime-Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, announced that the government would release ‘some political prisoners’, in order, Al Jazeera reported, “to improve the national consensus and widen the democratic space.” Since then a relatively small number of falsely imprisoned people (some western media claim 6,000 but this is unconfirmed – nobody knows the exact number, probably hundreds, not thousands) have been released, including some high profile figures (Merera Gudina, chairman of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress, Journalist Eskinder Nega and opposition leader Andualem Arage for example). Many of those set free are in extremely poor health due to the ill treatment and, in some cases, torture suffered in prison.

Despite these positive moves and the ex-Prime-Minister’s liberal sounding rhetoric, the methodology of the ruling party has not fundamentally changed: the TPLF dominated government continues to trample on human rights and to kill, beat and arrest innocent Ethiopians as they exercise their right to public assembly and peaceful protest.

The total number killed by regime forces since protests erupted in November 2015 is unclear: hundreds definitely (the government itself admits to 900 deaths), tens of thousands probably. A million people (Oromo/Somali groups) according to the United Nations have been displaced – due to government-engineered ethnic conflict – and are now in internal displacement camps (IDP’s) or are simply homeless. Tens of thousands have been falsely imprisoned without due process; their ‘crime’ to stand up to the ruling party, to dissent, to cry out for democracy, for freedom, for justice and an end to tyranny.

All ‘political’ prisoners, including opposition party members (British citizen Andergachew Tsige e.g.), and journalists, should, as Amnesty International rightly states, “be freed immediately and unconditionally………as they did nothing wrong and should never have been arrested in the first place.” Not only should all political prisoners be released forthwith, but the laws utilized to arrest and imprison need to be dismantled, and the judicial system — currently nothing more that an arm of the TPLF – freed from political control.

The primary weapons of suppression are the 2009 Anti-Terrorist Proclamation and The Charities and Societies Proclamation. Draconian legislation both, allowing the ruling party to detain anyone expressing political dissent in any form, to use torture and information elicited during torture to be used in evidence — all of which is illegal under the UN Convention against Torture, which the Ethiopian Government signed, and ratified in 1994.

Unstoppable Movement for Change

The release of a small number (relative to the total) of political prisoners and the resignation of the Prime Minister does not alter the approach of the government or their brutal method of governance. It is simply a cynical attempt by the TPLF to subdue the movement for change and to appease international voices demanding human rights be upheld.

Arrests and killings by TPLF security personnel continue unabated. Reports are numerous, the situation on the ground changing daily, hourly: At the end of January, soldiers from the Agazi force arrested an estimated 500 people in northern Ethiopia reports independent broadcaster, ESAT News. In Woldia (also in the north), TPLF soldiers forced “detainees [to] walk on their knees over cobblestones. They [TPLF soldiers] have also reportedly beaten residents including children and pregnant women.” These arrests follow the killing of 13 people in the town; “several others were killed in Mersa, Kobo and Sirinka.” And the BBC Amharic service relates that six people were killed at the Hamaressa IDP camp for internally displaced persons (IDP) (according to UNOCHA Hamaressa IDP camp was home to over 4,000 people internally displaced by the Oromo-Somali disputes) in Eastern Ethiopia. The victims were protesting against the appalling conditions in the camp and demanding they be allowed to go back to their villages when they were shot.

No matter how many people are killed, falsely imprisoned and beaten, the movement for lasting democratic change will not be put down. The principle target of protestors and activists is the dominant faction within the EPRDF coalition, the TPLF, or Woyane (relating to men from the Tigray region), as it is known. This small group took power in 1991 and has controlled all aspects of life in the country including the judiciary, the army, the media and the sole telecommunication supplier (enabling the regime to limit internet access and monitor usage) ever since. The issues driving the protests are broad, interconnected and fundamental; the fact that Ethiopia is a single party state in all but name; the wholesale abuse of human rights; the lack of freedoms of all kinds; the partisan distribution of employment, businesses, and aid; the regime’s dishonesty and corruption; state orchestrated violence false imprisonment and torture.

The people will no longer live under the suffocating blanket of intimidation that has stifled them for the last 27 years, and are demanding fundamental change, calling on the government to step down and for ‘fair and open’ democratic elections. Until now the regime’s response has been crude and predictable; rooted in force, shrouded in arrogance and unwilling to respond to the demands of the people, the government consistently falls back on the only strategy it knows: violence and intimidation; as the people march in unison, the regime unleashes its uniformed thugs. But whereas in the past fear kept people silent, now they are filled with the Fire of Freedom and Justice; they may well be frightened, but in spite of the threats more and more people are acting, engaging in organized acts of civil disobedience (stay-at-home protests) and taking to the streets in demonstration against the regime. Gatherings of thousands of people, innocent men and women, young and old, who refuse any longer to cower to the bully enthroned in Addis Ababa. And with every protestor the regime kills, beats and imprisons the Light of Unity glows a little brighter the resolution of the people strengthens, social cohesion grows.

The demand for change is of course not limited to Ethiopia; throughout the world large groups are coming together demanding freedom and social justice, cooperation and unity; the reactionary forces resist, but it is a global movement that, while it may be denied for a time, cannot be stopped. The TPLF is in chaos, their tyranny is coming to an end, they may cling on to power for a while yet, a few months, a year or two perhaps, but even if they remain in office their hold over the population is at an end. The Ethiopian people have a common foe, a unified cause, a shared purpose. The TPLF is the foe, the cause is their removal and the purpose is to bring lasting democratic change to Ethiopia, and no matter what the regime does, this time they will not be stopped.