I recently engaged in a discussion about Ethiopians being mentally colonized. Ethiopia has never been colonized by any European nation. Ethiopia was occupied by the Italians, however Italy was never successful in colonizing Ethiopia. Ethiopia is proud to be the only African nation to never be colonized. But has Ethiopia been psychologically/ mentally colonized?
Consider this: Whenever a family member visits Ethiopia, he or she packs a luggage (shanta) full of American goods to take to Ethiopia for family and friends that live there. There is nothing wrong with this. Of course it is customary to take a gift or two to someone when you visit. However, what is the need for all the shoes, clothes, lotions, and other products that are being sent back home? There are industries and local businesses that provide many of these same products within Ethiopia. Purchasing from the businesses within the country would benefit the economy, and our family members would probably get a better product. However, if it isn’t sent from America, there is a presumption that it is not “good.”
Ethiopia’s economy is suffering greatly. Food products made within the country are exported with great demand because we in America want all of our spices to come directly from the motherland. We crave to maintain our authenticity in the western world. However, on the flip side, it seems as though our brothers and sisters back home are craving to rid themselves from such authenticity by longing for western products searching for things that reflect “modernism” and westernization. I think this is an interesting premise to try and understand. It goes with the old saying “the grass is greener on the other side”; but honestly is it really greener?
How do we learn to love ourselves, and not become like the people of another country? Is it considered mental colonization when we desire to take on the appearance, dress, style and language of a foreign nation. Has the western world culturally colonized Ethiopia, although it hasn’t physically colonized Ethiopia? I would argue the answer to that is Yes. Ethiopia has modernized, developed and made great advances- but at what expense? Have we lost sight of our culture. Does modernization mean that we must let go of our cultural roots or is there a way to maintain both? I think that there is. However, I don’t know how exactly the proper balance can be reached.
I don’t know all the answers, however I look forward to the discussion that will come from this post. Feel free to post your comments, and I intend on doing a follow up post after doing some further research and analysis on the issue.