A Tale of Three Generations


How many of you have been told ‘ውይ የዘመኑ ልጆች!’ by your elders? Well, I know I have. As a member of the so called “የዘመኑ ልጆች” generation myself, I’ve always asked why is there a somewhat negative attitude towards us? But as I observed more into this I found out that this is something that all youth of a particular age at certain times go through as they are mostly picked on by the older folks of their day and often are compared to previous generations in how the previous generation were wiser, stronger, more respectful, hardworking etc. than the current youth.

Every few years to a decade, there is a cultural shift that is agreeable to the youth that are coming of age at the time. And with such a shift, this sometimes leads to discernment from older folks on how much “times have changed” since culture no longer relates to them or they no longer relate to the current culture climate.

Older generations often compare younger generations to themselves viewed through nostalgic glasses. Furthermore, the younger generation tries to differentiate itself, challenge for our piece of the pie, and is comfortable and conversant with newer things, our own way of talking and clothing style. All of this, the older generation feels less familiar with, and voices that discomfort as disapproval. And There is also the big issue about patriotism, how this generation does not love Ethiopia, well not as much as the previous generation anyway. How, all we think about is immigrating to the dream land, the united states of America. How, we prefer to listen to foreign songs, that make no sense what so ever and watch the music videos filled with naked people. How what all we care about is our phones. We care too much about image. How we are lazy and unmotivated. How we are pampered. How we don’t know what it takes to be in a ‘real relationship’. How we aren’t committed. That’s when the criticism comes ‘አዪ የኛ ጊዜ ቢሆን…. የዘመኑ ልጆች ስትባሉ..’ and you know how the rest will go.

Well, I don’t blame the older generation for this negative attitude. The disappointment some feel towards our generation is something that every generation goes through. Throwing shade on my generation just means that your generation is getting older and wiser. Growing older is natural. So, of course, it’s natural for older generations to look upon younger generations and feel as though things have changed- because they have. But every generation has evolved from the generation before them. We were shaped by their beliefs, ideas and teachings. It is not like we just showed up one day and decided to “ruin” everything.

I think about it in terms of university. When you’re a freshman you know nothing. Then you become a second-year student and all of a sudden you become a little bit more confident, you generally gain a little bit of freedom and independence, and before you know it you’re a GC who thinks you know everything. We’re always evolving.

We’re all broken up into categories based on when we were born and no one can help that because it’s out of our control. We’ve got the old folks- (our grandparents), we’ve got the mature working-class citizens- (usually our parents), we’ve got the younger people who are just trying to figure out how to get to the next chapter in their lives- (the hip but older adults that are usually not our parents but we idolize them anyways), and then there comes us- የዘመኑ ልጆች (I have to come up with an English word for this.)

The way I see it every generation gets criticized. It’s simply because we’re the youngest generation and everything is new and everything is evolving. Every generation has been ridiculed in basically the same way- just for different reasons.

Let’s see our Grandparents generation, the time where modern education was starting to blossom and Emperor Haile Selassie was sending out students to European colleges. When these students came back they did not only come with the knowledge and degree they achieved but also with the western culture. Drinking Alcohol to smoking cigarettes and music, which is mainly Rock and roll songs popularly associated with sex and drinking. These scholars and their upbringing of the western culture was not welcomed by the people at the moment, even though through time it became accepted.

But of course, we can’t deny the contribution that generation made for our country. During the early days when opportunities for acquiring modern education were practically nonexistent, Ethiopian youth contributed towards accelerating the economic development of their country by engaging themselves in activities related to agriculture and handicrafts. They were also simultaneously engaged in the defense of their country against external aggressors. And following the introduction of modern education to Ethiopia, the youth have, by expressing protest against all forms of oppression mounted bitter and persistent struggles for economic and social development, justice, democracy and administrative reform and that’s when our Parents’ generation comes, which blossomed toward the fall of the Hailesellasie regime and continued through the derg regime. The so called “revolutionary generation” or (የኢህአፓ ትውልድ), the main actors of the popular uprising that erupted in 1974, against Haile-Selassie’s government were the armed forces, the teachers, and mainly university students’ union of Addis Ababa.

The 1974 Ethiopian revolution occurred suddenly, which did not have an organized guidance and led to the leadership of the military. Immediately after controlling power by dethroning the Emperor, the Military (Derg) outlawed any popular uprising like strikes and demonstrations, and declared that the revolution has achieved its goal. Whereas for others, especially for the civilian left mainly composed of students, this was the moment where the aspired revolution was derailed.

The darkest days of our country’s history was lived then, when government soldiers rounded up tens of thousands of students and intellectuals and brutally killed them in a campaign called the “Red Terror.” Just between the years 1974-1990 the Marxist government killed as many as a million and half of the country’s citizens in a bloodbath. That’s basically killing a generation. Which created a huge generation gap and affected the way of thinking and how this generation lives.

Since we have covered the earlier generations let’s get back to ours. While doing research for this article I found out that, us, የዘመኑ ልጆች are very disappointing for many people, even for those who are part of it. There are too many things we are blamed for, I probably can’t cover it all but this article is about why we are doing the things we are blamed for? What’s our side of the story? Why is everyone focusing on the negative aspects? Have we not contributed anything positive so far? Do we really have it all easy like everyone thinks?

Let’s look at the things we are blamed for first.

  • We are not patriotic, we are under the control of the western culture, our ultimate goal is to leave this country and live happily ever after in a foreign country.
  • This generation’s values; what is perceived as laziness, instant gratification, and a lack of responsibility.
  • We do not socialize, we have become selfish and money oriented.

Can we deny all that? Well, no we can’t. We are definitely not as patriotic as our forefathers and mothers. But why? There must be some explanation, right? Why did this generation suddenly become unpatriotic?

How are we defining the love a person has for their country? If they want don’t want to leave for a foreign land? If they decorate their profile picture with the green yellow red flag? If they contribute something for their country and the people? If they become active in politics? If they celebrate national holidays and remember the date?

Patriotism is not necessarily a fixed characteristic, but can vary depending on circumstances. There are a lot of reasons people would have mixed feelings with the course of the nation. Due to increased global connection—through international travel and study abroad, and through the Internet—our generation is more likely to be influenced by a broad range of perspectives. The heightened global consciousness stemming from the combination of these factors have significant implications on a person’s patriotic view. There is also the economical issue. The inflation rate has become high everything is expensive, people are disoriented and despising the financial class, and a supposed economic growth that probably benefited one percent of the people hasn’t exactly generated patriotic feeling for the rest of us. If one, get the means to live abroad and if it means they can live a better life, why not? But couldn’t we get that better life if we worked hard here in our country? Maybe, maybe not. Most don’t want to take the risk. Every one wants to make the best out of this life, in anyway possible.

The older generation tell us how good we have it because we are part of the new era and we shouldn’t complain at all. We can go to school, get a degree (which actually isn’t a big achievement these days) and get an honorable job and live in peace. Is it that easy though?

Yes, we have a better chance of joining higher education institution than any other generation. And these days having a degree is a must have requirement and most of the time even that isn’t enough A college degree has become the new high school diploma, with it being a requirement for most entry-level jobs, and that’s if you’re lucky. I have friends who got a degree two years back and still hasn’t found a job. Unemployment is a big problem for this generation. Companies rather hire someone from the earlier generation than us “የዘመኑ ልጆች”. Because what matters is not how high your GPA is, it’s how many years of experience you got. How is it possible to have experience when no one wants to hire you in the first place?

Science and technology degrees have been traditionally regarded as some of the highest earning and honorable fields. It’s like that joke if you’re not a doctor or an enginner you’re a disgrace to your family. It is concerning that so many youths these days are picking traditionally safe majors and they are still unemployed, specially Engineering. Most even don’t like the field but it seemed like a safe major and a guaranteed job straight out of university. Which may not be the case anymore. The belief that higher education is the way to a better life is now almost a myth in itself.

And there is the internet we are constantly blamed for. Honestly, just like any other person my age, I can’t imagine my life without my phone and my computer. Technology wasn’t much of a problem for previous generations until the expansion and wide spreading of the Internet, which provided those social media outlets that we use, such as, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. Yes, it has its own positive and negative effects, just like every other invention. But of course, the benefits outweigh the side effects. Keep in my mind, you wouldn’t be reading this if it wasn’t for the internet.

Many people who complain about us see our values as significantly different than the values of previous generations. Values tend to stem from the events of society and the world around us. Because of this, our values are different from the values of the generations before us. We cannot say, though, that our values are any better or worse than any other generation; they simply follow the way the world is at the time, and that is neither good nor bad. It’s natural for older generations to look upon younger generations and feel as though things have changed- because they have.

Our generation, just like any other generation, is responding to our environment and experiences. We are a generation who are experiencing massive unemployment and high rate of inflation. It has shaped how we approach every major milestone in our life, from university to what how we look at our country. And our approaches are varied. But we are also children of change. And that is our strongest feature. We are truly changing Ethiopia faster than many people of older generations can process.

We don’t wait to get hired someday, we are starting our own businesses even though that takes a whole lot of courage of going through beaurocracy, getting the capital and coming up with a new business idea. This generation value entrepreneurship and startups more than past generations. There are more entrepreneurs now than ever. Creating jobs instead of waiting to be hired.  Our generation does not like to wait so it comes as no surprise that we have no interest in waiting to make a difference. We have tons of people who created job opportunities for themselves and others. We have successful photographers, artists, painters, designers, tech start ups and of course we can’t forget our athletes who are carrying on a legacy and so much more.

With us everything is about today. The moment. The instant. We are an on-demand instant-gratification generation that has become encouraged by technology and molded by world events. So, if we don’t wait for anything in our lives — why should we wait when it comes to making a difference?  We differ from the earlier generation; we’ll readily admit that, but we bring to the table a different set of skills, a unique sense of purpose. We don’t have any one thing to believe in, but that’s because we believe in so many things. We believe that little steps lead to the biggest leaps and that seemingly tiny acts of kindness will change the world. We may adhere to a different set of rules than our parents did; we may very well take the road less often traveled by – and sometimes that’s only just to prove a point: We may take longer to get there, but we will get there. We just hold a different set of values closer to our hearts. That’s okay. That’s what makes us different. That’s what makes the social issues that matter to our generation all the more unique. Because we see their importance. We are children of change. And that is our strongest feature.



Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.