High on resignation and retribution, the Eritrean general impression on its collective psyche registers low on reason. On top of whatever is going on in the global arena, the country is so overloaded by its political history and entangled within its die-hard nationalistic attributes and religious or ethnic mesh to the point of driving any sane person to madness.
The devious government in power is not helping either. In fact, almost 20 years after its so-claimed independence, it does look like the above is exactly what it was aiming for in the first place – a sustainable production of conflict and mayhem.
Given all the blind and endless rhetoric about national security, sovereignty and the paraphernalia that goes with it, it is quite an achievement. For better or worse, it is mission accomplished! Glory to our Martyrs!
Who would deny food to a starving child?
Any sensible person would respond in the negative.
Would it not be beneficial for the Government of Eritrea to feed him or her for it would serve the nation as slave labour or as yet another martyr in the making? But no! It is all about control on a massive scale and all for short-term benefit and whoever is behind that kind of mentality has no interest in anyone's future development.
Where are we going from here?
Let alone its grown-ups, what would you say about a people (or a government, rather) that is incapable of providing emergency food for its starving children? An emotionally charged Eritrean nationalist soaked in patriotic zeal would instinctively say, “But look at Ethiopia!” They wouldn’t even mention or think of Sudan, Chad, Sierra Leon or Liberia.
It is not even a question – just an affirmation and another façade for a futile defense to justify that deadly patriotic duty. In the scheme of a bigger picture, it fits into that brutal and habitual sphere of denial that withholds basic nutrition for that starving child. These days, it is not difficult to put ‘information’ on a par with ‘food’. Blocking information is equivalent to starving the mind and spreading false information is not unlike malnutrition that progressively deforms or arrests growth.
Eritrea is quite good at both.
Look at Eritrea’s national media! How is it possible to substantiate all that goodness without independent observers? Some Eritreans absorb all that make-believe stuff without the slightest question like a bed-ridden patient beside a dangling plastic holder of glucose – a kind of food for thought for couch potatoes with no brain cells. It is denial interlaced to perfection in which the past and the future have been woven to blind the present. But that’s another long story. But just to offer a bitter foretaste, it would be about a society whose memory bank of history is fully saturated with accounts of armed conflicts and dislocations blended with absolutely no readiness to map its immediate future.
The common thread Eritreans are bound by – not legally binding, by the way – is anchored to ‘denial’ and all its derivatives and across layers and layers of stratified social parameters and flows, like a massive river (imagine Amazon) through the social landscape. Some deniers of Eritrean 'origin' would dive in or argue (they love arguing just like the piranha in a feeding frenzy) that Amazon is also an online bookshop.
“So?” you would wonder.
They would reply (instinctively), “You cannot use that analogy to compare Eritrea’s on-going development across all sectors of the economy and its fierce, independent policy of self-reliance!”
That, more or less, is their nauseating line of argument – the beginning and end of their confined and rusty reason.
Talking of self-reliance, VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) – based in London – has the following to say on Eritrea’s 2010 country profile:
There is a severe shortage of teachers in Eritrea across all school levels, and only a limited number of them are qualified for the particular school level in which they are employed. There is also a very big gender gap in the teaching profession in Eritrea. Female teachers comprise 40 per cent, 12 per cent and 10 per cent of the teaching force at the elementary, middle, and secondary levels respectively, which means that many girls who attend school lack female role models.
The capacity of the teacher training institutes to train sufficient numbers of new teachers is weak, so education management and teacher trainer volunteers are working with these institutions to train and retrain national teachers to deliver higher quality teaching. Volunteers are also supporting the Adult Education and Media Unit of the MoE to develop its distance-learning programme, and supporting district education offices in the development and management of resources centres for teachers.
If the above could serve as an indicator for a series of other sectors, it would be sensible to conclude that not only is the country running out of ‘its own’ educated citizens, it is probably losing its base for a viable future. It goes without saying that this country is literally running out of manpower.
Where is the self-reliance in all that? How is it possible that a nation so intoxicated by nationalism sink so low?
When young and able Eritreans are fleeing their country in their thousands – another way of avoiding military service and doing a voluntary but forced migration across sand and sea – who dares raise issues on national heritage, lost generation with a starving child and helpless parents left at home? As for the western world, is that not the reason why immigration has become one of the serious issues in our current global climate?
If that is the kind of an on-going scenario one has no issues with, we must surely agree that it is a dream state in which Eritrea is floating and bathing in la-la land and doing quite fine. In fact, Eritrea is setting a good example to the world, according to some who have no hesitation to have it all for a summer holiday – as long as they stick and drive on all weather roads.
“It’s our ancestral land!” they say – as if they own it. How deranged can one travel and claim sanity?
Eritrea is probably one of the prime specimens or case studies why the late comers to nationhood are prone to failure despite the support they receive and the amount of control they command. Is it probably a case of last in and first out? Or is it that the traditional ideology of the nation state is neither desirable and nor functional any more?
And there is also another set or sect of Eritreans whose reason flows along some other tributary of a mind-stream. It goes so ethnic-burdened, religious-laden and linguistically confusing to the point of totally ignoring the immediate need of the starving child. It kind of flows and boils down along a pipeline with the following inscription: as long as it is not mine, I don’t give a damn!
Here is another problem. When the starving child grows up – life works in mysterious-by-ways – they want that very child they ignored or had no idea it ever existed to rise up with arms and use its legs to defend whatever they want to have preserved. Ironically, on the top list of their undying concern is the meticulously maintained and energy consuming expenditure to sustain their blind passion (what some would baptize as conviction or principle) for their own self-preservation under a blanket of all sorts of justifications.
Then, just to make matters a bit worse, it is given slogans that come in all shapes and sizes: identity, nationality, pride, obligation, heritage and the rest of it all. Reason, in the meantime, is somehow given a tiny and dark corner in their psyche to be used or abused whenever (or just in case) the flood rises.
What is so difficult with being fair and just – for a change?
If taken to its limit, injustice makes one so insensitive to humanity. And so does denial. If not restrained, both can grow to grotesque proportions, eat into the psyche and suck all sense and sensibility. For a human to operate in that spongy behaviour and in a day-in-day-out lifestyle is beyond reason. Like any life-form, denial and injustice love to breed their own kind. And when that kind of engagement becomes, shall we say, the daily bread in social brackets, what hope has the starving child other than, given the chance to survive, evolving to become a socially disabled and historically modified mirror of the same?
Is not that how a sensible social fabric is left to rot and decay? Wouldn’t such state affairs produce and reproduce resignations and retributions ad infinitum?
If a national Richter scale could be designed for such a phenomenon, what is happening in Eritrea would urge the recording pen to swing to either edge of the page. Unfortunately, all social-breakdown recorders in Eritrea are faulty and only indicate a slight movement within a restricted boundary and the reading would say: nothing to be alarmed about – a kind of irony that never rises to iron itself out. There are those who not only believe but also defend what they hear, read and see on Eritrean national media. They behave or act like dumb and are no different from a mechanical shock absorber fit for a bumpy ride. What is more shocking is that they don’t even get paid for it. They are happy to serve the ‘truth’ and even pay in cash.
Denial and dead reason aside and be it in opposition or in government, trying to be fair and just across the board would go a long way for anyone obsessed with and hallucinating about Eritrea’s future. It is not that complicated to have decent and sensible human dimension to all that.
How the other minority – those who are so over enthusiastic nationalists and residents in foreign lands – stick out like a sore thumb and gallop in blinkered vision and hold the whole Eritrean population at home to ransom is beyond belief. What we call Eritrea now has gone through a full cycle of collective psychic damage. For the blind believers, it is more like a summer holiday resort and a pilgrimage site for a new age religion for which no one is accountable.
Denial will not serve any useful purpose other than to provide service to those who have a short term interest to hatch, prolong crisis and generate conflict. The evidence is out there in full colour and it will show itself… when gravity downloads in black and white.
Long before all that however, we have to finally accept that the idea of Eritrea has eventually gravitated to zero.