“There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desire.” Nelson Mandela (a statesman)
Listening to a crucial repertory plays in the last three decades about the discrepancy of education, and using education as a privilege for political domination, is a thread of familiarity and raw material of political dishonesty which I have lately discovered it. This is besides the claim we heard “we the majority” by Semere Tesfai using ethnicity as a tool of metric measurement for eternal power grab, something we can not dismiss it as erratum, but tackle it as a belching of utter contempt to the balance of our diversity.
As given, educated personalities must strive to advocate as agents of change to ensure social justice. Unfortunately ours are oddly erudite, with a wildly fluctuating insight and insensitivity, which for the most part are pessimistic by nature, but have the audacity to engage in baffling and incongruous issues as oppose to the grim reality of our people. This is not a blanket accusation, but a general observation one can account from their writings and approaches of their arguments; and yes too many of them.
Sad as it may be, educated constant rational argument and philosophy has been sporadic and often non-contextual. Some they preach about the “urgency” to extricate our people from the hand of the tyrant. But in reality they spent most of their time to make every possible wild charge and cathartic blame to our past history. These group, being consumed in the fear and blame cycle, they are unable to effectively engage in their own renewal. Their arguments reside on the past instead on the present and the future.
On the other hand, some of them are engaged to create vacuum in order to be filled with “Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh type of merchant of hate who stirs the “hate-pot” and unleash to any Eritrean who attempt to bridge the great divide of our society. These groups are so effective in contributing toxic tone to our debate and in giving fodders to the tyrant. Most importantly, there is no red-meat politics in their argument when it comes to the evaluation of the despot and the possible solution to the severed co-existence among our social groups.
The third catagory are engaged in hegemonic political manipulations, in which they are still living in the 60s and 70s era, and are claiming themselves from the enlightened virtual section of our society. These groups undermine the ingenuity and uniqueness of the other section of our society. Being agglutinated with hegemony and self-aggrandizement they don’t want to blend with the other section of our intellectuals. The recent history of Brussels and boycotting the national conference is good example in itself. The question is, for how long the nation will suffer from these insatiable hegemonic manipulations? And for how long we will spend our precious time to cry for our grievances, rather than talking how to mitigate all sorts of grievances?
Dipping the Eucharistic bread into the wine as a “form of intinction” and communicating to receive the message together, I felt, it is worthwhile to recall Yoel Alem’s retentive argument in his article of Sept 9, 2009 at awate, which I concur, in part because he is one of the few who understood and reticulate the diagnosis of our infectious political disease. Despite I don’t buy his way of framing to our contested political conflict, it is this very telling of acknowledgement in his piece that I want to highlight and regurgitate to make sense out of it. Yoel stated in his piece that “it is the hegemonic frame of thinking which holds PFDJ security and military base kept intact.” He even further suspect, that this kind of thinking is still finding resonance in the opposition camp. If I may add more to Yoel’s observation, that it is the hegemonic frame of thinking of our highlanders to be specific, that clogged our politics and retrogressively gave the appearance of immobility and impoverished creativity to the current dipole moment of Eritro-social configuration.
Context and Being in Relation
Leading a movement, a party, and governing a state for that matter is politicking. And politicking is nothing than the ongoing effort to persuade free citizen on the merits of sets of values, ideas, policies, and decision in a compelling context, where democracy and freedom of speech is the norm of practicing within a given society. We have many contextual issues… the entire pattern of Eritrean politics. It could be social context in a wider setting, which include social, economic, political, and cultural forces on a national level, or organizational context which includes goals, structure, culture, size, and leadership. Furthermore we could have adaptability context, how our political practitioners relate and adapt to the forces of social and organizational context. I believe these should have been the ground work for our debates.
From its conception, back to the era of Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates, the role of education was to promote positive societal change, equity, and justice for all members within a given society. Beyond all other devices of human origin, education was and is the great equalizer of the conditions of men and the balance wheel of social machinery.
It is convenient then one to argue, that teaching can only flourishes in the context of active society and organized intellectual community. Nevertheless, the Eritrean intellectuals are not organized to have their own community in order teaching and learning to occur in a variety of space and time within the Eritrean society at large. Because of organizational deficiency, they can not establish common value of teaching that endeavor and rest on trust, honesty, free enquiry, open debate, tolerance of difference and respect of others conviction.
For feeding my curiosity of learning, I seldom visit ADPRIMA website owned by Robert Kizlik. In his website I always see a phrase which says “any thing not understood in more than one way is not understood at all.” A curious individual can take this phrase as a guide for probing ideas, using brilliant numbers of variability and factors, to measure and evaluate the value of the idea promoted as well as the personalities who promote the ideas. We always measure people by the training they went through and by the degree bestowed on them. We don’t ask how good practitioners they are in their training nor do we ask their wisdom and their ethics in practicing the training they took.
In the context of the aforementioned phrase, I always observe the lack of wisdom and ethics of engagement within the educated section of our society. Instead of becoming the source of enlightenment and the guarantor of unity to the diversity of their own people, they become the source of division and hate, far ensconced in their own comfort zone. Clearly, they don’t know the natural attractants and repellents of social behavior in politics, and the ambient sociopolitical temperature of the demographic reservoirs of our society. In a nutshell they don’t have vision to the end game of unsitting the regime.
Interestingly enough, I love to use metaphors of science. May be it is of my training background. What ever the case may be, let me bring an elementary of chemical reaction to illustrate my argument. In chemistry or biochemistry there is such a bio-chemical name called “enzyme” which works as catalyst in various chemical reactions. There is also a “substrate” a substance or material used for chemical reaction, or in other word a substance when interact that gives a “new product”. An enzyme is used to speed the reaction without changing itself. Now to make it easy, let me use simple symbolic equation rather than empirical equations of chemistry.
Where S = substrate, E =Enzyme, P=product in these chain of reactions
We saw the substrate bind to the enzyme active site forming substrate-enzyme complex (ES) and later to enzyme-product complex (EP). The substrate is then transformed to a new product (P) by being released from the active site of the enzyme (E).
Hence forth, the role of intellectual is to work as a catalyst (E) for change by interacting with the active Eritrean mass (S) who is hungry for change. The active mass is the objective reality that is the force for change. For years the objective reality for change was matured and ready for change to take place…. that is to change the current reality to a new reality (P) that is conducive for justice, freedom, and democracy. However, the Eritrean elitist and intelligentsia failed miserably to play their role in bringing change by actively engaging with the active Eritrean mass.
The Camel is Genius, And the Owner is too!
Few years ago to be exact in 1999, it is during the border war between Eritrea and Ethiopia, one Ethiopian writer wrote an article under the title “The donkey is Genius.” I didn’t know the circumstance why the writer came with that title till I read the content of the essay. But, at first glance, just by reading the title it gave me a smile on my face and an itching on my head. Smile, because it reminds me the culture I grew up and the application of “donkey” in a derogatory term to demean individuals or social groups especially to Ethiopians. Itching, it is because I felt guilty, as if I was still in the domain of that old culture of chauvinism.
Back to the story line, the writer was provoked to write on that title, because he was dictated by the event of one particular battle that changes the whole balance of the war. The Ethiopian military strategist found a permeable open space in the Eritrean garrison belt of the frontline that allows passing thousands of donkeys and armed troops. The attack took place from the rear end of the chain, which then fractured the whole strategy of the Eritrean army, as the writer alluded in his piece. The writer further gave a detailed analysis how Eritreans undermine the dignity of Ethiopians by lowering into “a cognitive of donkey.” Hence, the writer found a title that could be perfectly fit to the circumstance.
It would never be appropriate to belittle someone of your own or other nationality for that matter because of ethnicity and way of socioeconomic life. But ethnic slurs have become rampant and unchecked within the Eritrean body politics. For the most part the Eritrean Highlanders demean their own brothers from the lowland as illiterate “sehabti gemel,” which by the way is offensive to their way of life and detrimental to the cohabitations of the two sides. Typically, this lends itself a very unique perception and negative connotations contributing a well established stigma, which ultimately can cause substantial social distress, discomfort, anxiety, and embarrassment, that may lead to unnecessary mistrust among social groups. Indeed all these symptoms are the etiology of bad politicking and vectors of social problem.
One thing is for sure and is fact on the ground, that the camel is genius in the characteristic of its genus and the owner is genius when he is conditioned under the same environment with his counterpart. We now saw many from them with PHDs, MBAs, many scientists, doctors, lawyers, or scattered in all spectrums of fields of specialization. Can we say “Hallelujah” a popular way of saying thanksgiving? We need to say it because “hegemony” can only be harnessed by a balance of enlightenment. We have too many of them now, and let us look to each other on the same foot, learn to each other and find solutions to our seemingly intractable problems. The reality calls for change the wheel of social machinery. A lesson unlearned is open to learn now for Eritrean generational thinkers and that is to respect your own and your neighbor.
In conclusion, rehashing of Hannah Arendt is in order. The distinction was explained in her human condition. For her and the tradition of political thought, there has been a tension between the “vita activa” and the “vita contemplativa.” Since the active life requires a constant immersion into practical affairs, I summon to the elites and the intelligentsia of both side of the aisle, to come face to face in a round table, and tackle the real problem of our society in a holistic way of approach, by avoiding self-dejection from our common interest. Be part of the broader culture, and share the vision and the values of the broader struggle.
[Reminding note to my readers: Tebeges as a column will be dedicated (a) to break all the chains of social taboos in Eritrean politics (b) respond to any distorted historical accounts (c) attempt to offer solutions to our social grievances (d) Endeavor to formulate pillars for social bridging]