What do you do when a bomb (of the old type) fails to go off after you light on the fuse? If you had been very sure of yourself that it would detonate anytime anywhere, the first thing you would do is to check the fuse and the wirings. Okay, everything is in order. Still suspicious, you start to doubt whether it was a real bomb after all. Could the enemy have put a look-alike in its place? Finally, you begin to worry yourself to death whether there was some sort of sabotage in the factory production line. Sooner or later you are bound to find the reasons, one way or anther. And by correcting the faults, you might make your bomb explode for the next try.
I brought up this incident as a possible analogy for our Eritrea which has all the characteristics of a bomb and with all the fuse and the wrings in place except that it is behaving like a spent ordnance. What could be the reason? Well, there must be some good reasons, and by correcting the faults one can try again. But it should be remembered that a nation cannot be taken to the lab for analysis like an explosive device. It is more complex than what we may think of it. The least we can do is come up with an educated guess and hope to perfect this into science one day.
Lately I came upon an article posted by Yosief Ghebrehiwet in Awate entitled Public Space in Eritrea. A well researched, brilliant and lucid article which I liked very much. I think such clinical analysis or approach should be used in tackling political and social or even religious issues that most of the time seem to take the better of our emotions and sentiments. It doesn’t matter whether we arrive at a correct diagnosis or make the right predictions; the mere fact that we use scientific method to delve into problems is by itself praiseworthy.
Ghebrehiwet does it like a surgeon with every move of his pen revealing the facts, exposing the problems and suggesting possible cures. When he feels an inclusion of this or that would have dire consequences, he doesn’t mince words to say so.
Well, what is it that keeps Eritrea still breathing with all its internal organs malfunctioning? What kind of insulation is the tyrant weaving around it so that it doesn’t seem to be perturbed by the conflagration that is sweeping over North Africa and the Middle East at present?
What kind of game is the tyrant playing at this moment? And how sure is he that the bomb may not one day explode right in his face?
Well, whether we like it or not, our bomb, with the right ingredients and components intact, has as yet failed to detonate. It is the good old Eritrea, all right, with all its social, economic and political problems. And it has all the ingredients to blow itself up to smithereens, namely: a certified tyrant, a self-doubting military, mass forced conscription, a failed economy, a belligerent and arrogant foreign policy, angry and hungry people, a 20-year period of injustice, misguided wars, mass migration, a gold deposit that may expedite corruption among the colonels, no press freedom, no parliament, no constitution, no future, no hope, etc.
Yes, it is the same Eritrea that has been liberated by its own people without help from the outside world. It is the real Eritrea with real Eritreans who keep on feeling the sting of the tyrant. It is the Eritrea that got its independence not on a silver platter like some African nations but after paying the needed human and material sacrifice in order that it might take its rightful place within the community of nations. Many have sacrificed their precious lives so that justice may reign in the country.
Then gradually, it changed itself into a veritable bomb with the right ingredient to go off at a strike of a match. The fuse was there all the time, but there was something wrong either with the wiring or with the type of the explosives inside. For however much one tried to light the fuse, the bomb failed to detonate. What happened? Well, there could be only one reason for the malfunction. It must be the tyrant!
Discontented youth, de-patriotized army, betrayed people and hijacked revolution, a stifled but rising middle class, a continuous irritation from the outside are more or less what are needed to activate the bomb, and all these seem to have been at their right place and in the right proportion, but the tyrant has always gone one step ahead in disabling the device.
He emasculated the youth by sending them to Sawa, an infernal replica of the freezing Gulags of Siberia. He invented all kinds of enemies right and left and filled the Mass Media with epic films of the meda (field) and loaded the credulous mind with horror scenes of a future without him in order to maintain the army’s patriotism and allegiance. He turned his Party into a sort of an East African trading enterprise channeling every penny into his coffers thus stunting the growth of the middle class in the country. He knows how to stoop to his enemies on the eleventh hour, defusing any possibility of direct military confrontation or even the continuity of outside pressure.
The tyrant has no qualms about what is called a sense of pride. Finding it more of a liability than an asset, he has already thrown it out the window a long time ago.
And to complete the isolation or insulation of the country, he made sure that all outside help or aid in the form of food or cooperation get arrogant and negative response. No foreign correspondent or news reporter in the country please, no UN envoy with fresh ideas; no human right activist to spoil the people. To use Shakespeare’s diction, foreign delegations are welcomest only when they are gone. Eritrea has now become a case for political science students to conduct their doctoral dissertations on. A political Jurassic Park!
In such a situation, the people, who have already mutated into zombies both by the tyrant’s media and security apparatus, may naturally think that there is nothing the matter with the government. If you live in a monastery, Las Vegas means nothing to you. The monastery is the only place that assures your smooth transfer to heaven. Anything else is simply a mirage created by the devil to entice the unwary soul.
Hasn’t the tyrant said that Eritrea is no. 1 in one of his interviews? And the people believed it. But again, didn’t they believe him also when he said that the country would be another Singapore? In monasteries the mind is prone to succumb to illusions and hallucinations. It is us and the outside world. The children of light in the monastery versus the children of darkness beyond its fences. And Abbots can live long inside their insulated spiritual fortresses feared and obeyed by self-doubting friars and monks! By the way, have you ever heard of a mutiny or rebellion in a cloister? If you have, then there is hope for Eritrea.
Well, to be frank it is not as all that bad in Eritrea and that there is still hope for mass upheaval in that sequestrated land. All the components for the bomb to explode are in their right place, meaning that we have all the necessary factors to activate the Eritrean bomb, including an on-and-off outside pressure, army uprising, etc. But then it sometimes happens that with all the steps taken to make sure that the contraption detonates, it simply fizzles off.
Social or political behavior is difficult to diagnose or to predict. A country being made up of humans with unpredictable moods and temperaments, does more often than not elude correct diagnosis; and even the most experienced political scientist can sometimes give the wrong prediction based on correct diagnosis. This happens often with weather forecast. The similarity between the two is that the variables in both are legion. That’s why a disgruntled lady one day took up the phone and shouted at the weather bureau that she had been shoveling away their sunshine from her driveway for the last four hours.
Karl Marx made a wrong prediction when he bet on the French Communes and on an industrialized England for his communist uprising. The real action was however to take place in places he hardly suspected or thought in his wildest dreams: Peasant Russia and Feudal China!
After the end of the WWII, the victorious are said to have counseled in secret to relegate France to the rank of a Third World country. A hopeless peasant society! She proved them wrong in a matter of few years.
Wrong predictions are so common that even Churchill and his likes are said to have consulted clairvoyants for meaningful political perditions in their political lives.
And then you have the bumblebee syndrome which goes like this: According to the theory of aerodynamics, the bumblebee is not supposed to fly, but it flies just the same. Why? Because the bumblebee or His creator or even Nature saw beyond a theory formulated by man’s limited mind.
And then we have this one: the operation was successful but the patient died. What happened? Maybe the doctor thought that statistically a minor blood clot wouldn’t lead to such a tragic end, or maybe he was operating with the wrong diagnosis, or maybe he little knew that the patient didn’t want to live with so much debt in the bank, etc.
The tyrant is a very skilful chess player. He knows his moves. He spends more time studying the inner motives of his enemies than thinking about the welfare of the country. He reads the minds of the people, the body language of his entourage, etc. He has to do this to survive. He detects the slightest whiff of mischief from a distance, decodes the slightest variations in word intonations from his cronies, and then takes the necessary steps to inactivate a looming threat or to respond to faint signals of upheaval. Last but not least, he has a survival instinct, a power not even the most learned of psychiatrists have completely understood.
However much learned diagnosis one makes to find out the causes of social malaise, however much mental energy one puts in to pinpoint or identify the real causes of social uprising or of its absence, one cannot simply add two and two to arrive at a correct conclusion to make a prediction. The human factor and the plethora of variables that surround social behavior, culture, history, etc. do simply militate against any kind of plausible prediction. Werner Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle might as well be applied in the field of human relations and affairs.
We might come up with plausible reasons why bombs do not go off at the first try, or go off after due corrections, but to try and do the same with nations and states, although commendable, is incorrect and any diagnosis or prediction should be taken simply as an educated guess and nothing else. At least for the time being.