I look left and right before I post this. For some reason, I tend to receive a hail of unhappy e-mails from people you would least expect would oppose what I say, that somehow manage to send me into another run of hibernation. It was more fun writing as a ghost. I didn’t care what people said because I could tell if the writer was mad at me or mad at some AS. Now people know who they are talking to and many have a good grasp of who you are and know what works to keep your mouth shut. Does that limit the freedom of speech?
OK let me shoot a couple of articles before someone develops new tricks. Baby Corp is the imaginary baby factory in Boss Baby. It produces babies with a mission. They have no mother or father and certainly no ‘social group’ to claim loyalty to. The only thing that makes them babies is the preoccupation with the trivial. It is a kid’s movie. Here on our own baby corp., the drama is no different. There are times when I know their kids are taking over and posting stuff on the forum when the fathers go to work. I would kindly ask admin to please remind ‘abeyti adi’ not to share their pin with minors or to install padlocks on keyboards.
The idea here is to express gratitude for the efforts behind the great articles that grace Awate all the time, especially the more recent ones starting with the beautiful Dawit Mesfin and ending with my favorite Amanuel Hidrat. Raji’s reportage of Asmara and Ismail Al-Mukhtar’s depiction of the good old days as well as Gadi’s frustration at the new bad days offered the context for everything in between. To the slacktivists in the comments section, all I can say is ‘kibret yihabelna’. If one of you kids gets the message please pass to daddy & mommy when they come home.
A few concepts proposed by these esteemed writers attracted my interest and thought to throw my bid in the tender. The first was Dawit’s ‘self-liberation’ where he seems to argue for a rise above the tide to disentangle ourselves from self-interested subjectivity that biases our judgement and allow nature to run its course. The underlying premise in his argument is that once we let go of subjectivity, objectively driven reality should take us to the optimum solution (which by definition is always good) much more efficiently than by hammering and chiseling our way out. Here the difference between the subjective and objective is that the first is made up and a social construction that can be reconstructed at will, while the second is governed by natural laws from the Lord where only the selfless go to heaven.
Excuse me if I confuse between Y. Zerai and H. Zeru, brilliant writers who deserve utmost respect. I guess I am not alone in confusing the names though. This time brother Yohannes Zerai gave the adherents of Dawit’s philosophy the name ‘progressive forces’ and drafted the backbone of their first ‘politikawi miniqiqaH’. He decided that our planet is divided between ‘gesgesti’ who like to march forwards towards Dawit’s optimum solution and ‘adharharti’, essentially ‘Hankolti’ using misplaced sub-national grievances to sabotage the march. The underlying presumption and link with Dawit is that ‘progressive’ is someone who has managed self-liberation and transformed into the fifth dimension of objectivity – ‘wedAwinet’. ‘Regressive’ are those ‘deqi mama’ stuck within a narrow circle of ‘nigdet’ politics socializing.
In this two-dimensional planet, the only axis that determines whether you are ‘gesgasi’ or ‘adHarHari’ is whether you believe the PFDJ is a nationalist organization or a Tigrigna ethnic organization. It does not matter what you know and can prove to be true. I think I said or read this before: the only reason we believe in God is because we are not 100% sure that He exists. You cannot believe on something that you know to be true. That is why we do not believe in tables and chairs and even other humans. If you are a Christian or Muslim who claims that you are a 100% certain God does exist, you are an infidel and you are going to hell no matter what your guru may be telling you. Belief by its very nature can only exist in the margin of error. That is the margin where God examines your commitment as ‘blessed are those who believe in the unseen’. Even in the court system the proof that is usually required is evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. Why would the state waste money on lawyers and judges if the requirement to prove that a crime had been committed was certainty? The police alone would have served justice. In politics, the standard is much lower.
Brother Ismail, another favorite of mine – tip of the hat, came up with a toolbox erecting ‘medeber taElim’ and completed the structure: Marx with the philosophy – Lenin the ideology – and Mao the business plan. Not so fast though! As always whenever an idea starts from imagination and passes through various stages until it makes it to a business plan on the ground, it is inevitable that it loses some of the traction in every stage. Here, there was a little gap that needed to be filled and that is where Brother Amanuel Hidrat comes in. The core claim of ‘self-liberation’ as stated is liberty from the tendency to construct subjective (imagined) realities towards accepting objective facts on the ground as the basis of judgement. The core idea behind progressivism as stated is liberty from objective facts (that fill the opposition arena with negativity) to construct imagined realities (of national unity) for a movement that would change the negative facts on the ground. You would think these are contrarian ideas? Not for these smart guys. Everything always works out somehow.
Emma’s idea is that the so constructed ‘progressive forces’ should at least recognize that the facts on the ground are a bit different than imagined by Dawit et al. The power of his argument lies on the recognition that, where we accept the self-liberated progressives to go it alone, the amount of ignored facts would be too many to bridge for all practical reasons. He reinvents the concept of ‘social groups’ to refer to non-Tigrigna ethnic groups, and calls the latter to have some sympathy towards the former. Why would anyone become an aggressor, if he/she can sympathize with the victim you may say! The American civil rights movement of black people had white people who sympathized with them, his counter example. The white sympathizers took the train-ride and joined the movement ‘AS – IS’ to prove their point and did not ask black people to abandon the civil rights movement and wait for favors from slave owners, which is different from your call for ‘allyship’, my bid.
I do understand the status quo is difficult to move from partly because it is marked by a few milestones in our recent history. Let me touch on two of them. They might not be directly related to the discussion above but lack of clarity on them certainly is a motivating factor.
One such milestone is the 1997 constitution that many here seem to think is the magic bullet to unite the opposition. The 1997 constitution, by its own admission as you know, is a “means of governing” (replacing the PFDJ Charter), i.e. a means for government to control or govern the people – not a means of people controlling government. It is a constitution premised on the assumption that the living are here to serve the dead and not the other way round, where the dead sacrificed to serve the living. It is by far the dumbest constitution ever written. These guys were on dope when they wrote it. Even if you are a Tigrigna that we tend to assume are part of the conspiracy, you would be the first to dump the constitution unless you wanted your grandkids to continue to be slaves of ‘Hidri sema’etat’. Go read it and prove me wrong if you can.
In our little world here, where instead of consolidating the cause that we should fight for, we are obsessed with consolidating a united opposition that would then hitchhike any direction, things such as the constitution tend to give people false hope that a mobilizing formula can be worked out. That is where the old guard of the opposition is stuck. I am proud that the ELL recently refused to sign a declaration by at international human rights grouping because the statement included a line requesting the implementation of the 1997 constitution as a solution. I call on the rest to catch up. We are through with this rubbish and please do not bring it up again as that tends to make you look a bit compulsive.
The second such milestone is partly the result of nature running its course and partly the result of push and pull factors by all parties. The concept of ‘social groups’ used by Emma and many others is identical to the concept of ‘biherat’ used by the PFDJ and ‘bihereseboch’ by Weyane. It means everything except the dominant group. Pull factors include the work of various organizations to unite the ‘social groups’ to stand up for themselves. The important thing is that the concept of ‘social groups’ recognizes the fact that, what we used to know as ‘ethnic groups’, centered on linguistic boundaries that used to have some economic and political meanings, are gone for good. What is left of the old ethnic groups are social boundaries more to do with what goes on in a wedding than anything having to do with people’s rights.
Don’t call the party on yet! Ethnic groups are not completely gone. They have shape-shifted. From a political stand point, today’s Eritrea has three ethnic groups. The first is the Tigrigna. You may not want me to explain their political significance to the nation as a group. The true scope of the Tigrigna becomes even clearer when viewed as a coalition of ethno-regional highlanders that includes Muslim minorities within the region with shared interest (policy motivation on matters such as state-sanction land grabbing and the defeat of geographic regionalism) vis-à-vis the rest. The second ethno-regional group is the Afar whose definition is beyond debate. They have to-date failed to take advantage of their unique situation primarily due to a weak-timid leadership and the pressures to stay clear of working out cross-border solutions with their Ethiopian counterparts. The third ethno-regional group is the lowlands ethnic coalition with a unique multicultural identity and a clear political agenda. Action on this front is still pending but a steady progress is engulfing the scene. I am not going into the Bejastan thing again for practical reasons but please keep your eyes open and judge for yourself.
None has described the PFDJ’s culture better than the great SAAY. The part I love is when he describes President Isaias when denying the existence of things that everyone seems to take for granted, such as prisons, or Somali links or poverty. Typical line of reasoning includes: ‘men ilukum … abbey r’eekhumo … intay ChiPTi alokum …’ (SAAY please enact one of those shows, just for fun). Of course, this is how he and all loyalists cook the conspiracy theory that Eritrea is under attack. MS (Mahmuday) as you know is my favorite guy and I have all respect for everything he had done. However, his line of questioning imitating the master to imply that the whole grievance thing that is being orchestrated is part of a CIA conspiracy against the nation, only proves his credentials as a loyal and good learner from the past. Pick the phone my dear brother and call any of your relatives and they will have a little more than what you bargained for, I guarantee.
Invoking the word ‘baby’ should not give you impression that I think these guys are naïve. Far from that, because the keyword in the title is ‘corp.’ from the corporation. I am trying to convince you, through this for lack of better ways, that this, in line with my previous positions, is a brilliant strategy, being employed by activists of the highlander ethno-regional coalition in their attempt to abort the mission. You know how things work in Eritrean politics! As soon as you make an argument, readers will google and place you on the map before vetting the sincerity of the argument. That’s why I have a pen name. I tried to double check if this unique Eritrean measuring stick does work. Try it for yourself and you will be surprised how this layman’s tool is a brilliant shortcut to researching and testing motivations behind arguments.
That is partly where the lack of trust and related frustration is coming from. Do you ask yourselves why is it that nine out of ten deniers of the crimes against lowlanders must be a highlander – Christian or Muslim alike? Is this part of the game? How does sympathy with the self-made catastrophes of the Tigrigna and their regime help the cause of lowlanders? I know thousands died in Sinai, Libya and the Mediterranean. We all feel bad and wish we had a better refugee regime in Europe and elsewhere. But how is that related to Eritrean ethnic politics? How does that equate to deliberate targeting of the Tigrigna by the PFDJ? These are migration routes that are open to anyone who can pay and is prepared to take the risks. Does the PFDJ own these boats? How many victims of the PFDJ can afford thousands of dollars to cross deserts and seas to Italy? Does the PFDJ only target Tigrigna for the national service as the motivation for the catastrophe?
I am saying this to motivate all those (especially lowlanders) who have managed to walk away from this mess not to respond to the campaign of shaming by those who should be ashamed for trying to cripple a people’s struggle for emancipation. To hell with their Eritrea!