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From The Archives: Avoid The Downers

This was first published on August 30, 2004. I decided to repost it again, 12 years later, because I feel the same cycle of negativity is overwhelming the justice seeker’s camp. It is my modest advise to encourage them (particularly the self-respecting youth) to shun all negativity and all the cheap talk that denigrate the Eritrean legacy.

I hear from Eritreans who compare the PFDJ to the mafia.   But this is not fair…to the mafia.   The mafia have a code of ethics of sorts and, for the most part, their words actually meant something.  The PFDJ is more like the wedinis, the telata werega and the swindlers of shertekh bertekh.  In Eritrea, telata werega—three-card game—describes the game and the cheat who runs it.  shetekh betekh–a corruption of the Arabic ‘Shortek Bekhtek’ (‘your decision; your luck’)—was the favorite game of the swindlers: the wedinis who preyed on the innocent.   PFDJ’s telata werega comes in the shape of “bond notes”, “titles to houses”, “PFDJ receipts,” and other PFDJ promises that are as worthless as the paper they are written on.  The PFDJ thugs now running the Red Sea Corporation are no different from the telata werega and the shertek bertek and the Eritrean version of the Wheel of Fortune that were common in Eritrea in the 1960s…like the one in the center of Agordat where the reward was…


Close to the grand Mosque Square in Agordat, a huge crowd was gathered around a mediocre gambling wheel that was fixed on top of a table. There were cheap looking drawings of pictures and numbers around the edge of the wheel. On the table, there were several chalked and numbered squares. People would pay 25 cents, the famous Hrkam or Qtqat, or Qerab and roll the wheel. The wheel stops at a number and the player picks a folded piece of paper from the corresponding square in the table. The paper carried names of the prizes that players won. The “booties” included an array of Japanese and Singaporean plastic items. Players would nervously expect to win a plastic comb, a plastic doll, pair of scissors, shaving blades, handkerchiefs etc.

But the majority of the prizes were pieces of paper with the following written on them: ‘Adhak’, LAUGH in Arabic. The poor citizens would wait to get something and the swindlers would tell them they won a laugh and they have to laugh. In confusion, the poor villagers would obediently laugh and then ask for their prize.   They must be told to laugh because they won something.  No: the laugher is the prize. They would be told that all they won is a LAUGH; and they would discover, too late, that they were ripped off their money. ‘saHaqat latu sHaqna we qerabit geset’would murmur the losers and would move away leaving room for another victim.

Now this is being practiced by PFDJ on a grand scale… for the mere prize of 3% of your income taxes, endless “donations”, and the pleasure of listening to assurances that you belong to a select group of superpatriots which is very different from another group, you get a false sense of giddiness organized in a Festival…you don’t just get to laugh; you get to dance!  All facts to the contrary, you get to believe that everything is wonderful and getting even better!  It is an effective mind-altering substance…and it is still legal.

I don’t play any wheel of fortune, I don’t get swindled.  but I am in a laughing mood. I didn’t unfold a paper that reads ‘Adhak’ but I am in a high state of mind. I am in a positive state of spirit and I will not allow anyone to spoil it.

CNE: Carriers of Negative Energy

You must have known people who only carry bad news. They have so much bad news that one would think they volunteer to collect it. If they hear positive news, they shrug it off. Who wants to be happy? Gloomy is their nature and unhappiness is what they carry. And it is contagious. Beware. Their miserable life is contagious. My great grandmother, god bless her soul, would call them ‘fnger’.

Motivational speakers make money teaching people how to be positive. It works on those who are willing to change. But those who prefer the pessimist world of anger and paranoia are difficult to changeeven heavy doses of motivational speech, delivered by one million speakers, would not make them adopt a positive attitude. They seem to be saying: I need my sadness. I need my paranoia. I need my skepticism and my intentionally wrinkled face. It is a mask of sadness and pessimism and I love it.

Beware of The Downers

A friend who is a doctor once told me that narcotic drugs have two effects on their users. Some drugs are downers while others are uppers. I have seen people who become hyper -active and happy after a puff of the wicked weed. I have seen them laugh in excitement and happiness for no apparent reason. I have also seen others who become miserable after the experience. They would remember their long-dead great-grandmother and start to cry. They remember a pair of shoes they lost when they were three-years-old and cry. They complain the sun is too hot and start to cry. They sleep on a bed and feel the bed is falling down and cry. They hear people are uniting and start to cry. 4+1 is five and they cry. One to the power of one is one and they cry. Isaias + Isaias is one and they cry.

All that I wouldn’t mind; the problem is that they expect everybody to cry along with them. They like wailing parties. C’mon, let’s have a wailing party, ey, ey, eyeeeee. These people are as dangerous as narcotic drugs and they should be banned. They are downers. It is their nature; the downers will always cry. I am not willing to listen to any crybabies anymore. I want my sanity… and my positive attitude.

An old Chinese Wiseman once said that energy is both negative and positive. They are both easily transferred. In the absence of positive energy, negative energy is easily transferred. However, if there is enough positive energy, the negative energy becomes impotent. Let me correct this, I don’t think the Wiseman was Chinese, I think I read that somewhere. I forgot where I read itdid I forget where I read it? I think it is time to cry: ey, ey, eyeeeeeee. Where did I read that? Ey, ey, eyeeee.

The Chinese Wisemen are full of energy and though they might not know it, they have an ability to transfer it to their constituencies. Now, why do they want to transmit negative energy, when they can send positive charges of a powerful jolt, is something I haven’t figured out yet… I have to cry. No, I am in a very excellent mood. No one will be able to make me feel down. I will not call the downers anymore. And if they call, I will tell them that I have adopted a new religion that bans me from talking to negative people. Try it. It works.

You have to stop calling the downers. You have to cut their calls short. You should not debate with them. But if you have to, limit your conversation to social issuesnot that they would not get a reason to transfer their negative energy: “I hate the weather. You know, those trees around my house are ugly. The Lakers lost; I hate them. You look pale, are you sick or something? Get a check-up. You might have cancer and you don’t know it. I hate children; they are annoying when they cry… even when they laugh loudly. Do you really love your spouse? Were you out of your mind when you decided to get married?…” you get the drift.

You are forced to change the subject; most probably, it ends up in politics. How many times have you heard them say ‘keynsamamaE tesamamiEna’?   They will moan: “Unity? Have you ever seen unity among Eritreans? You consider these good for nothing people leaders? They know nothing. You think those are the ones who will overthrow Isaias? You are dreaming. Those will bring democracy? You are crazy. How can a short guy and taller man unite? You are out of your mind. Who will be the senior, aha, that is why they will never unite. Crossover unity? It is unthinkable. You believe Eritrea will ever live in peace? You don’t know anything.”

Who wants such doses of negativity from the downers? Tell them to buzz off and protect your sanity. Tell them pointblank, “I don’t like your pessimism imposed on me. I already have enough.  My car broke and I need to pay the repair fee. I have tons of bills to take care of. Life is tough without you adding your pessimism onto it.”

Trust me, get rid of them and protect your sanity.

Those are people who mention ten people and you discover they hate nine of them. These people think everyone else is bad…. Too bad God didn’t consult them when he created humanity. How could a person have someone he hates in each country, city, town, hamlet all over the world? So and so, he is a liar. So and so, he is a Weyane. So and so, he is an opportunist. So and so, he is a traitor. So and so, he is a regionalist. So and so, he is behind all our failures. So and so… let me find a reason why I hate him…. let me see. I can’t think of anything off hand; I will tell you next week.

Who needs that? Some people I know would have a formidable network of wahios if only they organized people they hate. Beware of the downers!

For a long time, I was feeling tired but I never knew what was getting me so tired. I do what I do with passion and full conscience. But yet, like most of you, I was suffering from the negative energy of negative people. I never knew it but my energy was being sucked. Just after finishing a conversation with some of the downers, I felt drained, my energy sucked out.

Rip Van Winkel

About three weeks ago I slept late and woke up at noon the next day. I was very relaxed and feeling great and healthy. I was having my first tea when a pessimist called. He cried about everything. He cried about all the current events. I think he was reading from a list he had compiled. He was crying about the American election, the high price of Starbucks coffee, the traffic jam, Kassel, Frankfurt, Khartoum, Weyane, his wife spending most of his money, the fact that he cannot drink anymore, his doctor who doesn’t know anything about being a doctor, the noise of the plane flying over his neighborhood, the black tarmac… all in all, I have to listen to 30 minutes of crying.

I don’t know how it happened but the next thing I knew was that I was lying in bed exhausted. He had sucked all my energy and I felt so tired that I wasn’t able to sit let alone stand up. I felt that my energy evaporated. I had an instant headache, backache, nausea and skin allergy. I think I slept but his crying was still ringing in my ears. He was in my dreams and everywhere I looked. I remember I let out a loud scream and I don’t remember the rest. I must have passed out, fainted.

When I woke up and opened my eyes, there were people around me. All my family, relatives, and friends were looking at me. I touched my chin and my beard had grown to be six-inches long. Call me Rip Van Winkle, but they told me I had been sleeping for three months. They said they tried all sorts of medicine, including incense, kerbe, Lehtit, holy water, and gave up. They were just waiting for my heart to stop beating so that they could bid me goodbye. I persisted because the downers were still talking to me in my dream—for three full months. I was determined not to let this happen again.

I sprang up from the bed and walked out to the yard, ‘I am alright now’, I assured my family and friends who were treating me like an ill person. I sat down and started to think…I found it. I have to avoid the downers to keep my sanity. That I did.

Since that incident, I am feeling very happy. I am excited about all the developments around us. I have never felt this optimistic and happy for a long time. The last three weeks have been great and I will work hard to keep it that way. I am liberated.

My friends, you don’t have to play PFDJ’s telata werega or Wheel of Fortune and laugh because you won laughter. You will feel stupid later on. Don’t get your happiness by erecting walls and denigrating your own people, your very own compatriots. You will feel guilty later on. You can’t get your happiness by buying yourself a false moral smugness… The secret to guilt-free happiness is simple: don’t justify injustice, keep your conscience clean and avoid the downers and the negative attitudes they carry…or go to bed and sleep for three months.

About Saleh "Gadi" Johar

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  • Hameed Al-Arabi

    Greetings SJ,

    After more than a decade, still it shines and divulges the absurd dialogue that is going on. The longest dialogue in the history of modern world.

  • Ismail AA

    Hayak Allah Saleh,

    This is an all-round article.
    I found it as fresh and entertaining as I read it when it was first posted. SGJ should have been literary torch bearer in our country as gifted story-teller had our country and people were lucky (after 1991) to enjoy independence, freedom and stable condition for nation-building.

    It is regrettable, in my view, that such rare talents, and I am sure many in other fields, too, did not get opportunities to make use of their tremendous talents to help transformation of their society: culture and literature in the case of SGJ.
    Thank you Saleh.

  • Solomon

    Selamat SJG,

    Man! For sure your storytelling abilities is amongst the very colorful and of super echelons quality of writing. I am in awe.

    Yes Ibdeed “Avoid the Downers!” It is a very costly role of the dice, sort to speak. I am not quite sure if you have the middle-aged American average Joe’s pandemic dependency on opiates, or your Rx prescribed pain medications… If you are a California Registered voter, let me suggest to all to vote Yes on Prop. 61. I have been calling it Proposition Awate for several weeks now. Prop. 61 is a measure for the reduction of Drugs. Oakland Voters should vote to for the taxation of groceries. The sugar Tax. Yes on The Grocery Tax. The time to Tax in the Bay Area Cali is now. Alsi, Yes on Prop. 51 $9B funds for Oakland Schools.

    Lastly SJG! Yes definitely avoid the downers! “Eritreans we double down when the going gets tough.” Was it you that said that?
    Well A strictly Black Jack Shetekh Bettekh speaking …. Let me add Eritreans Do Not SPLIT the 10 valued cards on TTY he Black Jack table. It is a Taboo for the ages to SPLIT THE ABOU ASHERA! Double Down fo sho!

    DaEimen Awate!

    • saay7

      Hey TsaTse:

      True, wise counsel in blackjack that I f you have two 10s (or faces, i.e. Jack queen king) showing, you never split. But you also never double down. You stay (because you have 20) and dare the black jack dealer to get 21.

      If you have 20 and you double down (draw one more card) the only way to improve it is by drawing in an ace (1), and the odds of that are 4/52 or less than 8%. Or a 92% chance of going bust.

      I think I will organize a blackjack game for awate fundraising…:). And man why do u want overtaxed Californians to be taxed again. Vote no on all measures propositions for tax.


      • Solomon

        Selamat Saay7,

        Everyone and “their Momma is coming” to Bay Area California for very high paying Tech jobs. San Francisco and now Oakland. These nearly Six Figures starting salaries for young tech innovators, who are not old enough to play Texas Holde’m at Oaks Club, but may be a charity fundraiser Black Jack tournament you would host, have a significant draw on drawing labor force from all over the nation and the world.
        If the government doesn’t raise taxes when it’s jurisdiction is on a growing income generator to plan justly for public infrastructure, then when and how would it balance the sheets?
        Oakland current residents are earning across the Bay Bridge in SF and causing Oakland Rental Cost to spike to both caught if guard and relaxed long time residents and themselves. These young new transplants will pop a few rugrats by having relations with longtime Bay citizens and or other transplants. Schools, parks more east coast like residential building housing Oakland/Bay Area city Governments and counties will be to these relatively higher than nation average Oaklanders benefit their local government will have to pay. I would like to believe the people are the government anywhere and that in relatively income generating times Taxes demanded by Politicians Proposed Measures should be considered more deeply than the seemingly breaking your Thursday Night Happy Hour entertainment you over budgeyed.
        The Marketing farse of the Vote No on the grocery tax measure, the bell chart dishonest graphs of equaly clever marketing gurus analytics, as having catastrophic effects on the very poor, the small business carefully selected diverse bourgeois, YES I said it and the 1000 to 1 outspending to Tax the groceries folks is nothing but playing on the inatate reflex like fears on all of us. We can discuss the numbers and dynamics of this particular campaign at yout fund raiser Black Jack charity event. I suggest lots a tissue for the tears from laughter… How the Elite spend and manipulate well well… Perhaps Thomas can afford the time….

        Fortunately, for you the gnomes and sensitive to my 15 Rnds of Boxing Bout worthy to TKo Mo-B-Mo, my large arms and digits spared you four times the length of this Hatteta’s size thus far.
        You will have to read it on my solitaire drafting and designing modeling techniques without the obtrusive Harlemite, NY SWAG to busier folks than I.
        Land Grabing, Apartment dwelling transplant Tigreans, in Oromia Land, American Oligarchy model government for EPLF’s Eritrea Monocracy and Ethnic Federalism for TPLF’s Ethiopia as designed and MEDIATED by the Gentleman and Scholar. Peanut Farmer Former President Jimmy Carter and plenty of anti Elitist, anti Bourgeois, anti oportunist, anti Emperialist…an all encompassing It is Eritrea Against the World is what you will have to now read henceforth here:

        For Grits with or without the greasy bacon or pork
        We shall Duke it out right here!
        With boundaries of our cultural mutual and humane respect for one another hopefully WITH THE free SPIRIT OF though that should be
        UNBOUND in Awate forum.
        DaImen Awatista!
        I will not pester you for some time.
        I am fortifying the trenches to mount the best down of your buddy iSEM and YG. Their think they have an open wedge and are encroaching.

        It is The Economy Stupid said our next First Gentleman of the USA.
        If or better yet when Hilary Clinton us elected President,
        For the Eritrean or Ethiopian Score Keepers of sophomoric upmanship, Eritrea would have narrowed Ethiopia’s lead in this manner.
        Though President Barack Obama visited Kenya and Ethiopia as a sitting Presudent,
        Eritrea will have the bragging right advantage in that the then Sitting President Hilary Clinton did Visit Sovereign Eritrea.
        MaHber DeQuiAbstyo, better take advantage of Hilary Clinton’s Eritrean attractions, including delicacies of PopCorn with Ajwwa Temmrr or Freweini dried from Atakhlti Ab DekemHare….
        Don’t forget you can indulge of hyperbole and hypothetical ZaEgol Analytics Hete: at least until I stop my impersonation of Henry David Thoreau And start paying my Diaspora Three Percent Tax as well as my higher Grocery Tax at Edaga Hamuss. I intend to Purchase Joy and I suggest it for all Saa!

        Now where did you hide all those fire breathing Arjekebes Captain Saay7?