The Wise Man And The Sea

Some wise people liken the present state of many nations unto a ship that has gone a-drifting. The captain of the ship is a crook, the sailors are all drunk and in a trance, the sea is billowing with fury, and some pirate ships yonder have espied the helpless vessel and have made their mind to board it, rob it clean of its contents and direct its course in accordance with their selfish desires.

Too many cooks spoil the broth. There are too many charlatans in this world who know neither the cause of the world’s sickness nor have any idea of how to cure it. Alexander the Great had already said it on his deathbed “I am dying with the help of too many physicians.” 


Many nations are at present ailing on their beds, sore tired of the flawed prescriptions and hollow mantras of inexperienced doctors and faith healers. Can anybody find a sustainable cure in the near future? 


Many expect and wish for the appearance of the Ultimate or Eschatological Cure which is nothing but the destruction of the world and the emergence of a World Savior. Others prefer to tread on a more realistic path and put their trust in the inherent goodness of humankind: the universal awakening, the emergence of universal consciousness, the gradual unfoldment of humankind’s inherent capacity to govern itself. 


Whatever the vision, our poor world is at present dying with the help of too many ‘experts’ in the field of social science, politics and economics; ‘experts’ who have a strange talent for disagreeing in everything except when it comes to division and dissension. When will they ever learn? 


We are living in the 21st century with, alas, the mentality of a caveman. Deep inside, we have made but very little behavioral change since we climbed down from the trees. Of course, our mind has made some significant progress for the better, but the caveman instinct rules over our best intentions, decisions and judgments.  


I always wonder if we are not somewhat glorified monkeys with some of us more (technologically) glorified than others. Well, with all our acquired knowledge and wisdom, we remain (Desmond Morris’s) naked apes nonetheless. Only a spiritual software (the so-called God-gene) and one free of accumulated virus, can help us to live and act like the real human beings the Deity intended us to be.  


Anyway, let me go back to the question at hand. What is happening to democracy and human rights in some parts of this unlucky planet at present? Why are tyrants still thriving and seem to have it nice everywhere? And last of all, what is happening to my own country Eritrea, a country which many wise statesmen rightly or wrongly credited with the capacity to become a model for Africa? Where did it go wrong? 


Whenever I think about democracy and its being held as hostage in some countries and hijacked in others, I remember one of the articles I wrote some years back which I deem proper to produce here albeit with some modifications. 


Let’s suppose you are sailing in the wide blue ocean with a map in your hand. All the time you wanted the map to take you to the land of Democracy or something that would come closer to it, where you expected to find human dignity and good governance, constitution, rule of law… and much happiness and movement, if that was exactly your idea of democracy.  


The wind is blowing from the rear and whatever you do to the sailing ship, it will always keep on moving. So you check your map again and again. You look at the vast ocean and experience hundreds of sunrises and sunsets without sighting a land where with some luck you may put your principles into action. 


The wind keeps buffeting against the worn out sails and the mast is beginning to sway and squeak. If your ship should sink, then the downward trip into the bowels of the earth might feel like a reverse replay of your birth experience. Where the hell is the land of Democracy!? 


The lonely ship couldn’t stop as the wind would not give it respite even for a second. If it tried to stop, it would be blown to pieces by its mighty blasts. So it has to keep on moving, either to paradise or to hell. Its destiny is in the hands of the captain and the wisdom of the map.  


The map was previously outlined, written and approved by wise navigators with consummate skill and knowledge who had no use for power, wealth and fame and who only hankered after the wellbeing of their people.  


The ship has enough ammunition and a lot of stalwart and diehard sailors ready to die fighting against bloodthirsty pirates and marauding buccaneers and to celebrate their victory in the land of Democracy.   


The ship begins its voyage led by the principle that man is created noble and dignified and that only the scoundrels and the rogues who hold power in this world have made humankind to become vile and degraded. Well, the road to peace and harmony had never been smooth.   


“Ahoy there!” shouts the watchman from the tower. “A pirate ship, yonder, is flying its banner with that sign of oppression and tyranny stamped on it, and is moving in our direction!” 


The pirate ship is now close. The carnage may start any time.  


“Away boarders!” shout the sea brigands as they brandish their cutlasses. For the pirates, the ship is against their interest and a pain in the flesh worthy to be destroyed on the spot. Nothing makes them happy except strife and division.  


The sea captain tosses the map into the sea and unsheathes his sword to fight. His dreams of Democracy have suddenly changed into a nightmare.  


The fighting has ceased. The ship is looted clean. The captain is fatally wounded. The chief of the looters has now become the new commander of the ship. But the wind keeps on blowing. It keeps on pushing the sailing ship which now carries the dead bodies of sailors and of a few pirates along with the wounded in body and in spirit, a price that the captain was forced to pay for Democracy. The pirates are now singing their sea chants.  


Where’s the sailing ship heading now? It is simply sailing away right in front of it with some of its survivors groaning in pain and begging for water. The new captain, a bloodthirsty brigand, with a history of murder and deceit behind him, is at the helm. Fickle minded and capricious as he is, nobody knows where he is taking the ship. Nkdmit tiray! Savoia!  


It’s been now many years since the sea disaster took place and some people still remember the day the world ‘came to a standstill’.  


Many sunrises and sunsets later, another ship from another direction sets sail on a warm summer morning. On board is a sea captain with a similar map in hand. This one, however, seems more cautious and more determined than his predecessor. The sailors wait for his orders.  


The mission of the sailing ship is again to find the land of Democracy, that illusive place of peace, justice and good governance, that has been veiled from greedy and ravenous eyes for a long time; a place where the government is subservient to the people, where the worth of human life is indisputably assured and where lofty principles and wise policies are enshrined in its constitution. 


The captain is confident and has great trust in the map and its makers. He knows that the map which was meant to change attitudes and outlook, differs in some ways from the previous one. More importantly, he was there when it was being written, amended and ratified. 


The sailors have great respect for their captain, for he had seen many voyages in his life time, discovered a few new lands and charted new sea lanes. He is known as a kind, considerate, patient, meek and truthful fellow, preferring his friends and subordinates before himself. But above all, he has the right vision, and of all human virtues he cherishes justice like the apple of his eye. 


The wind continues to blow. The ship unfurls its sails and starts plowing along the dark and blue expanse of heaving waters, and then it disappears beyond the horizon.  


The captain knows where he is going. He tries his best to avoid that part of the sea where pirate ships roam free. And should he meet some of these sea robbers, he knows how to deal with them. In fact, in one of such ugly encounters in the past he did teach them an unforgettable lesson, so much so that the sailors, one and all, chose to follow him in the search for the land of Democracy.  


The captain is not only concerned about finding the land of Democracy, but he also wants by all means to establish democracy and justice in the ship itself, among the sailors and with his peers, among friends and foes.  


There is equality and much fairness in the ship. No one eats meat while others have to struggle with stale cheese and rotten apples. The pearls that they sometimes fish out from the seas are distributed equally among the high and the low alike.  


Furthermore, there is unity of purpose and unity of vision in the ship. The loadstone of any democratic activity is unity. There is no justice in strife and dissension! 


The wind keeps on blowing. It is the wind of history. The ship cannot drop anchor for fear lest the mighty gusts blow it to pieces. It should keep on moving and steer clean out of trouble.  


The captain is at the helm. He is all the time looking at the map which was made with much justice and wisdom.  


“Where’s the land of Democracy?” shout finally some of the rowdy sailors with impatience.  


“Wherever you sight a land and then meet the inhabitants with goodwill and justice in your heart, that’s the land of Democracy,” replies the captain.  


In brief, he was telling them that the land of Democracy was within them. It should first be established in their hearts before it takes physical shape and form. 


What the sailors did not know, however, was that they had already been ‘democratized’, and that no outside force could shake the foundation of such belief.  


The sailors always thought to find the land of Democracy somewhere in the many islands strewn in the ocean. They forgot that in order to find it, they had first to change themselves from within.




For in the past, many had tried to find it without changing themselves first, and their search proved fruitless and a waste of time.  


Their sturdy ships had been scuttled into the deep dark waters, carrying down their hopes and dreams into oblivion.


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