Unity And Trust: The Deferred Gratifications


Recently, my attention was pulled by a compelling attraction, a subject called “political psychology” – a new branch of political science. It is a field dedicated and aimed to understand the political behavior of politicians and political organizations from psychological perspectives. The theory is applied to many contexts, some among others include policy making, behavior of ethnic contradictions, political extremism, group dynamics using cognitive and social explanations.

Some scholars in this field are making creative research to study the psychological factors that could influence any political decision where “psychological manners” of individual leaders or group for that matter becomes at the center of their study. In psychology deferred gratifications is referred as “impulse renunciation” or self-imposed postponement of gratifications or satisfactions [1].  So the subject “deferred gratification” will be investigated through the prism of politico-psychology as to whether it has an application in the political manual of a given social revolution, especially in the Eritrean proper.

When Walter Mischel launched a research on delayed gratification – the “Stamford marshmallow experiment,” he hasn’t in mind that it will have a broad effect into different discipline of studies. Currently deferred gratification is linked to a host of field of studies that includes social science, behavioral science, economics, socio-politics, and politico-psychology.  

In pluralistic society there is nothing undisputable public good, and the social policy problems are always bound to fail because they are “wicked problems” and it makes no sense to talk about optimal solution [2].  Wicked problems as such are problems difficult to resolution. So in this essay we will observe the wicked Eritrean political problem and the consequence of deferring of certain issues (social values), the factors that makes the Eritrean problem unsolvable parallel with the psychological manners of our political practitioners, and the interplay of politics and psychology in the discourse of our resistance. My attempt is far from a powerful description of clinical psychology, but will explore the minds that are fixed on old psychological perceptions through spatiotemporal approach and correlations.

Eritrea’s Wicked Political Problems

According Rittel wicked problems have no stopping rules, and the solutions for them are not true-or-false, but good-or-bad. In that, there is no matrix of measurement as such – despite certain individuals have the ability of self to transcend society. Wicked political problems have psychological character to define the behavioral activities of the society as a group or individuals. Recently psychological services are thought and accepted practically in all field of human activity and psychologists have considerably the power to influence opinions and behavior of the public (Kipnis 1987, pp 30). Obviously we are not clear about the dimensions and characteristics of our social problem. That in itself makes it to be more complex and wicked and hard to resolutions.

 What are the wicked problems in our politics? Our wicked problems that hold us from moving forward are “Mistrust and lack of Unity” which in effect resulted  in the psychology of group identities and cultural identities to persist their  existence. Hence the current grouping is the microcosm expression and end product of the two unresolved and deferred social values.

Does deferment always bring gratifications? Interestingly enough, a sociologist from Chicago University, Hollingshead said no. He has illustrated and shown in his book, that in a job area, a lower class boy, eager to pay his own way and escape from family domination, seeks a full-time job at a very early age, and accordingly left a school. The boy who obtained freedom has happened to be illusory and found himself caught in continuous low pay job with little or no promise to continue education [3]. Understandably, deferment does not always bring gratifications. In this case, the boy who hoped to get delayed gratification of obtaining a more elaborated education after seeking a job didn’t materialized.

It is no surprising then, that we are surrendered to our own faults and fates built in on our mutual mistrust and chaotic political disarray both inside and outside of our nation. The political practitioners in their subtle staging and dainty petite-type performance could not match to the complex problems of the nation and the legal cognizance of geopolitics of the horn. The inaptness of the Eritrean government, who took the assignment of governing the nation and its people by sheer force have disfigured the can do spirit of our people. Like in a Pokémon’s move, it has only two characteristics of moves with no evolutionary moves and no effort to adjust with the international political dynamics. These moves are embedded on (a) narrow nationalism that alienate the nation and its people from international community (b) fighting against perceptual enemies and perceptual conspiracy theory that negatively affect people to people diplomacy, nation to nation diplomacy and the socio-politics of our diversity. Surely, all these are signaling to no detour from edging on the cliff. On the other hand the opposition’s leaders in the “opposition camp” with no compass to guide failed to prioritize the nature of our struggle, failed to rally our people with a clear vision, and indeed are now stuck at a deadlock to adjudicate our past history while their deciding fate is at the hand of our people. Hence it is quintessential now that our young generation to read this perceptual politico-psychology and do something to change the psychological relations within our diversities, the psychological relations with our neighbors, and with the international communities at large.

Economy: A Vector of Deferred Gratification

In this global age, deferred gratifications are more applicable in economics (as they called it the economic of deferred gratifications) in various sets of economic development. For instance the deferred gratifications is what gives us the savings that are in turn loaned by the banks to businesses who create jobs and wealth; the pension funds that keep us comfortable in our old ages; the willingness of parents to invest in their children education[4].

 Recently, Norbert Walter criticized the Harvard economists as the onlookers of shortsighted remedies, who advocate for the “purchasing power theory” and argued in relation to Germany’s imminent labor shortage due to ageing population and he summed it as follows:

“In order to create a cushion for that period we should continue to generate current account surpluses and use the corresponding savings now to specifically finance infrastructure investments in emerging markets and developing countries, so that the recipient countries become more productive. They can then help us to finance our import surplus from 2015 onwards via dividend payments on these high-yielding investments. Germans should not indulge in overconsumption now and then have to endure poverty in old age.”[5]

Norbert foresaw prosperity not for just here and now but also for posterity founded on behavioral maxims and regulations, focusing on satisfying the interest of global clients – a call for deferral gratification. For now I will leave this particular argument for economists and revert back to the subject I am interested to address.

Shifting Positions to Meet Late Gratifications

In the last decade or two, the shift in United Nations’ policy to wards “a responsibility to protect” or “the right of humanitarian intervention” as emphasized by Evans and Sahnoun (2002) [6] and the shift of African Unions’ (AU) policy from “non-interference” to “non-indifference” right after the dissolution of the Organization of African unity (OAU), have improved the resolutions of conflicts settlements. Despite it was too little and too late to intervene in Somalia (by AU), Bosnia and Kosovo (by NATO), the right of humanitarian intervention by coercive action for the purpose of protecting people at risk in those states was appropriate and have stopped the continuous human catastrophe. Hence with AU’s non-indifference policy, the regional states in the horn could form an intra-security arrangement that eventually extend to military pact to defend vulnerable states from rogue regimes as well as to protect peace and stability of the region. [7]

 Therefore it is of particular interest to investigate whether there are significant corresponding alternative political variables applicable to our realities. For sure the reciprocal relationship of the dependent and independent variables will play in the frame work of empirical analysis. Here the dependent variables are the regional and International actors in the horn, while the independent variables are “the mismatched forces of changes” [8] in the Diaspora and the determinant forces of change from inside.  Since the external and domestic drivers of conflict are enmeshed together, problems will no longer contained within the boundary of the state of Eritrea, where it clearly becomes difficult to have distinction between internal and external domains [9].

Traditional analysis either assumed or asserted has some particular root cause usually traced to historical grievances. Hirschliefer (2001) who pioneered much of the analytical research on conflict proposed by the Machiavelli theory argued that no profitable opportunity for violence would go unused [10]. Tiptoeing on Hirschliefer’s analytical prospective approach, I will argue that “Forto-2013” though it sets the precedence, it failed when it lacks the external factor as a pressure from IGAD’s humanitarian and security intervention and the so called forces of change in the opposition camp.  Indeed Forto-2013 missed the opportunity to oust the totalitarian regime, setting a social revolution to occupy the niche. In any case, the opposition camp should always shift strategies and tactics to meet what ever they set for late gratifications, with the change of geopolitics in our region.

To bring a new dynamic politico-psychology within the thinking of our people, we have to eradicate the politico-cultural psychology of self-reliance (in all its facets) brought by the ghedli (specifically EPLF) – a political rhetoric’s conditioned to the Eritrean people. This political philosophy aside its rhetoric’s wasn’t practiced in their political house now and then. Two examples have proved that self-reliance wasn’t practiced (a) the united front EPLF/TPLF – in all war fronts, against Derg doesn’t show Bi’Sefrna (b) the 3.7 billion Eritrea’s debt (courtesy Gedeb news) doesn’t show Bi’Sefrna. So in my opinion this conditioned politico-psychology doesn’t hold water on the ground, hence it is easy to de-condition the political thinking of the Eritrean people.

Psychology of Unity: The Virtue of Eritrean Spirit

 The political and social climate of Eritrea today emphasize on differences, disunity, and destruction which perpetuate our alienation from basic human co-existence – a unique vision of humanity, which fosters unity without uniformity and diversity without fragmentation. Today Eritrea is facing an existential threat from its regime and our nation is subjugated by an evil man, one of the worst human nature. Our people are looking for a daring rescue of humanity by all means with all possible alliances. The paradigm of unity in their psychology, as a way to a new pipe-dream of social ecumenical movement is paramount at this stage of our struggle. We need these changes as a matter of “fact” and as a matter of “value”. As a matter of facts, our struggle can not succeed without unity and as matter of value – unity reflects the common norms such as reciprocal respect and respect of individual and group rights with an interest in practice of all the social variables in play.

 In theory the Eritrean people cried unity for generations. In spite the desire for unity, the very different moves of the actors, without drawing the boundaries of the lines of interactions and integrations which best describe the actual practice of unity; certainly undermine the moral value and principles of unity. Consequently, their modus operandi as practiced is nothing other than oasis of power that induces wrapped threads of tension and friction. Unity has history and logic how to get it. Unity is not like religious monotheism. It has a pluralistic behavior that requires the equilibrium of its variables. Unity is determined by the rules of analysis of ideas into elements and their synthesis into combinations. Because we failed to make a demonstrative study and allow disputes to be resolved by precise social calculations, it is always involuntarily deferred from time to time. Deferring unity is deferring your success. Unity is a philosophical currency of success. Unity in its social and political relevance, its pluralistic properties should often be defended against pure skepticism of nothing goes and pure indifferentism of anything goes.

Since Nagel’s influential model of reduction by derivation, most discussions of unity are cast in terms of reduction between concepts, entities they describe, and between theories incorporating the descriptive concepts. And the level of reduction is fixed by “parts-whole relations” [11].  In light of Nagel’s conceptual model of reduction, what are the social and political variables in the landscape of Eritrean sociopolitical arena in the analysis of its parts and in the synthesis of its combinations? Here is the area where Eritrean scholars must make in depth studies to contribute to the process and efforts for unity in its conceptual schemes and frameworks.  After the aforementioned thorough studies, then the social behavior (desires) distributed about the ontological status of related elements (parts) and their pluralistic contextual manifestation of power or dispositions can be formulated [12]. In such scenario, pluralism applies widely to concepts, explanations, virtue, goals, methods, models, and kind of representations.

Unity doesn’t come by let us go to the table and talk spontaneously without enough preparations and enough studies on the parts and whole relations, the political variables pronounced by different social groups, and how we could synthesize a political platform from the variables. The existing political practitioners have no capacity and know how to do that and they couldn’t even reach out to the pool of our intelligentsia in the Diaspora. The experience of the “national congress” clearly shows the deficiency of preparations and meticulous study as to the concept of unity, its analysis of its parts and synthesis of its parts. Hence as always the deferment of the process and the ineffectiveness of the leadership to do what the public expect them to do. The current leadership of ENCDC has two setbacks from moving forward (a) the gap between the members in understanding the complex Eritrean politics and our wicked political problems; and how to tackle them and adjudicate them within the context of our region (b) the mistrust among our social groups couldn’t help the leadership to have a forward looking organizational structure and coherent strategy in the struggle of our people. These in themselves remained as wicked problems far from solutions.

Philosophical Inquiry on the Values of Trust

Trust is the ingredient of positive relationship fostering to identify the diverse needs of a given society.  Building trust is justifiable if some “values” could emerge out of it with all the conditions and mental attitudes that govern it – the psychological manners. One important criterion for trust is that the truster can accept some level of risks of vulnerability (Becker 1996). Trust involves being optimistic. Such optimism is absent in cases of therapeutic Trust (Horsburgh 1960). Therapeutic trust is the psychological treatments devoted to building trust. In our case we have to explore the psychological effect rendered from the grievances of our social groups and how to alter it by addressing their grievances.

Surprisingly, trust is explored by a variety of disciplines such as social sciences, economics, social psychology, and political sciences. Though there is no universally accepted scholarly definition of trust, there are some agreements on many significant ways. Rousseau defined trust as a psychological state comprising the intention to accept vulnerability based upon positive expectations of the intention or behavior of another. Russell Hardin also called it “encapsulated interest.” Apparently a considerable number of philosophers believe that trustworthiness can be compelled by the force of norms, or more generally, by the force of social constraints (Hardin 2002, O’Neill 2002). This in all outward appearance reflects the social contract view. But I for one support “a will based view” that accounts trustworthiness or the “goodwill view” where the actors are motivated by goodwill (Jones, 1999, 68).

 Trust reduces harmful conflicts, decrease transactions, promotes effective responses, and facilitates rapid formulation of ad-hoc work groups (Weick, Kramer, 1996).  Of all the different implications of trust, the most interesting to my inquiry was when Deutsch (1962) used the term “trust” referring to cooperation within groups. Generally trust is now identified as the key element for conflict resolutions, negotiations, and or mediation.

Equally, armed with the definition of trust and description of the benefit that brings with it, Lewicki set a theory how trust is developed on three fronts (a) explaining differences in the individual (or group) propensity to trust (b) understanding the dimension of trustworthy behavior (or activity) and (c) levels of trust developments as building blocks (Roy Lewick, 2003). As I mentioned earlier and if we want to test Lewicki’s theory on our politico-psychology, one has to make enough study as to the propensity of our social groups towards building trust and the possible dimensions to the path of trust building. Otherwise this non-factual utterance that there is no division within our social groups is simply erroneous assumptions that hold us for generations. There more we acknowledge its existence the more it makes us ready to find solutions.

Trust Building And The Role of Leadership

 For two generations the Eritrean scholars failed to make the necessary study on how trust could be built within our diversity and strengthened the social fabric of our society. I hope the existing social quagmire will make them to see the importance of the subject in context to the challenges of our nation as we speak. In politics the interpersonal relationship of individual leaders matters great. Because they are the interlocutors of different political groups, their personality matters (the psychological manners) on how the development of trust building will accelerate or decelerate the process of trust building and bridges of unity for the Eritrean people. Look the personalities or political practitioners (exhibit-A) in our resistance force: they are not constrained or compelled by moral or circumstantial force to do the right thing to build trust. In fact they are clinging on the division of power to satiate their individual political interest – and understandably behind the existing social cleavages. Now both the internal members of each political group (their base) and the external public are increasingly cynical towards them. Their politico-psychological manners as it stood are not conducive and nor could they change by their own will unless they are challenged. If in the final analysis Building trust is creating common values, then changing the current politico-psychological manners is a must to meet our national challenge.

Leaders are people who are followed said Diana Bean, executive vice president of communication for Manulife Financial. Diana is right that people won’t follow leaders they don’t trust. Trust always makes it easier to get alignment with. With the public confidence on our leaders in the opposition camp at an all time low, leadership, communications, performance, and reputations are extricably linked. Leadership is often equated with positions of authorities and is measured by leadership metrics; such as leadership capital and leadership conditions (Sam Miller, 2008).  Leadership capital is referred to competency – the innate qualities of individuals which are useful for an effective leadership. These innate qualities are wisdom, trust, courage, voice, values, and vision. While vision and values are philosophical framework, wisdom and courage are attributes for leaders to make effective decisions and solving problems. However, innate qualities in themselves alone do not make leaders successful. Environment and the prevailing conditions they work on are also very important factor to their success. The council’s strategy of performance and competitive challenge against the regime is viewed unproductive and appeared dishonest on the eye of the public to exactly explain the problem that exist within the political organizations that dominate the composition of the council. Now the result as it stand is a wake up call to the Eritrean people who are disregarded their role in the process of democratic change. The political organizations are disregarding the public as subservient who takes the orders of their leaders and regard the council body as the council of the political organization  in contrast to the “council of the people” – a prototype of future “Eritrean parliament.” As a matter of fact this was the bone contention between the representative of the civic society including the intellectuals from the public pool and the representative of the political organizations. This contention is also reflected even in the isomeric leadership, isomeric ratio of the council, and the executive body of the council. For external observer it looks strange but in the realm of politics anything is possible. In the long run though it is all a learning process to the apolitical section of our society to engage and deter the ill will of our leaders as they continue to set their interest first in the fight for democratic change.


[1] Louis schnieder and Sverre Lysgaad, “The different gratification patterns: preliminary study”; American sociological review, 1953, pp 142-148.
[2] Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber, “Dilemmas in a general theory planning.” Boston, Dec. 1969.
[3] A.B. Hollingstead, “Elm town’s youth”, NY, John valley and sons, 1949, chap-14.
[4] – Gerald   O’Neill, “The economic of differed gratification: Turbulence ahead”, June 23, 2009
[5] Norbert Walter, talking point, “The world’s leading exporter to become the consumer of the last resort”; Deutch Bank research, June 23, 2009.
[6] Gareth Evans and Mohamed Sahnoun (2002) “The Responsibility to protect”, Foreign Affairs, pp 99-110.
[7] A. Hidrat, “Leadership and geopolitics of the horn”, Sept 29, 2012
[8] Y. Gebrehiwet, “Disconnect at the top: Mismatching disjointed Eritrea”,, March 14, 2013.
[9] A. Hidrat, “Leadership and Geopolitics of the horn”,, Sept. 29, 2012.
[10] Jack Hirscleifer (2001), “The dark side of the force: Economic foundation of conflict theory” Cambridge University press.
[11] Nagel, E. (1951), the structure of science, New York, Harcourt, Brace and world.
[12] McArthur, D. (2006), structural realism, ontological pluralism, and fundamentalism about laws, 151: 233-253.
[13] CW the collected works of Ralph Waldo, Emerson, Robert spiller, Cambridge, Mass, Harvard University press, 1971.
[14] Baker, L. C. (1996), trust as non-cognitive security about motives, Ethics, 107.
[15] Hardin, R. (2002), Trust and Trustworthiness, New York, NY: Russell sage foundation.
[16] Jones K. (1999), Second hand moral knowledge, 96: 55-78
[17] Horsburgh, H.J.N. (1960), the ethics of trust, 10: 343-354.

Amanuel Hidrat


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