Part – I: Time – Introduction
Dear fellow citizens, wherever we are, it is impossible to live a life in isolation. I do not know whether the “I” can be lived without embracing the “we”, our collective sense of identity.
Due to our social identity linkage, we Eritreans in general are living uncomfortable and disgraceful lives. Being Eritreans or better to say, the PFDJ Eritrea, is associated with emigration, warring, troublemaking and being unrepresented diplomatically and internationally. Whether we like it or not, we cannot escape from these current attributes of Eritreanness.
First and foremost, human beings need peace. Also, they cannot live meaningfully without family, social life, land (or nation) or true representation. The only thing I am sure about is that we cannot continue to live like this indefinitely. Furthermore the essence of change we aspire to, the notion of peace, justice, democracy, politics and humanity are amongst the key beliefs that we need to adopt at this particular time. But in the first place, I would like to introduce a simple but important concept, namely “Time”, and what time (past-present-future) means for us. Accordingly, the aim of this introductory article is to raise awareness of the inexcusable way that we Eritreans live in our collective life (which may be called ‘politics’) and to stop living a waiting life. But rather we need to really live and be the owner of our present by reading and judging our “past-to-present” and acting now on the ‘today’. It is also my pleasure to write this article in the month of September – a very meaningful month both nationally and spiritually, to me.
Our Experience and Time
As is the nature of living, we all struggle in the hope of seeing a change for the better whether in our private, social or political lives. Philosophers claim that ‘if you are today the same as you were yesterday, this indicates that you have taken a backward step’. This seems self-evident because today and yesterday are not the same. Experiencing self-assessment is the capacity that one reveals in one’s life and actions. But the worst way of living is living without imagination and vision, which leads into conflict. And conflict in turn is associated with the absence of politics, which is the art of living together. Here, the main aim is to explore our understanding about ‘time’ (our past-present-future). Without going into a deep and varying philosophical notion of ‘time’, I just want to emphasise whether we are well aware of our interconnected past and present with our future.
What do we understand by time? To be is to live and act in time. And living in the present is not merely a utopia. It is the simple but extremely difficult truth about being. Regarding time, the author of the Confessions, St Augustine, said “If no one asks me, I know what it is, but if I wish to explain it to him who asks, I do not know”. Time is the a priori prerequisite of all phenomena, of everything (Kant). Time that each of us experiences is both obvious and mysterious. Even though we may claim we are proud of our past i.e. our mass struggle for independence, we cannot deny that the evil of our present time was part of that past because it was born or grew up and reproduced there (in the past), which is also part of present Eritrean society. And now we may or may not know for sure what role this will play in our future. However our future, which is yet to come, may not be different from or may depend upon our present – how we live our present and how much we have learned from our past. To be is to live and act in time.
Philosophically speaking, time is the duration of the past – present – future. There is no significant objective or ontological differences between the past, present and future. If there was, it would merely be subjective. Part of the present period is already past and part of it is yet to come. This means it is made up of a past and a future. How could we possibly think about our future without remembering our ideals/history and act without remembering our desires or plans? Planning our future is a wise thing to do but it is in the present and not in the future that we take action. In this case, our past and future are part of our present. Who has ever lived a yesterday or a tomorrow? We live only in today’s, not lying in waiting for the future. To live in the present is simply to live and act in reality. Thus, on the ‘today’, we can address and solve our problem and are able to have a new and better start/direction for our future. But how would one be able to do this? By living and acting on the present which is the only real time given to us; the present that does not abandon the history or memory (the past); the present that does not lack the imagination of the not yet achieved. To live separating the past and the future from the present would mean to abandon the self and the mind. In other words, the essence of our existence can be judged and shaped not only by the past or the not yet achieved, but by the present.
Comparing the past with the real present, one may argue, ‘in our case, time does not exist since nothing is changing both in Eritrea and outside; if there is no change, there is no time (duration) either, and I cannot say so about the alternative future.’ This is a fundamental question for pro-change and peace activists. If we really know our past or our past-present and are able to be and act appropriately in the present, we cannot miss capturing our ‘probable’ future because they (past-present-future) are one and integral. The past exists for us in the present as part of the present because we remember. One cannot live the future i.e. in the not yet achieved but they can anticipate such virtual and imaginary time to the only present. In other words, by remembering the past one becomes conscious of the imaginary future. Thus we must live the present, the today.
To be is to do (to act). There was a classical example given to us at the time when we were studying philosophy (syllogism). This was: “sin is the outcome of freedom; a slave has no freedom; therefore, a slave cannot sin”. It is axiomatic that there could be no peace without justice. Let’s look into our situation: no real peace in the past, none in the present, and what is our hope for the future (the now onward)? How can we solve the current overwhelming problems prevailing in our country? Are we really ready for change and to start that change from within ourselves first? How can we ensure that our future will be peaceful and where the rule of law prevails? By merely condemning Mr Isaias Afewerki and his gang (the PFDJ)? It is not my intention to talk about the dilemma of peace versus justice now, but may be in a separate theme. My point here is whether we, in our present, have really learned from our past and have taken a promising step forward in order to be able to live a better and different tomorrow that starts from today (now or the present). Mr Redi’e Mehari (known by Allena) has promised to publish his book which will reveal numerous alleged facts about our past and present. Indeed, his book is expected to help us greatly to learn from the past and present evil system and think forward, not backward. How? By correcting and rectifying things; changing not only the evil section of our people (citizens), but above all ourselves, the evil system and the culture diffused by the PFDJ as a policy, and bringing a remedial justice to all those victims. Dare to think!!!
We wish for a peaceful and democratic Eritrea in which there are no wars, no appalling destruction of the nation but rather co-operation and real politics. Similarly, we wish the same to happen for our neighbours, the IGAD sub-region and the continent at large. In today’s world, one cannot live without politics and co-operation. However, this all requires not only wishful thinking but commitment and action based on self-knowledge. In other words, it demands revolution, not an external one but internal and from within the ‘real self’. From this point of view, the change we declare per se needs a change; to start to deconstruct in order to be able to create a sane change. To be is to live and act in the present. Time for us is an essential prerequisite for change. It is the best teacher, so we should never forget though we could forgive and should not live without anticipating such a virtual and imaginary time to the only present. The past can only pass in the present and the future could only be the direction of the present. We can say we are consciously experiencing time if we remember the past and anticipate the future. To be is to act in the perpetual now. So, we have to meet the today on today, which each of us has for granted. By doing so, our dream for a sane change can be real from the present.
Kebre-ab Isaac W., PhD