Beggars Can Not Be Choosers
I have been a bit unease about using this medieval expression as an analogy to illustrate the ongoing CHALLENGE campaign underway among Diapora Eritrean opposition. The campaign is, supposedly, to challenge the dictator of Eritrea:
I have been a bit unease about using this medieval expression as an analogy to illustrate the ongoing CHALLENGE campaign underway among Diapora Eritrean opposition. The campaign is, supposedly, to challenge the dictator of Eritrea: to implement the constitution, to release political prisoners and demarcate the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Buried beneath this campaign though, there seems to be a colossal frustration built over years of inability to shed the yolk of oppression in our country. It is thus, this exasperation and resentment, in my opinion, that preceded this campaign. Is it not? That is why I risked vilification by some to call this piece ‘beggars can not be choosers’. This campaign, lest it anger anyone, is a campaign which perfectly fits this medieval idiom, ‘beggars can not be choosers’, – effectively meant, be content with what you have and don’t make any noise. The campaign is, therefore, nothing but a campaign of beggars who have limited choices available at their disposal. Let’s call a spade a spade. We have to bravely say it for what it is.
Recently, despite the evidence to the contrary, we saw yet again, a parade of people railroading themselves on social media to demand justice, strangely enough, from the autocrat in Eritrea; justice he denied the Eritrean people for the last quarter century. With the level of extreme boldness and self-righteousness that has become the trademark of our opposition – but then, with the exception of a few who put the challenge to the Eritrean people – not a single one of them made a sober assessment of the challenges facing the opposition itself. Truth got to be told, the demands are on the mark and long overdue. After all, Eritrea has been under the illegitimate usurper for quite a long time. What could go wrong in demanding justice from the oppressor? Yes, history is littered with people demanding justice and failing that, rebelled to take their liberty by force. Yes, there is nothing wrong in demanding justice. I do, however, want to question the temerity of this campaign: to whom are the demands made for? To an enemy who is undertaking the dismemberment of Eritrea and its people? An enemy does what he is best at doing. Or, should I ask, Is it a campaign of, I-couldn’t-snatch-justice-for-my-people;-therefore,-I-am-pleading-with-you-to-give-me-one? How convenient! Overcoming our weaknesses should have been a pre-requisite before confronting the enemy from within. Taming our ego would have served us well. This is the fundamental concept, sadly, the opposition was unable or unwilling to reconcile itself with.
Apart from the sensational campaign – which, in fairness, could have a long lasting effect as political tool – how do people know the efficacy of this campaign and what makes it different from the previous ones? The Eritrean people have been crying ENOUGH for the last 20 years; but that “liberty” the people longed for proven elusive by the day. Yet, the opposition preferred to stick to its old guns, instead of reorienting its strategy and mode of struggle to confront the enemy head on. History repeats itself rings ever truer indeed. It never ceases to amaze me as to why people tend to tread the same line over and over again, in which, time and again has proven not to work. With a double edged irony, why people mumble darkly in their private or make noise in public about Eritrea’s messy future, and yet unable to have a consensus to confront the oppressor is a bit unsettling. Whether one made a demand for justice on social media or marched on the streets of Washington or whether a high powered opposition politician gave a rousing speech or a religious figure gave a solemn prayer, the dictator would still be entrenched as ever; this time, with full vengeance against our people.
And irrespective of the feasibility of the campaign, we just can’t seem to give up the old way of doing business. I think we are obliquely beholden to our predisposition where the difference between individual liberty and the collective wellbeing is a bit blurred. Otherwise, why would we use the same venue over and over again and suddenly, by the grace of God, we expect a different outcome. According to the laws of commutative property, assuming one has familiarity with, changing the order of operations doesn’t change the result; for example, A + B = B + A. However rearranged the operands are, one will get the same result. That is what we have become. Old habits die hard indeed!
What’s more, It is interesting to see how people tend to toe a group-think mentality – the practice of huddling together under one idea, virtually discouraging a different one. It is so hilarious, though with healthy dose of resignation, to watch one soul after another proclaim their democratic credentials, and with just a minor word plays and semantics, each of them itemize the campaign’s three demands – almost verbatim. It is reminiscent of a movie reruns, so to speak. In fact, it seems easy nowadays to create a circus like political atmosphere. All one creative individual has do is, invent a new rallying cry, coupled that with a woefully unreformed mentality – and, here you go again – you galvanize the yawning populace for a few days, weeks or even months with awesome success, till that same cry slips into the abyss. Then the poor masses go into yet another hibernation, until a new one comes into life. In that order, with the same mentality, the opposition proved its impotence beyond redemption.
There is a name reserved for this kind of political stonewalling in the literary world. It is called the march of folly. In her book, The March of Folly, Barbara Tuchman defined “folly” as a ‘pursuit by governments of policy contrary to their self interest, despite the availability of feasible alternatives’. In one of her areas of analysis, the Protestant secession, the history of it was written extensively, but Barbara narrated it colorfully, the then Roman Catholic Papacy accelerated the Protestant secession when the papacy demanded that adherents pay for indulgence, so their sins could be forgiven in the eyes of God. This, among many, infuriated Martin Luther, who went even further to create his own Protestant church, independent of Catholic Church. Evidently, the Catholic Church acted contrary to its own interest.
Although the main thrust of Barbara Tuchman’s argument is geared to governments, I do want to emphasize that it is the people who create governments who make these follies. Thus, we Eritreans made the irreversible folly of creating this non-Eritrean monster in our country, and as if that is not enough, we are still making the folly of not knowing how to remove him.
And sure enough, the ever mindful dictator, through his faithful slave, Yemane Gebremeskel, tweeted:
“Unable to fathom the historic/rapid regional changes, Eritrea’s avowed enemies & their local minions have remained confused & fazed for months now. This is why they are vainly scavenging for mundane issues to cast aspersions on the process. Prudence demands that they are ignored!”
What better way of explaining the futility of the current campaign!
One more issue to remind you, which is indicative of how we are facing a deadly enemy. On the unfortunate tragedy that befell on the Ethiopian Airlines flight on Sunday, the same slave, perhaps appropriately, tweeted:
“The Government of Eritrea has conveyed a message of condolences to the Government of Ethiopia and to the bereaved families of the deceased on the tragic crash of Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 that was on scheduled flight to Nairobi & in which all the passengers and crew have died.”
However, when tragedy struck to a boat full of Eritreans in October 2013, on the shores of Lampedusa, Italy, in which over 300 souls lost their lives, the dictator was never heard to express his condolences, if indeed he felt, to the bereaved Eritrean families; on the contrary, he denied their plight and spitefully referred to them as “African migrants”. This goes to show that he is not one of us. He is an enemy committed on the extermination of Eritreans. His antipathy towards Eritreans is laid bare for everyone to see. He is the enemy fair and square.
Finally, with the exception of those mindless herd, by now, it has become crystal clear that the battle lines had already been drawn between Eritreans who want their country back and a dictator hell bent on the destruction Eritrea and its people. We just have to find a little time for reflection.