The Four “R’s”: Romance, Reality, Rejection and Re-adjustment
By Haben Zeray
The four R’s are four stages everyone goes through in life’s experience. As an example:
1. You fall in love and get married- let’s call this the ROMANCE stage. From a guy’s perspective, and when he first falls in love, her silky hair, her smile, her eyes everything is cute and Romantic. Life is good! You feel everything is going well and there is nothing that can change this utopia. You remember when the gallant warriors entered Asmara in 1991, they were nostalgic moments. How about when you got your first job? Or when you were accepted to enter into the United States of America? All these are Romance stage.
2. Now your newly-wedded wife says, I am pregnant and I am experiencing morning sickness, bring the bucket now, she yells? At another time, she says, “honey our expenses are way over our budget”. And you say “okay maybe I will take a second job”. This is the Reality stage. You know where I am going with this and therefore, I am going to spare you any more details.
3. Now, you, the husband, begin to show irritation at exactly 15 months after the marriage. The cute daughter or son that was born is keeping you up at night (Reality). And the wife is getting impatient and murmurs, how non-participant you are in the marriage. Anger or shouting here and there begin to escalate. We now enter into the Rejection stage. The wife may say, “you don’t love me”, and the husband might say, “she takes me for granted and does not respect me”.
4. At this stage the wise couple begin to reassess their relationship and begin to communicate and hopefully fix their small differences. They prevent things from getting out of control. They start smiling at each other. Now we enter into Re-Adjustment. Woe! to those who can’t survive the Rejection stage, because life to them will be bad. With a small baby in the middle and with quarrels all the time, life will be bad. However, those who re-adjust they have a reward. They go right to the Romance stage, at least now they are a little bit mature and much wiser and the cycle continues. And with each cycle they gain experience and become more educated, more mature and wiser. (Give them sixty years of marriage and absolutely nothing will bother them!, well at 85 things better slow down!)
Those of us who have seen it all and who witnessed the struggle for independence and who saw the formation of the “State of Eritrea” in 1993 are asking questions and wondering about the outcome of the struggle. The core Eritrean question has become, what did Eritreans gain out of the huge sacrifices of the past?
A. Romance stage
Thanks to tenacious fighters who went through life against the mind boggling odds and struggle in the field, and many who survived the war were able to march in the streets of Asmara with great jubilation and nostalgia in 1991. The people, who also paid their dues in the struggle, were also ululating with joy and dancing like there was no tomorrow as they welcomed the then heroes. This was our Romance stage.
B. Reality Stage
The romance stage did not last too long and the Eritrean people were not naïve about the next stage of Reality. Eritreans accepted that they have to rebuild their country practically from the grounds up. The infrastructure was ruined, the school system was rigged by the government of Menghistu Hailemariam and his ideology, and people were poor and the list goes on. The Eritrean people fully aware of this Reality, they decided to cooperate with the government and started making sacrifices that almost could be matched with the 30-years struggle. As they started constructing their country in 1991, the government was also working on drafting the path to a free and democratic Eritrea. The constitution was formed and was even ratified in May of 1997. Free creative magazines and a number of newspapers began to spring up. People were still poor but were determined and happy.
C. Rejection Stage
When the constitution was ignored by PFDJ and President Issayas Afwerke, and when the freedom of expression was denied and those who expressed themselves were jailed without any charges, and when the youth who were told to serve for two years were told to serve indefinably, and when people at large (religious, merchants and any organized group) were labeled as enemy agents or selfish or untrustworthy, etc…. the Eritrean people knew they were betrayed. They found out that they were lied to, and they saw the hope that they accumulated in the Reality stage disappearing like a vapor. They were Rejected as citizens and betrayed just like the former colonizers even worse. What made it worse was, when the outsiders betrayed Eritreans they were determined to fight back, but when their “own” betrayed them the spirits were broken. They know full well, if an uprising was to start it would be death and destruction of their own brothers and sisters. This became the quandary that froze everyone and instead began to ask questions in confusion. Mr. Fetsum Abraham from his book, “THE CURSE OF BEING, AND LIVING IT” asks a lot of questions that many of us are asking. Let me give you direct quotes from this book:
“I consider the global motivation behind the Eritrean struggle was justified, but based on its results, I could not help asking, what went wrong? Was it about territorial liberation , emancipation from all forms of oppression, or both? Was changing Eritrea structurally, transforming the conditions of its people, both or none of the above? Was it about proving the point whatever the point may be by defying international order from the grounds of obstinacy, machismos and denial at the expense of the people or peaceful coexistence? Liberation being the process and liberty the essence, what does the liberation of Eritrea signify to Eritreans in the absence of a constitution, participation in the process, freedom of expression and a neutral justice system? ....Considering that it takes eighteen years for an infant to manage a college education and about twenty years for a child to grow into adulthood, how many years of experimentation should it take for a new nation to show the light after darkness?”
The author of this book has brought so many questions that so many wondering Eritreans and friends of Eritrea ask. In a way the answers are hidden within his questions. Human beings are born with certain God given rights. One of them being the spirit of free will. And another could be curiosity or the quest for learning.
When anybody begins to play with this God given freedom we automatically rebel, unless of course you are willing to sell your freedom for property, power or it gets taken away from you by force.
You see, freedom starts within you. No husband or wife should deny the freedom of each other or their children, for they risk becoming low self esteemed and unproductive part of the society. A neighborhood or a school should not be dominated by a gangster otherwise, you risk lawlessness and insecurity in your immediate environment. Religious leaders should not use their authority to convince people to obey an unjust government and become an instrument of a rebellious and criminal party; and the risk becomes the loss of morality and can end up producing undetermined "believers" who can't make a stand for their faith. In the same way, a country should not be run by intimidation, complete control and militaristic dictatorship. The risk is rebellion and destruction of the country. There is no country in the world that has developed by military dictatorship. However, there are many dozen countries who have developed or are on the road to development by simply letting the people run the country. Democracy and freedom are proven to work.
Humans are also born with a curiosity factor. From the day we are born to the day we depart from this world the quest for learning resides within us. The basic essence of learning is to question everything. In fact to be a scientist you have to question everything. Those of you who have the joy of raising children have witnessed how children learn. They question everything. How many times have you heard the word "Why" or “What” from children? And yet dictators like Issayas Afwerke and his party have long shut down the quest for learning and creativity, when they deemed asking questions as a threat to their power. Questions like, why should only one person in a country determine the fate of millions of Eritreans? Why can't we have elections in Eritrea? Doesn't Eritrea belong to all Eritreans? In fact not only did they shut down the private medias they also jailed those journalists who were able to communicate and who were able to bring valid questions to the society. The atrocities and crimes of Issayas Afwereke and his followers are mind boggling and the effects of the mental damages will take generations to fix. The Eritrean people in the last fifteen years have asked for their rights, and repeatedly the people have been told that they have no right to ask and many were thrown into dungeons for merely asking questions or expressing their opinions. This is the rejection stage that we have not been able to readjust.
If we combine curiosity with freedom then wonders begin to happen. It was with these combinations that humanity was able to soar to the moon, or find permanent cure for some diseases, or electricity was discovered, or internets, telephones and all the great inventions we use and enjoy were made. All these wonders were made in free countries by free people, not in controlled dictatorial societies.
Rejection happens in societies, but most of the time the subsequent governments fix the wrongs that were done and create better societies. Governments can learn from the mistakes of others and can do better. The classic example is right next to us. When Ethiopians and Eritreans oust Emperor Haile Selassie, the replacement ended up to be the butcher Menghistu Hailemariam. However, once Menghistu was replaced with the current governments (Ethiopia and Eritrea), Ethiopia seems to be paving the road to democracy and development. As for Eritreans we doubled down and relief is yet to come. With President Issayas leadership the light at the end of the tunnel seemed to be turned off permanently. I hope this current struggle for true freedom that is waging around the world brings relief to Eritreans. Meanwhile Eritreans remain at this stage of Rejection.
The people of Eritrea got betrayed non-stop since 1997 and we were not even given a chance for Re-adjustment. The G-13, The G-15 the UN and the Diaspora’s activists and many more were instruments for Re-adjustment. All of the above got ignored and not only ignored but PFDJ and its chairman intensified their criminal behaviors. Moreover, their diplomatic aptitude with the rest of the world could be summed up as childish and inept. This behavior hurt their own administration and the Eritrean people at large. For example, the resentment against Ethiopia and the refusal to improve relations made Assab port desolate. We earn zero dollars from it, and we have zero employment out of it. Socially, many Eritreans who have families in Ethiopia live separated (this is social injustice). (For detailed account on this subject read my article “BREAKING THE VICIOUS CYCLE OF RESENTMENT” on this website). Eritreans were not able and were prohibited to re-adjust. We are stuck at the rejection stage.
In my assessment it is too late now for PFDJ to hit the Re-adjust button or for Eritreans to accept any internal changes. The trust has been lost and too much damage has been done. Internal changes by the ruling party so will require accountability which will probably lead to their demise. Peace loving Eritreans should not give up on the movements they have started, it looks like these movements are the only hope we have out there. I have high hopes on the youth, they seem to get it.
Eritreans will rise up again and will win their respect back. Peace and Freedom for all!