Of Dreams and Death

By Ararat Iyob

A joke regarding dreams goes as follows. Sometime, after independence, around a fireplace at a gathering with fighters and civilians, an old man sighs and says, “During the time of the Italians, we used to dream of having our own country instead we had the Ethiopians”. His audience is now interested, and one of the fighters says, “please continue father” The old man then says, “During the time of the English, we used to dream of having our own country, instead, we had the Federation with Ethiopia”, and “During the time of the Ethiopians, we used to dream of having our own country.” He is then quiet. One of the former fighters asks him, “Father, what about now? During the time of your own countrymen/women, what do you dream of?” The old man, answers, “My son, how can we dream when we cannot even sleep.”


“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” stated C.S. Lewis. What if the past dream has not been realized? Or actually one cannot dream because the dream has become a nightmare. A way out, maybe, just maybe is one can re-dream. Make a new dream and visualize what would life be like in 50 years or so. Just for a minute, forget the whys, and hows. Just think what would be life like in a place under the rule of law, peaceful, and one is able to enjoy nature’s gifts such as the beaches of the Red Sea, the cool mountains, and small rivers that adorn this jewel under the blue sky. Famous people changed the world by changing attitudes first, for example, Winston Churchill http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood,_toil,_tears,_and_sweat

and Mahatma Gandhi. Compare the 2% non payment movement with the British imposed salt tax that Ghandi opposed and started a movement challenging its legitimacy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahatma_Gandhi

“As rain falls equally on the just and the unjust, do not burden your heart with judgements but rain your kindness equally on all” said Gautama Buddha. So does the sun shine on all in daytime, and the moon peeps through clouds at night. One walks under the same sky with millions of others on this earth. Ideas are the same in as much they follow this natural tendency to be available to all in nature.  One does not need to have meetings; signatures on coalitions or unifications to follow an idea which has truth embedded it. For example, the human endeavor to live life to its full potential, to be in control, to be special, etc. It is when the ideas have taken root, that togetherness takes place. Look at the history of all religions. It is the same with ideas for change.

Sometimes it is better to be in agreement about ideas instead of organizations. The organizations can remain as they are, whether successful or in stasis. In relating to people, when one speaks the same “language”, then one has the upper hand in the changing world. It is said that human beings use 80% of decisions based upon emotions. Look back into some of the most exasperating decisions taken by people and you will notice that only upon an emotional wagon is this possible. See how this phenomenon works next time one needs a call to stage an event or a meeting. It is this that marks the results of the day.

“The argument for liberty is not an argument against organization, which is one of the most powerful tools human reason can employ, but an argument against all exclusive, privileged, monopolistic organization, against the use of coercion to prevent others from doing better.” stated Friedrich Hayek, the author of Road to Serfdom.

Why is it that we wonder that dictatorships put a lot of time in preventing people from “doing better”? It is in the nature of tyrannical regimes to prevent its citizens from enjoying their choice of organization, religion, friendships, be it idealistic or otherwise. Enjoyment is a precursor to giving value to personal choice of behavior and thus an anti thesis of what a dictatorship is willing to permit.

The Blue Terror versus the Blue Peace

The Blue Terror that has been unleashed on citizens of this small nation has had no precedence. It cannot be compared to the short lived (in comparison to present day situation  http://www.denverpost.com/ci_23645064/red-terror-killed-thousands in Ethiopia including Eritrea which was the 13th province under the Military Regime). Enough has been written comparing these two. For nearly fifteen years, and officially, since 2001 when the clampdown on the free press and the imprisonment of high level personalities took place, websites, newspapers, the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations have put out report after report on the continuing tragedy.

This calamity in itself is also a happening. And when this is over, and it will be over, the promise of a free society under the blue sky, the dream of a Blue Peace can be achieved. The challenge is to find out or to believe in a dream of a better future. If the outlook is made larger than the bird’s eye view and a glance thrown at the roads travelled by former nations of communism, it can be safely said that a democratic state is a possibility. Then the most reliant attitude is to hold on to the notion that peace is stronger than cruelty and that in the end righteousness will win the day. Look at how present day Estonia, Latvia, and ironically Georgia, Stalin’s home country, are now listed in the page of democracies. Asmarino’s “kfde eiyu iti Hne….” message should not be forgotten. There is that idea behind the message.

Recently, the great shame felt at the call to dance at Bologna while youngsters are losing their lives in the deserts of the Sinai and the Mediterranean is part of a reality that is getting harder to accept. However, unless a reality has become untenable, there can be no change. Be it a horror to live in or a nightmarish situation in which human lives have become worthless, a change may be preferable but not attainable at the moment. Up to now the Blue Terror (semaiawi Shbr) is on top of every tick and every tock of the land. Beyond the fear, however, is the country of the dream, of hope and happiness.

Resting in peace instead of martyrdom, treating death as part of a natural process

There must be a place to put the remembrance of those who have passed on. It is certain that the situation on the ground is not what thousands of people paid their lives for. We may want to tell these heroes about what happened after they left singing songs of death and martyrdom. We may wish for their understanding if we made changes in the way we treat death. And since this conversation is not possible, we have deal with those living and who continue to hold on to guilt ridden anathema of an explanation to death after 1991. One thing is certain, however, that thousands died hoping that their sacrifice brings others a normal life. Therefore, because of this reason, there is no more place for “martyrdom” in PFDJ held hellhole of a country called Eritrea.

This special “martyrdom” taken from religious persecution and historical anecdotes previously made heroes of men and women who grew up with the idea of dying for a great cause. While Jesus’ disciples live a long life in history, and are remembered for a religion which grew to be one of the biggest momentums of mankind, a small country on the Red Sea was breeding persons who thought it a common choice to run like wind to battles and die like flies at the behest of an ideal home.

Martyrdom being a feeling before making a great sacrifice, the front made sure a culture of dancing while drinking “dumu, dumu” and “sewa” after great battles was kept up mixing bravery and intoxication. Martyrdom is part of religions such as Christianity at its inception. It is said that Christianity was the cause for the fall of the Roman Empire. Reason given, because there was life after death, there was no reason to behave normally for an actual life under a pragmatic Roman rule. Is there a lesson here? Didn’t thousands die because “martyrdom” was acceptable? In this day and age, normal soldiers do not go to war to die. They go to defend their country, its ideals, and mainly to win. Death is only a condition of the status quo and not a “choice”.

According to Wikipedia, a martyr is (Greek: μάρτυς, mártys, "witness"; stem μάρτυρ-, mártyr-) “is somebody who suffers persecution and death for advocating, renouncing, refusing to renounce, and/or refusing to advocate a belief or cause, usually a religious one. Most martyrs are considered holy or are respected by their followers, becoming a symbol of good leadership and heroism.”

The continuation of this phenomenon, these days calling anyone who died on a hospital bed, but who served the regime, “a martyr” is an obstacle to normal behavior and as a side effect to a traditional and cultural renaissance. Although the subject is sensitive, especially from observation on those who never took part in the physical presence of the war of Independence, i.e. “Tegadlo”, it is about time to shelf “martyrdom” to a natural role mentioned above. If anyone questions this belief, let them ask not the ordinary citizens, but former fighters, about what they think of “martyrdom”. There is no other African country that has extended its cultural and traditional demise to the extent of losing its identity and loss of realistic behavior.

“Martyrdom” can be left to those (getting fewer every year) who gave up their entire lives to the struggle for independence and democracy in Eritrea up to 1991.The remainder of the population, however, should be given the peace to rest. In the process, all will be equal and persons in death will be treated normally with obituaries that He/She has been put to rest, with how and why explained. Just like in the English language, Rest in Peace, in Tigrinya is “he rested, / or she rested” (Arifu/Arifa or bmot kabzi Alem tefelyuna/atna).

There are many many things that are holding back change. Death seems to be part of it. Our forefathers knew the rules of death and created different sorts of rules to deal with its ramifications. That is why regions in Eritrea have their own rules put in writing in the 1880s, such as Logo Chua, Adkemke mlGae, etc., pertaining from the smallest events to life for the survivors after the death in the family.

A new beginning already in process

There is a common thread, with two flags of blue and white, separate but meaningful of hope and renewal. The blue for the country under the sky and on the sea, and the white for the washing of past crimes. There will less of a preference for either of the two well known flags, be it dubbed, EPLF or ELF colors. Less of a side taking and more of commonality of color as the blue for the nation will remain true to the nation’s tradition and the separate white on for a new silky beginning with a new generation.

“We must make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage.... Unless we can make the philosophic foundations of a free society once more a living intellectual issue, and its implementation a task which challenges the ingenuity and imagination of our liveliest minds, the prospects of freedom are indeed dark. But if we can regain that belief in the power of ideas which was the mark of liberalism at its best, the battle is not lost.”
― Friedrich Hayek, the author of Road to Serfdom.

“Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous of liberty.” Thomas Jefferson. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/t/thomasjeff157230.html

If “one man with courage is a majority”, then an idea held by an individual is not only feasible but can have hundreds of followers. That is why anyone, any idea that gives hope is first to be opposed by the oppressor. They are quick to mimic logos, repeat words, dress in traditional clothes to control cultural images, and, produce ambiguous articles designed to subvert democratic trends. Those timid men exist to lead these overtures in a process to protect this dictatorship in the name of stability.

As Sir Winston Churchill once said, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” Changing the way we view our neighborhood, our colleagues, our own behavior in the way we meet the future, can be an uplifting road to a bright future. Margaret Mead, the Anthropologist stated, that “it is a small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.“ In the process, we can be the change we deserve or the change we will be despised for. It is a choice that one must make if one is to make a dream a reality.