In Solidarity With the Forces of Good
(Part 17 of 24)
By Yonas Araya
(First Published on Asmarino.com in June 2002)
Freedom of the Press:
Western Civilization, which has become the envy of the rest of the world, owes its success to a single magic trick: freedom of the press. Its social, economic, technological, educational, and scientific developments all owe their success to the freedom of the press and expression exercised by their people. The press monitors the respect for human rights and checks and balances among the branches of the government. The free media constantly monitors corruption and discrimination. The press monitors price fixing. The free press scrutinizes scandals among government officials. The press is the highest independent guardian and the monitor of the system. It can be construed then that if the free media were removed from the system, the Western system would become one big mess and collapse overnight.
This magic of the free press has worked well and produced wonders in some countries for hundreds of years. You cannot reinvent the wheel regarding this law, and it does not take years to study it, nor does it even take weeks. It’s simple and plain.
Again, it does not take five years to study the law or nine years to adopt it fully. Well, that is how long it took the PFDJ to review the press law and briefly but fully embrace it in 2000. The PFDJ took the implementation of freedom of the press through twists and turns until it “ratified” the law in 1997 and adopted it fully in 2000, and even then, only when the UN soldiers arrived in Eritrea. The excuses by the PFDJ include we do not have enough papers; it needs to be studied, drafted, ratified, and so forth.
The Effect of the Press in the Old USSR and the USA During the Cold War
The mightiest US weapon that eradicated the Soviet Empire from the face of this earth was not made of military armaments but of people who were allowed to express their concerns and thoughts freely. By allowing its people to print their views on various pro- and anti-government papers and voice their opinions freely, whether about internal or external matters, the US blessed its policymakers with abundant information; thus, US leaders and policymakers had the luxury to pick and choose from the large pool of information, including pieces of advice on how to eradicate the Soviet Empire.
To this day, US politicians, policymakers, and government advisers get plenty of ideas that help them shape the country’s policies from ordinary citizens. They listen to and read every comment presented by ordinary citizens, regardless of how long the citizens lived in the country or how long they have been the citizens of the country and irrespective of how apocalyptic, dangerous, or silly their ideas may sound, and regardless of whether the comments are from professional, or amateur analysts, from critical thinkers, or comedians. The principle of the system is simple: always open your ears and eyes; you never know where the best idea will come from. The best idea might come from the least recognized source. Thus, in the US, the best ideas initiate at the public level, then flow to the state, and then the state uses the information to formulate the policies to govern the nation.
On the other hand, the USSR took a different course. By restricting the political, economic, and military analysis of the nation to selected journalists and analysts of chosen mediums such as Pravda and TASS, spies of the system, determined and diehard card-carrying party members, and commissars who always swore to color the system a rosy picture, and to individuals who always congratulated it on the “job well done,” it denied itself the liberty to tap into the creative minds of its ordinary citizens.
Over the years, the leaders of the Empire silenced, condemned, or sidelined all creative citizens as bearers of bad news. Its leaders deceived themselves, yet felt good about it for a while by feeding on favorable information from intellectually dishonest members of the society, the card-carrying party members. The communist leaders preferred lies that made them feel good about themselves, even temporarily, to critical analyses based on reality.
Worse, the system inundated its citizens with lies about its accomplishments, with statistics that no one could independently verify to the point that none of its citizens had remotely anticipated that the system would collapse overnight.
Yes, the USSR would have been vital and alive today if it had left the public to express their thoughts freely. It could have learned a great deal from independent thinkers of the society who would tell it the truth as they saw it; thereby, it could have devised policies based on realities.
What’s infuriating now is that the diehard PFDJ has chosen to go through the tried-and-failed system of government. By restricting the source of information to government fans and neurotic card-carrying party members, individuals who will inform it, and the public that everything is OK, it is deceiving itself into believing its own lies. In this kind of system, where the government has no way of reading into its people’s thoughts, the government gets terrified. It depends on hired spies and cadres who feed it with skewed information, which in effect, causes it to take even more erroneous routes.
By intimidating anyone who is opposed to its policy as a traitor and by shutting down the free press that could have shed light on it on what Eritreans really say about it in the privacy of their own homes, it has denied itself the wisdom and the information to formulate pragmatic policies, instead, the PFDJ has chosen to march into its death spiral.
A Closet Communist
Issayas is anything but a democrat, and if communism were to return from death today, he would be the first leader to welcome it. He has a one-party system; he has card-carrying party members and political and military commissars; he wails empty slogans like Awet nHfash, day in, day out; he has expansive security apparatus that constantly does surveillance and eavesdropping on the public; he has built many prisons and prison camps; he controls every inch of Eritrean land; his Party controls the entire economy of the country; the card-carrying members of his Party benefit from the system most not because they are industrious and innovative, but because they have the privilege; he has a large military machine; he keeps his people misinformed and disinformed; he controls the media fully; he has systematically obliterated religions and cultures of thousands of years. For all practical purposes, he has established a communism-ready system. If the Soviet Union and its communist system were to return from death today, for Issayas, it would just be plug and play, and voila! You have a full-fledged communist state in just five minutes.
Issayas Afeworki is happy with his system, and his only complaint is that his system suffers from loneliness. He has no tutelage or guardianship like the old Soviet Empire and other communist dictators to keep him company. Had he come to power during the heydays of communism, he would not have had to change anything; instead, he would have been congratulated and kissed on the chick and called progressive by his comrades, other communist dictators.
For many years, while he was in the field, Issayas was engaged in a lofty fantasy about creating a communist nation where there is room only for one Party; where the system would handpick card-carrying members of the Party for their loyalist behaviors; and where the boss of the nation can detain and execute anyone who even dares to look at him, and where he and his company (his Party) control every aspect of the country, including the entire wealth, culture, and mindset of the people; and where the leader would happily rule the nation until he dies; and where after he dies, he would be replaced by another party member who would cover-up all the crimes of his predecessors, and commit even more crimes.
But unfortunately for Issayas, communism died before giving him a taste. Communism became unpopular by the late Seventies, and he recognized it. By the late 1980s, Issayas attempted to sell himself to the West by appearing as a pro-multiparty system. Therefore, after the independence of Eritrea, he convinced himself that if he placed dried-out leaves on his flag and changed his title from the General Secretary to president and the branch of his government from the politburo to executive committee while leaving all the Communistic fabric intact in the system, no one would suspect that he had a yearning for communism. (Issayas was never a Marxist, but he was a Maoist for a brief period; nonetheless, he adored the one-person rule and power structure of communism.)
Furthermore, he convinced himself that if he could build an economically prosperous nation while still keeping all the Communistic schemas intact, Eritreans would be happy with it. But to prove his point that kind of system was plausible, he searched for an economically prosperous nation with somewhat that appeared to have a monolithic central government, and he found one, Singapore.
But he failed to recognize that Eritreans had died for liberty and not merely for economic prosperity. Eritreans always longed for liberty at the individual and communal levels. Moreover, Issayas refused to contemplate that no people in this world in their right minds would fight for 30 years and die by thousands merely for economic prosperity but for liberty. Economic prosperity is not worth tens of thousands of lives, but liberty is. Nonetheless, Issayas has realized that he cannot apply the Singapore-style system of government to Eritrea because Singapore:
- Has an open market economic system;
- Has checks and balances among its branches of government. (although on the surface, it appears to be rigid.)
- Has a multi-party system;
- Has businessmen-like and farseeing leaders;
- Has generally respected the human rights of its citizens, although there were problems in some areas;
- Has not been a militaristic state.
Tapping into the Minds of Citizens
Governments and people are analogous to the air current and the birds that glide through the sky: the air currents in the sky are dangerous only if the birds and airplanes choose to fight them, but when they choose to obey the rules of the winds, the currents, in effect, obey the birds and the planes like a faithful servant, and carry them smoothly above the ground and through the sky.
Governments that obey the fundamental natural law of society enjoy political and economic stability. On the other hand, governments that fail to observe the natural law plunge their nations into poverty and provoke a revolution from their people.
Leaders who deny the natural law look for an alternate method to quell the ever-freedom-seeking mind of human nature. They police the thoughts of their people and regiment the public to emulate them, and the result has been nations full of clones of the inferior prototypes of their leaders.
Citizens should be allowed to freely express what is in or on their minds without being harassed by government officials if the people are to grow mentally and if the nation is going to remain politically and economically stable because the more the people know, the more the people will outsmart their governments. The more the people outsmart their governments, the more their governments will learn from their people, provided the governments and their leaders are open to learning.
Again, citizens should be allowed to surpass their leaders in their knowledge if the nation is to compete in the global economy. Otherwise, if the government is going to restrict the mental growth of its people, then the people can only be as smart, or worse, as dumb as their leaders.
There should not be a law against freethinking, whether or not the thinking appears to be to the leadership as right or wrong. Once the leadership starts gauging the thinking of its citizens, there are chances that the leadership can sometimes identify inappropriate or unfit thoughts. Still, it can also mean that it always cannot have the capacity to judge the ideas correctly or will miss out on marvelous ideas.
If leaders had always been in the business of approving what one should or should not think about, Civilization would not be in its present stage now. Some leaders could not have understood all the preludes to Civilization even if they lived for hundreds of years. Civilization is in its current state only because those who dared to think did so without the approval of their leaders, but also, once in a while, the world produced leaders who did not mind being challenged.
Governments can always ignore ideas they cannot understand or approve of without suppressing their citizens.
>>> Part 18 of 24
Part 18 will discuss the successor of Issayas, Issayas Afeworki vs. George Washington, and the American Revolution vs. the Eritrean Revolution.