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Lie: In relation to most nations, Eritrea is relatively small. 

Truth: According to the CIA Factbook, Eritrea is the 101st largest country in the world, making it larger than about 60% of all countries on the planet. Eritrea’s area is larger than that of Israel, South Korea, Austria and Denmark. However, unlike these nations, Eritrea is often called “tiny” in a high proportion of articles written about it. Additionally, as the quotes above illustrate, the tiny label is never found in a vacuum and is always accompanied by other negative misrepresentations (e.g. “Eritrea’s not known for much except good coffee”). With these headlines and articles, one often gets an Orientalist portrayal that brands Eritrea as a distant, irrelevant country that is perhaps only worthy of pity. Upon further reflection, it may be the case that the repetitive nature of the “tiny” and “small” label could possibly be the result of mere tradition or conditioning: new journalists may unknowingly write what older or more influential journalists on Eritrea wrote before them. Another explanation could be that editors are intentionally adding the label for reasons unknown to the public. Even worse, the journalists themselves may be intentionally portraying Eritrea as small for their own purposes or for those of their backers. Jeffrey Gettleman of the world’s most influential newspaper, the NYT, may be guilty of the latter reason. He has four size-reducing quotes alone, with many more likely in circulation. His portrayals of Eritrea are often bleak and sensational. Whatever the reasons for the tiny label, the end result is still the same: an erosion of Eritrean citizens’ national dignity and the perpetuation of falsehoods about Eritrea. The reasons for this conclusion require further inquiry. 

The tiny label’s negative psychological effects on citizens is somewhat insidious and hard to detect. Perhaps an analogy would help more clearly illustrate the effects of the label. Consider a person of short stature. With the exception of occasional jokes and terms of endearment, it is reasonable to believe that no confident person of small stature is willing to accept or refer to themselves as “small” or “tiny” even in spite of the fact that they are small. It’s a simple matter of dignity and self-worth and to accept the “tiny” label is a mark of insecurity or that of a mind consumed by comparison with others. Likewise, dignified and self-respecting citizen’s don’t intentionally call or accept their nation as tiny. Moreover, they don’t let others define their country and step over them by using belittling labels, regardless of truth of that label. It’s even harder to imagine such a dignified citizenry allowing a known lie or misrepresentation to define them, as seen with the tiny meme. Additionally, the repetitive labeling of Eritrea as “tiny” is a subtle attack on the collective national morale of Eritrean citizens. If Napoleon was in fact right that three-fourths of all war depends on morale, then Eritrea, which remains entangled in a morale-draining and unjust protracted war with its neighbor, remains at risk of reversing its hard earned sovereignty. The sense of nationalism that instills in all Eritreans a sense of pride that empowers citizens to contribute to national progress will also be under threat. Without this nationalism comes the reversal of national sovereignty and the eventual death of the Eritrean state. All that was earned through sacrifice would be lost forever. Therefore, Eritreans cannot afford to take lightly the unrelenting and unchecked portrayals of their country as just another “small,” “tiny,” “sliver of a nation” in spite of how harmless the attempts may appear. If anything, each of these false portrayals should serve as yet another reminder to Eritrean citizens around the world to intensify national resistance in defense of their motherland. This spirit of resistance enabled the birth of Eritrea in an unaccepting world and this same spirit of resistance ensures Eritrea’s survival in the same unaccepting world. Nothing has changed but the details. Therefore, Eritreans must thwart all false portrayals of their country.


JUL. 1 2013






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