Any regular Western visitor to the developing world will be familiar with that awkward moment when a local resident raises, with a passion and level of forensic detail that reveals this sis still an open wounds some injustice perpetrated long ago by the colonial master. Baffled, the traveller registers that the forgotten massacre or broken treaty, which he has only just discovered, is the keystone on which an entire community’s identity has been built. ‘Gosh, why are they still harping on about that?’ he thinks. ‘Why can’t they just move on? We have.’ It is a version of the ‘Why do they hate us so?” question a shocked America asked in the wake of September 11. Eritrea’s story provides part of the answer to that query. It is very easy to be generous with your forgiving and forgetting, when you are the one in need of forgiveness. A sense of wounded righteousness keeps the memory sharp. Societies that know they have suffered a great wrong have a disconcerting habit of nursing their grievances, keeping them keen through the decades.
Even if, in some cases, those grievances are delusion or lies-not-quite-telling-the-truth.
Wrong, Michela. I Didn’t Do It for You: How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation
. New York: Harper Perennial, 2005.