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Social Trust: Eritrea’s Greatest Capital

By :- Simon Weldemichael

Trust is the bedrock of all the relations, transactions and ac­tions of the Eritrean society. It is what allows Eritreans to believe in the reliability of their neigh­bors, colleagues, friends and as­sociates. Cooperation, which is common among Eritreans, is pos­sible greatly because of the exis­tence of high level of trust among Eritreans. Genuine and innocent support is easy to find in Eritrea, which is not as easy to find in other places.

On the way to Denden Camp (a place where war veterans with disability live), a visually impaired man who has also lost his limbs sits on a wheelchair by the roadside sell­ing small items for a living. I used to buy newspaper from him. You have to pick up the item you want and then pay. Two things come to my mind, which I think, are worth entertaining. The per­sonal courage of the man to stand against the physical disability makes him a gentleman. More than that, the trust he placed on the society is equally amazing. The man displayed his stuff on the ground without having any control mechanism. One can get a great lesson from this seeming­ly simple phenomenon that trust is reciprocal. If you trust others they will trust you even more.

It is common to see in the city buses of Asmara people enter­ing through the front door send money to the cashier standing by the back door. The money goes from one person to another until it reaches the cashier. You don’t worry about whether the money is to reach the cashier if you have trust in the people you give your money.

In Eritrea, many business trans­actions are made and important social contracts entered based on trust alone. This happens because of the confidence that others will do what is right based on the trust placed in them.

Honesty is one of the most es­sential characters in the Eritrean society. Trustworthiness is above everything. When I was grow­ing up, as the oldest of seven children, my parents did a lot to teach me the sanctity of trust. I owe them a great deal of grati­tude for making trust part of me. ‘You shall not harm others and you shall not covet anything of others’ is perhaps the most com­mon lesson by Eritrean parents to their children. Trust as a shared property is a defining feature of the Eritrean society.

A good family is the bedrock of a strong country. The strength and character of the nation depends on the strength of its families. By looking at the nature of the fam­ily one can tell the values upheld by the country. The foundation of social trust is family. Trust is the core of social capital and one of the key resources that keeps the Eritrean society moving. The high level of social trust is one of the factors that promotes inclu­siveness and openness within the society. The Eritrean society may not have a lot of property to brag about but it enjoys comparatively higher levels of societal hap­piness and a general feeling of well-being. In this sense, social trust complements the material insufficiency.

Human beings are social crea­tures, and social trust is the un­derlying foundation of relation­ships among individuals and groups of human beings. Without trust in others’ actions, we human beings could not build the foun­dation of community and society. Trust is the foundation of Eritrea as a nation. It acts like a glue that connects people with one another.

Eritrea is an island of peace in a volatile region. The social trust among the people has a lion’s share in creating a peaceful en­vironment. Harming others is not common in the Eritrean society. Trust makes it possible to main­tain peaceful and stable social relations. Trust inspires empa­thy, reciprocity, solidarity, and fraternity. Cooperation solidifies the connection among citizens, enhances stability and unity and allows other values to flourish. Cooperation is the most cher­ished national and cultural tradi­tion of Eritrea. The survival and continuation of Eritrea is entirely dependent on harmony and coop­eration.

Trust plays a central role in the Eritrean society, and it is the most powerful force that governs the interaction among the society and society-state relations. The Eritrean society living in Eritrea and in other countries is known for its abundant social capital accumulated by the wise invest­ment of successive generations. Trust is by far the main compo­nent of Eritrea’s social capital that is a necessary condition for social harmony and stability. The main reason for the existence and continuity of Eritrea in the face of hostilities, including military ag­gression, political collusion and economic sanctions, is the soci­etal relations and interactions. Trust is a precious commodity and an indispensable public good necessary for the unity, stability and prosperity of the society.

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