Qaddafi has invited the world to celebrate his longevity in power. Came through an army-organized putsch. He made it his life’s mission to remain the only strongman in the country. Thus the coup d’etat had been transformed overnight into a world-shattering event, a revolution! As any other world-shaking events that have merited the name of revolution, Qaddafi’s coup became a sacrosanct phenomenon. The ‘revolution’ has replaced the state and the state that of the country. And all of the revolution, state, and the country became synonymous with one person, Qaddafi! As of today, a country, a state, and six million humans, have no identity outside of what Qaddafi gives them. If that’s not a dictatorship, then, other known definitions in all of recorded history have yet been devised.
Dictatorship has been in many places. It occurs in times of deep political crisis. As symptom of malaise, a froth on the surface of sickness, and a sign deep political, economic and cultural turmoil. Dictatorship, as historically occurring was always a temporary fix, a band-aid, so to speak, until a remedy can be found. Thus dictatorship in countries with long political traditions, by definition, was always a short-lived event. Only in the post-Colonial formations dictatorship has found a fertile ground, thus becoming the norm and the modus operandi! Was this by accident of history, mere chance, or there’s more to it?
There must be some real structural defects in the architecture of a country, in which, a dictatorship can boast of his longevity in power. In any semi-decent country, a dictator’s fate was sealed from the day he took over, in one of these alternatives: caught, put on trial and imprisoned, killed in the fracas, or if he’s lucky enough escapes or driven over the border. Therefore, after 40-years of dictatorship, neither the dictator and much less the country, have anything to celebrate, to boast about. Rather the anniversary of the occurrence must be a sad day since the crisis still persists. Both the country and the dictator are in need to face sone hard questions: what did it go wrong that it took forty years and still no hope of finding out what caused it and much less its remedy?
Libya politically was no different from the New World when the first Europeans landed on its shores, mere wilderness. Qaddafi, without pre-existing tradition, had improvised his 40 years of peregrinations into the political wilderness of Libya. In this long and sometimes arduous trek, he’s one thing and one thing only in mind: how to secure the ‘Revolution’ and thus keep his grip on power. In that he succeeded beyond his and everybody else’s wildest imaginations. If today Qaddafi can party his successful stay and toast his regime’s long survival, is because these are the goals close to his heart since luck - or intrigue- had landed him on top of the pyramid.
If Libya were a country with real people, then countries, unlike individuals, mark time, not by recurring occasions, rather by how much they’ve achieved and how closer they’ve come to their ideals. In the civilized portion of the globe, countries commemorate their national occasions by recommitting themselves once again to what had brought their forefathers together to form a nation: the ideals of freedom, fairness and justice, and the goal for better tomorrow, are recurrent themes. In the less developed portion of the world, where only tin-pots dictators abound, national holidays are occasions for artificial pomp, in stark contrast to the grim realities of their everyday life.
Nations are the sum result of their inhabitant’s work and creativity. If they were endowed with energetic people flourish, otherwise slumber or vanish. Their deeds and their stands determine their worth. Though the slog may continue, the work never ends. Their eyes always on history they tread carefully their way(s) even when they embark on occasional bonanzas. Their commemorations are geared as much to remembrance as to recommitting and recharging. Whereas countries with nothing to their names take noise for symphonic melodies. Even the parties they throw on their trivial occasions -as to some military take-overs- are way beyond meager resources. The put-on occasions, by the help of hired PR’s, were turned into fake merry-makings. These parties have some garbled massages to convey: despite our size, our poverty, and our frayed tribal make up, we’re here to be reckoned with!
As suits any megalomaniac, Qaddafi from the get-go has never shied away from celebrating his take-over as a history shuttering event. The anniversary was instituted as the National Day and raised, by some Arabian magic, to the level of a true and genuine revolutionary happening: the ultimate and final liberation from everybody and everything! Never mind that Libya, a land of such modest beginnings and scarce achievements could never have been able to make such qualitative leap, in long a stretch of years, to become the lighting rod to itself and for the rest of the world. It’s never occurred to Qaddafi that his land, a land where a coup could be transformed overnight into a revolution and its day of occurrence into a national day evidently must have been oblivious to what revolutions were all about. Beyond Libyans’ imagination’s grasp, not to say a far-fetched attempt, to ask a country that lacks a sense of history to get in the habit of remembering and commemorating. Eccentrics apart, Qaddafi is as much an embodiment of Libya’s antiquated culture as to its morbid negligence. The ‘Desert Box’ he took over was mired in its millennial slumber, where his outmoded beduin habits as normally as the sands that cover most of its land. Libya, a land scarred by as much poverty as by lack of civilization, 40-years ago had very little likelihood to sow the seeds, and much less to germinate them, that would have ended its slumber. History, Nature, or chance, have all collaborated (conspired) to shove a low-ranking soldier to lead the charge; and the trudge still goes on!
40-years is perhaps a flash in the life of a country, but a good stretch in the lives of the people inhabiting it. The only tangible results of 4-decades of brutal exercise of arbitrary power, are Qaddafi’s ubiquitous flamboyant mugs scarring the monotonous landscape. The Jamahiri system seems to have reduced people to no more than Pavlovian creatures: caught between fear and reward. Beyond and above the spins of its unrelenting propaganda, one fact strikes in the face of all those lies, that’s, life in Libya is still as always was "nasty, brutish, and short!" Though, people have no other recourse from the self-serving drivel, they’ve done very little to avoid falling into the zombie category. Thus people have become what the regime has always wished to be: indifferent to anything but themselves. They’ve bought head over heels into their own saying: Save my head and cut the rest!
The regime’s 40-years of roaming in the wilderness have produced the same stray and lost people as much as they were there when the coup d’etaters had carried their plot to fruition. Amid the plight and despite all its failures the regime has invited the world to come and celebrate. All states and performers, costs covered, are invited to bring their wares so the place may finally come to life, at least for a day or a week. What about the other days and weeks? Life will return to its routine under a dictator who knows no boundaries to his wasteful spending. From the late 60's to today, many empires had fallen, others came about, but Libya still persisting in being what it always has been, a non-entity. Still a country unable to make to diddle, much less fix a road! (This road which has been around since time immemorial, from the Carthaginian and Roman empires on, is still waiting for the Italians, once again to enlarge it and fix it. Libyans have yet to learn, beside buying cars, how to fix where these cars have to drive on!). It’s to peddle the worst part of its modern history for few petty dollars and fixing of a highway which these same Italians have worked on intermittently since occupied the country. What then Qaddafi has to celebrate for. Cleaning up the mess with the West, which he idiotically had created? By any standards and measurements, Qaddafi’s long rule in addition to having been, a nightmare was also a total flop. Even by the usual 3-world laundry list of achievements - education, housing, health, etc.- his regime’s record to-date is abysmal. What then remains, beyond mere survival and longevity of the regime? Qaddafi and his regime are still the beginning and end of all successes. Anything else is secondary.
How then to look and deal with such a regime? The regime has made a full circle. It started on the left today is cozying up with the flaky and most reactionaries of this world. Therefore, to expect this regime to change and reform itself is tantamount to expect miracles to happen. Qaddafi is beyond the age of reform. He’s in the age of thinking how to pass the power on and thus establish a dynasty.