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Libyan Writer Ghoma
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Saturday, 3 March, 2007

Libya : the Blind Advises the Deaf!

By: Ghoma

        Development, in its ordinary uses, has been equated to growth, that’s any shaking or stirring in one sector or in the overall conditions of a country. A change in one of the indices which a country uses to measure its vital pulses, such as, growth in the GNP, per capita income, employment, improvement in health conditions, decrease of illiteracy, increase in productivity, etc. Thus a country that could attract some investments which effectuate some relative movement in the economy would be considered and judged as making progress and growing. Many so-called developing countries, given their relative backwardness and stagnating economies, and thereof the absence of any meaningful movement in the productive sectors wouldn’t need much to realize some growth and change. But growth without direction is like a ship without a compass. In the best case scenarios, however, in the absence of an overriding framework and coordinated effort to direct the processes of development, abject poverty and relative prosperity will exacerbate social tensions and preclude the social and cultural transformations needed for a qualitative leap.

        Though many countries historically had not opted for the radical measures and what they entailed of upheavals to their social-political and cultural make-ups - perhaps also to avoid the painful experience and tortuous paths that have inevitably to be endured- instead the majority of societies appear to opt for a slow and incremental change in the hope this will, one day, lead to a critical and qualitative jump. Such a process of development is not what is meant in this analysis. What’s meant here is rather a far sweeping and broader definitions to what development is: A new beginning, a wiping of the slate clean as modern conditions require and demand. A willful and sudden break with the established order of things. A new way(s) of seeing and doing things. A leap of faith into the future. It’s a fundamental stand towards history, a radical change in outlook, and a directed collective will toward a far reaching objectives and goals. As for instance when a society decides to repudiate its past, to free its culture, and to build a different future. A future based on individuals as autonomous and free-acting agents capable of making their own choices and thus deciding their own destinies. A society that believes in education, works relentlessly to raise its intellectual levels, seeks new knowledge, and lets ideas circulate. The result would be a society that has taken upon itself to be rational, to industrialize, to improve life, and to stand tall in this world. Without such a conception that would frame the processes of development and be their guide and northstar toward the preestablished goals, any effort then become mere piecemeal patchwork to perhaps stem some deficits, cover some lacunae, repair some damages, but not build a different society and never get to the promised land.

        To the disappointment of many and contrary to the common belief development is almost never about solving contingent problems. Development, in its essence, is not about making of a 5-year or even a 10-year plans to jack up this sector or to tackle with that problem, but rather consists of a total break and a complete transformation. Real development is made out of an historical yearning of millennial dreams of an envisioned future. As V.. Hugo wrote, "... there is nothing like dream to create the future. Utopia today, flesh and blood tomorrow." The aim of development is to build bridges toward that distant horizan yet reachable vision.

        Envisioning a future! is as fundamental to governments as to big businesses, to plan for the future. There’re departments specializing on how to approach the future, how to dream about it, and how to project present trends into full blown models and realizations. The future, indeed, in recent years has become a cottage industry in many fields and to many specialists in the developed world. It’s true most of the future consists of linear projections, with some adjustments, as the refining tools would permit, to what’s in the offing today. These countries who conducted such research, have already reached a stage where constant change and adaptation are the norm rather than the exception. From time to time the cumulative changes would reach a critical point, an eruption or as Thomas Kuhn has called a paradigm shift, to almost break completely with the past and started afresh, as in the first industrial revolution (mechanization), the second industrial revolution (assembly line and mass production) and the recently ushered, post-industrial (knowledge based, IT’s) economy, ...

        Only in the 3rd -World, and because of its slumber, in the undeveloped world where no one seems to care about what would happen tomorrow. The present, in these societies, is so bleak they have no time to think beyond surviving the moment. The masses, in the absence of an awareness about the future and its demands went berserk, increasing and multiplying, when in fact ought to be cutting its loses and shrinking its size proportionately to its allotted share of natural or human-made resources. However, the less a society is developed, the less its citizens are aware of what comes next and where they’re heading; the more difficult the pitch about the future and its demands. One of those paradoxical dilemmas where as they say, the problem of the beginning becomes the beginning of the problem!

        This brings us to the tragic case of a country like Libya! After close to 60 years of "independence" (nominal political independence undermined further by dependent economy) and after about 50 years of exporting oil, it’s still at square one as far as development and the future are concerned. [Actually less than square one since the country’s fell victim to the illusions of high expectation matched with illiterates or half-educated voracious consumers!]. After 38 years of "plowing in the sea" it’s now asking right and left what to do. The Jamahiriya’s delusions have been broken on the rock of reality. After it’s reached an impasse, it’s now in the reverse gear marching to the future backward! The confusion is so plain clear when it’s asked a market competition expert to tell her what to do with its non-marketable atrophieted mess, politely called still an economy. In an oil-dependent chaos, with no other productive sectors to mention, no existing economic entities, what’s the meaning of competition and what competitive advantages are there to exploit? Who’s to compete with whom? Beside Seif with his sibling to prove to his dad that he’s worthy of the crown? [ History has hang up in the area, all over again Muawiya and Yazid with no Shiat’s Ali and Hussein in view]. Even if we assume there’s a genuine meeting between the motives of power and the motives of business in Libya - a far fetched hypothesis- way before asking the experts there must be a house cleaning and some homework to be done in order to create an environment receptive to such a scheme. In the absence of such an environment, what Libya needs is less of the advise of experts and technocrats and more of its own advise. A pondering and deep thinking of whether the country is ready to commit itself a serious and hard path. That’s to make up its mind, once and for good, about what it wants to be and where it envisions its future, 50, 100 years from now. If the answer is to be a small country of 3 to 5 million people with highly educated and skillful people, and in the ranks of the highest per capita income then the question becomes how we get there. If Libya is ready to do whatever it takes to develop and industrialize then it’s to abandon its traditional ethos and habits and to start all over again on a new road.

        A passive, submissive, and religious society will never have room for free and creative individuals, the backbone of any meaningful development. A tradition bound and superstitious society will never be rational enough for the inquiring minds a developing country needs to depend on. Thus if these premises, as historically constituted and proven to be true, are accepted then what’s needed become less murky and more foreseeable, though not more approachable without hard work! Is it feasible/ absolutely. Is it doable? Not in the present circumstances! With a semi-literate, if not functionally-illiterate, dictator, there’s no chance that he can, after all the botched efforts in the last 38-years of his power-grabbing to reform himself. A 60+ year dictator that has brought the country to a complete standstill is undoubtedly beyond sloughing his habits, changing his stripes to become some true enlightened leader and statesman. With these in mind, what remains only warnings to those who’re engaged in propping-up the despot by giving some respite to his crumpling fiefdom to remember that privatizing this sector, opening that area, or inviting some investors, etc. is no more than trying to brush up on a dilapidated building to look nice from the outside while ignoring the overall and inside problems. So be advised, though the commission may be attractive and the fees are generous, tyranny is still the same across both geography and time, is one and indivisible, from Hitler’s Germany, to USSR’s Stalin, to Uganda’s Amen, to Libya’s Qaddafi, each in a different place, with his own name, and in a specific time but all have few things in common: megalomanic narcissism, disparagement of the people, and disregard of human dignity, ... ! If these don’t prick your conscience to assess your stands and actions, then knowing the fact that the days of any tyrant are numbered. will perhaps jog your brain and bring back to reality: dirt is the same by any name! So, it behooves all and sundry, to act in a conscientious and responsible manner in view of the political mess and the structural and otherwise deficits in Libya, to remember that any effort to fix a leak, to repair a gear, or to reposition a part, are no more than rearranging the proverbial chairs on the titanic. Such a work will be viewed historically no more than a ruthless exploitation of a bowed and humbled dictator. And the actors of the deeds, no more than, a collection of vultures and shysters, a bunch of carpetbaggers who deluded themselves of doing good, by salvaging the salvable! while the ship was sinking. If anyone crazy enough or unconscientious enough, to want to offer an advise, let him/her tell the despot his time is up, he’s already caused enough damage to last for generations and which cannot be fixed while he’s bossing the crew that brought the damages, it’s time to move on, his presence and change and development are irreconcilable contradictions. If these were Libyans, telling truth to power; if they were foreigners, making their fees worthwhile.


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