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Libyan Writer Ghoma
الكاتب الليبي غـومة

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Thursday, 3 May, 2007

NOT EVEN A CASE OF "If You Cannot Beat Them Join Them!"

By: Ghoma

"I don't ask the Foreign Legion
Or anyone to win my freedom
Or to fight may battle batter than I can," Maya Angelou


        Among the oppositions of this world, Arab oppositions, deserve a special place. For, they're fighting dictatorships in their native lands from the countries that have been propping these same regimes for all this time. This alone may have put them in difficult situations, and they may have found themselves sometimes in a vise too, between a rock and hard place, so to speak, but still succeeded to survive by being, at least verbally, chameleons. An apparent dichotomy one might say, if not outright contradiction; and may have contributed to the ambiguities which characterized some of these groups' manifestoes and platforms. However, ambiguities and dichotomies, as tactics, may have been inevitable, and have certainly played their parts in the still continuing saga, but the groups seeming unrootedness, one must surmise, has to do more with the mind-sets in which they've been operating all this time than the tactics or locales by which and from which they're operating. Fact is, these individuals and groups, left into exiles with tons of loads. The carry-on luggage was of the kind that resisted being discarded, even when its utility was no more apparent; and seemed to defy logic of both time and space. These stubborn heirlooms -of memories and nostalgia and a great deal of alienation, all fused with that eternal affliction associated with exiles, wistful and wishful thinking- from their environments as from their times have dealt them bad hands and did them a great deal of harm. The harm consisted mostly in the scenarios they've built, of collections of what was available in the market around them, an eclectic smorgasbord from the lands they were living in or from those they were fighting for. The result, as could be expected, mostly a mumbo-jumbo of utter incongruities: visions and images either stuck in idyllic remote past of undefined contribution and duration, the Islamists, or of an imaginary set-up of a recent past, torn between a melange of what they've left behind and what they've encountered in their exiles, the garden-variety of Independents and the rest. Thus neo-colonial systems, from kingdoms to phony republics, all were designed and put in place by the same powers these self-styled groups sometimes rail against have become mainstays and legacies to be salvaged and defended. In Iraq, the Chalabi's, the Makiyya's, or the Allawi's, have yearned for the pre-Baath set-up (the British installed monarchy), and in Libya's National Front, the Brotherhood, the Monarchists and some of those who call themselves Independents, all seem to yearn for the pre-Qaddafi's arrangement, again a British designed kingdom!

        Thus as thing stood, Iraq's oppositions's historical fiasco, in selling out their country, was not an exception or an aberration but a manifestation of what structural deficiencies of alienations, of the type of tribal and sectarian make-ups and religious culture would lead to. It may also be a consequence of groups's inherent cultural horizons, lack of imagination, and close-net traditional loyalties. An indication of a world in collapse without a new one to replace it! "Things fall apart, the center doesn't hold," in Achebebe Chinua memorable phrase. The levels of alienation and disenfranchisement reached in the wide wretched world of the Arabs, didn't help these groups either and may have pushed some of them into utter despair. Some retarded historical reactions to a period of human history associated with the middle years of the 20th century. The Arabs' seemingly nonchalant blase' was there all the way, even if it's just come out to the fore recently to dominate the scene. Its roots, at least in its political side, go back to perhaps before the '67's disastrous defeat, but certainly by the time Sadat had made his bogus claim, that 99% of the solutions to the so-called Middle East's problem(s) were in the hands of America, and then on spreading like plague to sap the Palestinians' shaky will in their sold-outs in Camp David, Oslo, Madrid, etc. And soon had infected also Lebanon, Jordan, until it finally has reached the far ends of the fractious world, into the deep lands of the weasels of North African states -these latter don't have even the guts to announce their cozy relations with Israel?- and up to the latest of the biggest sold-outs, without much conditions to speak of, of the so-called Arab Summits in Beirut and Riyadh. Except for the Iraqi's oppositions, so far, the other sold-outs were supposedly evenly done by defeated regimes and bankrupted "liberation movements," testimony to shallow roots and very little legitimacy to start with.

        From the frying pan to the fire, so to speak. From the old colonial order to the neo-colonial maelstrom. In a half-century of devolution, the Arab World, has annulled whatever little had gained in the first half of the 20th century. The so-called 'struggle for national liberation' stage was not completed by a 'nation-building' phase. The struggle was stalled by trivial jostlings for power between archaic sectors and unqualified groups until the Army's takeover. The failure -of the national struggle to finish the job -is still a terra-incognita, a fertile ground for debate, what had happened to the forces and groups which had participated in the liberation struggle. Perhaps due to their exhaustion, fatigue, or bankruptcy? However, if speculation, guesses, and pure intuition can lead anywhere, one would venture to say good part of the failure can be traced back to the fact that that struggle was mostly conducted under bizarre banners of non-ideological nature with illiterates and religious fanatics as foot soldiers and leaders. Upon completion, those same groups had inherited the mantle of the state, without having a clue of how to organize it nor how to manage it. Thus they reverted back and continued the practice of what they knew very well: the former colonial state's practices. The police state!

        The police state faced many difficulties and obstacles both internally and externally: from legitimacy to finance and help. It was in need of props from day one, for allies and saviors to call upon when discontent and turmoil knocked on its doors. The former powers and more importantly the new and emerging superpowers were eager to, even before appealed to as guarantors, to step in and hold their stability if not existence. The Soviet Union and the United States with minor roles left to France and G.B. to play in managing what came to be a baneful load on the international order. Given the area's hang up on Religion and its allergies to anything and anyone who's not in synchrony with such feelings, the United States and the West have won the round before the game had even started. The Yankee's affliction seemed to have infected more than the artificially kept alive and propped up -by the former or present colonial and imperialist powers- hackneyed Arab regimes but worse has also metastasized into the weak culture, the meager institutions, and on to the haggard formal and informal body politic of those societies. From the official media to the allowed or banned oppositions, all are singing the same song: Yankee Doodle Dee, come and take me! From the Ocean to the Gulf, people are scrambling around for crumbs to survive on and fussing about banalities, enough to keep them busy and out of any real struggles to improve their lives or liberate their minds as well as their lands - these stoned multitudes are awaiting others to do it for them!

        While it's not unusual for people to go into deep sleep, decadence, and outright despair that sometime would usher them into giving up the fight, it's rare for people to be awaiting for a miracle to work its way and yearn for their foreign tormentors to come and liberate them! Among these latter, traditional and Religious bound societies abound. The Arabs have proved to be no exception! In contrast to South Asia's clear-cut and sharp interruption with the colonial experiences and their relentless efforts in nation-building and social-economic transformations, Arab/Islamic states have been caught in history's rusted gears, in a retrograde battles, of bygone times and modes of existence. Between a religious model and a stripped down modernity! This entangled logic was due in no small part to the dependency in this part of the world that has reached alarming levels. Hence, Arabs, with the same zeal with which they've been disparaging the West are now also awaiting for it to push their agendas and to adopt their causes. Why this phenomenon seems to be peculiar to the Arabs, Iraqis and Libyans included? The answer perhaps lies in the scarcity or lack of, what Antonio Gramsci had contended the source and road to power: ideas. The utter lack of the "organic intellectual," has indeed, caused the dire and horrific shortage of ideas, particularly new ideas, not seen or experienced since the Prophet's days!

        Take, for example, Libyan opposition groups, except for the Islamists with their verbal squirmings and ad hoc logic, the others have had no story line to follow or plot to refer to. No group has the audacity to endeavor a narrative for the country, a story of envisioning what Libya should look like a generation from now. They're acting as if they were regular opposition groups jockeying for power. A bit of this, a bit of that. Democracy + Religious Law! How a country like Libya can institute modern forms of governance without adopting modern thought and way of life, are only few of the questions that opposition groups were not comfortable to answer one way or the other? A country which's been caught in the vises of poverty, dictatorship, and ignorance, needs real alternatives if it's ever going to get out of the jam in which has been roiling since the Stone Age. Despite what some individuals, who after years and years of making noises that have proven useless and rarely came to mean anything, have now seemingly reached an impasse, a blank wall, and thus are ready to throw the towel and to give up to dream -no matter how blurred and confused it was- under the cover of the same noises, and with the pretense of doing all they can for the "national struggle" from wherever they are now! Is this new phase was entered upon because of fatigue, the usual wear and tear, or was due to more than that, to a burnt out spirit and sell out attitude? Whichever the answer will be given or whatever the cause advanced the lack of will, guts, and particularly imagination will have prominent positions.

        It all boils down to, Libyan oppositions, through the years, have never represented a real threat to anyone but to themselves. The threat of fading into the sun set slowly by atrophying due to lack of new bloods, new ideas, new techniques. Part of this dilemma resides in the structural flaws built in these, in substance hollowed groups, which were constituted mainly on friendship bases and clannish type relationships rather than on visions, ideologies, and platforms. Other reasons and causes have to do with the petty bourgeois expectations of these individuals and groups, that's, of gaining some chips to bargain with one's way back into the country. However, from the beginning most of these groups had lacked originality of thought, of vision, and/or of strategy and have been mainly scavenging and parroting whatever available on the market, that's, the latest fads which happened to be on the waves. Most of this aping happened to be taken from what the US government and madia were doing and saying, after all the US is the big boy on the block. If US says democracy, everybody starts singing democracy, and if it says human rights then the numbers of victims start flowing forth like Niagara Falls, if it talks about transparency, accountability, globalization, etc. the whole pack would be mouthing these slogans and more with the proviso of spicing them with cultural norms and sparkling them with Faith's tenets.

        How and why the power which has been stirring troubles in the area for the last century or so came to be taken as the model to emulate and the giver and enforcer of the solutions sought for the area's pressing problems are only oppositions like those of the Arabs can chance to have or dare to fathom. For, it's no secret to anybody that the Unite States has been wracking havoc with the Middle East since at least the discovery of oil. It's also no brainer to arrive at the other fact that by hook or by crook the US has succeeded to tie most of the area's regimes to its policies. Until both sides start to work together like hands in gloves. If there's any muddling in their waters, they made sure it remained out of sight. The tacit tangoing remained and only when these same local regimes showed their weaknesses in the face of the changes the US was advocating, then this latter was compelled to send its own troops to occupy the lands that count in its calculations, and the rest were merely threatened to behave or else. Now all of this may not be enough for some people to signal, if not convince, that the US is part of the problem, and as such probably will never be part of the solution. Why? Because hegemonic powers tend to never be interested in the solutions of the problems that had brought them to these areas in the first place and have made them what they're. How could hegemony survive if countries have become really independent, democratic, and economically viable? Isn't that self evident?

        But such "self-evident truths" are not as clear as evident as one may think or desire. Follow the reasoning which can be inferred from one of the most recent supplications: "The United States must show an honest and sincere attempt to bring the people of Libya back into the dialogue from which they have long been absent. By doing so it will send a clear message that indeed that the US means what it says. And this will be a showcase of how the US policy has succeeded in the region."

        It ain't even a matter of: if you cannot beat them join them! Because that means one must take into considerations the gap between the two sides and understands what needs to be done so the exchange can take place. No! At this point Libya is far from joining the so-called civilized world, if by that is meant a modern outlook and a democratic political system, because it's still caught up in the muck of a tribal set-up and religious mind set. For all practical purposes, Libya, and its population fit into the metaphor of the zoo literally. For Libyans apparently are in no better position than say animals in a zoo or the chicken in a coop! Their world and dreams seem to begin and ends in their biological survival, in being fed and clad and whoever happened to lord over them is of no consequence. One may even venture to say the country's not much different than surfs or slavery during their bygone stages. This fact alone would need a little thinking about before venturing to disrupting the cozy relationship that exists between the ruler and the ruled in that country. Are people ready to take advantage of what's available and what is offered them? Or are they in a stage which Rousseau had described, in its idyllic setting, no less than the "happy savage" phase? For they are literally stuck in another age and what appears to be another world too!

        In the quote above, there are few glitches underlying its reasoning, for instance: "show an honest and sincere attempt," "to bring the people of Libya back into the dialogue," "will send a clear message that indeed the US means what it says," "and this will be a showcase of how the US policy can succeed in the region." Apart from the ironic absurdity of what's close to, metaphorically, giving advice to the master on how best to handle the slaves; honesty and clarity, were never part of the language a hegemonic power like the US, used in its dealings with vassal states. Ambiguities abound, what made dependency necessary and would frighten the hell out of the lackey regimes to cling more to the protective power and seek its favors. If the United States showcases anything, it'd show the famous carrot and the stick. Anything else was purely a literal show for propagandistic purpose more than sincere intents to solve whatever vexing causes there're. This has been the policy of the US through and through, before, during, and after the Cold War in the Middle Eastern and other regions as well. US policymakers are well aware of it and the regimes know it very well too!

        But the most interesting and telling thing is the clause that says; "to bring the people of Libya back to the dialogue from which they have long been absent." This reveals the crux of the matter, and it contains more than what it says. It reveals exactly what I'm talking about: an opposition frozen in time. Its members have confused their childhood memories for actual facts on the ground. In other words, it tells of an opposition still stuck on yesteryears' cherry picked images and fantasized illusions. They just cannot bring themselves to reality and see the coming world on the horizon from a different angle(s). But it goes even further, it contains a small lie about the existence of a "dialogue" during the kingdom's days! Between whom and among whom? When parties were banned, media was in the hands of the regime, parliaments and elections were mere cliches and formalities (the king and behind him the Brits and the Americans were running the show!), perhaps it was one of those dialogues that take places between the deaf, the blind, the cripple and their bothers and sisters, nobody else heard anything about it?

        Some of these groups are stubborn in their insistence on wrapping themselves in the rags and symbols of the fallen and already forgotten ancient regime -more than 70% of the population was born after the kingdom's demise. As to the factual reality of that regime, even a guy, like Mr.Sunni al-Muntasser, who was part of of the old regime during most of its duration couldn't bring himself to paint the truth differently. What came out of his recollections was no paradise lost? The idea of a lost constitution (which was never submitted to a referendum and as such had remained mere ink on paper), flag, institutions (when the king was pulling all the strings), and the rest of the crocks the guys and gals[?] of the oppositions are wrapping themselves in and around, were myths of their creations, figments of their imaginations and urban legends of late never had happened! The oppositions' insistence on such paraphernalia is understandably due to fear of not having something in hand. National struggles need visions as well as symbols. However, falling into the black holes of the past, where nothingness is the norm, is no answer either. Such an attitude makes them sound like broken records. they all seem to have got stuck in a quicksand of their onw fabrication! Whether the Islamists' La-La-Land, the Rest of theirs Kingdom's haven, and Qaddafi's Fatimids bis, the foggy past keeps blinding its victims from seeing what's made that past passe'.

Ghoma
Ghoma47@hotmail.com

More Articles Written By Ghoma

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