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Libyan Writer Ghoma

Thursday, 7 July, 2005


Caught in the Trappings of the Past...?

By: Ghoma

       Now that the party was over and the friends took their leave, let's start taking stock of what went on in London, what was accomplished, and what should have taken place!
I know it's still too early for any outcome to crop up when even the fog has not cleared nor the dust has settled yet. And when the gaggles which had descended on London last week perhaps have not yet cleared the city; in a post-stress recovering from the high drama, jagged nerves, and to add the high expectations, which had preceded and accompanied the event. The fanfare was well publicized and better paraded. It was well received by "international media" which, has given ample coverage to its workings, and more to the preferred personalities, though most of this media, seems to fall, excluding the Western media, in the category of those who have an axe to grind with, or are holding a grudge against the gang in Tripoli.

       Let me be up-front, I was not very excited about the confab for many reasons, among them the way the whole thing has been arranged was somehow to say the least wrapped in mystery and still unfolded in less than obvious ways: How did the whole thing come about? Who chose the Preparatory Committee and on what basis? Who made the list of the invited and on what basis? Why the weight of the event seemed to tilt towards the eastern parts of the country, though it's clear some sort of 'affirmative action,' so to speak, seems to have played some role particularly in the Preparatory Committee membership -I don't know about the attendees? Why the gathering was designed to look like either a summit meeting between heads of states, where everything has been scripted and the meeting is only a formality to put a seal on it, or an imitation of that other rubber-stamping theatrics of the so-called "General People's Congress" in its semi-annual ballyhoo? Why and who decided to restrict the attendance to the invited only? Why the gathering was not open to anyone who can reach London, even from the regime?

       The q's can go on but the drift has been set. Since there were no expected surprises and the agenda and its main themes had been scripted already, not to say probably the final resolution(s) were set and agreed upon way before the actual show started, then one asks why not let anybody into the gathering? No secrets to hide, no deliberations to change the minds, no new ideas to worry about! It would've added some credibility and cleared some suspicions, not to forget had closed some of the loopholes the regime is definitely going to exploit, if the meeting was planned and executed transparently.

       I said it before and it is worth repeating here again: Political work is rational by definition. Tribalism, clanism, and fear are deadly enemies of rational thought and action. The whole project seems to have been plagued, from the beginning by emotionalism, impulsive behavior, and sensationalism. Thus one is loath to say, was doomed to failure from the start! Failure? Not if it's measured by what was scripted for it, rather, if the yardstick is measured by the opportunity granted to it and was missed, and by what was possible but never came to pass. In such an effort -which some say it took 18 months of planning and preparations- where there was enough time to brood -if not digest- the initial ideas that sparked its undertaking, to think them over and over, and to rehash the whole project: What were the pluses and what and where were the minuses?! The appearances all pointed to either such deliberations didn't take place or if they did they were dismal, judging from the results we've seen, heard, or read about. If the images were true to the substance, then, one wonders how far this opposition has still to go to become real instead of strawman, or worse virtual.

       To start with, while the oppositionists seem to have been aware of what make things and events tick these days: the media -the show was mainly oriented towards it! But as in any show the visual buzz always comes at an expense, that's, the neglect and downplay of the substance. Did that happen in this case? Still too early to tell, particularly when no participant came forward to recount his/her experience critically. Maybe it's a case where the opposition is a victim to the same disease they're fighting against: group-think?

       The media awareness was not accompanied by media savviness! The images conveyed were either: visual illiteracy or worse reactionary orientation? The prominence of old trappings, the faded icons, and the worn-out symbols of the past, the presence of the remnants and the emblems of the ancient regime (the fossils of the monarchy), the conspicuous display of the king's flag and the anthem, the exaggerated role given to the so-called, again, king's constitution, etc. gave to the meeting an aura of bygone times! A resurrection of a sorts: of a pissed off and disgruntled relics, who, though long had realized their predicament, and only finally have mustered enough energy to plan some sort of come back to take revenge. [ Though among the present many claimed to belong to the communication professions, the visuals lacked the appreciation necessary of its role in modern media to put it to good use and thus the meeting missed an opportunity to project what they were trying to accomplish! Unless, of course, the image projected was the message intended, in that case the oppositionists have no clue to what the average "bume'rq" thinks of the past and its symbols!] The messages, whether verbal or visual, that came out of this gathering were of a group of typical Third World petty bourgeois -with no loyalties to anything beyond their immediate interests though coated in national aspirations- blubbering neo-conservatives's mantras's dupings, and who having lost power or businesses or both, are today petitioning the Western powers to come to their rescue?

       One can only say, this opposition missed an opportunity to project an image, a fresh image. An image of mature and thoughtful people who gave a lot of thought to what they've done and are doing now. An image of opposition to work for the renewal of society first and foremost, not hungry hounds looking for their piece of the prey. An image of a bunch of people, who one can trust! Not the image of tired, haggled, old faces out of the archives of "had beens". Displaying a king's flag, inviting a self-appointed product of a mistaken sperm of a 'prince', calling for the return to a neo-colonialist document called 'Constitution', letting a gaggle of worn-out old faces suck all the available oxygen, etc. These were only parts of the gaffes, to the other more serious mistakes, i. e. not discussing how can be figured what the people of Libya want and how to connect with them to find out. How they could explain why they couldn't even reach students in their midst and therefore how they plan to reach the average citizen thousands of miles away?[ The forthcoming proposal for a media outlet directed to the inside may play some role if it'll avoid falling into the trap of a barking dog of the imperialism and its local lackeys]. One also can ask: What those groups who call themselves oppositions were doing all this time, if not performing the real work of an opposition: creating and elaborating ideas and propagating this literature, persuading the unconvinced, and attracting and recuiting new membership? Rather it appears, their work has got mired in the contemporary fad and bane, that's, in imitation of the oppositions in their host countries, Libyans too have learned how to be a part of the new and always growing cottage industry, of 'talking heads' biz on 24 hours diarrhetic drivel called international media? [It's good to learn new tricks but you've to be careful where they lead to!]

       Well, one can go on but the point is not to castigate or chastize rather to bring to the attention, what an opposition should try to look and do. If I allowed myself to say things, I know very well will not set down with people easily. I did so not out of deviousness, not out of a settled plan, nor out of a wish to offend... I could have said what would have let things run smoothly, but to what end? It comes a time that we all have to face the inevitable: the accumulation of our work and deeds. And that's the wall against which all sensitivities, touchy feelings, and social niceties have to stop before or will crash against. I'm talking about the need for someone to tell it as it is: The traditional Libyan opposition groups have played their role and run their time. One may hesitate before saying they've become part of the problem, as the regime they're sparring with, rather than the presumed solution. The failure, if history and consensus come to that, will be the starting point for a new opposition. Perhaps the question to ask is not why it failed but rather how and why it lasted all this time. An attempted answer could start from the hunch that one of its perceived roles resided in deceiving itself and others that beyond and above the grueling reality for striving to power, it can still carry the banner of freedom fighters.

       The new opposition has to start from making the big strategic choice: to seek power or to renew society and in the process comes the question of power legitimizing and exercising. Each one of these two choices requires a whole different set of mind attitudes and praxises' tools. But whatever the verdict that will be reached, a fundamental lesson to learn from the past is, above all there's no substitute to brain power. An opposition first and foremost is: thought, ideas, imagination, and ultimately tactics and activism. An opposition is moral by convention and persuasive by necessity. If it doesn't have any of these two, then it's bankrupted and its members better seek their callings somewhere else. The last but not the least point is: an opposition is as good as its resources and above all else its self-reliance.


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