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Libyan Writer Ghoma

Wednesday, 7 December, 2005


By: Ghoma

        Following the back and forth takes on civic institutions, their relations and distance to the sources of power, their (in)dependence partisan politics, etc. one feels there's something missing in the debate. Not to be pedantic, but there must be a minimum of research and understanding of the basic terminology, definitions, etc. From what's meant by civic -as opposed to what- to what's the etymology of the term, for instance, civic and its relation to notions of polity and politics, etc.

       This is a case where what Arabs say: "Faqid esh-shay laa ya3Teeh," roughly translated to:" you cannot give back what you don't have" is more evident in the sense neither the culture, custom, or the traditions have had, historically, anything close to the term; nor present circumstances allow such a practice to take place. To start with let's see the term's etymology: Civics -as opposed to the religious and military affairs- is related to city, citizen, citizenship, civil affairs and civilization in general. If we understand these terms are basically the Latin rendering of what Greeks called: polis, polites, polity and politics, then we'll understand why the intricate relationship of these terms with each other is 'genetic' in essence. The mere fact of a coming of few individuals together is political act in its primary and thus essential purpose.

       What makes things unclear is the bastardization, or non-complete possession, of the culture, that's language and its traditions, of used terms and practices, of not only single words and their traditions as: civic, city, polity, politics, etc. but also such compound and loaded terms as 'partisan' , 'non-partisan,' politics and polity, a cluster and organization, and the relationship of all of these to the concept of ideo-logy.

       If you add most of these terms had been scavenged by Arabic language from Latin and Greek and their modern versions, in a more or less superficial way, with no attempt to completely appropriate them both verbally and syntactically -still remain a borrowed notions- and thus rendered homogenous units with their own etymological history. That's just a part, the other is a reading around the origin and growth of such traditions where they first sprang and still prospering. Without some reading of, for example, Alexis De Tocqueville, "Democracy in America"; or one of the many of Robert Putnam' s cogitations on such a rich and vast subject as that of civic institutions, any new reflections are going to suffer from inventing the wheel syndrome!

       Civic institutions are a state of mind. Some of them are informal, that's, related to personal hobbies and inclinations; others are more formal; but all are dependent on the idea of freedom and democracy. Freedom to help oneself and other fellow citizens without waiting -or in addition- for the government or the private institutions, if there're any, to do their jobs. Whether these associations are free standing, or more less adjuncts to a government, party, private or public organizations; partisan, non-partisan, ideology-driven or a-political, all these may be important to their functioning but less so to their role and legitimacy. There's room for all and the more of civic institutions there are the more a society is aware, vigilant, and dynamic.

       So the debate seems to be going no where. Since most of the people who want to start or already belonging to one of these define themselves as exiles, a political act, thus only the role of the organization would tell how far from "partisan" politics it's. For, instance, there can be Human Rights organizations which belong to one or the other of the many gaggles along the political spectrum, as well as outside of all of these and each and everyone will be as useful, as effective as the clarity of its purpose and as the drive of its members.

       But what makes the bickering less serious is the idea that one can spawn institutions out of their natural milieu. One can sow, nourish, and guard an institution, whether formal or informal, intended to serve some people somewhere on the planet from their hiding places! Wouldn't be more appropriate to form institutions and organizations that would deal with the conditions of these people in their exile(s), and if they're successful and there's more in the sac, then the help could be extended to where it can reach. I don't see how having the tails in Europe and America and the heads in Libya is going to do any good to all these three locations, except to further confusion, alienation, and the eternal lamentations!


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