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Libyan Writer Ghoma

Sunday, 9 October, 2005


By: Ghoma

       The cycles of social strives and violence seem to have taken residence in our neighborhood(s). Not long ago was Lebanon then came Yemen, Somalia, and after that Algeria, and now Sudan, Morocco, Iraq, and no one knows whose turn will be tomorrow. One thing though is becoming clearer: all of the so-called Arab countries and states were badly delineated and even worst built. And what was built wrong has two ways to go about it, either be corrected or knocked down one way or the other.

       Societies go through hard times just as individuals do. The strives usually leave their victims with deep wounds and in serious psychological unbalances. Some societies, like individuals, seek help by instituting mechanisms that would help heal the wounds and mitigate the psychological convulsions. These techniques range from national soul searching to round-table discussions, where the warring factions face each others (and their victims) in some form of reconciliation sessions; to therapeutic counseling; to moral and material reparations, etc. Not many, if any, would go the road of forgiving and forgetting! For to forget is never to come to terms with what caused the agitations and conflicts and thus society remains exposed to the occurrence of such ordeals.

       If it's true society needs a foreclosure then it's true this will take place only when the causes of discordance(s) have been identified and ways to overcome them be advised. To close a sad chapter, without serious changes to reflect the new balance of power, is to send society back to live in the same shaky building, which came tumbling down on their heads - as in case of Lebanon after its civil war, and now in Algeria! Without meaningful changes no one is going to be satisfied and the sacrifices have been in vain. Would a shaky peace will do a real closure to a traumatic past? Or, will be only a temporary break because of fatigue until the warriors get enough rest and ammunition to start all over again. All indications, including history, point to the second probability, since an unfinished job cannot fill the gaps left open by the rocking balls of war.

       These thoughts were triggered by what has just taken place in Algeria: Referendum on the "Charter for Peace and Reconciliation". Here again another side to the Arabs's way of healing! Not very much different from what some groups and individuals are hawking these days for Libya too. Take for example, the latest, Buisier's third and final installment, on his dealings and wheelings with the bigwigs and their sisters and brothers, in an attempt to construct a 'bridge' to who-knows- where it goes, except it starts from the same swamps it supposed to overpass! However one characterizes this spider's web, its end-tail leads to the same destination, to forgive and forget! And while forgiveness may fall in the virtue side, forgetting is certainly smack in the middle of the vice's corner!

       What's known about the ostrich's way of dealing with what it doesn't want to see is perhaps borrowed by Arabs in their long history but short reconciliations. They've a tendency to swipe whatever discomforts them under the proverbial rug. One may ask why? The answer may reside in the way of their social edifice's set-up: tribal formations are very fragile, whimsy and prone to come apart any time. Thus a short memory is way to cope with uncertainty of the glue that keeps the parts together by skirting around the causes of the altercations. The tactic may have been able from time to time to stop the continuous cycles of revenge and counter revenge, though was not able to put an end to its causes: the fragmentation and the avoidance to face its roots.

       It's has also been said, woe to those who forget their history, for they're bound to repeat [their mistakes] its mistakes! How true that's in the case of Arabs in general and their various tribes and chieftains. One of the reasons they cannot put an end even to foreign meddling, imperial hegemonies, and in-your-face pure colonialism is the fact they seem to be still fighting Ali & Mu'awaiya's historical rift. Today these fights may sound different in tone or subsumed under new names, but in substance they still are the same: secularists vs. religionists, regionalists vs. Nationalists, Sunna vs. Shia, monarchism vs. republicanism, modernism vs. Salafism, etc. And the list can go on limited only by the lack of imaginations in its compilers. For the gap gets wider every passing day and the remedies to bridge it get blunter and dumber! Why? Because the nagging wish to keep each small herd together is still deemed more important than the health and safety of the whole as well as of each of its individual member. Perhaps due to the fact that these factions and tribes were brought together by Faith alone in a loose coalition of semi-conscious beduins made the task of uniting them even harder the longer the time elapses. It's becoming such a difficult task to even contemplate of, if not an impossible act, to bring them to see eye-to-eye that the only way not to be hanged individually is to hang together. If they came together once, it was attributed to, among the miracles, only a power far above humans abilities can perform it. As a matter of example, one of the most vaunted achievements of the Prophet, if not Islam itself, was the act of uniting a bunch of unruly warring tribes into an organized polity. It didn't last for long nevertheless its mere occurrence one time is still seen as possible reoccurrence; albeit the tribes got bigger and the booties are getting smaller by the minute.

       A short sighted nation, that's with short memory, tends to fill the vacuum, left by history, by immersing itself in some fantasy-like world of the imagination, say for example religion! Metaphysical thought, by definition, is anathema to history and accumulated experience in general, Since these latter are based on actual deeds and rational human reasonings, which, left to their own devices, will expose if not undermine, if not all religion foundations, certainly some of its dogmas, as for example in Genesis and Evolution! The religious culture would degrade anything dealing with the transient nature of things, or the impermanency of things human, and celebrate forgiveness and forgetting as pious acts, etc. and in the same time would emphasize the everlasting elixir of the Hereafter as remedy, if not real compensation, for the worldly denials! The two religious incitements go hand in hand until they come crushing against the demands of the here and now. The question is: Are the secular demands on culture lead necessarily to conflict with the religious notions? Yes and no. As long as the secular culture is stronger, religion pursues its mission without much ado. But if it happens that religion takes over culture, as in Arab-Islamic hoards, then there's a problem. A problem of interiorization and forgetness. A problem of reminding everything to Hereafter, to the judgment of God! When there's no beckoning with one's consciousness nor accounting for one's deeds, then shortsightedness rules the day. It goes without saying that these attitudes are not the right stuff with which to build a nation and create prosperity.

       Nations, just as individuals, are a continues work in progress. Their records testify to the degree of their consciousness -civilization. How peaceful or turbulent its course was. Most of history is made out of a long list of few achievements and longer inventories of failures and never taken roads. Nevertheless, any record, contains -or should contain- the continues acts of revisions, corrections, lapses, recoveries, change of directions, etc. Perhaps not few times of strong shocks and the ways were overtaken. If a nation was lucky enough, its history may list also the catharsis followed to heal the bodily and psychic lacerations, the open wounds, the broken limbs, etc.

       Catharsis! What a notion? Its synonymous are a galore, of the rank and caliber as: purification, cleansing, lustration, renewal, release, purging, purgation, outlet, abreaction. All words and notions rich and loaded. This concept had been with us since at least the time of Aristotle. Modern psychiatry uses it as a way to "alleviate of fear, problems, and complexes by bringing them into consciousness and giving them expression." It was extended into the realms of social healing particularly after horrifying traumas, such as social extreme ordeals and civil wars as in the case of South Africa, Cambodia,.... One can venture to say that not a small part of the social unrest sweeping a many Third World countries are due to the traumas of colonialization and the subsequent disagreements of how to heal its wounds. Take Algeria, for instance, after a million dead, and perhaps ten times that number victimized in one form or another, the same FNL (a civilian front for the Armed Forces) that had led the fight against the French took their place upon independence and instituted one of the most rigid police states in the area, not very different in substance if not in form from the one it was substituting! to only lead further the civil war that was caused, if not initiated, by its own clumsy undertakings, that's, when it was challenged , not on its own terms or with the same techniques it used to subjugate the populace, but mind you, in the way it tried to legitimize its monopoly on power, the ballot box! Another 150,000 dead and who-knows-how-many other victims maimed and lacerated both physically and psychologically, only to come out at the end of the tunnel and say let's skip this chapter and start a new page. That's what the so-called referendum on "Chart for Peace and Reconciliation" supposed to do. Forget what had taken place in these last 15 years and let's be brothers and sisters, if not once more, at least from now on. The worst of it is the reconciliation supposed to take place without even change of guard, with more or less the same protagonists and perpetrators still in place -in power! Is that possible? Can such a burying, literally, of the past be a way to get into the future? And can the enmities and wounds be easily forgotten?

       The social catharsis does for society what counseling and psycho-therapy do for individuals. That's to come to terms with both the losses and the causes that led to them. The purpose of bringing the victims and victimizers together in a public forum is to externalize the deep hurt and the animosities that preceded and accompanied the ordeals. It's a way to wash society's laundry in the open and expose what it could revert to when reason and morality were suspended, if not abandoned. The process of reconciliation has these objectives: 1- To dig deep into human consciousness and bring forth the nagging pangs which keep memories, images, and events so vivid and which cause to deny their victims a normal life. 2- To force the perpetrators of the atrocities to come forth and own up to their deeds as a way for atonement. 3- To account for the discordance and its pitfalls.

       Recognizing human vulnerabilities and human potential abilities for atrocious behaviors is, as every physician will tell us a half way along the recovery path, a way to heal first and find a way to overcome the weakness and channels the feral instincts into less harmful consequences. Externalizing human behaviors is one way for society to take stock of itself and thus face up to its weaknesses and actual or potential problems. A way to grow up and to leave the cocoon of paternalism behind and to start dealing with each other on equal footings. Only by recognizing we all have the potential of beasthood in us and how much miseries can we bring to ourselves and to our neighbors shall we able to start addressing the cracks which keep the place in danger of collapse at any time. We've to come to the proposition, we're all in it together!

       How this squares with the increasing Libyans' shrills calling for the regime to "reform" itself! Have these individuals and groups forgotten that power is deemed more addictive than any other substance known to mankind. How one asks those who're in its grip to give it up or even to share it, is still unanswered question. How to bring one still in denial to admit to what you're grumbling about is a truly sisyphean task. What makes these half-baked attempts even worse is the fact they're not even original. Imperialists and their lackeys have been hawking them for a while now, perhaps for completely different motives, but nonetheless, democracy and its trappings were used as way to reassert what they've deemed their God-endorsed missions: to tame the wild and bring the bacon home! While it remains to be seen if any of these doomed from the beginning attempts will lead to anywhere except to the disappointment of its proponents, the conditions which accompany them are going to be a sad story if ever come to pass. To forget and forgive one of the gravest crimes that anyone commits against a whole people -a rubbery in daylight, a rubbery of the most precious possession a society and its members have, that's, their freedoms and the ability to take their own fates into their own hands- is to send the wrong message that the strong and the reckless can get away with murder! If these attempts come to anything worth talking about, the only consolation is the fact there are no statutes of limitations on grave crimes. Aggressors of all colors and stripes, as well as Qaddafi and his regime, sooner or later will have their day of reckoning. What kind of court worthy of those who have committed such grave crimes the least of which not returning the power back to its sources, notwithstanding, the drivels shed on this topic by the fathers of all drivels!) is left to when and where this will take place.

       The irony or the tragedy is that after 36 years and counting some people are still perhaps genuinly simpletons -and have the gall to face the rest of us- in asking the regime to confess and penitent [while they know the regime is not even of Catholic faith]. These hallucination must be either out of desperation, failure or blindness, or all three combined! For, we all know, without a national debate of how we descended into -rather how we never got our of- barbarity when we supposed to be climbing the ladder of civilization, there's no way we be sure that such a relapse will not happen again. Besides all the traumas, all the sacrifices would have come to nil. And people will take notice -once again- that there are no values held no causes worth their scarifies, so why bother if everything is going down hill. How then to instill in the rising generations the spirit of sacrifice and to convince them there are things more important than life and thus worth dying for? After all we've to face and perhaps answer the big question that begs itself and remains unanswered, viz: The real tragedy consists not in how we got there but rather in how are we all living through it.


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