We're getting used, by now, from time to time, to see some screed, by a Libyan, in one of the mainstream media outlets, especially those aligned with the Bush Administration and in one of its props of the neocons philosophers' outfits. The shrill tone of these supplications, if not cries of help, is too familiar. They mostly consist of regurgitated material half-truths, half-rumors and hearsays: An appeal to the West not to forget those who'd paid and those who're still paying with their lives and freedom for the cause of democracy. The dead and still living freedom fighters, who're still fighting at the front lines in the battlefields for democracy, in the dungeons and jails of the dictator of Libya deserve the moral and otherwise support of the West. A plea to the West, when dealing with their former (made) nemesis and presently (repackaged) chum, Qaddafi, to be mindful, vigilant, and careful not forget their promises, or just excessive rhetoric!, and not to swap their long-term interests for short term benefits, et cetera.
Whether in good will or bad faith, the writers mix their loss and personal griefs with broader political issues and their ramifications. What psychologists call projections -of personal tragedies- are too tempting to covert them into political capital and to make them a center piece for national struggle and liberation. However, in doing so these writers seem to have ignored few facts about national struggles in general as not to mix personal and collective grievances and to be mindful of what constitutes the objective reality and what went into the background to make it what it's today. By ignoring what's in front of their eyes, perhaps, out of symmetrical alignments, ideological blinders, pure naivete, just out of wish, or snobbism, or all combined! they're signaling that the reality they see is different from what the rest of us are seeing. Oh yeah! Don Quixote seems to be still walking among us! For such wishful conjuring of reality is a staple well known to a many myopic and one track mind oppositionist individuals and groups. For the distorting of images on the ground, did happen before! Remember, that other group, the Iraqis? The exception, the gleam of hope if you will, this time, among the Libyan writers, seem to come, hopefully, from having learned a whet or two from the Chalabis, the Allawis, the Malikis, etc. -or only an astute maneuver or a smart-aleck tactic!- that's, or merely to give the impression of having learned something, by going LIGHT, soft, and smooth as snake juice salesmen in asking the West to use all what they've in their arsenals minus the military force! It'd seem also, from reading the snippets published by these gentlemen that they have no qualms with the current Wester policies except in what they perceived as the soft gloves approach in dealing with Qaddafi's regime. For, if truth be told, the same hot rhetoric, the same piles of exaggerations, the same willingness to collaboration, ...not only were apparently set in place but were also were maintained to be followed, as the doomed Iraqis, if need arises. The question is, what motivated such articulate and seemingly enlightened elements to keep using the same tactics, the same appeals, the same language, in the same fawning attitude, in spite of the overwhelming evidence of the disastrous consequences they may lead. Was the path taken out of choice or out of necessity?
This inattention, if not omission, perhaps can be attributed, to the apparent unawareness of what the Turkish novelist, Alif Shafaq has focused on in another context, that's, the duality between memory and amnesia; which, in my view made were ever acuter by deformed social articulation from which and on behalf of whom our writers and intellectuals have sprung out and now speak. A consequence of structural deformations characteristic of 3-World social disarticulations; and exemplified by the bourgeoifying segments sense of being on the cliff. These segments translated their precarious life experiences and ways of sustenance into ideological overtones: as for instance, that rare yet ever present class emblem of savoir faire: the astuteness of the bazaarists to bargain themselves out of any predicament. Call it the merchant's stock-in-trade! The Simsonite-dealers, have also spawned a mentality sui generis, a petit bourgeois mental outlook, exemplified by the Sadats, Arafats, and the rest of them, who had convinced themselves they can haggle the Devil in person, for they're convinced they'd the moral right on their side! Their successors, the present crop of agitators, have inherited the mantle with outlook, for they're bent on beating the same path(s) all over again. Perhaps, out of sense of entrapment or only an inflated ability to schmooze their way out, an ad hoc scenario has been elaborated whereby only fate will have a say on the outcome -fate plays a major role in anything Middle Eastern, we'll cross that bridge when we get there kind of thing, God takes care of the rest!
Call it the loss of memory then! The loss of live or imagined experiences of what lies behind the events one's witnessing in front of his/her eyes. This loss, universal, though differs only in degrees, more severe in Arab states, was always the scourge which has kept humans crawling at the snails's pace. It takes place every turn around the bind or change of guard, a new generation. Without it, the surface is taken for what lies beneath it. What keeps the world boiling are the observed froths on the surface regardless of what the deep undercurrents are doing. A case where any doctor will warn against, for focusing on the symptoms without getting the patient's history will lead to misdiagnose the illness. For without memory the world becomes real flat, no depth, one-dimension, what you see what you get. It'd be nice, if that's easy! But the world is more complicated than that. It's a historical construct and as such one cannot understand what it's until one understands how it came to be. Colonialism, neo-colonialism, imperialism, are not some past drivels by unhinged somebodies -and which had been relegated to the trashbin of history- but rather are still alive and kicking, the real definers and determinants of a lot of events shaping the world today. Thus, they're far from being abstract terms either. One cannot understand contemporary world and its conflicts without having some handle on what went before and how that past is perpetuating itself, with the same locutions in different garbs. The relationship has not changed a bit, the only thing changed are the actors playing perhaps different roles but nonetheless in the same play with more or less the same scripts, updated of course to go with the new fads and buzzwords. One may say, these are pure hallucinations of the last century, the world has moved on since, we're now in the global village, all brothers and sisters connected through the Net to chat our heads off and sing Kumbaya? If it's true the world has changed, then it's also true the interests have remained the same: need for raw materials, markets, and consumers!
To guarantee its economic prosperity, by hook or crook, the West is determined of having easy access to the resources of the world over! To that end, the West is still bent on using whatever it takes to have them at its disposal cheaply. It still invests huge amounts in its offensive arsenals and in projecting its power beyond its boundaries. It even has the gall to declare large chunks of the globe as vital to its "national security!" The Middle Eastern region was such a area since the two last centuries. Oil may reside under the Arabian deserts but its importance and use reside somewhere else, in the West. Arabs may "own' the real estate, under which the oil flows, but as in the Sinai Peninsula , they don't own the sovereignty. This latter is held in the hands of whichever power has the upper hand of the period under consideration. To that effect, the West, in more than perhaps any other region except Latin American, ready and willing to arrange the game, the geopolitical game, is in alignment with its priorities at anytime. It's installed vassal regimes, guarded them, effected coups d'etat whenever the arrangement was threatened, went to wars to tweak the geopolitical maps to its advantages and liking, et cetera. Thus what is taking place today is part of this prolonged campaign to re-arrange the parts before they get out of hand. The same old damned domino theory at work. If we withdraw now, the consequences will be catastrophic! For who? Yeah, we heard that before, the same exact rhetoric in Vietnam -did anything happen after it fell to the much hated Communists?
All this just to remind our esteemed writers that different people, in different contexts have, or must have, different calculations and priorities. What the West sees in the Middle East is quite different from what the Middle Easterners see for themselves. The West doesn't envisage democracy for the Middle East, despite the rhetoric to the contrary. Democracy is neither in the national securities, as now defined, nor in the best interests of the West. Democracies have a sense of national dignity and loyalties to their constituencies to safeguard their interests and national sovereignties , which, evidently, couldn't be in line with vassal status that the West prefers to maintain with what it still considers its backyard hinterlands. Libya is one of those backwoods, rich in natural resources poor in human organization and intelligence.
To keep the skewed relationship in place, is to keep the same social, economic, and political set up in the country. The challenge is how to keep the status quo and sounding as if to encourage change. The West would has found in Qaddafi, a sent manna from heaven! an ideal character molded out of litheness, malleability, and cowardice. They'd have to invent him if he were not already there, particularly after the 9/11. He's not only towing the line but also lending himself to be the coaxed, coopted, and co-emasculated example of the world. Ain't that an achievement Mr. Big Shot?
In the 19th century Russian intellectuals fell in love with everything Western civilization had to offer. They wished to transform the absolutistic, serf infected orthodoxical Russia into Western European industrialized and democratic state. Short of inviting Western powers to come and occupy Russia, they'd done what they could to stir society from its slumber, yet they still had failed! Because in borrowing a model, they believed the rest will take care of itself. No due attention was paid to the implied developmental demands and consequences. Arab intellectuals, an oxymoron! Are overwhelmed today by the glows and sparkles of anything Western, as the Russians were a century ago, are inviting, this time, the West to come back again with military forces and "liberate' them from local tormentors and oppressors, and to rule them, if necessary for a while until they make sure to have eradicated of what they seem to have concluded is part of the genetic make of their political culture, despotism, once and for all, a la Saddam, from their midst.
Given the realty of Libyan opposition in addition to being weak, scattered, and poor, is also made up of hodge-podge individuals and groups on a nonpartisan, non-ideological bases. A post-industrial and post-ideological response to a pre-industrial, and tribal social, political and cultural realities. What's to be done? The objection is real: What's the alternative(s)? Here we go again! Since we're at the basic level, pre-party politics, so let's see what a heterogeneous aggregate can and ought to be doing. Again stick to basics! Before anything else an opposition is a moral force. Its effectiveness resides in its character as much as in its message. Since it addresses basic questions of state structure, economic form, and social and cultural architecture it must worry about issues of coherence, independence, loyalty to a national cause(s), trustworthiness, and farsightedness. To that end , it's to stand for what's right and abhor what's wrong. Oppose whatever is wrong from wherever sources it comes. Standing against the West's hegemony is imperative as standing against oppression. Only by calling things as they're, there can be a chance of finding an audience. Flip-flopping, changing sides, maneuvering for political gains, opportunism, etc. are lethal enemies of any opposition.