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Libyan Writer Ghoma
الكاتب الليبي غـومة

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Friday, 11 May, 2007

EULOGIES, PANEGYRIC ORATIONS, AND STOCKTAKING!

By: Ghoma

        Death, perhaps, was one of the major shapers of human civilizations. Dealing with it was and still is a good way to attend society's way of handling of grief and construe its ethos toward the Hereafter. However, it appears as if eschatology conditions these practices, in reality rituals were meant more for the living more so than for the dead. As such, loss and bereavements become occasions of telling tales and sing lyrics, as reminders to the living that legacies matter. In this sense, God's reckoning takes a second rank behind fellow humans' judgments. "Blessedness is not a reward for virtue, but is virtue itself." Often the reveries and rigmaroles make room for, depending on the deceased station in life, the event may signal a change of guard, the passing of the baton to a new generation, all accompanied by some form of a transition to a different phase. Dates were set and epoches were concluded. A taking of stock, a reckoning of accounts, and an examination of a life, and through them of a period, its failures and achievements, would ensue

        The passing on of anyone, except on rare occasions, always tightens some strings holding emotions, stirs the agitated feelings and hits straight in the heart of the realm of sadness. It reminds humans of their precarious condition, their own mortality. On such occasions emotions pour torrentially to soak the chords of nostalgia to sink deeper into what has been and just no more. Memory reels the tape of Fellini's "Amarecord 's" mawkish recollections. The spring of reminisces forms the flood of nostalgia. When the occasion deals with a prominent public figure, he/she becomes a signpost to a whole era and the events, memories, etc. associated with it. The departing would trigger a slew of reactions some of which have to do with the departed -if one knew him/her- others are merely of recollections to a golden period of one's life that of childhood days.

        "The dead get taller," Libyans say, thus praise and homages pour a galore. Some will be of the reminiscing drool, others of the biotype. Family and friends would tell jokes and funny slips that would lighten the gloom and bring sides and aspects that would cut the deceased to size and render him/her back to a normal human being who lived, loved, accomplished and bungled. Others, depending on their diverse perspectives and/or ideological congruities, with the deceased, would either picture him/her as larger than life or smaller than a mite. But in the end, as all societal phenomena are, exaggerated encomiums, malicious lies, heresays and gossips, and things of that sort would cancel each other out and a clearer picture would emerge. A picture, though difficult to judge how accurate it is, will remain, until history will reach its verdict. Part of this picture will be the raw material and data on which history will base its findings. Nonetheless, for history's own sake, more digging is needed as well as a good distance, in the stream of time, so the event could be seen in perspective.

        The event becomes a catalyst to a host of agitations in the sentiments' department, if not subliminal one, which often go beyond the control of the rational and normal run-of-the-mill type of daily give and take actions. It's commonly known the occasion of death leaves humans vulnerable and weaker in front of a fate they've nothing to do with its why, when, and where. The more controversial the cause(s) of the death were the less personal the feelings since the anger, in both its internalized externalized expressions, would be directed toward the culpable; and this would absorb, if not all, most of the negative feelings associated with the inevitable Fate. The more normal, i.e., natural, the passing away were the lesser the shock is but the deeper the feelings of resignation, it's God's will, nothing can be done! People of faith, however, are expected to deal with loss with less panic and to accept it, if not welcome, as the ultimate fate of all living things to exit this life and transit to something else. The decision by the Highest, to recall one of His servant/creature, is seen by the faithful as mere reassignment to another realm, that's, to a different locality held by them to be of a more tranquil atmosphere and of better quality.

        The more known and public the departed, the more the eulogies tend to be less panegyric and more substantial. An examination of a life, in its Socratic sense. What hand was dealt the departed and what he/she had made of/with it? Politicians were catalysts to their times and thus an evaluation to their tenure(s) in office becomes an occasion of reflection on a whole period. What were the conditions there? How the departed dealt with the most pressing issues of his day? Was he right/wrong or merely pragmatic in his wheelings and dealings? How had he dealt with power, enriched it, impoverished it, or just added to its corruptions? And above all, was he/she aware of the notion of liberty and freedom and he did to further it. Etc...

        The occasion of Bakush's passing should have triggered a river of discussions on what he was, whom he represented, and what did he do -or didn't do- when he was a Minister of Justice in 1964 (during the student agitations!), what he did -didn't do- after the 1967 disaster, and what he meant by his pet idea of the so-called "Libyan personality or character"[?] Was he his own man or mere facade to some other sources? Was he the mythical knight on his white horse brought to rescue a sinking atrophied king, or a mere small and naive player to reap the opportunity offered his? Was he the last stroke that broke the camel's back? Was he the wrong man in the wrong time? Or, was he a rookie opportunist who didn't know how to play the game of power? Etc...

        A passing of a personality can do what one of those revitalizing shots would do to the adrenaline, gives a boost! in injecting the national conversation with new materials, new ideas, etc. Instead, every time one of those fossils of the old regime croaks a flood of sincere or hypocritical drivel will soak what little of the livings' still working consciousness. "Not to talk badly about the dead" is carried to its irrational extreme. The result, these guys pass one after the other and the picture of the era they shaped gets even foggier and blurrier than before. Each passing one comes out as the innocent bystander or the great hero of all time. Who did all those bad deeds? Who was corrupted, conspired, sold the country to whoever had some spare to offer, ...? Who left the country without guards to be taken by small time semi-literate military officers without a single shot? Etc. Absolution, even in the Catholic faith is not given without 'soul searching' and show of real contrition. Most, if not all, of these guys, has never apologized to the rest of us, on having been trusted with the most precious thing people have to guard, and have lost it. Those guys, like most of the present guys, just as the descendants of slavery, like to play the victims game rather than take their responsibilities seriously and admit, when they were at the top of the pyramid, have screwed magisterially the country entrusted to shepherding. Until such time comes, please whoever wants to spell some ink, be a bit stingy and save us the agonies of hypocrisy on a grand scale.

Ghoma
Ghoma47@hotmail.com

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