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Libyan Writer Ghoma

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Friday, 18 July, 2008

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( Part III )

By: Ghoma

"The Struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting"
                                                                                             Milan Kundera

        When the nation-to-be was not totally in control of the process whereby the new state was to be designed and/or lacked the historical reference for such an experience, it kept what it’d found almost intact. The neo-colonial state thus became the re-incarnation of the colonial set-up. Almost everything was left in place as it was except for the regime’s change! In part because it was easier and in another because it was convenient, the nascent state spent most of the little energies at its disposal on furthering the State’ aims. The building of the State has come taken precedence over that other larger and more fundamental process, without which there was no reason for the state to exist: the so-called Nation-building. In a traumatized and sickened society, lacking social coherence, political culture, and/or national goals and strategies, the State becomes the initiator and last resort to make-over the dilapidated social edifice. But the State, lacking in both legitimacy and a sense of mission, has dragged its feet and avoided facing the major tasks facing it. It redefined its mission and trimmed its role to a minimum: in some cases, spent most of its efforts on building a Bureaucracy, an Army, and a rudimentary system of Justice, but in other cases, it was not successful even in those, and hanged on in limbo. If the state-building’s aims were to establishing and strengthening State’s institutions and apparatuses, the nation-building instead takes on itself the difficult mission of transforming a demoralized and fragmented tribes and subdivisions into a coherent whole -more than the sum of its parts- where social bonds transcend ethnic and other traditional ties into those of reason, conviction, and behavioral relations. Measured by these parameters the neocolonial State has failed miserably to effect any meaningful move in that direction.

        One of the first tasks the new state had to face was what to do with the two most active and therefore more important segments of society: the Army (made up of the old fighters and new recruits) and Religion. It’d made two crucial alliances: the one between civil society and the Army and the other between Islam and the State. In forging these two alliances the the neo-colonial State had struck a Faustian deal which since has deprived history of its soul. This compromise has been on the expense of human values and a denial of individuality. Thus negating as history as a lived experiences and affirming the constants of absolutism! The State in this way could project its power even when it lacked the true and legitimate sources and instruments for it.

        The disguise of the Neo-colonial state in the garb of nationalism has, more than anything else, the most harmful consequences. For it not only added to the discombobulation of the whole shenanigans but also gave it a facade of legitimacy. Thus calling the Arab State, by the usual names and conventions, is not only problematic in itself but also added to the confusions amongst both the literati as well as the lay-persons. The misnomer -the nationalistic epithet- may even have contributed, somewhat, to prolonging the status quo. If for nothing else it’s given it a veneer of being organic, and thus delayed the coming to grips with its specific meanings and terms. As a consequence, the Arab type of State, till today still lacks a good definition and proper way to describe it and to account for its peculiarities. Applying the existing theories, models, and philosophies -which had been elaborated for other societies’ experiences- has led to a deceptive normalizing of what was abnormal from the beginning. Neither the Western experiences of State nor the Eastern were of a help for societies which are still in-between, that’s in limb, under the spell of metaphysics and in the grip of superstitions.

        The Entities that sprang in the desert belt of the globe, contrary to all universal laws and experiences, were born fossilized shells of some sort of organisms, destined from the beginning, to live without growth. Like a stunted new sapling, instead of striking roots, evolving, and advancing their offshoots on the expense of its predecessor: the colonial set-up, the tribes; the new-comer instead has helped to perpetuate those same entities which supposedly was to be replace, if it ever had a chance to grow on its own. Hence, the general aspects of the various Arab States, in their fundamental inner workings, came not only to resemble the tribal pacts and contrives, behaviors, customs, and the like, but more so to embody their malicious naivete, obsessive self-interest edging on narcism, and above all their Machiavellian machinations. To the question: had the idea of an Arab State based on a model of a big tribal confederations been sufficient to account for its aberrations? The answer is no! The State is a complex entity to be grasped by one single definition or described by one single act. Tribal features may well shed some lights on certain aspects and behaviors of the Arab State but certainly won’t account for all its shortcomings and failures .

        The post-Colonial State was a mixed bag, partially an improvement on its predecessor -though not by much! The similarities between it and its predecessor are overwhelming anything else that may make look it a bit different in the present Arab World. To begin with, the Colonial State was mainly and exclusively a machine for oppression and exploitation, and its way of carrying those tasks was brute and raw force; first, in defeating the locals and then in objectifying them for the purposes of both keeping them subjugated and using them as cheap labor for the ends and the needs the Metropolis saw fit. It was purely a military and intelligence driven enterprise! Sadly, this same logic stayed with the newly formed State, where the ends may be different but the means, the apparatuses of the old state, were kept almost in place intact. An example where the means were as important, if not determinant and have conditioned, the ends. Because the Neocolonial State, in its essence, had never made a serious attempt to cut the umbilical cord which had tied it to the Colonial Country after the latter had given birth to it; nor for that matter even pretended to slough that rough and tough skin which characterized, and indeed, had protected its predecessor. Thus it could be easily demonstrated that Arab States were no more than the continuation of Italian, French and British regimes of occupations, in Clausewitz’s terms, ‘by other means’. Just as in the Colonial State, in the nascent Arab State, the security and defense were still the mainstay of its existence. Today, the instruments and agencies for the task are multiply intertwined and crucial for, as in the Colonial State, the survival of the various regimes, hence the military, intelligence, and other services, such as the police, for example were neither distinguishable nor separated from the rest of its apparatuses. It’s ironic and in the same time sad, to say that the only things which have changed since the physical departure of the occupying forces, were the names, titles and positions of the people who took the places of those notorious Colonial Governors and Generals. To this day, most, if not all, Arab people have not experienced the transition nor felt the qualitative changes that supposedly to come to signal the change, as independent and sovereign States! People used to be scared to death from the Colonial State’s rapacious intelligence and ruthless police, and informers’ vicious networks, they still suffer from the same paranoias in the new State! They never had a say, never were trusted, nor knew what fate awaited them under their occupiers, and neither do now!...

        One noticeable difference between the Colonial and its offspring, the Neocolonial state: the first was a gross aberration and a miniaturized version of the Occupying Country’s model of a state, its know-how, and traditions. Nonetheless, the Colonial State, did have some institutions that worked, beside the repressive apparatuses, there was also a fairly trained and somewhat efficient bureaucracy which carried the day-to-day tasks and made sure the Colony was an attractive place for the Metropole’s citizens to start a knew life albeit in a crude and different place. The makeshift ramshackle that came to replace it was put in a hurry, without much thought to its foundations or legitimacy. From the recent experiences of the various Arab States, when the colonial trained and efficient bureaucracy had departed, the "Arabization," as came to be known colloquially, was a disaster, equivalent to " ruination" (Eetha ‘uribat khoribet).


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More Articles Written By Ghoma

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