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Libyan Writer Ghoma
الكاتب الليبي غومة

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Friday, 20 May, 2011

Libya Is in Limbo?

By: Ghoma

"You cannot judge the outcome of a revolution by the proclamations of those who make it."
                                                                                                          Henry Kissinger

        Libya's odessey through limbo was unexpectedly abrupt! Somehow the country has found itself in the mouth of hell without prior planning to get there. The tragedy, it's stumbled into where it's now without fully grasping what it was getting at nor being aware of the consequences of such vertiginous descendence into Dante's inferno. A virtual leap into the abyss of the unknown. Events have accelerated so fast and took a sharp turn to violence, in rapid motion, before the wheels could be turned toward the desired direction. The country could barely have glimpsed what was coming at her before it was totally engulfed in the mania of self-destructing. Unlike anywhere else in the sleepy world of the Arabs, Libya, as if suddenly had run out of time and/or reason, and was frantically trying to disapprove that old cliche about the Middle East: Never moves fast enough to catch up with history. It had burned all steps (leading up to a revolution) and jumped straight into the mayhem of civil strife! Thus by the time the uprisings had entered their second or third days, they'd already turned into full-blown armed fight between the regime and its protestors. Before the uprisers could have assessed their relative strength vis-a-vis their opponent -whether or not it was wise to arm the fight- the raging battle's screams for help from anywhere and anybody ready and able to give it were so loud enough to smudge any sense of reason. The shrills were so loud, almost had knocked the world deaf, finally succeeded to overwhelm whatever resistance was left to the idea of intervention -from those who wanted to think it over before committing themselves to do something. As events kept unfolding, emotions kept rising high too to overcome reticence and to drive the whole question of how to deal with an oil-rich piece of real-estate. Consequently, it took very little time to coopt the Arab League to give its blessings, and even less to ramrod "all the necessary measurments" through the UNSC's Resolution 1973, authorizing unbounded intervention, and the rest, as they say, was history. Hurriedly rushed ad hoc alignments sprang up, virtually in no time, so the grandees of this world would have the needed legalistic covers and international blessings to pulverize Libya back into the stone ages, as they did before in Iraq!

        Once the uprisings were internationalized, they took a life of their own. In the process Libyans have lost control over both their country and their own fate. Soon they found themselves stretching their hands left and right while their huge amounts of cash remained frozen in the cashiers of their old and new allies and benefactors. Now an international coalition –of the willing!- has taken upon itself the task of dislodging and dismanteling the Colonel's regime. However, despite the intensive campaign, the coalition appears to have its own strategy particularly in choosing when to act and to what extent. Thus Libyans, for all practical purposes, have found themselves relegated to a mere supporting role to their own supposed "revolution!" They're now supporting a campaign its aims and objectives may well turn out to be above their calculations. In part because the uprisings seem to be coasting along Nato's campaign's fits and starts. Thus the protest went from what appeared to be a genuine home-grown uprising into something still up in the air, to be thought about and defined. In this process the protest has also lost some of the verve that comes out of spontaneity and the sense of going it alone. As if Libyans by themselves were so blighted incapable of liberating their country, not to say themselves, hence the world has no other choice but to come to their rescue. Libya's tragedy is thus doubled, out of blight and powerlessness, Libyans, left on their own, are incapable of liberating themselves.

        These heady events were not only strange developments in themselves but when in a country as Libya is, a homogenous society with little, if any, fissures of sectarian, ethnic or social strives to speak of, which may have served to justify the speedy intervention, the whole maneuver becomes even more puzzling, if not engmatic. Otherwise how could such fast precipitation into the claws of chaos and destruction be explained or rationalized other than through the madness of fear and the beserkness of greed for power. What's going on? Did Libya have suddenly lost its sanity or all that placidness was mere farce, the quietness on the surface of simmering embers? Could then these events be taken as a result of temporary insanity or were actually a sudden implosion caused by long and deeply rooted intrinsic structural weaknesses, be of the political and social make-ups, or of the mindset underlying these orders? To begin with, there's a good chance for a sclerotic political system, a pyramid with a pointed-top and all-base to have produced a horrendous vacuum in between, which has sucked all the oxygen and caused the asphyxiation of the system in its barf. The dysfunction of the regime has reached the collapsing point thus starting the motion that has led to fastly accelerated descendence into chaos. On the social side, though the country is close to 90% urban, tribalism -and its remnants- appear to be still lurking in the interstices between regions and urban centers, a make-up which might have allowed each side to stake its claims and exaggerate its gains. While tribalism may function as the most immediate and easiest bogeyman, however, it couldn't have caused the explosion of madness. Tribalism may have kept the social fabric frayed and fragmented but couldn't have unravelled its weave to come apart on order, over night. The main culpable may well turn out to be the culture, if for nothing else then for both its bent on antiquated lore and its dearth of traditions of viable models. The question that begs itself: Would a culture that lacked traditions of dialogue be necessarily prone to the language of violence?

        Along with political order, social make-up, and culture set-up, as the main factors in this drama, there's room perhaps for posing the question: Is there a chance and/or credency for a full-fledged conspiracy? If there's, then, who were its spinners and for the benefit of whom? What role if any had played by the so-called fifth-colmunists and/or exiled groups? Such questions will still be here when all the dust finally has settled. But if we can dismiss with conspiracy with ease, the other factors as intricate and complicated may be cannot be discounted that easily before some scrutiny could be had of their complicity. Given the world is what it has always been, then if there's one trait that may characterize some of its members,. i.e. imperialists and their ilks', in particular. The historical successes of these powers were built on the constant use of opportunity as a launching pad to project their power. Just as Tariq ibn Ziad and Musa ibn Nusair had seen an opportunity in front of them across the sea, had jumped on it immediately before even getting the okey from their commander-in-chief in Damscus, an occasion which had implicated the Arabs in the Iberian peninsula's affairs for close to 800 years. The fact of the matter, powerful nations have always abided their time until an opportunity arose, and then and there, jumped on it and stroke fast enough to take their victim(s) by surprise. They kept themselves always ready waiting only for the occasion when they could squeeze the victim, like a pytheon, until it choked to death, figuratively, if not literaly.

        Apart from these musings, again, the most plausible explanation to Libya's aberration would be that oxymoronic duality, referred to as culture and tribalism! Tribes and culture are contradictions in terms. Tribes, by definition, partake very little in what is formally called culture. Tribal societies may have habits, customs, and routines to go by, but no formal culture to speak of -since these don't constitute in the overall scheme of things a culture in the strict sense of the term. But culture, just as a river, is open to many tributaries as its catchment area is wide, nonethless, a riverbed must be there to receive the streams of memories. For, at its core culture is the collector and preserver of memories to times gone by. The scattered bits and pieces would accrue and accrete together in a cumulative constitution that ushers in a way of doing things. If in the past of those people were plenty of social and political strives which had been settled by other than bellicose means, then dialogue may have been added to the lore, which, then the group would have passed on from one generation to the next; and whenever a new situation arose that could use that precedent, they would dust it off, and used its lessons to guide them to find a way out of their crisis.

        Was there a situation similar to what's taking place these days? Yes and no! The present situation has some similarities with what had taken place in and around WWII. The country was in shambles, and its fate then was like now in the balance and out of its hands. The Allied Forces had appropriated it from the Italo/German run-over, as a spoil of war, but they were not sure about what to do with it. There were many outlandish and bizarre proposals but at the end they'd settled on referring it to the United Nations. Thanks to one vote, that of a small Island in the Caribean, Haiti, Libya became 'independent!' The land was a skeleton of a country, was in ruin, and Idris was satisfied of being only the emir of Cyrenaica, and was ready to call it a day. The country came truly on the edge of splitting along its constituent regions, since there were no other, as still there're not any fault lines along which the country may splinter. Thanks in no small part to the farsightedness and wisdom of some folks in the western and southern provinces of the country, British plans, with Idris' support, were foiled. Idris then had to blackmail the rest of the country to either accepting him as its king or he'll go with Cyranaica as its emir. Libya had decided to keep itself together. But this antecedent may not be enough to serve as a precedent. In part because it was not totally an autochthonous invention but imposed by outsiders; nor it was an indiginous contrivance to get out of the impasse; or a home-grown solution to what mostly was a fictious problem created again by outsiders. And as it turned out it was no more than some connived scheme contrived by the British/UN team, which had costed the country 17 years of misrule by a semi-literate sufi shiekh, who then had blindly left it fall easily in the claws of another kindred spirit, though this time around, it was not a sufi but a beduoin, a megalomaniac soldier Qaddafi, to take it over.

        What brought Libya to this stage are the chronic problems which were gnawing at her core longer than this regime's life. To attack only one of these problems is not going to reverse the process of economic stagnation, social backwardness, cultural drought and political vacuum. No matter how deep and radical the political change will be it will not impact effectively the regressive social and cultural forces that are still shackling the country to its past, unless these were also to change, and change radically. For changing the political system is only the beginnng which hopefully will lay the ground to the other more meaningful transformations to take place. Only when simultaneously dealing with the other factors which have concomitantly produced the current sep-up would it be possible to begin addressing the country's long festering crisis. If the uprisings will ever be turned into a real revolution, this step may not automatically solve all the structural problems of Libya but the least would put her on a promising, if not fecund new era. However if the aim of the uprisings is only to get rid of the dictator, Libya will merely succeed in changing the regime but everything else will remain almost intact in place as it's. True to that old adage: The more things change the more they remain the same, faces may change but everything else will have only patina of change. For all the optimism in the world will not change the fact that social and cultural sep-ups are antiquated. No economy has existed beside that of oil. To build a new economy, the country needs more than tourism or of the crazy idea of chaperoning African workers to Europe. It's said the road to hell is paved with good intentions, all the smooth talk will remian only schmoozing –for that's what it's- and will not wish away the hard tasks ahead: radical political, economic, social, and cultural siftings to be carried in the aftermath of the revolt. For without social and cultural cleansings and renewals, it'd be presumptious to assume such an arrangement which has dealt only with the political factor will lead to a modern and free state. No vibrant democracy or less so a working economy -based on knowledge as M. Jebril keeps repeating!- can be had in a semi-literate backward society. Changing the regime, if at that, without the due transforamtions in the economic, social, and cultural set-ups, will still leave Libya mostly hobbled to its old ways: corrupted behaviors managed by an incompetent bureaucracy. For, history has shown repeatedly when changing the political system only, after a brief period of exuberation, the country will settle down and revert back to where it was before the upheavals. New groups will replace the old ones and business as usual will prevail.

        60-years of absolute power whether by divine right or by raw-force (military) were enough to drive home the lesson that only free individuals could be the guardians to their rights. Libyans so far have never enjoyed being free. Generations upon generations had to endure conditions not very dissimilar from slavery. Since it became a country Libya has strayed into the wilderness of dictatorships long enough to perhaps being unable to heed the lesson of history and to give republicanism a serious thought and try. To empower a people never knew what freedom tastes or entails is a major task in itself. Qaddafi has tried but failed miserably. For only empowered people could take matters into their own hands and be vigilant to their own freedoms.Thus in reviving republicanism and resurrecting its institutions, the country will inculcate not only those universal principles underpinning the modern state into its institutions, but also will embody the self-evident truths that all people were created equal and have rights to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of good life, into its daily working habits. Libya has to approach and adopt those modern truths as only free people are the true source of power and legitimacy; in order to realize these truths on the ground a Constitution with a Bill of Rights, have to be the foundations upon which accountability and all the other nine yards stand. But such a radical overhaul will necessitate a general consensus, that's why revolutions rise to roll over the old orders. Hence slogans of: No monarchy, No dictatorship, No theocracy should be the battle cry and the flash lights for the transition! Without a sincere commitment to these slogans and their potential, any other form of state other than republicanism will render all the sacrifices so far paid and the many more to come, go in vain, nigh to waste.

        Now that we're here! Then where we go from here? For certain, there's no going backward. History never reverses itself. One cannot go home again, because both the one and the home have changed. Despite the rolling images of what appears as no more than an old movie, in black-and-white redux, full of days gone-by memorabilia, flags and all; the fact remains Libya today is a different country from what some folks may think of it. Some people appear to be caught in a Groundhog Day cycle having gotten stuck in their childhoods' days and the1960's memories of kingdom's paraphernalia, are not willing to look further than their noses! They seem to have confused memory with history. Or human hazy recollections against what really had taken place, the facts out of the past. But no matter what, king's days had come and gone and there's no going back to monarchy comes what it may. If some areas or tribes are still obsessed with Idris, it's their bad luck, this time they've to do without their revered icon, the rest of the country is ready to move on. For Libya, this time around, is not going to make the same mistake again, i.e., to placate one group and displease the others, the majority just to keep itself together. Libya, after all this bloodshed and destruction, must learn at least one lesson, and learn it good: Never again to let its guards down and lends itself to one man's capriciousness even if this man will be God Himself coming down on earth. No more one man's worship! No more one-man-show! No more trusting of one man to be the custodian and the decider to the collective will. But the most important lesson to learn: No more sufis or beduoins. These groups have gotten their turns and screwed up majestically. They've treated the country no different than private herding grounds, as Idris did before and Qaddafi is doing now.

        So get rid of all these old rags, the so-called 'independence flag,' old slogans, etc. Adopt or create new slogans, new mottoes, new flags (Arab Republics flag will do for now!), new aspirations, new utopias! Be ready and move on to face the future. Enough of paying tribute to a corrupted and decadent past. One cannot liberate others if one is beholden to the lore of yesteryears. To free oneself is the first task for those who want to lead. To be free from all the suspicious myths and fantasies that are still holding entire societies in the cradles of their childhoods. Leaders have to be more than technocrates, they've to be inspirational. They've to energize people and make them put their trust and future in them. For that no amount of cozying up with the bottomline will suffice. Only visions and ideas!


More Articles Written By Ghoma

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