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Libyan Writer Ghoma

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Thursday, 22 May, 2008

ON THE CONSTITUTION?

By: Ghoma

" ...just as Socrates that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of the creative analysis and objective appraisals."
                                  Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from Birmingham Jail"
"...once barriers- which in a sense consist only in man's ignorance of the possible- are torn down, they are not easily set up again."
                                                                    Carl Von Clausewitz, On War

        What do a Constitution's debate and writing involve? Is it a discussion about and for a model of a State or much deeper search for what a people are all about, their essence? Or, it's neither of these but only a process of formalizing the institutions and the mechanics of the State? The quick answer is, it's all of these and more. Because any quest toward formulating a "Social Contact" has to start from simple and yet fundamental understanding of the nature of what's to be dealt with: the human person, and what it takes to make of him/her a citizen of a modern State. For, the State is no more nor less than the tangible embodiment of a people's soul and spirit? As such, it cannot be designed without deep understanding of him/her and the rest of the bonds and structures that bind him/her to that specific social group. Thus in order for the State not to be an alien and implanted entity, it must be seeded naturally in the nation's soul, to grow organically grown by the brawns and sweat of its sons and daughters. The question therefore becomes: What are the building blocks that constitute a people, how these to be brought about to play their roles within the prospective State, and where the individual is -or to be- located in all of this?

        If the experience of post-colonial states teachs any thing, it must teach that accepting or copying other states constitutions never worked well. Actually, some 3-World states have made a mockery out of writing their constitutions. They took them lightly and changed them frequently. Constitution debate and writing is one of those historical events and epochal making rare in a nation's life. It usually came as an apex to a series of events that shook the country viscerally in the core and changed its being and direction. Constitutions were never a beginning, their phase is located somewhere in the interval that goes between the turmoil and the not yet complete peaceful coexistence. It constitutes a landmark along the way and a lamppost toward normalizing what's already underway. Its process would test some of the already functioning institutions; otherwise the Constitution becomes a mere futile exercise in the art of wishful thinking and abstraction milking. Any new design, first has to be tried in actuality before norms and rules that will regulate its future conduct could be deduced, described, and finalized. Constitution formalizing, therefore, becomes one of the most a delicate and important phase in a nation's coming into existence. And thus it must not be taken lightly and must be given all the time and efforts a country can spare and afford.

        Re-designing a state is part of a reconciliatory process that will lead to healing particularly when it comes during or at the end of instabile and messy period. It augurs a new beginning. In a wake of a crisis, a great amount of enthusiasm and a charge of high hopes were harnessed, which, if used wisely could not only open new perspectives but more importantly unleash that new spirit which lurks in the offing and is ready to be affirmed. This goodwill period was never of long lasting and has to be used in probing some of the fundamental questions as those dealing with the essence of the country and its raison d'etre.

        For the sake of simplification, a society is no more than a huge edifice, individuals are the building bricks and the various parts and elements are its architecture. In this analogy, Constitution acts as the mortar and cement, the formal glue which binds the parts to form the whole and hold the ensemble together. A cursory consult to past and successful constitutions, from the American, on to the French, German, Italian, Russian, Chinese, and Indian, would show their successes resided in being part of a process of re-invigorating and rejuvenating their nations.

        What happens, then, when a country was born under duress and had botched that rare opportunity in a nation's life, to establish and formalize the Compact between its members and to normalize the conduct of its State? Its future life will no differently from a premature baby, the new country will always suffer from brittleness and lack of cohesiveness, particularly when it passes through stormy times. Libya was one of those countries which has missed the opportunity that comes with the act of re-birth. The shack's built, was not much different from one of those Roman ruins, scattered all over the vast expanse of the desert, made up mostly of big blocks piled on top of each other, bound together only by the effect of the natural gravity. That's, the various tribes and different regions, the stones and building blocks, were bound together, and with each other, with no more than the mortar of Religion, Tradition and History. Not having a cement that would hold it together, when a strong Ghibli storm had hit it, has caused it to bear, since its inception, all kinds of agonies. Without a lasting Constitution, the Libyan State and its institutions could not stand the vicissitudes of time and whims of the rising generations. That lack was responsible for stifling its growth and prolonging the period of its infancy and thus the instability wherein inherent. After more than 5-decades from the nominal independence, the country is still debating the worthiness of a Constitution and whether or not it needs one. In plain words the country is still in search of itself and hasn't found what makes it what it's, its being, its soul and identity, and has not yet decided nor settled on what it wants to be.

        As the babble about the "Constitution," continues humming, and gets out of the pssst and hush, hush into the chatter rooms and press pages, there's a need for, not only more of brain storming' sessions but a serious national conversation about the meaning of citizenship, nation and nationality, the idea of equality, etc. pondering such notions as well as the posing of a series of questions on: What does such an important stage in a country's life and history involve? In more mundane words: What are the steps leading to the fulfillment of such a laden and a truly historical task? Is there a homework to be done before getting into the nitty-gritty of writing such a document? What are the areas, skills, and intellectual breakthroughs that need and must be faced and mastered, as part of the process, before committing it to the ink-on-paper, as a final stage? Is it going to be a product of a committee type document, or by an elected body(ies), as a congress? Is it going to be ratified by a referendum of yes/no type or submitted to a national and regional congresses and causes? Et cetera....

        If we start from, by now, a self-evident fact, that only a free society, though may not be fully educated and conscientious, etc, perhaps would be able to tackle the subtle and intricate understanding that underlies the relationship of People and their State. If people, as the holder and possessor of the ultimate sovereignty, create the State and delineate its limits and sphere of action, then they'd be able to set its limitations too. If, on the contrary, the State was allowed to regulate itself and guard its own turf, there will be little Rights for people. Thence the need for a foundational "Magna Carta" not only as a defining source of and the ultimate reference to its executive, legislative, and judicial processes, but also as a cordon sanitaire to protect the "God-given Rights" from being usurped by the State. In other words it sets and regulates the various branches of Government and how these will be prevented, through checks-and-balances, from infringing on the basic freedoms of citizens.

        The mark of a free society rests on the fact that only free and unfettered individuals would be able to come together and thus enter into agreement(s) with each other and muster the respect to such a Historical Bargain to make it endure enough till it'll have a life of its own. Whenever and wherever such a "Contract" had been drafted by the help of outsiders, from above, and/or through one group forcing, coercing, or coopting the rest to go along, it never worked or acquired the respect to endure. Case in point the so-called Libyan Constitution of the 1951's independence. For all practical purposes was not worth the paper on which it was scrawled on. It was not written by Libyans, for Libyans, and to Libya. It was dictated by outsiders for their designed Client State!

        One of the most important tasks to be faced is to come to terms, define, and/or imagine what kind of an individual who'll give rise to what kid of society, and thus its State? If the new citizen couldn't be imagined then neither Society nor the State could be figured out or designed appropriately. If the macro-organizations, Society and the State, were seen as no more than two intersecting circles with the Individual at their center, then how these spheres to interact each other without transgressing on Nature's given or assigned rights roles become the proverbial Gordian Knot. Most modern and successful states have had to contend with the mythical citizen, by imagining him/her as the driving engine to their machines. Some of them mulled long and hard on the nature and constitution of this new individual, some even set a utopian citizen as an imaginary model - USA, Soviet Union, China, Israel, etc.- to design the rest of the infrastructure around him/her. The upshot was th heroic figure was best to be left with all the freedoms and rights that would enable him/her to play the pivotal role of the ultimate guardian for the new society and its state. History is showing that without a vigorous and dynamic referent to which all other institutions and designs were based on, no plans or programs can be drawn or formulated on unknown or an unknowable entity. From the economic sept up, to education, healthcare, etc. would lack that beacon which will inspire, orient as well as guide the various plans and programs. Absent such a cornerstone, the whole endeavor will be no more than groping in the dark: A futile search for an unknown destination! Since the whole social architecture will lack its defining attributes, its raison d'etre and thus a style of its own. There may be an edifice, but will be no more than the dull, cumulative and eclectic buildings crowding the urban jungles of ever uncontrollable and sprawling cities of the 3-World.

Ghoma
Ghoma47@hotmail.com


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