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Friday, 26 October, 2007

LIBYA: BETWEEN A SISYPHEAN FATE AND OBLIVION?

By: Ghoma


        Countries go through convulsions. Countries, too, commit mistakes. Even countries with democratic systems were not immune from making mistakes. However, in the latter, assessments were constantly made and efforts to build up a momentum for correcting them were mustered. All is human! If that's the way in well-established, better administered and fairly managed countries with rational people and reasonable political ideology and leadership, then what about countries -states- which have, from all these, only the names on their sides, otherwise, badly established, chaotically administered and even worst managed. What happens in a place like Libya, when the stuff hit the fan? It squiggles clumsily as always the case but when it moved it wrecks the boat! Whether through outside pressures or inside apathy, the sclerotic regime finally was tweaked to do something? But doing something, for the sake of doing, and figuring out what was wrong are two different issues. If all being equal, shuffling the cards around wouldn't change much the outcome. If all remains the same, that's, all factors which have caused the troubles were still in place, including the people -whose actions have brought about the mess- then doing something wouldn't get far from the clumsy ways that were the cause of the troubles in the first place. A vicious circle, a circuitous situation, similar to a dog chasing its tail, was instituted! Unlike what usually took place in such a many situations, in other countries, a probe and a search deep into the soul, so to speak, of who they're and from clay they were made was a beginning, not only to come to grips with the contingency but above all to figure out what they wanted and where they're heading. Thereafter a major overhaul, if not in the apparatuses of the state, then in the philosophy and leadership driving them, was effectuated and a correction campaign was undertaken. All boils down to admitting of mistakes, that's, identifying and enlisting them, and thus a search for what to do about them was undertaken.

        Changing a state's fundamental policies, the bricks and mortars out of which was built, was always a major undertaking and fraught with dangers. Shifts in systems and priorities infringe on people's livelihoods and interests as well as the country's resources and time schedules. Old groups may fade away and new ones may come to the fore. In essence, like in any a social struggle, where old visions collided with new realities - as well as the collisions of the groups behind them- the new visions and alignments would have a hard labor to deliver.

        None of this apparently has been done in Libya. A sign that "Libya society" is operating at levels below the bar of modern political consciousness concerns. The hills and vales of Libya are still tribal while its political system is a mess of Athenian dreams, Islamic mystifications, and 20th century anticolonial revolutionary demagoguery. Qaddafi, as usual, wanted it both ways, that's, to clean his mess and remain in place with his regime intact. Whether he'd ever asked himself, how this could be done, with more or less the same people and institutions, didn't seem to be the case. No admission of any wrong has been uttered. No attempt to figure out why policies of close to 4-decades had given nothing positive, but rather have driven the country to a chaotic standstill position on the brink of bankruptcy. If any soul-searching-fact-finding were made, an attempt to at least stabilize the patient, until further diagnoses and cures were figured out would have been advised. Further steps as to rationalize the apparatuses of the state and instituting some reasonableness to its workings should have been underway by this time.

        Instead what the regime did, it was to play the victims' game and adopt the blame remedy. In other words, it dumped its failures on outside powers and forces which couldn't handle and were beyond its control. Within such a logic, there were two choices available: either fight them or join them. The option was to neutralize the enemies besieging the gates by buying their lift of siege, followed soon after adopting some or all of their requests, particularly in the economic's sphere. A Faustian compromise? The stopgap measures were hoped to ride the regime out of the stormy waves in which it got itself caught until something comes out.

        Not having the mechanisms which self-correct the wrongs, nor the legitimacy or the political acumen -courage- to face the piper and dig out both the problems and outline their remedies, the regime had but one option open to it, that's, to revert to equivocations. Thus, all the hoopla of creating a medley of confusions by sending multiple signals to different audiences. What followed was a series of steps that were consonant with the' imposed conditions?'. But neither the regime nor its detractors were sincerely pent on solving what really ails the country. The regime, in avoiding to look inside into itself has perhaps missed a historical opportunity to come to grips with what went wrong with its policies; and, the opposition has only shown that it's incapable to play its real role that of pointing toward what is ailing the country. Both, never admitting, publicly, of failure(s) was a failure in itself. For without being clear about what was wrong and where the country is heading, any change would be directionless, purposeless, nay! A pure madness! To surrender and accept the impositions were, though meaningful policies in themselves, were negatives in need of a corrective positive direction to overcome their damages. A defeated regime at the helm of a country in desperate need for both statesmen and their oppositions! To implement what the Biggies of this world had been asking all this time was not in itself enough to put the country back on its feet. There're still political and economic issues that need to be faced and addressed. What are the long-term goals and the short-term objectives to work for? and what kind of political-administrative structures that would be needed to realize the economic program(s) that will lead to the desired goals and objectives?

        The predicament of the country is manifold and its burdens must be shouldered collectively and individually. The game is too serious and too costly to be left to amateurs and clannish maneuvers. The game reaches at the power's center, while the peripheries were busy on the crumbs thrown at them. The dictator, in accepting to play a game whose rules he neither was privy to (ignores) nor were under his control, seemed to have also accepted to be reduced to a mere automaton, guided by a remote control mechanism. For the problems of Libya were not only economics but include the whole nine-yards and more.

        While there's an implicit recognition, at least at the level of the economy, that's, "socialist-oriented economic policies" had failed and need to be overhauled, the same was not made for the ideological-political spheres. No recognition about what's been a fact for quite some time now, that the whole political-administrative set-up made no sense and couldn't garner nor would ever lead to a consensus. Some may think such a double-whammy was purposefully chosen: to avoid the disastrous corrections followed in the defunct Soviet Union, and which had only led to its downfall; and instead an attempt was made to mimic the success of China's option - change the economy while keeping the political structures intact. Such an idea, assumes that Libya, and its erratic regime, were rational enough, and in a position to use other human experiences to their advantages. Not a chance! Qaddafi is too unsophisticated, rustic, and a rube ignorant, on top of being also a stubborn stiff to observe and learn!

        There's some room for speculation too. Qaddafi, while, publicly has never admitted of any mistakes been made nor recognized any short-comings to his approach, and apparently continues to stand for what he stood for since he came to power, however, privately, or at least sotto voce, he seemed to have already admitted the bankruptcy of his regime. His son is doing such admissions by going around asking, from this and that, what to do! What pluck and courage the Caudillo of Libya has shown? There's no indication that the son will not declare the smorgasbord collections of half-digested political-economic statements, of his daddy, to be: first, responsible for the mess; and second, to need to be tossed in the garbage-bin of history. For such admissions would de-legitimize the son himself. Though clearly it's the only way for finding solution to the disastrous shortcomings of 4-decades and put an end to the acrobatics of swift turns, sharp bends, and complete U-turns.

        This put us in a dilemma! How a country without an alert and conscientious citizenry can work and move ahead? The failures would have lasted as long as the oil, had not for the clumsy handling of the foreign policy. The regime was unable to ward off the labeling of a terrorism sponsor, and buckled under the consequent pressures. The change of behavior was brought about by outside events and not inside pressures and demands. When the regime had realized that only a change in its behavior would have convinced the powers that be that it was serious about doing something. It all came from the outside to meet outside demands. By accepting their premises, of being a terrorist regime, by extraditing -without a prior treaty and against the country's laws- the accused to the Scottish Court of Law, seating in the Netherlands, Qaddafi, in effect, had forfeited and repudiated any of his claims to prior ideological stands, such as those of nationalism, socialism, anti-imperialism, etc. He'd practically surrendered his claims as well as his weapons to his old nemeses - and new chums- and accepted the conditions usually imposed by the winners on the defeated. The results were plentiful: from disarming to paying all compensations and executing whatever orders were issued to his regime, as letting the found guilty medical team goes scot free, without any conditions.

        But that's just the beginning! He's expected to "open" the country's gates up as far as they can go, to enact enough laws and regulations to meet the multinationals' modus operandi, and to create enough relaxed and secure environment where capital and business can flow smoothly and freely, that's, by settling any old claims -of property confiscations, Jewish issues, etc. As far as the economy goes, Qaddafi is in the process of tearing down, what he thought were his genius solutions, and to be replaced with whatever comes next! Privatizing banks, creating free zones, resettling old claims, etc.

        In any major shifts, whether political or economic, there're always losers and winners. Neither will give up or enjoy the new prestige or the cozy wealth easily. Old groups would always be after what they think was theirs. New groups are vulnerable and want to consolidate their hold thus a deal would be struck. The bargain, power and wealth for settling some old claims in the economic sphere.

        All the issues are sensitive and have major impacts on the country, but one in particular strikes at the center of sensitive nerves and will leave deep lesions in social psyche. The issues of compensation whether for property or otherwise. Why such an issue is so emotional and divisive? Because it opens a worm's can, as they say, and leads only to more social discontent, anger, and potentially, strives. Libya was not the only country that had nationalized businesses and confiscated properties. Many countries in certain circumstances took extra-ordinary measures to meet their contingent situations. As long as the procedures were conducted relatively fairly following some criteria that were applied evenly to all and across the board, the discontent would have been spread evenly and in time would have faded and been forgotten. Given the short period Libya was independent and even the shorter period of its flowing new wealth, the oil revenues, there were relatively few people rich and even fewer well-established institutions and businesses. Most of the so-called well-to-do were bureaucrats who apparently had used their positions to get enriched. As to the businesses, it's understood universally they're a privilege and never a right, therefore they can be taken away whenever the collectivity decides to do so!

        There're some people who'd 'lost' real-estate properties, others who'd 'lost' lands, others have lost the exercise of their professions or the powers of their brains, and so forth. The old regime had 'lost' everything! A new regime had taken away what they'd. The so-called King, had no personal properties before he became a ruler; nor his wife was a "Queen" and thus had no claim or privileges beside being the wife to her husband. Therefore, all the properties the King and the Government owned belonged to the country and its people. No palace, mansion, or house belonged to Fatima ash-Shareef in al-Dhahara before she came to Tripoli to reside in the old Italian Governor's residence. So why give 7000 sq. m. of prime land to someone who's 93-years-old and had got plenty from Libya and the Libyans all these years -or kleptocroticies feel the pains infected on each other! Wouldn't be better to keep these properties as public domains dedicated as museums for their eras and their residents; or use them for the many other collectives or community functions, as branch libraries, clubs, meeting halls, etc. And who's Seif and what a charity organization have to do with making a major social-economic policies? By 'returning' what he doesn't own to those who never owned them in the first instance! Where is the Government of the people? Sleeping while the kid putting things in order for the fundaments of a dynasty -buying some groups, shutting up others, etc.

        How we compensate for a missed opportunity to practice one's vocation? How we account for the oppression in the inside and for the sufferings of the exiles? What happens to all those who have lost properties which where collectively owned, and on which, this regime and before it, the Italian colonizers had confiscated, and had turned them into farms, pastures or forests, etc. If this regime embarks on turning back the clock then everyone in the country has some claim or another and thus is intitled to some compensation. Aren't we all 'intitled' to a piece of the pie? All those villagers', tribes' members, etc. should have back what their villages and tribes used to own together. And these are not few bits and pieces, they are indeed large tracks of valleys and hills, Wadi al-Hey, for instance, or al Jafara plain, etc. were all owned by villages and tribes near and far and used to work them seasonally!

        If such a thing comes to pass, the country will come again at the seams. Undo what policies of 4-decades have done. That's not something easily done in country that was basically nonexisting few decades ago.

Ghoma
Ghoma47@hotmail.com

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