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Libyan Writer Ghoma

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Wednesday, 29 November, 2006


By: Ghoma

        The call and ultimatum Qaddafi has been issuing in the last few months for all those who've been taking advantage of their positions or access to enrich themselves, to come out and admit it and move on; is a bit disingenuous, if not naive. One can even accuse it of pure hypocrisy and/or entrapment! Not because the proposition itself is wrong, only coming from the wrong direction. There used to be a billboard on the highways of American saying: keep America clean, clean your room. To clean a country, from corruption, one starts from the top, from the ruling house and goes all the way down to the slums and hovels of Bu-Sleem and 'Ukkara. Only by accounting for each and every Dirham of the billions that have poured into the state's treasury from the day this regime took over, would Libyans begin to believe and perhaps even start trusting that whatever was done, or is going to be done, is in good faith, is not witch-hunting or scapegoating -looking to sacrifice few lambs on the altar of cleanness, to buy some few more years, and to polish the face of a regime which has accumulated so far so much grime and muck that given all the Drano in the world would not be enough to scrape the surface and see it for what it's: theftocracy!

        More and more Qaddafi and his immediate family are running the show, after most of the old hacks, the so-called Revolutionary Council members, had been ousted or marginalized. And more and more the "Jamahiriya" is turning into Saudia-esque type or one of its copy-cat clones in the Gulf, in the practice of theft as a legitimate way to get rich -when every institution or organization that has some weight and teeth is headed by one of the 'family' then one asks who's going to look after the guardians! The state has been for a long time but is turning more and more to a mafia din run by thugs and opportunists, who are in it for the perks only. The "budget" may be discussed in the so-called GPC, but there's no follow-up, supervision or accounting. The different "Secretariats," each receives what to spend, but where and how much ends up really put where it supposed to be is another matter. There's no cost/benefit analysis and how many Dirhams on the Dinar were spent on ideating managing, and supervising, which's basically the government functions, on the different projects and enterprises. So how one determines that the books have not been cooked all these years and are still doctored to the right numbers when the sponsored products are non-existent or of an inferior qualities to the specifications set on the books?

        The corruption has been endemic to the so-called post-colonial state from day one. The colonial state can be recognized by one of the most salient features of its make up, it doesn't have the mechanisms and apparatuses that usually take and manage the decision-making processes. Its structure is basically a pyramid with a very large base and sharp ascending apex culminating in one person or one family. It works in a one-way top-down fashion. At the end it becomes either a family run feud or a clique not far from mafia style way of doing business. No matter what the nomenclature, the behavior is the same. Republics, kingdoms, principalities, etc. may differ in some details but end up doing the same thing: repressive machines! How so? By the genetics of the state. By the way it was put down and meant to work! Is it possible to reform such a design? Nothing is impossible, however, it's going to be a tough call and a high mountain to climb. The state needs to be taken apart, "deconstructed" and reconfigured on a new basis, that's redesigned with new set of premises and expectations.

        In appearance, to an outsider, Libya, looks like some beehive busy with its multiple gears clanking and chugging, but in actuality it's all mise-en-scene, a puppet's show with the string holder sometimes behind the curtains other times spinning one of those sleight of hand tricks to give the impression that a gear needs to be unstuck and put back to work. All these committees, all these meetings are the icing on the cake, the cake itself is nowhere to be seen. A waste of time and energy when dealing beyond the daily mundane issues of immediate concern: sewage, water, garbage, etc.. For anything else no one is privy to the ins and outs, the nails and bolts, details which if truth be told, are not at the disposable of the non-initiates, they need some training, some smartness, some data, time, and deliberations, etc. to get a handle on them, and these don't exist spontaneously either by design or by necessity.

        Qaddafi's stroke of genius came when he hit upon the idea of "direct democracy," while it sounds hip, cool, and even sexy, the concept was in the same time a full bag of b. s., big time! A u-utopian theoretical model meant to be held like a star for orientation only, never to be reached and touched. Outside of Athens in fifth-century BC with its limited aristocratic-male patrons in a face-to-face daily meetings (and even that incipient democracy had murdered Socrates!), there was never such a thing in human history anywhere. This absence was not because the principle was wrong or unattractive but because of both it was meant to be an extreme rod to measure against how far any system can deviate from, in its chosen working path. By invoking this principle, Qaddafi, instituted chaos as the mainstay of his regime, and thus guaranteed that he remains the only anchor to a ship whose riders are scampering around trying to figure where they're heading if they're moving at all. Let the bastards fight it among themselves on the crumbs while the real big pie is enjoyed by those "chosen few," typical of Plutocracies everywhere and anytime!

        This idea of elitism and exclusivity was not new to the area. It's a long tradition which still can be traced in the popular culture and its lore! The rulers always kept their distance from the riffraff and the rubble and withdrew to their fortified castles where they enjoyed a life they'd have shied away in public. The saying "Aulad el-shiekh, don't do what they do and don't tell them what to do" is another of those bizarre warnings -don't mess with those above your rank- which have been allowed to filter down and endure. Well, the same can be said today. Any important and meaningful act is carried out by Qaddafi and/or his sons and daughters: from meeting with ranking foreign state or business officials, to making big deals, or sanctimoniously pontificating to local or foreigner encounters. Every padded and cushioned business or organization is now run by one of the seven or eight siblings, in addition to militias, just in case someone may get the wrong idea. Now, how this arrangement is different from that of the Saudis or the other wrapped-heads' fiefdoms?

        Is not this what is usually called paternalism, nepotism, and the use of state power to acquire wealth and prestige? In other words the sine quo none of corruption? Yes! But corruption in our part of the world had become congenital to the make up of the systems until it's seen as a normal way of living and conducting business, something not as an alien to be ashamed of. Qaddafi wants, or claims to, to clean the muck and find out how each of the big fishes got fattened. Well and dandy, except he's forgot one thing, himself and his family! For instance, his multiple millions of dollars 'stage-tents,' his camels and entourages that each time he moves costs the treasury millions and millions just for the heck of it! His philanthropical son, Seif lives in a farm just outside the city. Since when, where or outside of Libya, a non-for-profit charity organization hires someone who's still in school, 36-year old student, and pays him enough to live lavishly, to travel constantly, and to acquire, on top of all this, a FARM with a villa and maybe few servants and workers too? On what criteria and by what merit this guy got there? They talk about 14 colleges and universities pouring graduates only to see the game is, was, and perhaps never will be fair enough for them to pursue their vocations and dreams! They talk about development and still have not cleaned their own consciences before their own rooms from the muck and slime they've accumulated all these centuries and years. How many 36- year olds, even 40- and 50-year olds have saved enough just to buy their own apartment or to build a 144-square-meters courtyard hovel, which they call in Libya, a house? As long as they say: "The fish is rotten in the head" nothing is going to work, everyone knows it's only smoke-screens, a covering-up, and a hiding of some sort of a variant of another Ponzi-scheme to milk more wealth from the dole.

        To start developing is first to come clean, to start being frank, if not sincere, of what one says, transparent in one's actions, and respecting of other people's intelligence. What's happening in Libya are mere jokes! Somebody is laughing his guts out how imbeciles these folks must be who're taking what's said seriously. Call it an effect of the globalization, but slick-willies are everywhere nowadays. The ruling family in Libya has been long in power to learn the ins and outs of power and its twin sister business. They've learned the salesman's pitch, .i.e. to sell snake juice as remedy against poisoning.

        The irony is some people, among us, are still deluded that they can convince the regime to be fair and play by the rules. In the absence of social differentiations or ideological quarrels, the game is still open to conjectures. What's fairness, and which rules to be followed, were left to the imagination. The hunch is fairness being defined, as we speak, but perhaps not limited to, by the groups and individuals who claim some dissidence to: being recognized and given a seat at the table; and, the rules are getting what they deem as their share! What about all the rot and foam that one hears about these days, democracy, constitution, transitional government, etc. these are all what experts call bargaining chips, not meant as signposts or goals to be achieved.

        Perhaps instead of the usual blathering, the "opposition" should concentrate on exposing the old and hackneyed tactics adopted by dictatorial regimes, such as ours, whenever the pressure builds up to a dangerous levels, to take some of the air -hot air- out and to gain few more days or years until the next trick is due! Instead of seeing angels and villains, there're only corrupt, oppressors, and fact spinners at all levels of that regime. Speaking truth to power, calling the drivel for what it's. Banging and hammering on the false steps and worn-out tactics is part and parcel of what an opposition is or ought to be all about -and if they've a rod, a model, against which they can measure things against, that would be a plus.


More Articles Written By Ghoma

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