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Libyan Writer Ghoma

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Sunday, 30 November, 2008

TO DISTRIBUTE CASH OR SOMETHING ELSE:
Where and What Is The Plan?
The Devil Is in The Detail?

By: Ghoma

        It’s always been easier to undo than to do, destroying vs. building. Thus Qaddafi’s excelled in the usage of the rocking-ball. Armed with a sense of mission and childish revolutionary fervor, he’d gone on anarchic rampages to wreck havoc with whatever shaky and brittle institutions he’d found. He substituted crowds in place of institutions -since it’s easier to manipulate them! Until, he, finally, succeeded in creating a mob-run state. Reminiscent of what a true Hobbesian world must have looked. And, when his pet-state has failed to deliver the promised Shangri-La, Qaddafi’s answer was - as usual improvised- more of the same except in a new garb. He’s now ready once more to overhaul what he’d spent half of his life in consolidating. True to his style, he looked for bogus goblins and scapegoats -and there’re plenty of them since he created them!- first, to wage a fight against his own technocrats; and second, to burnish his image as the hero of the downtrodden and the guardian to those who couldn’t guard themselves! However, there’s a limit to how much one can push his luck, for the phoney game is getting stale, this time around; it’s so bare, he didn’t even bother covering it. Once again, Qaddafi’s magic sleight of hand is in display: placing himself as the popular champion to the left-behind, to the weak against the unscrupulous big fishes - if truth is to be told he’s helped create them!- and sharks that are swallowing whatever and whoever comes their way -the small fishes- without the slightest sense of guilt, shame, or embarrassment -courtesy of the revolutionaries and the generation they raised!

        In the ongoing hoo-hah, the diagnosis may have hit the nail on the head, but the prescription was off-hand and problematic. In a roundabout manner, not surprisingly, the cure, as could be gleamed out so far, seems, to point less toward paving of a highway to the future and more toward fantasizing about the proverbial bridge to Nowhere. The dream over the reality, the impotence over compromise! Thus the recommended course, as its hazy delineation and sketches render it, has yet to grapple with the concerns facing the country . Amid the river of words, the words stopped to mean that much. Words in the “Great Jamahiriys” have long become means to hide behind instead of instruments carrying pregnable messages that support ideas. This deluge of blabber has yet to usher in feasible alternative. Figuring out a plan that may save the country before the oil boom comes to an end. Although the deal here is truly big, since impacts all aspects of the state -from its foundations, to scaffolding, functions and to performance- its handlers have yet to rise to its level. Questions such as: How does one remodel, not to say re-build, a humongous edifice as the state and its government, without some sort of guidelines that will lead the process? And who’s the Godlike architect that will issue the blueprint, so to speak, and will follow the execution?

        There’s a wide distance separating the mental setups as well skills required of destroyers from builders. Hence, commonsense would say the job of fixing what has been messed up with shouldn’t be nor ought to be entrusted to the same crew who’s brought the country on the brink of collapse. As the saying goes: Woe to those who forget history, they’re bound to repeat its mistakes. Not only because Qaddafi has 4-decades to prove his hands -not to say his mental mettle- but above all because he’s made a career out of disparaging anything humanity has hit upon from the state and its institutions to the economy and its whereabouts.

        It’s understandable that when one is in a pickle, he/she is ready to try anything that may promise a respite. The impasse the country is in -the corruption and corrupting practices have left the phony enterprises naked skeletons may warrant such a hasty leap of faith. But cool heads should prevail, particularly, when the rot has engulfed all sectors and nothing in the country seems to work, to jump on the first wagon available. If all sectors are in shambles, mere skeletons without meat, names without functions or content, then a major reason to uproot the cause(s) for a new beginning. The urge to overhaul the government and hand out money is a publicity stunt! Notwithstanding the phony put-on ‘debate’ on what’s to be done, or what is there to be done?

        If the public sector has failed and the private sector has yet to stand on its feet -besides the hawkers and peddlers, then Qaddafi’s grandstanding -in handing out cash -is not the panacea to heal the chronic ills or to correct all failures. Distributing oil proceeds directly to people, at this point, is only a smokescreen to hide behind and to cover the bankruptcy of 40 years of moon-gazing. An exercise in blind faith than a real plan to overcome past mistakes. People, almost everywhere, have shown, when it comes to money, they’ve no clues as to what to do with it beside spending it on the fads and baubles of the day or the season. Thus their ability to figure out what to do with the money - better than what the regime’s minions have been doing all these years- has yet to be proven.

        Handing out cash is passing a make-belief notion and as fraught to all kinds of holes and pitfalls, as any undigested idea. To start with, if Qaddafi’s known for anything, his record of reducing complex issues to their most simplistic, nay naive, skeletons and breakdowns, until they lose their initial identities, was unsurpassed. Therefore, to implement something before studying the impact and ramifications -of too much floating cash in a country that produces virtually nothing beside crude oil- is going to cause havoc, beside inflation, and will only make great favors for the factories in Europe and the Far East. But above all, the apparent attractiveness of the idea seems to indicate another case of too good to be true?

        The whole proposal was based on the simple assumption, which, the Neocons (the Supply-siders in the USA) had long advocated and have made a virtue out of since Reagan’s take over, and as it’s turned out lately was a bogus, as fallacious as their other many mantras. The gist of it is: individuals as enterprises know better their interests than anybody else including the state, to take care of them -the so-called “efficient market hypothesis!” [Even Alan Greenspan has lately admitted, in a hearing in Congress, how mistaken he was in believing wholly and uncritically in such uncorroborated assumption!]. The mise-en-scene Libyan government, maybe few of its members have heard about what the Casino economy is doing in the Western World?- has not yet to buy into the idea -doubts abound whether it will work without crippling effects? The government prefers to distribute, instead of cold cash, shares and stocks in the existing companies it runs and in the ad hoc enterprises that will be created for the purpose. The big question: Who will manage these ‘portfolios’, and if by the same guys why has not been made clear? Who will be looking after swindlers to not jump the fences?

        It’s said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. And as the story of Dr. Frankenstein, in its original version, by Mary Shelley, teaches: the doctor was not evil but rather a brilliant scientist who was trying to use his talent to further human horizons. What he discovered, by innovation, as it turned out, perhaps unintentionally, overwhelmed his ability to handle its complexity. Thus, Frankenstein ended in creating his won destruction and the destruction of many others beside him. This may also turn out to be the narrative structure of the present Libyan quandary.

        As it stands now, the question is: To distribute cash or to distribute promissory paper? In other words, to distribute the oil revenues directly to the people and thus shrink government’s role in the economy, or to distribute shares in failed enterprises. Hobson’s choice! Somebody has forgotten to tell the government to have to get its act together and come up with a better plan than the one didn’t like. If it wants to avoid letting the purse in the hands of a squanderer then it’s to have the courage to take the reigns into its own hands. Thus, the challenge is to tell the bevy of the aging revolutionaries and their minions to stop beating around the bush and face head-on the problem of the economy. Niceties, apart, the task is to find a way to, tell Qaddafi that his policies were a disaster -which led to the failure -and his latest proposal was no different, a mere bunkum and unworkable fantasy. But that perhaps is expecting too much from some spittlelickers to do. No one, so far, was able to get over mincing of words and to say it straight in his face as it is: this is lunacy, pure insanity!

        The dilemma is neither side in the ‘debate’ has a clue to what to do and which proposal will work in the long-run. The government’s proposal in continuing what it’s been doing for all this time, has nothing new: In the absence of skilled and well-trained managers and financial experts, there’s no reason to expect the growth and safety of the portfolios. Even if some of these financial wizards do exist, who then will keep them on a leash?

        Though apparently Qaddafi is up to something, perhaps inadvertently to bring home the fact that power and government are two different things. While still gripping tight to the strings of power, he can still do away with the irritable and mundane nuances of what ultimately justify the exercise of power itself -answering the nitty-gritty daily needs of a large number of people. But the question was badly constructed. It ain’t only about distribution in one form or another. The scope ought not to be framed in a binary cul-de-sac, that’s whether to distribute cash or shares and stocks, but rather left open to definitions of what government is all about and what role it should or ought to have. What kind of a state does Libya want to be? And what will mean for the government and for the economy? From what government is all about, a distribution of tasks should ensue. Are there going to be only two sectors or more? Are there going to be public and private sectors only or is there a place for say, public-private sector? If that’s so, then, What role each should play, what the public sector has to do and what the private sector must do?

        Libya is doomed for a state-capitalism. The state controls the only spigot for capital. Until the future could be glimpsed, it behooves Libya, at this point in its history, to hold tight onto its liquid assets -and to manage them wisely -at least to beat the inflation. Imported development and its schemes had been tried back in the ‘60's 1and ‘70's of the last century and their results were dismal. Therefore, till Libya figures out a way to put its resources to work for her, that’s inside the country, it’s better to let them be dormant. Libya has one chance since nature has put smack in the middle of the desert to use its Oil Resources to build the future, if it plans to have a future. But this could only be realizable once Libya has the ability to produce its won skilled labor force and plenty of expertise to go with it. Thus, it’s sad to say that Libya’s economy has no immediate solution. It may have only a long term solution. It’s never too late for a country to join the caravan of development it’s to start where others before it had done, starting from the bottom up, first reforming the education system and gearing it toward the actual needs of the country and its economy. For, without building up a generation of open-minded humans who will be ready and able to adapt and adopt, all plans in the world will remain ink-on-paper - there’ll always be the same old corrupting traditions and habits of blood and tribe nepotism. By demolishing the old mold and building on top of its ruins can Libyans get rid of the age-old habits of squandering government resources as if they were God’s mannas. To put an end to social and cultural practices of nepotism, mediation, bribing, etc. which have stalled any effort to aim for a well-run economy and bureaucracy.

        Libya had slept during the whole 20th century and thus had missed the kindling fires which had brought those revolutionary changes. Unlike the true revolutionaries of the 20th century: Lenin, Mao, Gandhi, Nehru, Castro, Mandela, who’d accepted Modernism and Modernity as sine none quo, a precondition to not only to liberation but ultimately to historical redemption. Which, the ‘Arab revolutionaries,’ among them Qaddafi, have yet to clarify their relationship with and thus resolve their ambiguous stand toward the modern world. Their rhetoric against colonialism’s legacy was made up of misunderstangs, which have led to lover-hate apathy toward the West and its civilization; and which also have left them handicapped in their efforts to do anything meaningful to face the problems of development. Still, doing away with the colonial legacy requires more than lip-service, it demands washing clean the conditions which had contributed and led to its inception and duration. Needless to say that such an attitude will require insightful revolutionaries with popular mandates. Which, the coup-d’etaters, in the Arab World, have always lacked, in addition to ambitions and visions, and thus have found themselves bound to meet the lowest minimum denominators until they became prisoners, and ultimately have succumbed, in fact, to the worst demands of the retrogrades.

        The fantasy of Neverland was made even more paradoxical by Qaddafi’s apparent attempt to try to have it both ways: To eliminate bureaucracy and to keep his power intact. Granted bureaucracy and power are two different things, however, each feeds on the other. Power has always mediators to carry its dictates. Bureaucracy has served as the fig-leaf for power to hide behind - to wash off its dirt and wipe off its stains- whenever it screwed up badly. Libyan bureaucracy has done its job so poorly to the extent it’s become a burden and an embarrassment to its source of power -it got stuck in the swamps of clan-tribal bandying on top of the sticky mud of the grinding-mill of daily practices, and thus couldn’t untack itself out to face its obligations or to defend itself against its predators.

        4-decades of messing up with the state and its apparatuses resulted in bubbles of hot air that could explode at any time. Thus Qaddafi is desperate in looking for some tricks to save his coup d’etat from turning into what it always was, a revolution manque? Believing in miracles and waving a magic wand is no substitute for state craft. More shuffling of the same cards and players would not make for new game. Another toss up may get the graces of good chances no matter how slim as that may be. The laws of randomness cannot be forced to lend themselves to willful manipulations and to the hoped outcomes, which will be consonant with the wishes of the manipulator. Revolutions had rarely, if ever, taken place without true revolutionaries -skilled statesmen, who’d have the interests of the country and their fellow countrymen/women at heart. 40-years to hold to power with an iron fist is too long a time for any mortal to still be vigorous and creative. If Qaddafi is to undo some of the damages he’s inflected on Libya and to render a service to the country, minus of stepping down, he must stop worrying about power, and start worrying about the country’s future and his place in history. Stop bandying, I told you so clause, and pay more attention to what have to be done to the real needs of a country on the edge of losing its future as it has lost its past and present. 40- years are a long time to wander literally in the desert ( 40 years of roaming around in the desert, without a clear purpose, had got Moses tired and had never delivered his to his Promised Land!).

        Shakespeare’s insightful view of life as a play and the world as a stage have been taken literally, perhaps inadvertently, by Qaddafi. But his show, unfortunately for Libya, so far, was more a buzz than a business. Clowning around in tribal rags in ultra-conditioned tent and female guards can only attract the curios. There comes a time when the bills are due, to pay the piper, and to face the world. All the tricks in the world are not going, by themselves, to solve a country’s crisis, of infrastructure, of services, of management, of economy, etc., unless the solutions are based on some deep thinking and sincere intentions -the ad hoc and temporary devices will have the equivalent result of arranging the chairs on the Titanic. Perhaps this crisis is another chance to cut the crap of jawing around in monologues of abstract fantasizing and deceptive theorizing -no matter how elegant they might be -because this time around the rubber has already hit the road and got burned, and to come down from wherever heights he’s on, to put the feet on the ground and to deal with issues of nation-building and economic development. Facing the nuts and bolts of what a responsible government must do is not a sexy business and may test the endurance of any leader but at least he’d have shown some seriousness in his bones and some good intentions behind his moves. The consolation for anyone worrying about his reputation is that neither Lenin nor Stalin or Mao got scot free from their trying hard to put their countries and country-men/women on the right track. History has always been on the side of those who took its dictates seriously and tried to meet her imperatives, even when they’d failed, in the same time has reserved rather severe rebukes and harsh judgments on those who’ve attempted to trick her to walk on forced paths and m meandering courses.

Ghoma
Ghoma47@hotmail.com


More Articles Written By Ghoma

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