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Libyan Writer Ghoma

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Saturday, 31 May, 2008


By: Ghoma

        What comes across from the proposed draft is the attempt to organize a chaos and to codify a mess by rules which presumably would give the regime some legitimacy and moral force. Beyond that there's the little detail which aims, basically, to immortalize Qaddafi and to glorify his 'historical role' by depicting him the "Founding Father of the Jamahiri System." - and carving his name in the 'National Charter'. Though Qaddafi is no Thomas Jefferson yet his figure looms larger than any of the classical demigods, intruding himself where even the gods had kept their distances from: the charter regulating human-to-human affaires! The conundrum why, from amongst all the peoples and nations of this earth, the monotheists, par excellence, the most paranoically obsessed with the notion of ONENESS, are the ones who most inclined and ready to deify their rulers, and to elevate them to the rank of immortals -or elevate themselves- often beyond even the ranks of Prophets, Caliphs, Pharoahs, and the Roman Caesars. Arab hoards are in this habit possibly because of their too much bowings, which may have helped them perfect the art of kowtowing to a T! Libyans are no exceptions! They sang Idris's praises until the cows came home and he was flopped over, and since then they are still extolling the virtues of who took his place, Qaddafi, and chanting his hosannas without count or limits.

        The draft didn't break any new grounds or invoked some new powers that were not there. Notwithstanding the hairsplitting roundabout nomenclatures, on the main, the State was broken down into hierarchical units of geographical-administrative districts with each a Legislative and an Executive Councils -if one would believe the mob can legislate, manage, and execute! Only at the national level things get a bit muddier and confusing with some 'bicameral' thingamajig of legislative-executive natures, made up of a General People's Congress and a Collective Leadership Council. This later is some sort of a combination of US Senate and Iranian Council of Guardians, with its chairperson, effectively, the Head-of-State and chairs as well the Joint Sessions whenever the two 'Legislative-Executive' branches meet. The 'Lower House' (GPC) seems to be the weakest and the Collective Council the strongest. Since the president of CLC, the Head of State, can chair both and even can overpass the vetoes' overcoming procedures by overstepping both Councils by appealing straight to the people through a referendum. Add the 'Council of Experts,' and the Council of Economics and Development, whatever those mean! And the jazzed shindig becomes complete. The beast of Bureaucracy feeds on itself. It appears that neither the Collective Leadership Council nor its Chairperson are to be elected directly from the people in a general election! Rather the elitist clubs will sort it out and will deputize themselves 'on behalf of the people' to choose for them who will be the Caudillo. Classical aristocracy and its modern versions, the nouveau riches, had, from antiquity to our days particularly in today's wretched parts of the globe, never fully trusted the hoi-polloi and the rabble to have the wisdom to know how to choose correctly. Thus an element of deception in the game was/is always there designed purposely to bamboozle the plebs by making believe that all is good what ends good. Once again comes to mind the wisdom of France Fannon when he opined that the oppressed despise his neighbors and turns on them to revenge his own oppression.

        Ordering a bureaucracy is one thing, running a State is another. The Draft in matters of state seems to be dead-on-arrival, if for nothing else, for lack of oxygen to breathe life into it: political fire that would stoke the polity and keep them awake and watchful. A state which depends on bureaucracy for its management will be no different from a machine without a starter or a fireplace without a fuel. Without fire and who stokes it, i.e., the POLITICAL THING! the whole country will remain merely hoards of cattle-like: eat, drink and copulate! For the Charter provides no basis -notwithstanding the 'political pulpits' guffaw! or provisions to stimulate a debate, and once started, to keep it going. No political engines means, among many other things, a lack of idealism and ideology and thus there's no place for alternative views. The country will always be hanging on the edge of a cliff, and will be in a position no different than what the Titanic was when it ran into the iceberg, without anyone realizing, in time, where it was heading and thus save it and the rest on board. One asks: On what basis the 'elections' are to be conducted and how to one goes about choosing a candidate from another, beyond age, family, education, or other traditional nostrums? Won't be what Libya has been doing for all these years: clans, tribes, and most importantly the art of sucking up to whoever at the top, institutionalized and chiseled into a Constitution? And would these affiliations be enough to elect someone in the 21st century? Libya seems to march ahead only to end up back to where it always has been! So, what all the fuss is about? Why need a Constitution, when custom, tradition, and practices can still do?

        One thing though is becoming clearer! If there's anything at all to avoid at all costs in approaching a drafting of a brand-new Constitution is a committee work! Due to the way a committee usually appointed, an eclectic collection of pure yes-men! neither its task nor the way to go about it will be clear or precise. If a task was thrown at a committee, it meant, among many other things, the players couldn't come to terms about what was needed to be done. Forming, then, a committee to study it and making recommendations about it will only give some time, to the players, to figure out a strategy! The result(s), of a committee's work, is usually no more than the proverbial GIGO (computer jargon for Garbage in Garbage out), commensurate with the slowest and least brain powers on the committee. A diluted, watered down, and compromised versions of what was originally fuzzy, to start with. Case in point, again, the proposed draft to the Constitution!

        Pondering on such a situation one starts to get some ideas about why some people and countries are where they're: Either they refused to learn or they've some learning disabilities, or both! After two-centuries and scores of years from th drafting and ratifications of what truly could be considered the first Modern Constitutions: those of the American and the French Revolutions; and, as long of practices living under them, Libyans have yet to absorb the lessons learned from these experiences. No one, seems, to have bothered reading some of the Federalist Papers just to see, if not to learn, how and on what terms a Constitutional Debate could, should, and indeed, must be based and conducted!

        For beginning, a Constitution cannot and must not be drafted by an Executive Branch of Government, and in particular when this is headed by a Dictatorial Military Regime. A formula must be found on how to institute a "Constitutional Convention" where delegates will take their time to think through, debate and digest, the human experiences in this area as well as in related areas. They've to be educated first on the importance of the Compacts and their Constitutional Laws as well as the main outlines of existing Political Theories of the State. That's, they've, the delegates, and indeed the whole public, to become acquainted with and to understand what is the main basic issue of a Constitution and how to go about them.

        Unless the expected draft is to be no more than a compilation of what's already existed on the books of near and far nations and countries: an eclectic collection of articles upon articles of unarticulate and incoherent heap of holy baloney -reminiscent of Students Organizations' Bylaws! To avoid this, the drafters then have to arm themselves with the accrued experiences and accumulated inventions in this area(s) as well as in other related areas to understand how to deal and regulate the biggest machines of all human creations: the State. The drafters have to be at the forefront of human experiences and aspirations. Society, The collective yarn, has to be unraveled and deconstructed to fathom its inner constituents and to come to terms with its workings. What are the parts and components that make up its building blocks and how they're structured? Is it feasible and practical to maintain the same ties and structures or rather there's a need to effect some changes?

        Taking a hint from Nature: as the atom is the basic building block of matter, not the molecule, though this later is the next combinational grouping; the same can be said about the individual, as the basic building block of society, though the family is the first knot in the weave of social fabric. Without an overriding, called it overdetermining, political and social philosophies, there'll be little basis or clarity to approach a Constitution. Philosophy and theory, if they ever were needed, are when trying to unravel such complicated and intricate social and political issues, as: What Ultimate Sovereignty is and to whom is attributed: God or People? What's the relationship between State &. Religion and how to come to terms with which one must bend to the other? How's the binomial Individual-Collectivity be structured and balanced? What are the terms of Equality, particularly with regard to male-female, Muslim-others, etc, issues, and how to be reconciled with Religious Texts, traditions, and practices? What models of State are relevant and appropriate to the particular context? How to structure and relate, Individual and the State, Society and the State, the State and Government? What are the Branches of the State and what Checks and Balances are needed, to insure the no interference of one on the others, etc.?

        To sum it up, unless there's a clear understanding and principled stand on few basic issues, the foremost of them: Religion & State, Individual & Society, Individual-Society-State. Because both the State and Society are organisms which feed on and grow at the expense of the individual and his/her freedoms, thus how to preserve these later becomes one of the main goals of any Social Compact. It's a fact, that the more society is permissive, the least intrusive the state, and the more freedom the individual has and the more productive and creative will be.

        Few examples from the puddle of the Draft will show how far from where a modern National Charter should be: What strikes most is the lack of an overall idea around which the draft was organized -if one excludes the nutty notions of 'people's power' and the horsemanure that goes with it. It's merely a hodge-podge of this and that, here and there, from the old Greeks, to the defunct Soviets, to the early Chinese experiments and to the contemporary Iranian State set-up. Full of medievalistic lore and empty of any Modernist allure. The State which comes out of this is an admixture of mixed enchilada, a typical paternalistic Big Brother of half-autocracy and half-theocracy.

        The First Section: General Rules. Verbose without substance, from the preamble, which is no more than a pile of hooey to the end. After the celebratory clause dealing with the Sovereignty of the State (art.1) comes the inspirational of the Legislative process: God through the Qur'an (art. 2), then article 3 contradicts the first two by stating: "the system of government in Libya is Jamahiri, Sovereignty in it is to the People, .." Article 5 goes against whatever preceded it in articles or other Constitutions -with the exceptions of Pharoahs and some Roman Caesars- by literally apotheosizing Qaddafi y and installing him as a permanent feature and a historical figure! Article 6 states "Family is the foundation of society and its first nucleus..." Whatever that means?

        The Second Section: Rights and general Freedoms. Article 8, states "citizens are free and equal in duties and responsibilities, .... Article 9 states "Citizens are equal before the law and shall not be differentiated on the bases of Religion, Sect, Gender, Race, Language, Wealth, Social Belonging, or on any other Reasons." How this article will be squared with Qur'an's injunction of women being, for all practical purposes, half-males? What about the distinction of the Faithful from the Infidels? Art. 2 states without equivocations that " the State's Religion shall be Islam" Then art. 24 goes to state." Every person has the right to free thinking, Conscience, and Belief, ...." How this will square with both article 2, when the State's Religion is Islam and the Legislative source is the Qur'an? What Rights the atheists, homos, etc. will have and how they will fare in a State based on Religion and run by the Mobs'?

        Third Section deals with the existing mess: institutionalizing 'People's Power!' From local, Basic Popular Congresses, to the national levels, with a bunch of other Councils, Experts and not, just name it and all is there! The flow of the authority is mostly vertical, from up-to-down with very little horizontally -a way to control the mob and keep track of their whereabouts! despite the appearance of otherwise. Just to put people's this and people's that doesn't guarantee that people will really be counted or listened to. Without strong and functioning institutions people will be no more than patches of disarmed individuals easy to intimidate.

        As to the Judicial branch, it appears to be independent! With a High or Supreme Court and a Constitutional Court. Why two of them? The Constitutional Court is expected to pontificate on God thinks and to interpret His sent Words, to plain everyday language and laws? How different will the Libyan Constitutional Court, be from that of Saudis, or the Vatican's Synod? One wonders how the Constitutional Court will deal with Darwin's evolution, stem cells, cloning, family planning, euthanasia, transplantation, alternative marriage contracts, etc.?

        One last observation; the Big Brother has still its Propaganda Ministry! People cannot be trusted to talk as they wish, nor for that matter the Fourth Estate will be allowed to be their ears and eyes. In the Jamahiriya system, people will be watched out, their voices will be regulated, and their activities will be monitored. Security agencies and their network of informers will insure the social peace! There's not even the pretense of freedom of expression! The custodians of the State and the guardians to its Constitution have figured out the easiest way to its security and stability is to keep people in darkness. With no one to watch the Guardians there'll be less to worry about. The age-old quest of who guards the guardians, even the Jamahiri System has yet no answer to it!

        This is no Constitution! Qaddafis, Inc. maybe is in need to gain some time, by throwing this Draft into discussion. However, sooner or later the d merits of it will show themselves and ultimately will be rejected one way or another. If the purpose is to gain legitimacy to start a Dynasty, then bad luck has it that Legitimacy, just like respect, are won by asking for them but rather must be won. Qaddafi, and his Sons/Daughter, by appropriating the totality of the State, have left very little elbow room for people to feel safe and thus express themselves freely. What's become truly a Family Enterprise, Libya, is today, intellectually, socially, and otherwise, far from the luxury of having its people coming together to iron their differences and jot down a Compact that will be an achievement to their endurance and a gleam of hope for their neighbors! Qaddafi may wish to sculpt his own imaginary Mount Rushmore, but, from all appearances, the result, so far, was no more than the mirage of a big floating heap of sand-dunes drifting through the hot and dusty air of the desert.


More Articles Written By Ghoma

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