Comment on the Ben Ghalbon, Kikhya and Majressi’s correspondence|
“It is an issue of judgement and veracity”
If you read the article by Mr. Nuri Kikhya on this page on 17th July and the subsequent support material by Messrs Senusi Kwedir and Yosif Majressi on 22nd and 25th July respectively to the recent article by Sheikh Mohammed Ben Ghalbon (8th July) you would be forgiven for thinking that the man must have crossed the line with the fellow contemporaries to such an extent that they found themselves compelled to drop the normally employed guarded language of political debate and resort to the unambiguous type. You would also be forgiven for concluding that Ben Ghalbon is probably a little known outsider to the debate and sort of meddled in matters understood to be the reserve of these principal fellows. After all the response and support letters were written angrily and without the customary safeguard of sensibly selected words you would expect to see in correspondence on this subject by these gentlemen. Until, that is, you read (or re-read) what Ben Ghalbon had actually written and how he wrote the articles in question. He gave accounts of what had happened and the response of prominent persons during the early years of presenting the Libyan Constitutional Union strategy and his vision. As far as one can see from his articles, Ben Ghalbon employed careful language and credited the persons in question wherever credit was due. I am also prepared to accept that what he reported were the events as he knew them. It is true that some of the facts are on the ugly side of things and no one can be expected to be comfortable with such a record on his slate. But this is hardly Ben Ghalbon’s fault.
In view of what we know about the man, his integrity, his standing and, despite the impression the recent response and support letters attempted to create, his contribution to the sick Libyan opposition activities since 1981 is unparalleled. Denial of his contribution is costly to both the case and to the individuals who do so because they merely earn ridicule. It is a duty to challenge both the content of the response and support letters and question the true motives behind them. This is not about democracy and modern debates on the internet: our prominent fellow Libyans allowed themselves to address Sheikh Ben Ghalbon with inappropriate material. I know Sheikh Ben Ghalbon well and for many years. I only know the writers by reputation. But, judging by the material they have written, I can say this: as they say in the movies, “Sheikh Ben Ghalbon is way out of your league guys”. Hate to advise, but you should exercise caution.
This is an opportunity to put possible answers to a simple question. Why apparently wise and seasoned colleagues from the small village of the Libyan opposition find it in themselves to react in such a manner. React in a manner without the basic calculation of possible damaging consequences to their standing and judgement ratings. One of the difficulties here is that anyone who (aspiring leaders and writers no less) is prepared to write in such a careless style about a colleague of note and history, cannot possibly expect to be taken seriously again. Ironically the writings may say plenty about the writers. The pieces are self-written testimonies indicative of own judgement and veracity. Resorting (immediately) to this type of language is unwise in any correspondence by anyone in any context. In this case it is insane and it must be criticised in the strongest terms. Robust defence or challenge can (only) be achieved if based on issues with a respectable language and a decent style.
It is probably hasty to suggest the possibility that it was complete inadequacy that led the writers to conclude that Ben Ghalbon is an easy, powerless, deserving target. The gentlemen cannot be that misinformed nor could they be driven solely by wishful thinking that blinded them to see facts. Or were they?
The common factor that seems to colour the flurry of writings in question is that issues become instantly and comprehensively personalised and reactions are born from a pure personal perspective and fuelled by emotion and strong wish to throw insults early. The stuff we practice at tea sittings. It is the symptom that characterises the Libyan approach to politics since records began. Separation between personal stuff and political debate and facts does not exist. It is one of our most deadly politico-social diseases from which we all suffer, but some do so much more than others. Of course it only matters when the person assumes a leading role. It has had grave consequences: loss of a country to a bunch of soldiers for starters.
The problem does not end here. Personalising issues often, if not always, becomes mixed with a “sense of entitlement”. A sense of prerogative to be great men, men of influence, centres of activity. I do not mean the simple ambitions we are all guilty of by entertain thoughts that may be one day we can contribute and participate in achieving big objectives. A much more fatal material is in mind.
The sense of entitlement and natural habit to personalise issues make a powerful potion. The potion bears a self-destruct one-way ticket and has wider grave implications. It is what the third world politics made up of at the expense of cold logic, facts, pragmatism and true patriotism. Once a man mounts this wild beast there is no limit as to how much damage can be achieved. Distinction between the trivial and the otherwise melts away in a self-congratulate mode that continues even at the face of ridicule. The issues and reality are the first victims. Personal ambitions become the mission and the case becomes a vehicle. What I had not realised until the current flurry of correspondence was that the potion creates new eyes with unexpected vision: failure is not recognised, own accomplishment are rated generously and those by others are dismissed. It is unreal. It is a dream world (the material one expects in Indian movies). At this point one is reminded by the oblique reference made to the Libyan Constitutional Union as merely a “type writer and a post office box” in contrast to the organisation with offices in every Continent with lots of people (presumably each with several type writers?) and the writer went on to put the rhetorical question: how could anyone expect such a big organisation to possibly have a dialogue with the little set up. One can only conclude that the writer simply cannot see what really is important in the business of opposition. Even I know it is not size. In another similarly amusing point, there was a reference to an event in one of the forums held in London: something along the lines “my friend achieved in a few hours what you failed to achieve in a quarter of a century”. I sincerely hope that the writer did not really mean this. Perhaps it was said without much thought in just an angry moment! Or was it? If it was meant seriously, then we are in a real mess, worse than hitherto suspected, didn’t think it was possible. If this is the size of judgement of our front opposition men, there is no hope.
Ahmed S. Mosbah