For change to happen it is not enough for people to topple their state governments. They must topple their states of mind.
“Gaddafi is dead. Libya is free. Long live Libya, new Libya, free Libya, reborn Libya. Now please step right up to marvel at the decomposing body of our detested tyrant. Here is a mask to protect you from the stench. No flash photography please, no spitting, no poking bits of his skin off. You may curse all you want.”
Sounds wicked, doesn’t it? Well, such is the horror I feel about what is happening in Libya, in the name of freedom and justice, of course, that I decided to throw decorum out the window and write a piece that matches the mood as well as the outcome. Not politically correct, I know, but politics never is, and neither is outspoken thought.
So here’s what I think. I think that the way a country deals with the aftermath of a revolution is a reflection of either its culture or its government. It might well be both, but it cannot be neither. At least one of them is revealed in the process, by default.
The argument is a tricky one to make, but since everyone is talking about greed and the need to stop it, and about change and reform, and about rebooting the system, and revolution, and justice, and the 99% waking up and challenging the 1% and claiming back destiny, and economic adversity, and looming financial collapses, and a thousand other things that have to do with creating a better and fairer world, let us be frank and call things by their name. I mean, if we want to improve the system, let’s get serious.
Let’s start with honesty and forthrightness. Libya: either its government has perpetrated an atrocious mistake, allowing an act of brutality, followed by an act of morbidity, to mark the nation’s transition to democracy, liberty and justice – or Libyan culture is prone to some pretty gruesome behavior. Whatever the case, the outcome speaks for itself. End of story.
Only it’s not the end of the story, or the end of anything for that matter, except maybe the hope that something drastic had changed in Libya when Gaddafi fell. That hope is now gone, at least from the minds of rational and realistic people, along with all notions of a great new Libyan rebirth. The monster is dead, but out of the shadows of its corpse rises another specter, Gaddafi’s ugly sibling. It doesn’t have a name yet but it walks and talks and threatens like Gaddafi, using images of terror and death to galvanize its standing. It wears the cloak of revolution and democracy, and has the backing of the free and legitimate world, but it seems to be guided by the same premises as Gaddafi. It shares the same background and is driven by similar principles. It leads the same people and responds to the same situations.
For The People, Of The People, By The People
Here’s the thing. People demand their rights but usually get something else in return, namely, authority and restriction, regulation and control. Sometimes the outcome is functional and the system works, other times it is faulty and breaks down, tormenting individuals in the process. It depends on the rulers. It depends on the people. See, dictators are not born, they are made, molded by the people they rise to rule, crafted by the circumstances that bring them to power, that help them rise to authority. When the Germans got stuck with Hitler it was because of a culture that believed in its Sonderweg, in its “special path”, a notion that had its roots in the Junker classes and their disciplinarian society. It worked for a while, from the 19th century on, when the second Reich was first created, but slowly, gradually, in the wake of conflict with other nations, in the face of economic prosperity and conflicting interests, German culture fell into aggression, allowing despots to rise to power and lead the Germanic peoples down the road to world domination, to atrocity, and ultimately to disaster, and, you got it, rebirth. Quite an attritious way to go about things, but that’s what happened, care of the dynamic at the time.
My apologies to the Germans for making examples of them. My apologies for scrutinizing them in order to make a case on how dictators are undeniably created by their given cultures. I had to use someone, and Hitler is as gruesome a dictator as any to set an example by. Plus I have a bone to pick with Germany on account of her recent behavior. Namely, she is becoming increasingly sanctimonious and angry with the rest of Europe lately, especially with the south, rearing an ugly and highbrow head that no one really wants to see. Even if she is in the right, which she is, with every right to be sanctimonious, on account of having to step up and correct the blunders of others, she needs to be reminded not to be too angry and chill out a little because looking down on the world is not the way to go. We don’t need another Sonderweg, political, financial, fiscal, economic, we don’t care, we don’t need it. All we need are solutions and people working together to solve the crisis. But that’s another article.
Funny how the anger in this piece seems to be stoking fires, offering food for thought in a blaze of fury. That’s what anger does: it maims, disfigures, and leaves traces that lead to unsavory results.
So why am I doing it? Like I said, this article was crafted to match the mood in Libya. A mood that sets fires, that makes its case by invoking fear, terror, anger – by molesting the past – by laying people on a slab for all to see and despise, making an example of them. Yes, nasty ways of getting a message across, complete with an ominous undertone, a threat that is both stealthy and sinister, reeking of tension, revulsion, and fear-mongering.
Now please take the feelings this Gonzo-on-Hulkoids article generates, multiply them by a thousand, and you are pretty close to the mood prevalent in Libya, starting with the public humiliation of a corpse. The name of the game is gruesome, and so is the atmosphere there, gruesome-prone. The facts speak for themselves: Gaddaffi was arrested and could have been taken to trial, but he wasn’t – he was executed in cold blood. That may have been a blunder or a one-off, due to emotions that overran his captors, so we may excuse the incident as a mishap, but then, lo and behold, the government stepped in, the ruling NTC, and followed the murder through with public display and humiliation of the corpse. Which leaves me thinking…
What is a new Libya? A country free from oppression and injustice? To answer this question I would first have to ask “what kind of oppression and injustice are we talking about?” If we are referring to the end of the Gaddafi era, then yes, this is a new Libya. If we are talking about freedom of religion, the right to equality, the emancipation of women, the end of favoritism, the end of tribal warfare, the upholding of justice on tenets of human rights as drafted by the UN, then no, Libya is very much the same as it used to be. It may have changed clothes but the psyche is still bound.
To finish this scathing piece of criticism, let me just say that what Libya did is akin to what the French did in the 18th century, when they dragged their deposed king to the square and chopped his head off in front of everyone, so they could pass a message that this is where royal injustice ends and where (popular in-) justice begins. Tough way to start off a “just” system, but such was the anger then, and such is the anger now.
We all know how that part of the French revolution ended: with hundreds of heads rolling and thousands more crushed.
Will it be the same for Libya? Hard to tell. Perhaps this is a one-off, an incident where the bad seed had to be destroyed in public so that everyone would be sure he would never set root again. But something tells me it’s not that simple. Revolutions consolidated in such brutality, whereby human rights are not upheld, lead to more blood, oppression and misery.
So here we are, at the end of an era, at the beginning of another. Those rejoicing for a Gaddafi-free, happy and democratic Libya ought to stop and look closer, seek the real root of the violence and oppression. Something has been causing Libyan culture to develop in destructive, brutal ways for a while now. The bad seed of the day may have been crushed but already something else is growing in its place, and it seems like a glitzier form of the same old agenda, without the amazon bodyguards and the socialist manual, but oppressive all the same.
Final thought? The NTC has issued a statement saying that those responsible for the mob killing of Gaddafi will face trial and suffer the consequences. The majority of Libyans strongly disagree. There is a disturbing sense of tolerance about the matter across the population. It is hard to judge a people for the anger they have after decades of oppression, but we have got to be honest and call it as it is. Libyan public opinion surrounding the incident of Gaddafi’s demise is shocking and must be noted.
My condolences and apologies to all rational Libyans, who find this state of affairs atrocious and who do not deserve to be judged by the actions of brutes. They deserve better than that. Hopefully common sense will prevail and Libya will permeated by notions of goodness again, restoring honor to her beleaguered people.
Warning: The video clips below contain disturbing scenes of violence.
Gaddafi manhandled, followed by a report on his death and his subsequent public display