Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Libyan Authorities Deny Everything!

The Libyan authorities held a press conference last night, where they attempted to downplay the recent events in their country, casting doubt on reports in the international media's claims that heavy weapons are being used against protestors, and claiming that Qatar is behind the press led attack on the Libyan government. Apparently, everything in Libya is just dandy. What we are seeing on tv is all the result of co-conspiring amongst ecstacy consuming youth, Egyptians, Tunisians, the US, the islamists and Qatar. Well that explains everything ... just a few misguided youth running the streets because they've been 'manipulated' by foreign interests.  42 years of dicatorship has nothing to do with the unrest in the streets of Benghazi and Tripoli - it's all a conspiracy. Next they'll label it a zionist plot! Why not, everyone's in the mix already.

That this line, adopted by the regime, is an utter farce, is reflected in the numbers of high profile resignations that the Libyan diplomacy and military have recently undergone - defection being the operative word in all cases, as they have stood by the Libyan people and their demands. Only Nicaragua have expressed solidarity with Gaddafi, and Russia have also made statements to the effect that they expect dangerous 'fragmentation' in the Middle East, echoing Gaddafi's paranoic sentiments, which were also expressed by his son in a recent address to the nation in which he warned of civil war in Libya. Gaddafi has offered to instantiate reforms, but they are so pitifully inadequate that he cannot possibly hope to win over the protestors with his offers of setting up committees and the like. The Libyan people want their freedom. The fact that their leaders think that they aren't ready for democratic rule is more of an indictment on how out of touch their leadership is, than a judgement on the Libyan people themselves, who have taken the ultimate steps towards democratic action, that is; sacrificing their lives for each other's freedom.

It is deeply shocking to see what it transpiring in Libya, and even though the media cannot operate freely in Libya, footage has been getting out of Libya that give an indication of how far gone down the road to absolute collapse the country is. Yet the Libyan authorities have responded rather late ... why did they wait so long? Were they trying to garner support internally to turn against the protesters? Were they busy shipping in mercenaries to assist them in suppressing the uprising? Were they preparing themselves for response? Or were they caught off guard and the speed of events overtook them, until they realised that their silence was a key indicator of the power vacuum that exists in Libya right now and decided that they had to show their faces.

Yet if they're still in charge, why have they shut down the internet and telephone communications in Libya? If everything is under control, and can be so easily explained, then why not let the international press and community judge for themselves? Why not open Libya up so the world can know, from the mouths of its own people, what they have experienced and how they feel about it? Oh, I forgot - it's all a conspiracy! Nobody can be trusted. Everybody's out to get you when you're at the top. It's a hard life up there, being a hero, issuing threats to underlings and carrying the weight of legacy on your shoulders. "Let them eat falafel!" one can almost hear the regime collectively sound out, "we're in charge here!".

And indeed, the Libyan regime decides who lives and dies in Libya, and continues to do so. The resignations are flowing thick. The interior minister, praised in Gaddafi's speech yesterday, promptly resigned after the speech. The aide to Gaddafi's son just resigned from his post. Indeed, surely it is better to die in service of a people, than to die in service of a regime, and those who have stepped down from the regime are putting their lives at risk in order to show solidarity with their people, who are dying in their homes and on the streets. 

It is a battle between farce and reality that is playing out in Libya, and perhaps most of the Middle East. The farcical systems of governance that have been in place for so long are finally meeting a reality that they cannot avoid; that the world has changed, and while leaders in the Middle East have clung to old outdated notions of nationhood in the region, their people have moved on, and have become citizens of a different world - one in which they are radically changing and reformulating their ideas of what society and governance should constitute in their region. It is not for governments to lead their people. It is for people to lead their governments. That, in short, is the new order of things.

It is interesting to see the Libyan authorities draw on the fear of tribal fragmentation and breakdown, islamic radicalism, and the like, in order to justify their draconian actions. They sit in judgement of the readiness of their people for 'higher concepts' such as democratic rule, and deem them unworthy - not sophisticated enough to handle pluralism and democracy. Yet this ignores the fact that communities on the ground have integrated and have lived with each other and their differences for many years before their great leaders appeared on the scene. In some sense, through the tribal and religious fragmentation argument, the Libyan authorities are reinforcing an outdated colonial, post-colonial and cold war discourse that in reality negates the need and justification for a nation state itself. One has to wonder, who is really doing hallucinogenic drugs in Libya? By all accounts it appears as though it is the tiny power elite that maintain close ties with Gaddafi that are showing signs of delusion in their thoughts and actions, that have rung out a shock wave across the world, dropping the jaws of decent people everywhere.

To be clear, farce is when Gaddafi holds up 'the green book' in his right hand, liberally quoting the number of ways in which the death sentence can be dealt out, while the constitution has in fact been suspended for decades. Farce is when the Libyan government presents 'facts' to the people on state run and censored television, the propaganda arm of the government, while the rest of the world's journalists and foreign citizens are placed under the threat of death should they attempt to undermine the regime. Farce is when a leader's son, who has no official appointment in government, addresses the nation at a time of great crisis and collapse, threatening to take the country into civil war. Farce is relying on a pack of lies to justify the unjustifiable. It is wearing a jokers mask at a funeral. It is disrespectful, disingenous and dangerous, and makes a game of real life situations. It is a theatre act, where actors play out roles hoping to convince the audience of their ability to project an image, rather than deal with the truth.

Yet farce is also fundamentally a selfish act that denies those subjected to it their voice and their ability to participate. It constructs a strict metanarrative, frought with conflicting positions, that nobody knows where they stand in. It is a way of creating confusion, misdirection and a way of dividing and conquering. It is a sad act, and like Saddam, Gaddafi and his sons might soon be no more, and all the farcical words and romantic gestures of yesteryear - of an outdated, even romantic patriarchy - will drain away down the gutter of history to mingle with the filth upon which the Libyan people tread as they move into a new future. It will happen with or without the support of the regime, as farce has played it's last card. From this point on, only violence and crackdown will be the reality of Libyans living through this nightmare, and they will have to be strong and fight hard in order to break the back of their oppressors. 

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