A basic principle in political sociology asserts that a legitimate government’s rule is based on a certain understanding with the people where vital assumptions and values are shared between the ruler and the ruled, and where rights and responsibilities are honoured by both. In a way this social contract resonates with the very idea of marriage.
Academics call this agreement the ‘Social Contract’; though largely unwritten it is a prevailing arrangement that is culturally transmitted in discourse and practices from one generation to another and it is usually what lends the ruler general legitimacy.
With Gaddafi, Libya had no contractual marriage – in contrast to the case of the late Senussi King who had won a place in the heart of the nation. The forced relationship between the people and Gaddafi is more akin to an ongoing rape, simply because he never had the mandate or the legitimacy he tried to force down the people’s throats and he and his gang sought every channel of resource theft.
Failing to earn the people’s trust he continuously strove to insult their intelligence and spared no effort in punishing free thinking, weaving lies and creating intrigue. In fact it was long ago that the people resigned to the fact that their lot was to live with a psychotic who had little contact with reality. If Reagan was ever right, it was when he deemed him ‘the mad dog of the Middle East’.
Instead of public consent, a generation of Libyan fathers passed on their silent dissent and frustration to their sons, and mothers to their daughters the bitterness and dismay. Indeed Gaddafi’s gang of badly dressed, poorly groomed and uneducated kleptomaniacs was never found fit to rule in the eyes of the majority of Libyans, much less in the eyes of the international community where they simply never pulled it off as a convincing team of statesmen. Rather, a very badly conducted orchestra is what comes to mind. The embarrassingly common question posed to Libyans is: how could you let that man rule you for 42 years? And this is a valid question we found.
Interestingly, there was talk back in April this year about Libya running the risk of becoming a so-called ‘failed state’ – was Libya a proper state and when exactly did it function as a state for it to fear becoming a failed state? The American Secretary of State may have overlooked a few points. Failed states are entities that once upon a time worked, or at least had promise of functioning on most levels with adaptive institutions of power.
At some point and for particular reasons, these states would have lost control, stopped carrying out their official duties, simply became bankrupt or broke down to be run by factions or tribes. Many reasons constitute a failed state and what ‘failure’ itself means is also open to debate.
The Libyan case, however, is a far cry from a state, 42 years of political dysfunction; lack of popular participation in the political process and absence of any form of civil society. Hence from the outset the whole idea of a failed state is not a valid point of discussion. The Libyans could be said to have a traditional form of civil society, a community, an unexpressed sense of nationhood, yes indeed, but no civic life. Is that a state?
In an absence of any political life, allegiance was pledged to religion, family and tribe. Some even identified with home cities and districts – the only few that identified with the mismanaged theatre of Gaddafi’s illegitimate regime were those that shared in their wretched disease and stood to gain in terms of power and ill-gotten gain. Is that a state?
The late King invested and tirelessly built for his country, forged relations that secured the basic interests of the people and shouldered the burden of his role as a father figure of an infant nation that had just started to crawl economically. Gaddafi did little to add to this legacy and within a few years of taking over his absolute power corrupted him absolutely. When he leaves Libya it will not just be an economic disaster zone but will be one marredwith an ill reputation and steeped in countless problems not limited to the fact that institutionally the new dawn will start from scratch. Is that a state?
The little wealth that trickled down to the people was tagged with a heavy price, a culture of corruption, bribery, lies, and nepotism – because no one in their right mind felt harboured loyalty to the mafia gang that was in charge and many felt that stealing is the only way of acquiring their God-given rights. It has become a place that encourages economic vigilantism and brutish jungle mentality in the market and society. Is that a state?
But all of that can change now, because when people pay with their lives and fight for what they believe in, then history starts moving again. For when the people assert their will then they are ready to change their destiny and fashion their own state. Any attempt to establish such a state in a post-Gaddafi Libya should start by a legal document expressing incontractual terms the people’s rights and responsibilities and the states remit of power.
In addition, it should delineate clearly and establish institutional checks in order to create separation of power between the centres of authority. The country would do well to offer incentives to Libyans abroad.
Finally the new generation ought to be the overseers of progress, it appears that they have a better idea of what they want from the future and seeing the way they fought for that right is a sign that their brethrens blood will remain etched in their minds for a long time to come. The same once disenfranchised youth dressed in loosely hanging jeans and populating the street corners are now racing towards the capital as if they have known nothing else beside the struggle for freedom. They want a state.