By Septimus El-Dallal
In the field of International Relations, academics talk about something called ‘nation building’ and ‘failed states’, the contexts of Iraq and Afghanistan gave rise to these terms in Western discourse as America sought a long term solution to obstacles impeding its foreign designs.
Technically speaking, nations are not built, rather they grow. The soil on which they grow is rich with collective identity, shared principles, common values and a great respect for the unalienable rights of humans to coexist. Nations are not planned and orchestrated into being, just as plants can only be watered and given time to mature.
To be a nation, a people have to enjoy a repertoire of cultural symbols, sensibilities and heroic figures that binds them together in sentiment of pride and belonging. The Libyan people, with a shared strong Islamic tradition, a history of mutual experience under occupations and modern resistance, qualify to stand as one nation without the need to engineer any synthetic feeling of unity and national destiny. Certainly the shared memories of pain are durable enough to weld their hearts together and to keep them remembering for years to come and this soil might well be what is needed for the new generations to flourish with the trophy that their fathers earned with their lives.
Those 42 years of lies, uncertainty, fear, oppression and terror. Were they indeed not shared, mutual, and collective? Had those long years not cut deeply into their identity as a proud people to create empathy between them and help them relate to each other across ethnic, tribal and material differences?
What the West calls nation building is not for Libya. It is true that the state is what needs reconstruction in the face of the newly celebrated revolution, because in a sense the Libyan nation has never enjoyed statehood. Just as it was beginning to cultivate a promising vision for itself as an independent entity in its nascent stages under the reign of the last Senusi king (from the early 1950’s to the late 60’s) it was hijacked by a semi-educated and misguided military man of low moral stature, an amateur social technician who had more ambition than his faculties could muster.
Libya was thus diverted off its path of destiny. And so for 42 years Libya’s statehood was suspended, and not without good reason, for I suspect if the people did not resist then naturally they were not ready. At that stage they were still a passive audience in their own political lives, half standing and leaning on a naive assumption that this wretched man heralded a way to modernity. Little did they know that he was handpicked by none other than his maternal uncles, the Zionist Israelis.
42 years of disenfranchisement and delusion ripened the people’s will, seeing the fruits in neighbouring countries gave it enough spark to strengthen that hidden resolve, they took up arms to rid history of one of its least favourite rogue dictators, and were now spelling their demands in blood. What is the sentiment when the eyes of total strangers, brothers in the revolution of the nation, meet from time to time as they march forward carrying their wounds and deeply seated wrath? That is the birth of Libyan national consciousness under divine guidance, back on its path of self-willed direction, with symbols of unity, expressions of freedom and the return of the old flag fluttering high.