A Lesson for Democracy in Libya

By Mohammad Azeemullah

During the time of Colonel Al Qathafi regime, life in Libya was static. Change was very slow or non-existent. Innovation was tightly controlled. And on rare occasions if at all it occurred, change was announced from above. Now that era of sluggishness and disenchantment is gone.

Currently Libya inhales a new breath of its existence. It has its birth now and marks a beginning in the history of modern nations.Democracy is just knocking its door to have its space.

Like authoritarianism, they have demand upon societies, so does have democracy upon their societies. If the society is not tuned to embrace emerging values, a democratic society will result into that of chaos and confusion.

Democracy in Libya is easier to preach than to follow. It is not an easy cake. It is a challenging task keeping in view the dictatorial past.

Most of those who have participated in the revolutions in Libya have grown up in authoritarian and bureaucratic environment. They have dictatorial mindset.

Many of them are naïve to the core principles of democracy that demand upon its members to the extraordinary degree of tolerance, sensitivity and flexibility.

The first lesson for them is to prepare the frame of mind that accommodates the shifting wind of attitude and outlook.

The authoritarian men who begin to practice democracy are likely to be caught up in the belligerent assumptions of the tyrannical past: they may talk constantly of ‘standing up to’ and ‘not being swayed by’ and ‘not giving in to’ and being ‘firm’ or ‘tough’.

They will have to educate that democracy is not about domineering, rather it is about attunement; it is not about commanding, rather it is about engagement.

The second tutorial point is about the democratisation of the workplace where transparency supersedes ambiguity and elusiveness.

The old paradigm of Colonel Al Qathafi rule that exalted in covert decision must give way to frank reflections. The blind loyalty must replace acknowledged contributions by the individuals.

For the foundation of democracy to grow and flourish in Libya…a democratic environment is necessary.

The authoritarian society does not tolerate the views that are egalitarian, pluralistic and liberal where as a democratic society does.

In the current scenario of power struggle in Libya, there seems to be no ‘opposition’ to the opposition party that is running the transitional government.

A dictator has been removed from power that declared war against its own people and burned the symbolic three-coloured flag of freedom which revolutionaries carried.

What about the same vengeance shown by the opposition to the green flag of the old regime?

That brings to mind the third element of teaching about democracy to provide freedom of opinion and dissent.

For democracy to mature, a vibrant and dynamic opposition is a must. It is to take care that no voice of any section is stifled in the society even though it comes from the individuals of the dying regime in the past.

Authoritarian systems have a set goal, a fixed end point whereas democracy is experimental. It is a system of values…a climate of beliefs that govern human behaviour.

These values may include: reliance on consensus, willing to cope up with or mediate the conflict on rational grounds, respectful to increasing diversity, influence based on knowledge rather than on prerogatives of power, division of labor based on specialization and so on.

Transitions in Libya do not appear to be as easy as they appear. They are both rebellious and difficult.

The shift from authoritarianism to democracy…from war to peace, from machismo to cooperation, from domination to atonement…is a paradigm shift of unprecedented magnitude.

Such a change inevitably causes great strain and confusion for new authority to bring stability and familiarity.

In such a state of transformation, the common men feel pulled apart at times when they look excitedly toward the future with one hand and cling desperately to their old concepts with the other.

Libya is in a period of transition between an old system that existed for forty two years and a new one. Every strain and discomfort is likely to be heightened by comparison with old assumptions.

It is hoped that common people overcome the anxiety that is caused by the dark shadow of a totalitarian and repressive past and adapt to the systems which are in the process of evolving.

Ready to move on despite all odds testify the will of people in Libya to have a lesson of democracy in life seriously.

Categories: Democracy, Libya, Mohammad Azeemullah


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