By Fathi Benessa

The question baffles most, if not all, Libya observers and continues to baffle Libyans themselves. Even the governed do not know who governs them.

Ask that question inside or outside Libya and you will get as many answers as there are political orientations at play. They all seem to agree on one thing: Libya is not one entity; it is a smörgåsbord of many cantons and mini-states, each with its own ruler and regime.

No ruler can claim authority beyond limits that have been established by force. Even inside the same city in Libya, you might find that each neighbourhood has its own ruler and its own militia.

Those claiming to have a detached view of the Libyan situation will tell you that the real ruler of Libya is not Libyan.

The destiny of Libya is not in the hands of its citizens. Practically all the names of neighbouring countries have been advanced as the culprit within the framework of this theory.

African-American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr is credited as having said: “A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.”

We Libyans are the ones who allowed others to ride our backs. We are the ones who have created a multitude of leaders and pseudo-leaders. We are the ones who have cheered illegitimacy, welcomed false pride and condoned lawlessness in exchange for false hopes.

When we applauded the new constitution, we were, in fact, sanctifying the law of the victor because only the victors were allowed to design the new constitution. We did not stand up for the equal right of all Libyans to live in dignity. Our fight was not against each other as much as it should have been for the goal of founding a state for all Libyans.

Instead, we stood by and cheered the logic of victorious cities versus defeated cities. We cheered exclusion and the sweeping aside of entire cities. We justified unnecessary and illegal collective punishment and excelled in the art of dividing ourselves into old regime cronies versus new rats, Islamists versus secularists, victors versus losers, original Libyans versus new Libyans and a minority versus a majority.

It is very easy to see and touch ignorance in the Libyan context. I am using ignorance here not as the opposite of education but rather as a descriptor for those who have chosen the option of hurting themselves and their people instead of using their God-given talents to transcend adversity.

They have let pride, resentment and envy guide their steps and are headed for perdition, bringing down with their fall thousands upon thousands.

Yes, this is our sorry state.

We know very well that we cannot fix it unless we let go of our petty differences, which, with time, turned out to be unfounded and motivated only by greed.

We should have looked at Libya as our home country but instead we saw it as a beckoning cake. To satisfy our selfish gluttony, we were prepared to bargain with the devil himself.

What really governs Libya is our greed and voracity. It is our immoral willingness and readiness to destroy our own home and bring it down on our own people. We bemoan our time and our lot but fail to see that the only defect of our time is us.

I believe that the only conspiracies against us are of our own making.

How many times did we conspire to bring down an employee or official just because he is rigorous in his job and upholds the law?

How many times did we falsify documents just to get money that was not ours?

How many times did we mock an honest employee or a policeman or soldier, calling him a “loser” for not spoiling himself or his relatives and simply treated him as a social outcast?

And, finally, just how many times did we lick the boots of a powerful thief just to lay our hands on some scraps of his booty?


Fethi Benessa is a Libyan writer.


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