Nothing has changed in Libya aside from the flag and national anthem.
I’ve heard this statement a number of times in frustrated debates, or quoted by international journalists interviewing Libyan residents. Though, the statement conveys a personal opinion and the person’s right to express it, I can’t help but think that, that’s just it.
This column is not going to convince those in doubt that Libya has, in fact changed. Stating the obvious would be redundant. Instead it is to change the way we have come to perceive the term ‘change’, at least for the reading-length of this article.
Last year’s uprising was the birth of the only form of change the country has seen in 42 years. In many ways, the revolution has had a lasting-impression on Libyans’ understanding of the term.
Change now connotes national transformations, whereas there are various degrees of the term to be appreciated.
I recently found myself in a tense, heated discussion over the current state of the country in its shaky transition phase, not all of the issues discussed were political. I agreed with as much of what was being said as I disagreed.
However, it was hard to express anything at all since one too many people were competing for the floor – a clear display of Libyans practicing a right that has been long refused to them.
While holding sweating teacups, the group openly and simultaneously voiced all of the things that needed to be changed in Libya. However, very few solutions were suggested except that the government should take responsibility.
I watched animated hands, and heard decibels grow higher until finally the sound in the room dwindled. It seemed that the group managed to make each other feel even less hopeful than they had been at the start of the discussion.
“It’s good that you know where change should happen,” I said. “What are you doing to help that?”
I expected the type of responses before I spoke. There’d be a display of shock and no response at all; or, denial and the argument that I’m still stuck in the “American dream” and should stop comparing Libya and America in my head.
However, I was pleasantly surprised by one girl’s honest response, “We didn’t think of it that way.”
One has to question why there have been such conflicting views of how the country is transitioning from a brutal dictatorship. There are the people who have great analytic skills, and know where to point the finger. Then, there are many optimistic individuals who expected the transition phase to be shaky, and have adopted small responsibilities that make them a part of the change they’d like to see.
Under democratic terms, both people have equal right to express their opinions. And, together they represent Libya’s respect for the individual’s freedom of speech.
Change in its most impactful form is change in self.
To embody all the values and morals that you believe every person should possess is one step toward the world reaching that goal. To assume an active stance not only allows you to make your mark in the historical phase that Libya is now undergoing, but it also changes your own outlook on how Libya is changing.
Change always begins as an individual choice. Those choices in large numbers can lead to national transformations like the one we saw last year in Libya’s revolution. Hence, what we express in regards to Libya’s current state says something about ourselves, too.
So, what are you saying about yourself without realizing? Do you believe in change, or do you really believe in change? There is a small difference, and that is a big difference.
Previously published in ‘Tripoli Post’ on 18 June 2012