Libya on Saturday plunged into a civil war with see-saw battles going on between Muammar Gaddafi loyalists and rebels for territorial gains, leaving 74 dead in one of the bloodiest day of fighting as the country’s opposition held its first conclave apparently to form a parallel government. The efforts to form a self-declared national-council comes as US and western countries as well as world bodies have virtually derecognised the Gaddafi regime and interpol has issued warrants against him and his family for genocide.
These battles have been ongoing and brutal. Many hope that the conflict will end soon and that the anti-Qaddafi forces will become victorious. I am posting in this blog an Al Jazeera "Inside Story" clip that focused on these developments and the possibility of the revolution's results. I also am posting excerpts from a crazed Qaddafi speech showing,in a small way, what kind of man has ruled Libya for over four decades.
This news is important to follow as the revolution wages within Libya, but I think it is also important to see Libyans beyond the face of Qaddafi. Libyans are giving their lives up for freedom. Some have resisted in the past with less popular support, but there has always been resistance. Libya, throughout the entirety of Qaddafi's rule has produced artists willing to take on Qaddafi's tyranny. On March 1, 2011 Jeffery Brown from "Art Beat" interviewed Libyan born poet Khaled Mattawa. Part of the interview addressed the role of poetry under the Qaddafi regime:
JEFFREY BROWN: I was going to ask you about the role of literature and poetry in a regime like that.
KHALED MATTAWA: Well, they basically put a generation of writers and poets who were in their 20s in the late '70s, they put them in jail. Whole generation of them who were in their 20s, they got out of jail in their late 30s. They tried to promote their own poets; they never got any measure of poets to work for them. The compromise they made with some writers was to guarantee them some degree of independence, to write about subjects that are far away from the current situation. Whether it is about the desert, or about relationships-- just stay away from realism in the real sense. Basically writers were imprisoned for most of the '80s. When they started getting out, they began to publish. The '90s in poetry is the generation of symbolic poetry. Clearly the poetry was unhappy, but it never got very specific. By the 2000s, people could write about the time when they were in prison, just dating the poem and the place of it, written in 1981 in such and such prison. Putting that as a tag in the bottom of poem was a revolutionary thing, because it had never happened to Libya before.
Here is a poem Mattawa wrote:
The trick is that you're willing to help them.
The rule is to sound like you’re doing them a favor.
The rule is to create a commission system.
The trick is to get their number.
The trick is to make it personal:
No one in the world suffers like you.
The trick is that you’re providing a service.
The rule is to keep the conversation going.
The rule is their parents were foolish,
their children are greedy or insane.
The rule is to make them feel they've come too late.
The trick is that you're willing to make exceptions.
The rule is to assume their parents abused them.
The trick is to sound like the one teacher they loved.
And when they say "too much,"
give them a plan.
And when they say "anger" or "rage" or "love,"
say "give me an example."
The rule is everyone is a gypsy now.
Everyone is searching for his tribe.
The rule is you don't care if they ever find it.
The trick is that they feel they can.