The Emperor is gone. Fundamental questions about our relationship with the new Libya.

20 Oct

Like many, I awoke this morning to the news that Ghaddafi had been captured.  As I watched the television it soon emerged that, in fact, Ghaddafi had been killed, shot in the head.  I watched as they dragged his corpse through the dirt and I couldn’t help feeling moved, having seen this happen to other human beings not too long ago.  There is great jubilation and excitement as Libya is finally free from Ghaddafi’s tyranny.  His terrible memory will live on for many years as several generations of Libyans will live with the legacy of destruction that came with his iron-handed rule, rebuilding slowly and surely.  I have no idea what a new, free Libya will look like. I, for one, am optimistic that the rebuilding will have robust public institutions and espouse democratic values, chosen by the Libyans themselves. Some are already talking about the threat of radicalized fundamentalists moving in in the wake of the revolution.  Most though, are simply relishing the fact that a new chapter has started.

No sooner had I heard about the death of Ghaddafi, then I heard a certain American commentator say that Libya now owes us for helping to set them free and thus should be giving priority to direct foreign investment from countries affiliated with NATO.

Let’s be laconic and honest for just a moment.  The fact is that the irony of NATO’s involvement has not been lost on our generation.  Why are there not interventions in Yemen and Syria of the same sort?  Thomas Friedman notes that we, as North Americans, pursuing our American Dream, through cheap oil, have enabled and reinforced the ability of dictatorships such as Ghaddafi’s to deny their people basic human rights.  In many cases, we actually have supported the dictators to deny their people rights, in order to secure our own freedoms to consume.  Think about Mubarak in Egypt…

With that as the case, do Libyans owe us anything?  Do they owe us the favour of giving our companies good terms? Being our mouthpiece to the Arab world? Our key ally? Or should we be exploring more fundamentally opposite strategies? For example, what  if the Libyans asked us to pay them reparations for reinforcing the rule of four decades of dictatorship?

Questions abound about which direction Libyans will choose.  What I often wonder about is whether or not Libyans will choose the same unsustainable path that North Americans have chosen.  Will they build an economy that is buoyed by the illusions from financial institutions and under-regulated lenders?  Will they strive for unlimited economic growth, built solely on petro-dollars?  Will they aspire to the life-style of conspicuous over-consumption in every sector that North Americans live?   Or should we aspire to live more like Libyans, relishing our freedom from oppression, as opposed to freedom to inflict it?

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Posted by on October 20, 2011 in Uncategorized


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