Post-revolution Libya is an ugly place right now. The country is potentially on the brink of civil war, with different factions trying to tear the other apart and a total lack of basic safety and security. In a beautiful post for the New Yorker titled The Consequences of Dreams, Libyan novelist Hicham Matar briefly describes the current state of the country, and why all hope is not lost for the future.
Dreams have consequences. There is no turning back. A revolution is not a painless march to the gates of freedom and justice. It is a struggle between rage and hope, between the temptation to destroy and the desire to build. Its temperament is desperate. It is a tormented response to the past, to all that has happened, the recalled and unrecalled injustices—for the memory of a revolution reaches much further back than the memory of its protagonists.
Qaddafi’s Libya was stifled and rife with violence; all dissidents, political opponents, or perceived threats were ruthlessly and violently hunted, tortured, and killed. Modern Libyan political history begins in 1951, with independence from colonialism. Since then, more than two-thirds of the time has been ruled by Qaddafi’s violent and oppressive regime. It is unsurprising that a conflict-free and peace-loving democracy has not quickly developed in the almost three years since Qaddafi’s death. This type of political and civic environment was precisely what his mafia-like regime stifled during his rule.
A recent Muftah article on democratic transitions in MENA examines two pieces of research: protests leading to the fall of a government are more likely to result in democratization, but that these uprisings can often sweep away the structure of civil society and government institutions, which in turn can lead to new dictatorships. Additionally, the likelihood of developing democracy post-revolution or uprising is inversely linked to levels of violence during the regime’s fall. While these ideas could potentially be inferred from current news events, it is interesting to read these two pieces as they contrast to one another – Matar’s view of a transitioning Libya, and the grimmer outlook from Muftah on democratic transitions. Read Hicham Matar’s piece at the New Yorker, and Brian Braun’s on Muftah.