In Qaddafi’s Libya, every citizen received a $1,000 yearly subsidy: it had already achieved what South Africa is still campaigning for — a basic monthly income for every citizen, working or not, coming from the profits of national resources as their fair share as equals.
In Qaddafi’s Libya, every unemployed adult received monthly aid of $730 each; all were entitled to one-time financial aid of $20,000 for starting up an enterprise; education, healthcare and electricity were free; newborns were welcomed with a gift of $7,000; newly-marrieds were gifted $64,000 to buy an apartment; oil, at about Rs10 per litre, was cheaper than water. Libya’s per-capita GDP was over $14,000 ! (All this is put in past tense because it is unlikely to prevail in post-Qaddafi Libya).
If this is ‘oppression’, I’d welcome it. So would the rest of our population — except the few who have appropriated our resources, money and power.
Under such near-ideal circumstances, why did some citizens turn against Qaddafi? Because of basic human nature: no one is perfect. There are always some who want more, by fair means or foul. That’s what makes it so easy to finance and mount ‘uprisings’ to justify foreign intervention and launch false flag wars.
But why the reputation of ‘mad-dog’ and a cruel and ruthless dictator? The old adage of giving a dog a bad name, then hanging it, applies here. It also underscores some non-western media shortcomings.
Most of our sources of world news and information come from the western corporate media, as powerful as the governments they buy, make or break. Too much is taken as unvarnished truth, which it isn’t. Only the internet has enabled independent thought and news to spread, but it has to be sought out, and only the interested computer-literate can access it.
This is not to say that dictators cannot be cruel and ruthless, absolute power does that to people — one just has to look at Bush and his Guantanamo cheerleaders and others around the world.
Our media people and analysts don’t get to personally visit and check ground realities in the non-western or Muslim world the way the western media does. The latter’s views are often coloured or suppressed to serve corporate policy and the status quo. Yet this can be largely overcome by modern communications; closer links with the media and independent institutions in non-western countries could make a tremendous difference in learning, correcting, interpreting and balancing information.
Of course, Qaddafi was not perfect, any more than Saddam or any of our own dictators, including civilian, were and are. Dictators tend to long overstay their welcome and often allow their children, relatives and friends unwarranted favours. Nepotism and corruption sets in; and once established at all levels, demolishing free speech and justice institutions, it’s hard to get rid of.
It was not only because Libya possessed the biggest oil reserves in Africa that America planned the same fate for it as Iraq (and is now fating for other countries). If one goes back a few decades and looks at America’s ‘strategic’ and ‘national interest’ planning, it was just a stage of a long-term hegemonic plan, partly already achieved.
Qaddafi was also pursuing the same dangerous goal as Saddam — dispensing with the gun-backed, worthless paper dollar which exacerbated the financial crash that America will not recover from soon. By the time the chips were down, Qaddafi had accumulated over 140 tons of gold to create a dollar-free zone to settle payments with other countries. He was too late.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 5th, 2011.