Three Years On

The days leading up to February 17 in Libya have been a mixed bag of emotions for the citizens, most of which became overwhelmingly negative after the Libyan Scouts building was bombed on the eve of the three year anniversary of the revolution. As an independent civil society organization with no political affiliations, this cowardly attack on the Scouts has left everyone confused.

It’s these unexplained attacks and assassinations that has brought down the collective spirit of the Libyan people these past months. Is this all we’ve accomplished? Is this why we had a revolution, so we’d become a haven of criminals and corrupt politicians?

For this reason, a lot of people have sworn that they will never celebrate as long as Libya continues to break apart. Celebrate when there are finally achievements worth celebrating.

But it’s unfair to say that nothing good has come out of the revolution. The fact that we can even discuss the state of the country and criticize our ineffectual government is in itself an achievement.

So we can talk, so what? It’s not like we’re doing anything useful with our words. 

Unlike the politicians on T.V. or the slacktivists on social media, some people are actually taking advantage of this freedom of speech to do something good. There have been countless campaigns in school across the country to raise awareness on issues of breast cancer, AIDS and domestic violence, to name a few.

But what about real change on the political front? Our government is still playing us for fools.

Except the government has realized that we’re no longer buying into their empty promises. The last protests against the GNC extension were well organized and peaceful, and sent a powerful message that the people can still unite together against perceived oppression. The candidates for the constitution elections are doing more to earn the trust of the people.

And the steady rate of crime? What kind of democracy has a weak police force?

Crime is not unusual in Libya. But unlike the Gadhafi-era days, we had never heard about any incidents. With the growth of local media and the increased use of telecommunications, news spreads faster and reaches a larger audience. That doesn’t mean that our security situation is great, but we have to be realistic.

What about all the corruption? Everyone from the higher-ups to small company administration are involved in embezzlement, nepotism, etc.

Is this news to you? Did the corruption problem suddenly hit us after the revolution? We’ve always had corruption. But we’ve never had this level of transparency and accountability before. It’s not ideal, but it’s a start.

Life under Gadhafi was less stressful. At least I didn’t have to hear bombs every night.  

It’s selfish to assume that just because life under Gadhafi was great for you, it was great for everyone. Despite being an oil country, we have low rates of poverty, no infrastructure and a weak economy. The absence of bombs doesn’t make a significant difference. Not to mention the fact that it was Gadhafi who was actively destroying the country.

But now we have dozens of Gadhafis! And we can’t even identify half of them.

So should we wait another 42 years to fight them? It doesn’t matter what the face of tyranny and oppression look like, they should be battled with the same passion and fervor. Except instead of RPG’s and anti-aircraft missiles, we have to utilize a different set of weapons; namely education, tolerance and unity.

So what have we achieved in the three years since those first days of our awakening?

We’ve become more aware of the difficulties of rebuilding Libya. People kept saying “it won’t be easy”, but we had high expectations from the start, and we allowed the failure of reaching these expectations to bring us down. We’re now more realistic not just of the obstacles but of our own weaknesses. Set attainable goals, like solving the electricity problems, instead of goals like “looking like Dubai”.

To give up on Libya after everything we’ve been through is to cheapen the blood of those who gave their lives so that we could have one more day to fight. When we say it’s NOT EASY, we mean that we will have to deal with heart-break and frustration and differences of opinions, along with everything else; this is part of human nature and therefore part of the struggle.

Some people have an endless supply of pessimism that they love to share with the world; it doesn’t mean you should give them credibility because you’re feeling skeptical.

Celebrating this day is a way to to take a break from all the turmoil, to acknowledge that we still have a long way to go but that we have the opportunity to progress. We’ll make mistakes and learn from them. But to give up is to stay that there is no more chance for progress and growth, which is fundamentally incorrect.

Do you remember the Scouts I mentioned at the beginning of this post? They cleared up the wreckage in their headquarters, decorated it with flags, and went out to celebrate. That’s the spirit Libya is made of.

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