Sunday, February 20, 2011

Freedom of Expression is Messy

As we have all been following, the Arab world seems to be in a state in amazing flux. A few of the long running autocracies have fallen and a few more seem to be coming to their expiry dates. This seems to be especially true for Libya. The nation is in uproar, people are now sick of the 42 year reign of Muammar Gaddafi and want things like democracy, freedom of expression and economic freedom that is free from the restrictions placed by the government. Over the last number of years, Gaddafi has favoured one part of the country over the other. The East seems to have suffered, although many will say the West isn't exactly the land of milk and honey. For a nation rich in resources, there has been an amazing economic screw=up by the government. Well, let's be honest, its been a one man show, because of it, the problems have to rest in the incompetence of the Mr. Gaddafi. He's called the shots and he is the one that messed everything up.

I was reading the Constitution of Libya, its something I like to do and as is the case of most constitutions of dictatorship, it has some wonderful language. For example the Preamble has this:
The Revolutionary Command Council, in the name of the Arab people in Libya, who pledged to restore their freedom, enjoy the wealth of their land, live in a society in which every loyal citizen has the right to prosperity and well-being, who are determined to break the restraints which impede their growth and their development, who will stand with their brothers from all parts of the Arab Nation in the struggle for the restoration of every inch of Arab land desecrated by imperialism and for the elimination of all obstacles which prevent Arab unity from the Gulf to the Ocean.

Prosperity for the citizenry and a vision of a Pan-Arab world in which all nations of the Arab world will join to bring unity and prosperity through that region. As nice as it sounds, it seems the reality is totally different.

The odd thing is after 42 years of such wonderful rhetoric, the people seem totally sick of it all. With the relatively bloodless regime change to their neighbours, it only seems right for the Libyan people to do the same. Sadly it hasn't been true, where there has been peaceful protest, the government has cracked down with violence and bloodshed. However, never underestimate the resolve of people to seek a better life, they are still at it. In fact as I write this, Benghazi has been liberated by the protesters and Tripoli is now feeling the same power of protest.

I noticed the speech of his son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi has already announced his father is preparing to fight for the defence of Tripoli. I'm not sure but that could be code for "he's already on the first plane to Saudi Arabia to join his friend the deposed President of Tunisia" or "we've just shot him and now we're in charge, we're just not ready to dispose the body yet".

This is not the theme of today's blog, I also went over the constitution and found these words:
Freedom of Opinion is guaranteed within the limits of public interest and the principles of the Revolution.

In other words, freedom of expression is allowed as long as it agrees with the Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution. If you want an opinion Gaddafi will give you one, disagree and things will not be nice.

Here's the thing, people like Gaddafi, in fact the leaders of almost every nation realizes this fact, freedom of expression is messy. If you let people have the freedom of opinion or expression they will do just that. In fact they will probably not agree with the opinion of the leader and government. This is why most people who are foolish enough to take things such as Article 13 at face value end up in jail. This is why the people of Libya are now facing down mercenaries who are well armed, and are willing to die. They believe the words of their constitution are no longer pretty sounding on a piece of paper but should have a place in their lives. Of course dictators can't think that point, they look at the people and wonder what is wrong with the rabble and because they can't fathom it all, they think that shoot enough of them, it will all go away. If history has proven anything, there's not enough bullets to get rid of a people who want to be free. Dictators will always in the battles, but they will never win the war, because they are facing a people who believe in an ideal- it's called freedom.

Of course, to further fail the point, leaders promise "constitutional dialogue". People are fed up with it all, the want freedom, they want the prosperity that has been promised, they want to be a free people.

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