In a short story I wrote long before the Libyan uprising, I imagined a man riding beside a reckless and erratic driver along with several other silent passengers in a very old car.
Driving for an eternity on a long never ending hot baking road, the man kept asking the driver only one question, “Where are we going?!”
That scene and that question depicted the general sense of despair and helplessness towards the situation in Gaddafi’s Libya.
Two years ago Libya was on the verge of a tumultuous transformation. The capital Tripoli, was being taken by rebel forces and Gaddafi and his loyalists were on the run.
The Libyan people had never been as joyous and full of hope about the future of their country.
They felt that they waited too long for closure and that their sacrifice and resilience had paid off. It was all, at last, worth it.
Libya today is a country suffering from serious problems: a weak central government that struggles to maintain basic services, law and order, different armed groups that are violently competing to maintain their gains, a new political clique that is working on isolating their rivals by all means, and a fragmented society that distrusts government but still relies on it heavily.
But despite all these serious problems, Libyans maintain a modest level of hope and optimism, mixed with bitterness and disappointment that the country’s course isn’t living up to the sacrifices and expectations.
While it is true that the general image is of despair and frustration, I among other Libyans, believe that the revolution, ignited in mid February 2011, was and continues to be a generational turning point, and nothing can change the significance and importance of that event.
Today many Libyans would like to claim ownership of the revolution and its relative and modest victories, but would distance themselves from the accumulating blunders and failures and the long list of missed opportunities that might, just might, have given them the country that they wished for.
The collective refusal to share and claim accountability is probably a way to escape confronting the difficult and existential question: “Was it all worth it?!”
Some would argue that the question of worthiness is the wrong one to ask with such a fluid and unpredictable force as revolution. And it could also trivialise this long and hard struggle, reducing it to a single definitive answer of “Yes!” or “No!”
We might be allowed to be angry, upset and frustrated, but we are not allowed in our loathsome disappointment, to lose hope. Without hope we wouldn't be able to lift ourselves from our legacy of despotism, social stagnation and the carcasses of lost opportunities.
In the end of the short story of the long car ride, the questioning passenger was kicked out of the car and left alone on the dark baking tarmac, the blurred sight of the old car driving away in the distant horizon. As he languished under the blazing sun he kept asking “Where are we going?!”
After many years of being left alone in the middle of nowhere, I can imagine him being offered a ride by possibly the same old car, glad he is back on the road, accepting the fact that this will be a bumpy arduous ride, but moving towards somewhere, that might be, in the end, worth it.