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Libya: The Fairy Godmothers Hoping to Bless a New State Structure Meet in Berlin

In Middle East & North Africa, Current Events, Solidarity, Conflict Resolution, The Search for Peace, United Nations, International Justice, World Law, Being a World Citizen, Refugees, Humanitarian Law, NGOs, Track II, Libya on January 22, 2020 at 9:16 PM

By René Wadlow

The Fairy Godmothers of world politics met in Berlin on January 19, 2020 to assist at the birth of a State structure arising from the currently deeply divided factions of Libya: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres were the co-hosts with the Turkish Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, France’s Emmanuel Macron, the United Kingdom’s Boris Johnson, the USA’s Mike Pompeo as well as the less easily recognized officials – the Prime Minister of Italy, Giuseppe Conte, and the representatives of China, Egypt, Algeria, and the United Arab Emirates. There were also representatives of the major intergovernmental organizations involved in Libya: the UN, the European Union, the African Union and the League of Arab States.

The Final Document of the Berlin Conference is an effort to please all participants, but, in fact, on the crucial issue of the creation of a functioning administration for Libya, there was only a broad vision of a desirable future: a single, unified, inclusive, and effective Libyan government that is transparent, accountable, fair with equitable distribution of public wealth and resources between different Libyan geographic areas, including through decentralization and support for municipalities, thereby removing a central grievance and cause of recrimination.

The creation of such State structures has been the chief issue since 1945 when the Allies – Britain, the USA and the USSR – agreed that the Italian colonies should not be returned to Italy, although Italian settlers were encouraged to stay. The Allies did not want to create the structures of the new State believing that this task should be done by the Libyans themselves. Also, the three Allies disagreed among themselves as to the nature of the future State.

King Idris I of Libya

By 1950-1951 with more crucial geopolitical issues elsewhere, the Allies were ready for the creation of a Libyan State. It seemed that a monarchy was the most appropriate form of government as there were no structured political parties that could have created a parliamentary government. Thus in 1951, Idris was made the King of the State. Idris was the head of the Senussi Sufi Order created by his father. The Senussi Sufi Order had branches in most parts of the country. Idriss ruled the country as if it were a Sufi order and did little to structure non-religious political structures. Idris ruled until September 1969 when he was overthrown by Muammar Qaddafi.

Qaddafi was also not interested in creating permanent political parties which, he feared, might be used against him. He called himself “the Guide of the Revolution” not “President” and Libya became the Libyan Jamahiriya, that is, the authority of the people. The closest model to Qaddafi’s vision is a Quaker Meeting, where decisions are taken by consensus and compromise at the local level. These decisions are then sent as recommendations to the next higher level where by consensus and compromise again a decision is taken. Ultimately, these decisions reach to the top of Libya, and the “Guide” sees how they can be carried out.

Muammar Qaddafi

The problem with the governance of Libya was that not everyone was a member of a Sufi order where the search for enlightenment in a spirit of love was the way decisions were to be made. Moreover, there were hardly any Libyan Quakers, and compromise was not the chief model for the tribal and clanic networks which was how the country was structured under Qaddafi.

Since the overthrow and death of Qaddafi in 2011, there has been no agreement on how the country should be structured. The model which is most likely to be followed is that of General Khalifa Haftar, who now likes to be addressed as “Field Marshal”. The model is a military-based dictatorship with a small number of civilians as “window dressing”. The model is well represented through the world although not always held up as a model form of government. Haftar holds a good bit of the Libyan territory, although his hope of a quick victory over the “national unity” government in the capitol Tripoli has not been successful for the moment.

Faiez Sarraj

The National Unity Government of Faiez Sarraj is a civilian-led government but heavily dependent for its survival on tribal militias. The model for the government is that of Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey with a certain ideological coloring from the Islamic Brotherhood, originally from Egypt but whose ideology has spread. What type of structures can be created between these two major models is not known. I would expect to see a Khalifa Haftar-led government with a few civilians brought in from the National Unity Government.

General Khalifa Haftar

The only geographic area outside of the current Tripoli-centered conflict between Faiez Sarraj and Khalifa Haftar is the area known as the Fezzan – the southwestern part of the country on the edge of the Sahara. The area was associated with the rest of the country during the period of King Idriss as there were a number of branches of his Sufi order in the oases where most of the 200,000 people in the area live, mostly date palm farmers. Gaddafi largely left the area alone as there was little possibility of developing organized opposition. However, today, the governmental neglect has opened the door to wide-spread smuggling of people, weapons and drugs. The Italian government in particular has drawn international attention to the lack of administration in the Fezzan as many of the African migrants who end up in Italy have passed through the Fezzan on their way to Europe.

The creation of highly decentralized governmental structures in Libya will not be easy. Nevertheless, such decentralized administration is key to the future, and a challenge to all of us who want to see a peaceful and relatively just Libya.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

A Vibrant World Civil Society

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Democracy, Europe, Human Rights, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II on January 4, 2020 at 11:21 PM

By René Wadlow

The term “civil society” came into extensive use especially in Europe in the mid -1970s as efforts to bridge the East-West divide and prevent the dangers of war in Europe. As Mary Kalder writes “A group of us launched the European Nuclear Disarmament (END) Appeal for a nuclear-free Europe. The Appeal attracted thousands of signatures from all over Europe and beyond and was one of the mobilizing documents of the new peace movement which sprang up in Western Europe in the early 1980s. The Appeal called for nuclear disarmament through unilateral, bilateral, and multilateral means, but it was also an appeal to end the Cold War. It accorded responsibility in the Cold War to both the United States and the Soviet Union and insisted on the link between disarmament and democracy.” (1)

Ernest Gellner

The END Appeal looked to positive action from “civil society” within the Soviet bloc which was starting to be vocal outside of the government-controlled peace organizations which largely reflected Soviet government policy in their interaction with Western peace-disarmament non-governmental organizations. As Ernest Gellner writes, “Civil Society is the idea of institutional and ideological pluralism, which prevents the established monopoly of power and truth and counterbalances those central institutions which though necessary, might otherwise acquire such monopoly. The actual practice of Marxism had led, wherever it came to be implemented to what might be called Caesaro-Papism-Mannonism to the near total fusion of the political, ideological, and economic hierarchies. The state, the church-party, and the economic managers were all parts of one single nomenclature… Civil Society is that set of diverse nongovernmental institutions which is strong enough to counterbalance the state and, while not preventing the state from fulfilling its role as keeper of the peace and arbitrator between major interests, can nevertheless prevent it from dominating and atomizing the rest of society.” (2)

Vaclav Havel

Vaclav Havel, although he later became president of a State, was a valuable symbol of the efforts to develop a civil society. “We emphasized many times that the struggle we had taken on had little in common with what is traditionally understood by the expression ‘politics.’ We discussed such concepts as non-political politics, and stressed that we were interested in certain values and principles and not in power and position. We emphasized the importance of the spirit, the importance of truth and said that even spirit and truth embody a certain kind of power.” (3)

Today, more than in the recent past, we are faced with a revival of the Caesaro-Papism-Mannonism States whose interactions, especially in the wider Middle East, could lead to armed conflicts. In addition to the Caesaro-led States, the world society faces terrorism as movements with goals, gurus, ideologues, myths and martyrs. Thus there is a need to develop and structure a world-wide civil society. The concept of civil society is probably the platform for future progressive action. The global civil society is a ‘power shift’ of potentially historic dimensions with bonds of trust, shared values and mutual obligations which cross national frontiers. With the war drums starting to beat, creative action is needed now.

Notes

1) Mary Kaldor (Ed.), Europe from Below (London: Verso, 1991)
2) Ernest Gellner, Conditions of Liberty: Civil Society and its Rivals (London: Penguin Books, 1996)
3) Vaclav Havel in Mary Kalder (Ed.), Europe from Below.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Maurice Béjart: Starting Off the Year with a Dance

In Africa, Arts, Being a World Citizen, Cultural Bridges on January 3, 2020 at 6:16 PM

By René Wadlow

January 1 is the birth anniversary of Maurice Béjart, an innovative master of modern dance. In a world where there is both appreciation and fear of the mixing of cultural traditions, Maurice Béjart was always a champion of blending cultural influences. He was a world citizen and an inspiration to all who work for a universal culture. His death on November 22, 2007 was a loss, but he serves as a forerunner of what needs to be done so that beauty will overcome the walls of separation. One of the Béjart’s most impressive dance sequences was Jérusalem, Cité de la Paix in which he stressed the need for reconciliation and mutual cultural enrichment.

Béjart followed in the spirit of his father, Gaston Berger (1896-1960), philosopher, administrator of university education, and one of the first to start multi-disciplinary studies of the future. Gaston Berger was born in Saint-Louis de Sénégal, with a French mother and a Senegalese father. Sénégal, and especially Leopold Sedar Senghor, pointed with pride to Gaston Berger as a “native son” — and the second university after Dakar was built in Saint-Louis and carries the name of Gaston Berger. Berger became a professor of philosophy at the University of Aix-Marseille and was interested in seeking the basic structures of mystical thought, with study on the thought of Henri Bergson and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, both of whom were concerned with the basic energies which drive humanity forward. Berger was also interested in the role of memory as that which holds the group together writing that it is memory which allows us “to be able to hope together, to fear together, to love together, and to work together.”

Maurice Béjart

In 1953, Gaston Berger was named director general of higher education in France with the task of renewal of the university system after the Second World War years. Thus, when Maurice-Jean Berger, born in 1927, was to start his own path, the name Berger was already well known in intellectual and administrative circle. Maurice changed his name to Béjart which sounds somewhat similar but is the name of the wife of Molière. Molière remains the symbol of the combination of theater-dance-music.

Maurice Béjart was trained at the Opéra de Paris and then with the well-known choreographer Roland Petit. Béjart’s talent was primarily as a choreographer, a creator of new forms blending dance-music-action. He was willing to take well-known music such as the Bolero of Maurice Ravel or The Rite of Spring and The Firebird of Stravinsky and develop new dance forms for them. However, he was also interested in working with composers of experimental music such as Pierre Schaeffer.

G. I. Gurdjieff

Béjart also continued his father’s interest in mystical thought, less to find the basic structures of mystic thought like his father but rather as an inspiration. He developed a particular interest in the Sufi traditions of Persia and Central Asia. The Sufis have often combined thought-music-motion as a way to higher enlightenment. The teaching and movements of G. I. Gurdjieff are largely based on Central Asian Sufi techniques even if Gurdjieff did not stress their Islamic character. Although Gurdjieff died in October 1948, he was known as an inspiration for combining mystical thought, music and motion in the artistic milieu of Béjart. The French composer of modern experimental music, Pierre Schaeffer with whom Béjart worked closely was a follower of Gurdjieff. Schaeffer also worked closely with Pierre Henry for Symphonie pour un homme seul and La Messe pour le Temps Présent for which Béjart programmed the dance. Pierre Henry was interested in the Tibetan school of Buddhism, so much of Béjart’s milieu had spiritual interests turned toward Asia.

It was Béjart’s experience in Persia where he was called by the Shah of Iran to create dances for the Persepolis celebration in 1971 that really opened the door to Sufi thought — a path he continued to follow. A Sufi theme is “opening the heart to the light of love.” Sufi movements, which Béjart adopted, is to develop movements in time with the beating of the heart.

Béjart also followed his father’s interest in education and created dance schools both in Bruxelles and later Lausanne. While there is not a “Béjart style” that others follow closely, he stressed an openness to the cultures of the world and felt that dance could be an enrichment for all social classes. He often attracted large audiences to his dance performances, and people from different milieu were moved by his dances.

Béjart represents a conscious effort to break down walls between artistic forms by combining music, dance, and emotion and the walls between cultures. An inspiration for world citizens to follow.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

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