Saturday, March 12, 2011

Of mutinies and a monkey fable - By M. Veera Pandiyan from thestar.com


The neglected understanding of political power by dictators and tyrants results in rebellions by the people. IT’S truly the year of revolutions, with dictators and despots finally getting their just desserts.
The regime of Libya’s erratic and feared ruler Muammar Gaddafi appears to be next in line to be overthrown after the fall of Tunisia’s strongman Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s autocrat Hosni Mubarak in the spreading Jasmine revolution. But Gaddafi, the 68-year-old self-styled “King of Kings” who has ruled the country for 42 years, has shown he has no qualms in resorting to genocide to cling on to power.
Bullet-ridden corpses now litter the streets of Tripoli, the ghastly results of his brutal response. Libyan protesters were killed by air strikes and death squads of foreign mercenaries. They were reported to be still shooting at random and preventing relatives of the slain from removing the bodies for burial. There have also been appalling reports of massacres at funerals and shootings of the injured in hospitals. In a rant over state TV on Tuesday, Gaddafi practically declared civil war – threatening to unleash mob rule and “cleanse Libya house by house” until he has crushed the rebellion. But many of the country’s diplomats have broken ranks with the regime and military units, refusing orders to fire on demonstrators and pilots defecting. Among the units that joined the anti-regime forces was the Thunderbolt Battalion, which is the Presidential Guard, the personal force of Gadhafi in Benghazi – the second largest city in the east which has since fallen to the rebels along with Al Bayda and Tobruk. Gaddafi’s remaining loyalists are his Presidential Guard and units comprising foreign mercenaries, many from the former Soviet Union and African countries.
While we can also suppose that his bevy of female Ethiopian bodyguards and his long-time Ukrainian nurse Galyna Kolotnytska are still with him, Gaddafi’s regime is doomed and his days seem to be numbered. But when he goes, Libya would be a scorched and destroyed desert country without basic structures for transition into democracy for its six million people. With no organised opposition, the vacuum is likely to raise tensions between the military, the Islamists, liberals and more importantly, the various tribes in the country.
Unlike other countries in the region, Libya does not have extreme poverty. Its per capita GDP is US$13,400 (RM40,850), almost close to Malaysia’s US$13,800 (RM42,000). But like other Arab countries, instead of economic diversification and creating job opportunities for the educated young, it has been overly dependent on its oil reserves. Libya has the largest oil reserves in Africa, with 42 billion barrels of oil and over 1.3 trillion cubic metres of gas. And that, too, with only 25% of Libya’s surface territory explored.
As Europe’s single largest oil supplier, the second largest oil producer in Africa and fourth largest gas supplier, it dominates the petroleum sector in the southern Mediterranean with more than 50 international oil companies operating in the country. Libyans may not be as poor as their neighbours but the Jasmine revolts in Tunisia and Egypt helped them realise that 42 years under a despot was enough.
Dr Gene Sharp, Professor Emeritus of political science at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, whose brilliant work From Dictatorship to Democracy is credited for empowering people around the world to overthrow dictatorships, including the newest rebellions, said in a recent interview: “Once a regime is no longer able to frighten people – to terrorise them into passive submission – then that regime is in big trouble.” Among the chapters in Dr Sharp’s book is the “Monkey Master” fable, a 14th century Chinese parable by Liu Ji which outlines the neglected understanding of political power.
In the feudal state of Chu, an old man survived by keeping monkeys in his service. The people called him ju gong (monkey master). Each morning, the old man would assemble the monkeys in his courtyard, and order the eldest one to lead the others to the mountains to gather fruits from bushes and trees. It was the rule that each monkey had to give one-tenth of his collection to the old man. Those who failed to do so would be ruthlessly flogged. All the monkeys suffered bitterly, but dared not complain. One day, a small monkey asked the other monkeys, “Did the old man plant all the fruit trees and bushes?” The others said, “No, they grew naturally.” The small monkey further asked, “Can’t we take the fruits without the old man’s permission?” The others replied, “Yes, we all can.” The small monkey continued, “Then, why should we depend on the old man; why must we all serve him?” Before the small monkey was able to finish his statement, all the monkeys suddenly became enlightened and awakened. On the same night, after the old man had fallen asleep, the monkeys tore down all the barricades of the stockade in which they were confined, and destroyed the stockade. They also took the fruits the old man had in storage, brought all with them to the woods, and never returned. The old man finally died of starvation.
Liu Ji said, “Some men in the world rule their people by tricks and not by righteous principles. “Aren’t they just like the monkey master? They are not aware of their muddle-headedness? As soon as their people become enlightened, their tricks no longer work.”
Associate Editor M. Veera Pandiyan likes Martin Luther King Jr’s take on rebellion: “A riot is the language of the unheard.”
Source - The Star.com

No comments: