Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Gaddafi's Gaffes by Abla Ungalski

I recently came across a book on Muammar Gaddafi written by one Abla Ungalski. The book, released in June 2011 and titled Gaddafi’s Gaffes is a small compilation of quotes from the Colonel’s speeches in different forums. The author did a good job of portraying the complex nature of the now-ousted Libyan president through his own words. For those who do not want to be bothered with long and complicated books on Gaddafi and his 42-year reign in Libya, this book gives the opportunity to have some clues on how Gaddafi managed to make himself a controversial figure.

I will run the book in the small series on this site, believing that the author will see this gesture as a kind of free advertisement and publicity for him.

Here is the introduction as written by the author:

"My interest in Muammar Gaddafi dates back to my childhood years.

We had just been introduced to the works of William Shakespeare in Junior Secondary School. This was a major discovery for our young minds, and I do remember that soon after, all Shakespeare’s works were borrowed out from the school library. I went to the library twice a day to find out if anyone had returned any of his works. No luck. I later found out that a list of potential borrowers of Shakespeare’s books had been created by the library. I added my name to the list. I was either 67th or 76th on the list. I cannot remember precisely. But such was our “thirst” to discover the world’s greatest writer. The school principal soon ordered more of Shakespeare’s books for the library. “The Merchant of Venice” was my first and this marked the beginning of a long journey into the literary world. I memorized many of the lines in the play. And indeed, though a bit fuzzy, I still remember Portia lines to Shylock to “temper justice with mercy” at the trial. My father later bought me a compilation of Shakespeare’s comedies rendered in narrative. In a space of about a year, I had read most of Shakespeare’s comedies either as plays or as narratives. I was thirteen years old.

Then, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi came into my life. I had never heard of Gaddafi before my encounter with him on the pages of a newspaper on one Sunday. The name Shakespeare in the title of the article caught my attention. I was always happy to read anything Shakespeare or anything about him. Any “new discovery” on the master was always something to share proudly with friends and classmates in school. We sought to outdo each other in our knowledge of Shakespeare. I settled down to read the article. Then Colonel Gaddafi rolled in and created what would be, at first doubts, and then a source of annoyance, incredulity and much later, laughter in my life. He claimed in the article that William Shakespeare’s real name was Sheikh Speare! Not only that, but also identified his place of birth as somewhere in Benghazi. Colonel claimed that Shakespeare was not born in Stratford upon Avon but in Benghazi. Sheikh Speare from Benghazi!

Could this be true? I asked myself as I read the article over and over again. Stratford upon Avon or Benghazi? Shakespeare or Sheikh Speare? English or Libyan? I did not know what to believe. There was no internet (at least for civilian use) at the time, so there could not have been Google or any other search engine. My father was my search engine. I waited for him to come back from his club. I showed my father the article on his arrival. He laughed and said “don’t let other people’s dreams become your nightmare. Gaddafi is a dreamer. He imagined it.” I was relieved. Not because Shakespeare turned out not to be an Arab, but because Colonel Gaddafi planted doubts in my young mind. “Can a universally accepted truth be a lie? And more so, is it possible for only one person to know that this truth is a lie?” One doubt leads to another, and in a young mind, the potential damage is without limits. I should say that I make a clear distinction between scientific curiosity and baseless spurious claims.

I became interested in Colonel Gaddafi. I read his speeches. I followed closely his ambition to coerce African States into United States of Africa, which I suspected he wanted to rule over. I followed his frustrations, his fears and his feeling of helplessness. I saw him over the years as a man of contradictions and I saw in him too, a man who kills “the thing he loves”
[1]. He loves Libya passionately and is killing his country with his defiance.

Another interesting aspect of this man’s life that has intrigued me is his obsessive desire for universal recognition as a brilliant statesman, a world-class literary scholar, a political philosopher, a religious expert, a social analyst and reformist, an erudite lawyer, an eminent historian and world’s best president. He hungered and thirsted for recognition which the world would not give him. When persuasion failed, he sought to buy this recognition from Sub-Sahara Africa, which he considered the easiest target, by funding various projects in poor African countries. The Africans understood him and paid him lip service to obtain his funds to develop their countries. Over the years, he has seen his goal for recognition go up in smoke and frustration has crept in. His speech and comportment at the United Nations General Assembly in October 2009 can be interpreted as manifestations of his frustrations. Contrary to the way he has dreamt to be perceived by the world, many see him as an eccentric, unpredictable, unreliable and moody ruler of an Arab Nation. This probably hurts him more than the demand on him to quit after more than forty years in power in Libya.

Describing Colonel Gaddafi is a great task. Understanding his thought process is even more daunting.

I leave the readers to judge."

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