And some people still think they are eternal!
— TP SARAN
It is said that the late tyrant Gaddafi thought that he was eternal, and that he likened himself to God… Was God in his eyes a bigger version of himself: someone who wore a jazzy uniform covered with glittering, meaningless multicoloured rectangular patches, with a gem-studded collar and a military looking hat cocked upwards, and wielding a baton? Sporting golden revolvers? And propounding a green book in multiples of three volumes? Having an A 380 private plane with a megasize Jacuzzi?
For 42 years the megalomaniac Gaddafi lived in a palace, and would travel in his private jet on his overseas trips, and his host countries would allow him to practice his eccentricity – one of the several he had – of pitching his Bedouin tent in a prominent place and staying in it during his visit.
When he was caught by his own people baying for his blood, they lost no time in paying him back in the same coin, disdain for disdain, an eye for an eye. Bleeding, pleading, cowering, all trace of authority and power gone, he was dragged by the mob, kicked about, held up as a vulgar object of despise, and found his death in the hands of those he had oppressed since he came to power in 1969. One need not commend this kind of treatment if only for the common humanity we share with the good and the bad of this earth but this is how the rage against his reign of terror on his own people got vented out.
His family had already been split: the wife seeking refuge in Algeria along with his daughter-in-law who gave birth to a child there; one son already dead since the beginning of the uprising against him; another child had lost his life during the retaliation by the Americans in the late 1980s. One son, Saif Islam, is reportedly on the run in Niger, and the remaining one Muatassim who was with him has met an equal fate at the hands of those whom he and his wife called rats.
He has been buried along with his son in an unknown spot in the Libyan desert. Perhaps it’s better that way for, who knows, were the location to be known, how much more of hate it would have attracted and unnecessarily perpetuated a negative cloud over Libya and Libyans. As it is, they have a country to rebuild from scratch and get their act together among themselves, all these tribes that have their own allegiances, so it is better that there is no additional element of division that can come in the way of putting the country together.
What has Gaddafi left behind? – it would surely be most inappropriate to speak of ‘legacy.’ If he is remembered in his country it will be as a brutal dictator and oppressor who ruled through his secret police, killing many of his opponents and putting them in jail to undergo the worst tortures imaginable, according to witness accounts that have been broadcast since the revolt started.
Every single one of his green books, which were the only reading allowed in schools and colleges, has been pulverised to ashes. His residences and belongings have been broken into, pillaged and done for in fits of rage and vengeance.
Benito Mussolini, and Ceausescu of Romania and his wife suffered similar ignominy at the hands of their respective people. As for Saddam Hussein, also found hiding in a hole, perhaps he has made peace with his son-in-law Uday – if they have found themselves together – whom he shot at point blank when the latter disagreed with him during a meeting he was chairing? Hitler took refuge in a bunker where he committed suicide.
Neither eternal, let alone Gods! These and others like them turned out to be people made of flesh and bone that are subject to decay and death come the time. Simple truth that they knew, but refused to recognize. Externally grandiose and powerful, but incapable of finer judgement, surviving on shaky ideological ground and almost programmed to do the most harm possible to their own kin and extend that to others.
There are also not far from here those who think they are eternal. Such as these should not keep deluding themselves.