The Green Book stands as a symbol for the totalitarian regime imposed by its author Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, and more generally, for the process of ideological manipulation. Required read for every citizen, the book sets out the principles of a global political theory, simply called “Third Universal Theory”, which effectively paralyzed the nation for nearly forty years.
This is how Le Journal de Photographie introduces The Green Book Project, a series of abstract photos by Libyan photographer Jehad Nga based on Muammar Gaddafi’s Green Book.
The Kansas-born and New York-based photographer himself writes about the inspiration for his project:
Intended to be required reading for all Libyans, the 24 chapters [of the Green Book] were constructed simply, containing broad and basic slogans rendered in a rudimentary writing style easy to understand by all. Gaddafi claimed to have developed the book’s theories in order to resolve many contradictions inherent in capitalism and communism thereby- by his logic, freeing its citizens from bondage of both systems. The book, however, proved for most to be nothing more than an inane manifesto used to further reduce the value of a population’s role in the building of a society.
The tone is clear and the intention of the project leaves nothing to the imagination: it aims to argue that Muammar Gaddafi’s concept of the Jamahiriya government as explained in the Green Book failed miserably and therefore had to be replaced with western style democracy, as happened after the NATO-led war on Libya in 2011.
The Green Book Project, Nga claims, is a double-edged sword. Not only does it provide a photo series in which the images were reduced to their most basic binary code, which exposed their digital “cell structure” as well as their frailty once that new information was introduced to their binary data; the way the images were manipulated also “reflects the treatment that Gaddafi inflicted on his people”, their creator believes.
What they in fact reflect, is a feeble attempt to negate the ideology of the Green Book by the biased parsing and dislocating of Gaddafi’s ideas, and by subsequently introducing something new: a concept of so-called freedom and democracy – oxymoronic like NATO’s “humanitarian” bombs.
Which substantive theory exactly needs to be debunked and in which way the nation of Libya exactly has been “effectively paralyzed for nearly forty years” however does not become clear, neither from the above mentioned articles nor from the photo series itself. Apparently both the author and the photographer trust in the fact that their audience is brainwashed enough to not even question the credibility of their statements: Gaddafi is evil and so is his work, period.
The concept of the Green Book: Power to the People
Described as a “totalitarian vision” by Nga, the common thread of the Green Book actually is that the concept of representative democracy is misleading and therefore not democratic, as it makes citizens delegate their individual and collective power upwards to representatives, trusting them to act in good faith. The book instead proposes many people’s committees, which make and implement collective decisions in accordance with a set of general guidelines. Thus the decisions are made by the people who will be affected and who are genuinely concerned with the outcome. Only those decisions which must be implemented uniformly on a broader scale are handled at a higher level: the popular congresses.
Other important topics of the Green Book are:
- Political parties are undemocratic because their members are coerced to share similar views, even when those views differ from their own better judgment and from the demands of those whom they represent
- Laws should be drafted and enforced by consensus, not by a dedicated branch of government
- All forms of press should be controlled either by an individual or a group with common interests. It is wrong for the state to control the press, and it is also wrong for corporations to control the press, because both corporate and state media cannot honestly represent the views of all of the people in that society
- Workers should be partners in their workplace, not employees, and people should work to fulfill their needs, not to make profit or exploit others- Land is owned equally by everyone and is used temporarily by people according to their needs, such as farming, shelter, leisure and so on
- Members of a household should take responsibility for their own chores and should not employ an outsider to do the work they consider to be beneath them
- Education is not a formal but a human process. It is the process of learning and development, regardless of exactly where and how it happens. Knowledge should be freely available to everyone in whatever form is most appropriate to each individual
How ‘paralyzed’ was Libya exactly for nearly fourty years?
It is apparent that those ideas are massively destructive to many of the world’s economic and political leaders, especially in the West. How did the concept of the Green Book actually work in the Libyan Jamahiriya? Did it indeed paralyze the country for almost four decades, meaning that there was not any form of progress in any way?
An article by former executive member of the Tripoli-based World Mathaba, Gerald A. Perreira, proves different. The article sums up many of the benefits the Libyans enjoyed during Gaddafi’s leadership, including the following:
- Electricity in Libya was free
- There was no interest on loans, banks in Libya were state-owned and loans were given to all its citizens at zero percent interest by law
- Having a home was considered a human right in Libya
- All newlyweds in Libya received $60,000 dinar (U.S.$50,000) from the government to buy their first apartment
- Education and medical treatments were free in Libya (remember: before Gaddafi only 25% of Libyans were literate; nowadays this is 83%)
- When Libyans wanted to take up farming, they would receive farm land, a farm house, equipment, seeds and livestock to kick start their farms all for free
- When Libyans could not find the education or medical facilities they needed, the government funded them to go abroad; above that they received U.S.$2,300/month for accommodation and car allowance
- When Libyans bought a car, the government subsidized 50% of the price
- The price of petrol in Libya was $0.14 per liter
- Libya had no external debt
- When a Libyan was unable to get employment after graduation, the government would pay the average salary of the profession, as if he or she was employed, until employment was found
- A portion of every Libyan oil sale was credited directly to the bank accounts of all Libyan citizens
- A mother who gave birth to a child received U.S.$5,000
- Food was subsidized: 40 loaves of bread in Libya cost $0.15
- 25% of Libyans have a university degree
- Gaddafi carried out the world’s largest irrigation project, known as the Great Manmade River project, to make water readily available throughout the desert country
How paralyzed does this exactly sound?
The Green Book Project: missing its own target
Jehad Nga gathered the images for his project by using a satellite adjusted to intersect varying levels of internet traffic flow transmitted over Libya during NATO’s war on the country. By then a similar technology was used by the Libyan authorities to intercept people attempting to traffic information meant to contribute to the overthrow of the legal Jamahiriya government.
An assigned command allowed for the satellite to look only for photographs and disregard all other associated data traffic. Without any distinguishable narratives, the constant stream of communication I captured visually grew over time to resemble a hyper-realized paradise, where the borders between the natural and supernatural had been washed away. From the ebb and flow of images being sent between people – the population’s naked, unedited psyche rendered visual – I harvested 24 representative images.
These 24 images correspond with the 24 chapters of the Green Book. The meant-to-be-metaphoric photo captions refer to each of the chapters, which as a whole becomes merely laughable as it only builds on the deception of an evil dictator who aimed to rob and kill his own people in many ways. For example, one of the images with caption “Need”, in which eponymous chapter the Green Book states:
Man’s freedom is lacking if somebody else controls what he needs. For need may result in man’s enslavement of man. Need causes exploitation. Need is an intrinsic problem and conflict grows out of the domination of man’s needs. The house is a basic need of both the individual and the family. Therefore, it should not be owned by others. There is no freedom for a man who lives in another’s house, whether he pays rent or not. All attempts made by various countries to solve the problem of housing are not solutions at all. The reason is that those attempts do not aim at the radical and ultimate solution of man, which is the necessity of his owning his own house. The attempts have concentrated on the reduction or increase of rent and its standardization, whether at public or private expense. In the socialist society no one, including the society itself, is allowed to have control over man’s need,
shows a woman inhaling oxygen on the surface of the water, symbol of NATO’s 2011 “liberation” of Libya:
© Jehad Nga
Nga’s image named after the last chapter of the Green Book, “Sport, Horsemanship and Shows” shows a photo of Kobe Bryant, an American professional basketball player who plays shooting guard for the Los Angeles Lakers:
© Jehad Nga
With this photo Nga promotes the “freedom” to glorify sports personalities by a passively-watching audience – very popular in the countries that bombed Libya into “democracy” – while the Green Book instead encourages the active participation of people in sports, in a way similar to the concept of direct, participative democracy:
Sport is either private, like the prayer which man performs alone by himself even inside a closed room, or public, practised collectively in open places, like the prayer which is practised collectively in places of worship. The first type of sport concerns the individual himself, while the second type is of concern to all people. It must be practised by all people and should not be left to anybody to practise on their behalf. It is unreasonable for crowds to enter places of worship just to view a person or a group of people praying without taking part. It is equally unreasonable for crowds to enter playgrounds and arenas to watch a player or a team without participating themselves.
Sport is like praying, eating, and the feeling of warmth and coolness. It is stupid for crowds to enter a restaurant just to look at a person or a group of persons eating; it is stupid for people to let a person or a group of persons get warmed or enjoy ventilation on their behalf. It is equally illogical for the society to allow an individual or a team to monopolize sports while the people as a whole pay the costs of such a monopoly for the benefit of one person or a team. In the same way people should not democratically allow an individual or a group, whether party, class, sect, tribe or parliament, to replace them in deciding their destiny and in defining their needs.
Another smell of fictitious freedom comes from “Domestic Servants”, an image that shows a hand holding a bundle of dollars – the monetary unit of the country that has attacked the Libyan Jamahiriya more than once, starting with the 1986 bombings in which the headquarters of the World Mathaba in Tripoli was one of the targets after then president Ronald Reagan said it constituted a major threat to the U.S.
© Jehad Nga
The Green Book however provides a more humane solution for modern slavery, which has nothing to do with a soon to be debased currency:
Domestic servants, paid or unpaid are a type of slave. Indeed they are the slaves of the modern age. But since the new socialist society is based on partnership in production rather than on wages, natural socialist law does not apply to them, because they render services rather than production. Services have no physical production which is divisible into shares in accordance with natural socialist law.
Domestic servants, therefore, have no alternative but to work with or without wages under bad conditions. As wageworkers are a type of slave and their slavery exists as long as they work for wages, so domestic servants are in a lower position than the wage-workers in the economic establishments and corporations outside the houses. They are, then, even more entitled to emancipation from the slavery of the society than are wage-workers from their society. Domestic servants form one of the social phenomena that stands next to that of slaves.
The Third Universal Theory is a herald to the masses announcing the final salvation from all fetters of injustice, despotism, exploitation and economic and political hegemony. It has the purpose of establishing the society of all people, where all men are free and equal in authority, wealth and arms, so that freedom may gain the final and complete triumph.
The Green Book, therefore, prescribes the way of salvation to the masses of wage-workers and domestic servants in order to achieve the freedom of man. It is inevitable, then, to struggle to liberate domestic servants from their slave status and transform them into partners outside the houses, in places where there is material production which is divisible into shares according to its factors. The house is to be served by its residents. But the solution to necessary house service should not be through servants, with or without wages, but through employees who can be promoted while performing their house jobs and can enjoy social and material safeguards like any employee in the public service.
Land is a charming picture of a place in nature where peace prevails, similar to post-Gaddafi Libya which, according to Nga, now is a nation of freedom, peace and democracy:
© Jehad Nga
The photo – like many others from the series – in fact does not even oppose what the similar named Green Book chapter says, it instead totally ignores its statements on the purpose of land:
Land is no one’s property. But everyone has the right to use it, to benefit from it by working, farming or pasturing. This would take place throughout a man’s life and the lives of his heirs, and would be through his own effort without using others with or without wages, and only to the extent of satisfying his own needs. If possession of land is allowed, only those who are living there have a share in it. The land is permanently there, while, in the course of time, users change in profession, in capacity and in their presence. The purpose of the new socialist society is to create a society which is happy because it is free. This can be achieved through satisfying the material and spiritual needs of man, and that, in turn, comes about through the liberation of these needs from outside domination and control. Satisfaction of these needs must be attained without exploiting or enslaving others, or else, it will contradict the purpose of the new socialist society.
And thus in the end the project misses its own target. Because it is not the ideology of the Green Book that struggles to coexist with additional (textual) information; it is the ignorant interpretation of it by the photographer – and many others – that fails to survive once new elements are added. Not the concept of power to the people, but the explanation and implementation of this concept by people who don’t truly understand its meaning themselves is what will be eliminated by the next (r)evolution.
More of The Green Book Project can be found here and here.
According to Le Journal de la Photograpie, The Green Book Project will be showing at the Bonni Benrubi Gallery in New York in April and at the M+B Gallery in Los Angeles.
The Green Book can be read for free here.