by Muammar Qaddafi
How cruel people can be when they flare up together! What a crushing flood that has no mercy for anyone in its way! It does not heed one’s cry or lend one a hand when one is in dire need of help. On the contrary, it flings one about heedlessly.
The individual’s tyranny is the easiest kind of tyranny. He is only one among many, who can get rid of him when they wish. He could even be liquidated somehow by somebody unimportant. But the tyranny of the masses is the cruellest kind of tyranny.
Who can stand against the crushing current and the blind engulfing power?! How I love the liberated masses on the march! They are unfettered, with no master, singing and merry after their terrible ordeals! On the other hand how I fear and apprehend them! I love the masses as much as I love my father. Similarly, I fear them no less than I fear him.
In a Bedouin society, where no government system exists, who can deter a father from persecuting any of his children? Yes. How much they love him, and how much they fear him at the same time! That is how I love and fear the masses. Exactly as I love and fear my father. How loving the masses can be when they are happily excited! They carry their favourite sons high on their shoulders.
They carried Hannibal, Barclay, Savonarola, Danton, Ropespierre, Mussolini and Nixon! But how cruel they can be when they are angrily excited! They plotted against Hannibal by poisoning him. They burnt Savonarola at the stake; they brought their hero, Danton, to the guillotine; they smashed the jaws of Robespierre, the beloved fiance, they dragged Mussolini’s carcass along the streets of Milan, and they spat at Nixon’s face as he was forced to leave the White House, where they had ushered him in ceremoniously before. What terror!
Who can talk the unfeeling entity into consciousness? Who can argue with a mass mind not embodied in one individual? Who can hold the hand of the millions? Who can comprehend a million words pouring out of million mouths at the same time? Who can talk sensibly to whom in this terrifying excitement? Who blames whom?
With this social flame burning your back, and a society that loves you but has no mercy for you, and people who know what they want from this individual but pay no attention to what the individual wants, they assert their rights but overlook their duties towards you; with the same masses who poisoned Hannibal, burnt Savonarola, smashed Robespierre; who adored you but failed to reserve a seat for you at a cinema house, a table in a coffee-shop … they love you, but they do not show their love to you in any tangible way, such as a seat or a table at a coffee-house. This is what the masses have done to such individuals.
So, what can I hope for, a poor Bedouin, lost in a mad modern city, whose people bombard me with their demands whenever they get hold of me? Have a house built for us better than this one… Get us better telephone service… Have a road built for us in the sea… Make public parks for us… Catch enough fish for us… Write out amulets for us… Make wedding contracts for us … Get that stray dog out of our way… Buy a cat for us…
They ask that much of a confused poor Bedouin, who hasn’t got even a birth certificate, who carries his walking stick on his shoulder, who does not stop at the red light, nor does he flinch when he gets into an argument with a policeman. He does not clean his hands when he eats. He would kick off anything that hampered his movements even if it landed on a shop window, hit a hag on the face, or broke the window panes of a smart white house. He has never tasted alcohol or even Pepsi Cola or Soda water…
You see him looking for a camel in the Martyrs Square, a horse in the Green Square, or driving his sheep through the Tree Square. These masses, who have no mercy even for their saviours, seem to follow me everywhere, burning me… even when they applaud, they seem to prick me… I, being an illiterate Bedouin, do not know about house painting or the meaning of sewage disposal.
I use my hands to drink rain water and well water, and use my cloak to filter out the tadpoles. I do not know how to swim, neither breaststroke nor backstroke. I do not understand the concept of money, yet people ask me for it. As a matter of fact, I do not possess it; I only snatched it from the hands of thieves, from the mouths of mice and from the fangs of dogs and gave it out to the townsmen under the name of a benefactor from the desert and in my capacity as a liberator from bondage and fetters.
What has been stolen and misused by guilty hands (one of them being a comrade of the cave dwellers and the rats) needs a long time and the effort of many a man to put right, but the inhabitants of the mad modern city ask me for it right away. I felt I was the only one who had nothing, and so, unlike them, I did not ask for the service of a plumber, builder, painter, barber etc. And since I had not requested anything because I had nothing, I became well known, or rather an odd man out.
That is what bothered me and still does almost every hour. But I must admit that I am to blame as well. I did myself a great wrong when I stole Moses staff with which I struck the desert where a spring gushed forth, because, as I have already mentioned, I do not know sewerage, plumbing or narrow water mains, and hoped that this spring would relieve me of all such demands, and the root cause of them.
Even my defiance of the policeman caused such sensation in all quarters of the city, where my name became popular: some applauded me, and others called me bad names. The police wanted to get rid of me. The mother of the policeman with whom I had a row, rejuvenated, took a fancy to me. When I refused her advances, she tried to get me into trouble. The police would even set their silly dogs at me, and yet I encouraged them to go in for seafood by learning how to fish, so that they might leave me with my sheep alone in peace.
I am a simple poor man, I have no degree and I do not like physicians simply because they are called doctors. That is why I have not been inoculated against sensitivity. So I grew up to be very sensitive unlike townsmen, who have been regularly immunized for a long time at historic intervals beginning with the Romans, then the Turks and finally the Amelicans.
Much to your amusement as you read this, you see I do not pronounce the word ” Americans ” with an (R) as you do, I use (L) instead because I do not know the meaning of “America”. As far as I know, it was discovered by an Arab prince and not Columbus.
But then, it has great power, it has agents; it has bases in places under its influence, and it has the right of veto, which it willingly uses for the benefit of Israel. It has recently acquired a house at the head of the Delta, where the River Nile splits into the Rosetta branch and the Damietta branch. There is a buffalo farm surrounding the house. It practises imperialist policies; therefore it is AMELICA. This is what my cousin, Hajji Mejahid said. He is the son of my aunt Azza, daughter of my grandmother Ghanima, who is the sister of Countess Maria.
On the whole, I did myself a disservice when I came to the city out of my free will; there is no need to say why, the thing is: it was a time of challenge, no more. Therefore, please let me tend to my sheep, which I have left in the wadi bed under the care of my mother, who has died recently, and so has my sister. I was told that I had brothers and sisters killed by mosquitoes. So leave me alone with my own anxieties! Why do you follow me and point me out to your children? They, too, harass me now.
They run after me, shouting, “I swear it is him!” Why don’t you let me have some rest or, at least, stroll undisturbed in your streets? I am a human being like you, I like apples, so why don’t you let me walk about at the market? And by the way, why can’t I have a passport? But then, what good is that to me?! I am not allowed to go abroad on holiday or for medical treatment, I can go abroad only when I am on official business.
That is why I have decided to hurry away to Hell! I shall now tell you the story of my escape to Hell, and describe the way leading to it and then describe Hell itself to you and how I came back from there along the same road. Indeed it was an adventure, a very strange factual story, which, I swear, has nothing to do with fiction. As a matter of fact, I have twice escaped to Hell just to get away from you, hoping only to save myself.
Your breath annoys me, invades my privacy, violates my inner life and viciously craves to squeeze me in order to thirstily drink up my essence, lick my sweat and inhale my breath. Then it pauses, it stops molesting me only to attack again as vigorously as before. Your breath chases me like a rabid dog, dripping saliva in the streets of your mad modern city.
They chase me wherever I go through cobwebs and esparto paper. So I have decided to hurry away to Hell to save myself. The way to Hell is not what you may expect, or as described to you by the sick imagination of some equivocators. I, having twice walked through it, shall describe it to you.
I had some peaceful sleep and rest in the heart of Hell. I have experienced Hell, I tell you; and the two happiest nights of all my life were those two nights I spent in the heart of Hell. That was a thousand times better than living among you. You harass me and deprive me of my right to peace and quiet, and so I had to escape to Hell.
The road along which I merrily walked to Hell is covered with the natural carpet all through the horizon. When the natural carpet gradually came to an end, I found the road carpeted with fine sand. I saw flocks of wild birds of the kinds you know and even found some domestic animals grazing and grooming.
But I was astonished to see slopes and areas of lowland before me which made me halt hesitantly and look in the distance. And there was Hell showing up against the horizon. It was not red like fire nor glowing like embers. I stopped not out of fear of approaching it.
On the contrary, I adore it and love to be in physical contact with it, because it is my only sanctuary when you harass me in your three-cornered city … when it appeared to me in the horizon, I nearly went wild with joy. I stopped to contemplate the short cuts to it, and chose the nearest one to its heart, and listened to find out if it had any raging sighs.
To my delight I found out that Hell was very quiet, quite peaceful and steadfast like the hills surrounding it. A strange kind of silence fills it with a solemn awe-inspiring atmosphere covering it. I saw no flames in it, only clouds of smoke rising above it. I slid along the slopes towards it joyfully in a hurry to reach it before sunset, hoping to secure a warm bed in its heart before I got hemmed in by the guards of your hell, who were pursuing me crazily, using up-to-date means of detection and pursuit.
At last I came within range of Hell and was able to see it quite clearly. And now I can describe it to you exactly as I have seen it, and answer any queries concerning Hell, which I came so close to.
Firstly – Hell has craggy, tortuous, dark, mist-capped hills whose stone has been burnt black since time immemorial. I was struck with astonishment to see wild animals on their way to Hell before me.
Apparently, they too were deserting you: their life is in Hell; their death among you. Everything around me had melted away except my own self-existence, which I felt stronger than at any other time or place before: The hills broke up and dwarfed away; the trees dried up; and the animals shied off and plunged into the jungles of Hell, seeking sanctuary away from Man.
Even the sun seemed to peter out when it was shut off from me by Hell. There was nothing else prominent except Hell, whose heart was the most interesting part of it. So I went headlong towards it without much difficulty. I melted into myself, which in turn melted into me to protect and cuddle each other until we became one new entity for the first time.
Not because myself had ever been absent from me, but because your hell gave me no chance to be with it, to contemplate it and to talk lovingly to it. I had always felt that we – I mean myself and I – were like two dangerous criminals in your city, whom you subjected to constant surveillance and interrogation.
Even when we were proved innocent and our identity was known, you kept us in prison under special surveillance. Your purpose being to keep me away from myself at any cost so that you might live in peace and quiet. Oh, how sweet hell is, much sweeter than your city! Why did you drag me back once more? I want to return to it, and wish to live there.
I do not need a passport to go to Hell, all I need is myself… myself, which I discovered, you have mercilessly maimed in an attempt to spoil its innocent nature! You tried to separate me from myself, but by escaping to Hell I have retrieved it from you. I wish for nothing from you, I leave you with rubbish and dustbins.
I have also left you my gold helmet in Cairo… that authoritative helmet which I grabbed from its guardian after I had heard and read so much about it … and learnt that magic rings (desire-satisfying rings) are made of its gold parts … and that whoever put it on would become sultan immediately … and would conspicuously sit on the throne … and that kings, presidents and princes would have to disappear before him.
He would be able to bring the little girl Meitigah to life. He would be able to bring back to life all the martyrs, even Omar Al-Moktar, Saadon, Abdul Salam Abu-Meniar, Al-Jalat and others who died honourably as unknown soldiers. And that whoever put it on would have about four thousand million Dinars in cash, which he could spend as he wished.
On the whole, he would possess the ( Shobeik Lobeik ) ring which would satisfy all desires: Ask for any kind of weaponry from an ordinary gun to a sophisticated missile, and you have it … call forth even a mirage and it is there at your service, let alone a Mig fighter or whatever you wish, and you could lock up any Englishman and have Mrs Thatcher suffer a snub. At the same time if you put on this magic helmet you could go to sleep lazily even if you saw with wide open eyes a wolf about to attack your sheep.
So there you are, you could slumber away among the heaps of litter and rubbish of which creative hobby you seem to be deprived as I hear from the Voice of the Arabs. I have also read and heard that this steel … sorry, I mean magic authoritative helmet was once claimed by Iblis who, bore number 0+1. He laid a claim to it on the pretence that he was an angel, and that Churchill and Truman bore witness to his claim.
You were taken in by that lie and fooled by the trick with perdition as the resultant end of your naive conduct until I felt with you in your sorry state of affairs and heard the Friday preacher in your mosques say this prayer, “O, Allah, our sorry state cannot be hidden from you, nor can our helplessness be unclear to you. There is no shelter for us but with you. To you we return. Labbayek! Labbayek!”
Excerpt from “Escape to Hell and Other Stories”
by Muammar Qaddafi
©Stanke Publishers, NYC 1998