The Tripoli Post is happy to introduce a new Opinion column that will explore the cultural, societal, and sometimes political aspects that make up Libyan society today. From a perspective of a full-blooded Libyan who is experiencing what it means to live in Libya for the first time, this column will be a place where, I hope, Libyans abroad and Libyans in the country can find common ground.
As the daughter of a former political exile, living in Libya was a privilege refused to my family. However, that changed when last year’s uprising toppled the late dictator. Families like mine, who had long been estranged from their homeland, would come to discover Libya as the country set out on its own rediscovery.
The term “transitional phase” does not only pertain to Libya’s political state, but also to its society and culture. The country is expanding in its attempt to accommodate to its neglected residents, its forgotten migrants, and its rejected citizens abroad.
We’re facing many hurdles in our road toward democracy, but beginning to understand each other’s experiences can help us understand our own hurdles and how to overcome them.
Society is fighting through language barriers, political hurdles, and a corrupt heritage left from the former regime, as the country’s diverse citizens search for their own places in society. However, if the revolution taught us one thing, it is that we all need each other.
The column is meant to convey the experiences of a girl in Libyan society that isn’t fully assimilated; hence, may point out aspects of tradition and culture that residents may no longer notice. This column will raise questions that those who are new to Libya would ask. And, it will offer Libyans in the country a portrayal, no doubt an opinionated one, of how Libya is seen by someone who is new to it.
Though, this column will never consciously pass judgment, it will underscore the hardships dual nationals experience while trying to assimilate in a culture that is unaccustomed to foreigners and unfamiliar with the refugee experience.
On the flip side, I’ll share personal accounts and the experiences of others that accentuate the fragility of Libyan society in its current transitional phase and the danger in appointing simplistic generalizations that fail to accurately represent the society.
This column will often use humor, personal anecdotes and always honesty to tackle everyday issues. It will ask the unspoken question, Why? Why do we do the things we do?
This is the question that will constantly appear in this column. We learn more about ourselves when we expand our knowledge about the world and the experiences of others.
Every society has what is called a cultural lens through which they perceive the world. Your cultural background affects what you see and how you see it. As a society, we have to ask ourselves if we are willing to peek through the cultural lens of a stranger in order to learn more about ourselves.
This column is a peek into Libyan society through a lens that Libyans abroad may find relatable, and readers in the country can find informative, or at least entertaining. With bifocal vision, we just may see Libya for all the good that it is, as well as for its flaws that we could each work to improve.
Last year’s uprising was proof that Libyans all over the world could join efforts for a common goal. Now, what is required is a national effort for Libya’s diverse citizens to accept and understand one another. We need to come to appreciate how our differences only add colors to the developing picture of Libya. We are all in this together and this column will be a weekly reminder of that.
Look out for The Bifocal in the next issue of The Tripoli Post.
If you have any comments or experiences to contribute to this column, please contact the writer at: hbiuk[at]tripolipost.net