Shafshoofa to Shakshooka-Year End discussions-Tripoli Reading Group-2015


Shafshoofa to Shakshooka-Year end readings-2015

“We got rid of Shafshoofa, now we have Shakshooka”

Summary of the present situation in Libya

Shafshoofa-in Libyan Arabic was used to imply the Dictator-Gadhafi who had long hair-some said-full of lice. Shafshoofa Maleshi –became one of the most popular slogans of the Libyan Revolution of 2011

Shakshooka– In Local dialectic, this implies the chaos, “salaata” which has come to define our region with power cuts, hospitals running out of supplies, no proper schools,

Hopefully 2016 will be better.

“Things can only become better, unless we want IS-Daiesh to win” one local veteran mused.

Year end, 2015,we looked back at similar meetings over past 5 years, and the concept of Affinity Groups and Reading groups to develop –generate structured discussion. For this we went through three books

  • John Maxwell’s- Be a People person


  • Svetlana Alexivich-Chernobyl


  • Murray Bookchin’s– Next Revolutions.

BACKGROUND– Tripoli Reading group- has been engaging in book discussions since 2009 in informal settings amongst residents of Tripoli.

Here are some of the related blogs-pictures over the years (click images to enlarge and see related links to see the blogs. You can also download a pdf version of year end meetings discussions of Tripoli Reading Group 2011-2015 here…)




John Maxwell- in his book- Be a People person written with reference to Scripture writes about the study of life of Paul, how he uses the word ‘confidence’ in three distinct but related ways, in relation with Christ, himself and in relationships with people.

Discussion point

Discussing the message of Paul, and his importance with a reading group member – how his words echo Jesus but are more reassuring because they come from a flawed mortal who had become transformed. That is why the message of Paul is sometimes said to be more important than the Apostles who had been with Christ directly.

Paul was a convert.

If only the first letter to the Corinthians had survived his words would be indelible, since they are written with such passion and confidence

Love is patient and kind: love is not jealous or boastful it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. (13:4-6)

Paul can chide and correct newly formed believers, and also give hope for understanding.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child. I thought like a child. I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood(13:11-12)



My mother still lived with us when the reactor blew up, and she kept saying,

“We’ve already lived through the worst thing, son. We lived through the Blockade (Leningrad-2nd world war). There can’t be anything worse than that.”


In many moving testimonies –Oral histories of survivors –Alexievich (Nobel literature 2015)–a writer described as having a soul of a historian writes about preparations for war and identity. The earlier generation were hiding from shrapnel. But the atom is everywhere. In the bread, in the salt. We breathe radiation, we eat it. Everything’s poisoned? Then how can we live?  In this moving testimony-Nikolai Prokhorovich Zharkov, who teaches labor studies  writes about silence, patience, fear of talking. He tries to make children talk , to get out of their silence by making wooden sculptures, which helped him get out of the Blockade.

He says that it is not an ordinary experience, and the questions it raises are not ordinary. The world has been split in two: there’s us, the Chernobylites, and there’s you, the others.

As if this is a separate people. A new nation.

Discussion point

In Tripoli region we have workers from Slav countries who have directly and indirectly experienced Chernobyl. I talked to some who told about the contamination of the vegetables, animals dying. Now the same people also are deeply divided about the concept of Nation –due to events in Ukraine. Ethnic Russians support Putin and tell ‘You do not know what is in store for you – the market will divide and then try to swallow you.’ Working people from Former Yugoslavia support this view. However, people from Kiev region support the Western backed regime.

“Let us not talk about this deeply divisive issue” One long term friend of an Ukrainian silenced this discussion in Tripoli, as it would fracture their otherwise supportive, relation as long term expatriate workers in Tripoli.

This also brings us to the third –book- Murray Bookchin’s “New Revolutions”

Environment disasters do not affect people as a Class.

How does the Classic Left respond to this?

Bookchin offers cutting analysis of major revolutionary trends of past 200 years, seeing their history and pitfalls.


Commodification turns everything solid into air

Karl Marx

The book –The Next revolutions- talks about the myths of mystification of the proletariat –that they will rise to be semimystical revolutionary agents , possessed of secret powers to understand their interests and a unique sensitivity to radical possibilities in the existing society. He also dissects the myths of the Anarchist tradition , of how none of the soviets, councils, and committees that arose in Russia in 1917, Germany in 1918, and Spain in 1936 were formed simply of their own accord. Invariably , specific militants (a euphemism for leaders) took the initiative in forming them and in guiding inexperienced masses towards the adoption of a radical course of action.

“New” Libya…Myths and realities

“I do not agree with all that is happening with the UN supported GNA Process. But we should try to support GNA (Government of National Accord) as otherwise we will strengthen IS-Daiesh,” one deep reader of our group said, after going through summaries of different traditions, in a year which marked the 75th anniversary of the assassination of Leon Trotsky, one of the leading revolutionaries of the 20th century.

“Kerry is no revolutionary. US has its interests, but we have to see our situation too” he said as we agreed that a politics of protest is not a politics at all. It occurs within parameters set by the prevailing social system and merely responds to remediable ills, often mere symptoms , instead of challenging the social order as such.

“They have been told, to set their house in order, otherwise we are going to call the Old Regime Loyalists to set things right. Already, I know that the security of Tripoli-the capital , is being assisted by people from the security apparatus of the previous regime, as they knew how to play this game.”

Dialectic of Ideas in the “new” Libya..Gloves are running out in hospitals

In “Parts Unknown” Anthony Bourdain, interviewed young revolutionaries , and the dialectic of hope and uncertainty came through. What did we come home with? Bourdain tried to answer this question by the alternately frightening and fun, life changing and heartbreaking realities.

“Gloves are running out in hospitals. Dialysis units cannot run without generators,” one hardened medic told of the need to put down differences, get to the nitty gritty of doing specifics for real suffering people. He has disdain for the people who fire weapons in the air, just to show their power.

“They are insecure, so they try to cover up with this false bravado.”

As a year ending thought-we discussed the following passage from Murray Bookchin. He follows the spiritual tradition of Islam, knows about Trotsky, and also enjoys reading Tagore’s Gitanjali.


“ Arguable as Marx’s productivist interpretation of social development and its future may be, it becomes very forced and artificial, even contorted, explanation of history if it is not greatly modified by the dialectic of ideas , that is, by political and social ideology, morality and ethics, law, juridical standards, and the like. Marxism has yet to forthrightly acknowledge that these different spheres of life have their own dialectic, indeed, that they can unfold from inner forces of their own and not simply result from a productivist dialectic call the “materialistic interpretation of history.” Moreover, it has yet to emphasize that a dialectic of ethics or religion can profoundly affect the dialectic of productive forces and production relation. Is it possible, to ignore the fact that Christian theology led logically to a growing respect for individual worth and  finally to radical conceptions of social freedom- a dialectic that in turn profoundly influenced social development by altering the way human beings interacted with each other and with the material world?”


Was the Libyan chapter of the Arab spring commoditized by NATO Bombings?

Sheikh Twitter, Sheikh Facebook have propelled the Arab spring and now helps find recruits for IS-Daiesh? The writer-editor Abdel Bari Atwan told in Dateline London.

We are  fighting against superficial degraded character  of fast food-quick sex , where ideas and experiences simply race through the human mind, and far from being absorbed and used as building blocks for generalizations, they quickly degrade and disappear.

Searching for living traditions, while establishing a definition and specificity , with a memory of experiences and lessons is vital to any meaningful movement.

Suggested further readings

wp john maxwell people person



wp murray bookchin


wp chernobyl

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s