The Libyan Laboratory

Fascinating is the not the preferred gerund form of a non-transitive verb I would choose first to describe an intentional sojourn to Libya. I may dial down the zeal just a smidgen to interesting, noteworthy, or curiously thought provoking, but I would then be straying carelessly from verb territory. The only images I retain of Libya heretofore are from the black and white targeting gun sights of F-18 fighters pursuing the then ruler in 1986, and once again through the optical sensors of similarly purposed Predator drones in 2011. Depending on the newspapers one subscribes to in paper or virtual form the former ruler of Libya was, Moammar or Muammar, Gaddafi, Gadhafi, Kadafi, or Quadafi. Other than contestable multiple scrabble solutions or the great potential to have numerous Bloomingdales credit cards with 15% off the first purchase all spellers unanimously agreed that he was a despot. Even Donald Trump was on board with this dastardly portrayal.

Up until a few years ago I could really only name one Libyan city: the ancient capital of Tripoli. But now the United States’ congress has elected to continually remind all American people of the existence of the smaller more infamous City of Benghazi. However, the primary terminus on this forthcoming adventure is not Libya; but instead is the southern crotch of Tunisia, located equidistantly between the sweaty Arab springing thighs of Algeria and Libya. Nonetheless I will endeavor to visit parts of Libya and Algeria, probably not after a few drinks on a Saturday night armed with my flashlight and Top Ten guides. I can see the scenario where Harrison Ford and the big deep-voiced guy who played Darth Vader vigilantly watch from re-tasked CIA satellites as I blunder into an apparent beautiful desert campground where the patrons, although shoddily attired, appear to be having some kind of paintball and beard competition.

I have taught MBA classes a few times over the past three years; mainly in France, and upon being requested to do similar at an American-themed university in southern Tunisia I thought it was worth a shot. Hey if I really like it I might move the family over there permanently for sand and sea. I’ll tell the kid that springtime in the area is particularly exhilarating. Also this new private university interests me in a business model sense given the opportunities rendered by the recent radical shake up in the entire North African Mediterranean region. And the area badly needs more than a facelift, including new heavy infrastructure and technologies designed by proficient engineers, managed by trained executives, and with competent reinstatement of commerce. As for the teaching gig I don’t expect to want to do this more than one or two times per year at most as it would undoubtedly crush my fragile soul after a while. Nevertheless for now the idea of Visiting Professor in weird places has an appeal with some shelf life.

Its not just North Africa; the whole world seems to be going crazy right now. We have the Peoples Republics of Whatever springing up across Ukraine, the endless demolition of Iraq and Afghanistan, and even maybe a 50-50 possibility of the devolution of Scotland. I personally sensed dissent when I was in Ukraine last year but could not possibly have foretold any of these recent bizarre events, including a chocolate magnate presiding. But I’m all for strong, demonstrated, business-oriented leadership and I am sincerely hoping that the candy man can. People ask me about my opinion on Scotland since I still harbor the less whiny and sexy part of the accent. All the while my good friend Bill Bruce posts polite dissention on Facebook whenever he sees an opportunity such as The Man Who Sold the World apparently trying to nudge a sellout on Scotland or Harry Potter coming out of the closet on the issue. But I think the pro-devolution side could have a done a little more homework at least trying to better answer some of the truly big questions. I am an outsider so I can’t really bang a drum here, well maybe some tom toms, but I did write a letter to Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland, regarding some of the devolution issues as he probably was not up on Bill’s FB posts. I got a couple responses from Mr. Salmond’s office; the first of which was in Gaelic, I suppose partly in order to filter out any non hard-core types:

Dear Visiting Professor:

Tha am post-d seo (agus faidhle neo ceanglan còmhla ris) dhan neach neo luchd-ainmichte a-mhàin. Chan eil e ceadaichte a chleachdadh ann an dòigh sam bith, a’ toirt a-steach còraichean, foillseachadh neo sgaoileadh, gun chead. Ma ’s e is gun d’fhuair sibh seo le gun fhiosd’, bu choir cur às dhan phost-d agus lethbhreac sam bith air an t-siostam agaibh, leig fios chun neach a sgaoil am post-d gun dàil.

Sensing Gaelic might not be one of my mastered forms of communication I also received a couple of notes written in pre-devolution Southern English from the Scottish Government, or as I have just absorbed, Riaghaltas na h-Alba. (One informative letter attached below). As an alternative, maybe we would be better off with a Game of Thrones approach and resolving devolution by mortal combat: Sean Connery and Harry Potter in one of those hard to watch airborne broomstick tournaments. David Bowie could provide the soundtrack. Just a passing contemplation that I did not communicate to the First Minister of Scotland.

Lastly, I am languaged out nowadays and cannot with any tangible exertion try to learn Gaelic. Although there is a guy at the Loch Rannoch pub who pretends to speak only Gaelic when tourists arrive from the south. Just like the much-awaited Superman II scene with his regained powers, I would love to show up in this remote Highlands bar armed with an extensive Gaelic vocabulary and orally beat this nefarious character into linguistic humbleness. But alas I am continually trying to master elements of French, Spanish and parts of some other Asian languages and Gaelic will have to wait. My French journey has been frustrating, as in the time that I have been trying to improve and maintain my dialectal capabilities the entire nation of France has learned some pretty good English. On the other hand Spanish is the opposite, where, in America, you need to employ at least four maids or twelve gardeners in order to construct a small English sentence, like the dog he go. So with the unrelenting boom in the U.S. no hablo Hispanic populace, the Spanish investment is sound for me at this juncture. Russian I have merely dabbled with over time and that could be a reasonable investment if the motherland continues with its annexation strategy or should I want to become an astronaut. Arabic could be a worthy cause generally, but one must choose. I was just in Dubai this past week and there did seem to be a good overall grasp of English and plenty of anglified signage, and to make things easy for westerners the men dress in white robes (excuse me sir) and the women dress in black robes (ma’am). I think that was a McCartney-Wonder song. Sometimes the men will sport a little beige number, but for the women it is always fifty shades of black. Actually I thought many of the folks I met in Dubai appeared to have a really good sense of humor. They even sell bobbleheads for your car with the full-face veils.