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Thursday 25 August 2011

Gaddafi's golden head: is this the memorable picture?

23 August 2011, Tripoli
We're being encouraged by the various news organisations to stay with their 'in-depth' analysis of what's happening in Libya. I've tried to do so, but what seems to be apparent is that the label 'depth' is often a way of covering something altogether more confusing and speculative. Brave people report what they think is going on, but so often the next day reveals that things weren't what they had seemed to be yesterday. Confusion appears to reign. We hope and pray that peace is a real possibility; that chaos will be turned into freedom and hope.Often, however, the positive isn't as clear as had been thought, and steps forward become steps back. Is there an irrefutable sign that the corner has been turned? Perhaps that's what this much broadcast picture is meant to be. Is Gaddafi's statuary golden head, underfoot and in the dust, the picture that signifies the moment of tyranny's end? It seems to fit the picture type: what was high has been toppled; what was one piece has been broken into many pieces; what marked status has been rendered as trash; a hated symbol is trodden on; what was above the people is now in the control of ordinary people; and what could not be touched is now thrown around as trinket. It may indeed become 'the' picture that symbolises a people's urge to freedom, or, it may not. It all depends on what happens in the next days and weeks. Events will provide a context that will decide whether this image is memorable or not. Without that supporting framework this will become just another conflict picture amongst many, many others. But if the evolving context confirms its symbolism, it will become an image of quite a different order. Then it will have a power that is unforgettable.

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