wpostServer: http://css.washingtonpost.com/wpost2

Most Read: Politics

Read In

Now Viewing: People from around the country looking at Post Politics section

See what's being read across the country ›

Social Surface: Politics

Political Bookworm
Posted at 12:32 PM ET, 03/04/2011

Gaddafi, the author

Gaddafi with his favorite book. (Louafi Larbi / Reuters)
Libyan protesters furious at strongman Moammar Gaddafi have vented their rage on his writings, burning his political manifesto in the streets. The dictator’s odd social, political and economic thoughts are contained in “The Green Book,” which he wrote in the 1970s.

To try to understand the man and his current ravings, it is useful to look back at the three slim volumes that make up “The Green Book.”

But as Prof. Dirk Vandewalle, a professor at Dartmouth College and author of “A History of Modern Libya,” told NPR, the work is “very difficult to understand in part because it really is not a coherent thought if you compare it, for example, to ‘The Little Red Book’ of Mao and so on where you get at least a consistent argument. ‘The Green Book’ contains really a set of aphorisms more than a completely hought-out integrated philosophical statement.”

And those aphorisms can be of the nuttiest sort, as historian Andrew Roberts outlines for The Daily Beast. A few examples:

“Mandatory education is a coercive education that suppresses freedom.”

“Placing a child in a day nursery is coercive and tyrannical and a violation of the child’s free and natural disposition.”

“If a community of people wears white on a mournful occasion and another dresses in black, then one community would like white and dislike black and the other would like black and dislike white. Moreover, this attitude leaves a physical effect on the cells as well as on the genes in the body.”

For the average Libyan, “The Green Book” was ubiquitous. It wasn’t enough that the book existed. Gaddafi has attempted to inculcate his country in his bizarre thinking. As Prof. Vandewalle says, “Well, to just give you one example, usually, when television came on in the afternoon in Libya, it would open up with a citation from "The Green Book." So in a sense, it was everywhere. It was on public television. It was on the radio. It was in the schools. Children had to read it. You simply could not avoid it.”

By  |  12:32 PM ET, 03/04/2011

Read what others are saying

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company