The Moorish Wanderer

Course 3 : Obama, the new father ?

Posted in American Minority Voices by Zouhair ABH on January 25, 2009

Here we are, the new president of the United States of North America, the 44th after George Washington, is M. Barack Obama ! the 44th, but the first African-American citizen to reach the highest office.

To his credit, the Democrats victory is won in a fair -or unfair, to his disadvantage- fight. Many Americans (that are not necessarily racists) had doubts about electing a man who has a Kenyan father and a mother from Arkansas. His candidacy rose racial issues that were buried well after the civil rights movement, or shall we say, under a widely accepted consensus : nobody talks about it.

44th United States President, Barack Hussein Obama

The first African-American president, ironically, does not represent the black community : he is mixed race, he is born in Hawaii, and graduated from the most prestigious universities in the US -and in the world-(i.e. Columbia and Harvard). I just visited his wikipedia page, and the man is truly a cosmopolitan: ”Barack Obama a des origines parmi de nombreux peuples. Par sa grand-mère maternelle, il aurait des ancêtres cherokees. Selon les affirmations de Lynne Cheney à la télévision le 17 octobre 2007, Barack Obama aurait une ancêtre commune avec le vice-président des États-Unis Dick Cheney : une Française, à la 8e génération. Il est aussi un lointain cousin de l’acteur Brad Pitt, du président George W. Bush, des anciens présidents Gerald Ford, Lyndon Johnson, Harry Truman et de l’ancien Premier ministre britannique Winston Churchill. Plus étonnant encore, il compte des ancêtres germano-alsaciens, Christian Gutknecht né en 1722 et Maria Magdalena Grünholtz, tous deux nés à Bischwiller. Il aurait également un ancêtre belge à la 14e génération, Nicolas Martiau, né dans les environs de Wavre vers 1592. Mais ses origines européennes sont surtout anglaises, écossaises, et irlandaises. Un de ses arrière-grands-pères a émigré du comté d’Offaly en Irlande, au XIXe siècle.

He is a real American, in the sense that he gathered so many creeds that one could say President Obama achieved the ‘post-racial’ society.

It is hard for a Frenchman to understand the Obamania : French people -or at least, the better educated of them- cannot help but consider him as ‘black’ and at the same time, are more or less ashamed of their racial-based judgement. There is this founding myth in France that takes all French citizens to be equal, a myth that been brutally shaken out of its foundations since the 1980’s-1990’s (with north-African and sub-Saharan immigration). As a Moroccan, I could find some sense to the idea of a nation with autonomous communities that gather upon “commonwealth”; but then, our political system is so inadequate, as a French administration heritage (and for many other reasons)
Things are different in the US : it is a melting pot country, there is no racial criterion to define a ‘Real American’ (some KKK freaks might argue that the WASPs are the only true representatives, and others might even consider Native Americans to be the only true ones, quite beside the point though). The truth is, What gathers American is more a question of principles, principles that are inscribed in the Constitution.

Obama, the new father ? there is actually a great deal of paradox : Obama family is like any other family, with a Father -the modern Pater Familias-, a caring wife, and two -or more- children. Barack Obama, on the other hand, did not have a happy family history : his parents divorced when he was 3, his mother got married again, and divorced a second time. Furthermore, the young Obama had to move in many countries, a situation that could be unbearable for a young child and a youngster. But somehow he managed to sort it out, and eventually, it reflected positively on his nature, and added to his relatively new faith -he is Protestant since 1987-, Obama earned his position as the ‘new father’.

It seems to me that this election is full of paradoxes : Americans voted for a change, but the human being that embody that very sale change -although with a very original background- represents nothing but the values All Americans cherish : Family, Religion and a dollop of Patriotism… ‘le changement dans la continuité ?
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Course 2 : ‘Smoke Signals’, the native American road-movie

Posted in American Minority Voices by Zouhair ABH on January 20, 2009

Today is a good day to die…

We had the opportunity to watch a movie about Native Americans, a movie based on the novel : ‘The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven‘. Here follows a summary of it, and then let us have a deeper look at the movie.

The story centres around Victor Joseph and Thomas Builds-the-Fire on the Coeur D’Alène Indian Reservation in Plummer, Idaho. Thomas is the eccentric tribe storyteller and Victor is an assertive basketball player with a brooding disposition. The two young men are linked through Victor’s father, Arnold.

Arnold rescued Thomas as an infant from a house fire that killed his parents. Consequently, Thomas considers him a hero. On the other hand, Victor, who endures Arnold’s alcoholism, domestic violence, and eventually abandonment, regards his father with both deep love and bitter resentment. Thomas and Victor grow up together as neighbors and acquaintances, fighting with each other and simultaneously forming a close, albeit uneasy, alliance.

When Arnold dies in Phoenix, Arizona, where he has settled after separating from Victor’s mother Arlene, Victor and Thomas embark on a cross-country journey to retrieve his ashes and belongings. The trip turns out to be a soul-searching endeavour for both men. Neither of them lose sight of their identity as “Indians”, but their perspectives differ. Victor is more stoical and pragmatic, and Thomas is more idealistic and traditional (and a romantic to the point of watching the feature film Dances with Wolves countless times). This dichotomy continues all through the film and is the source of Victor’s irritation with Thomas. Once in Phoenix, Victor must confront his conflicted feelings toward his father, as well as his own identity.

He also must grapple with information provided to him by his father’s friend, Suzie Song; namely, the true origins of the fire that killed Thomas’ parents. Arnold, drunk one night, accidentally shot off a firework into the living room window, causing the fire in his neighbors house. The trip turns out to ultimately cure Victors brooding disposition toward life and shows him why his father became an alcoholic, was abusive, and eventually left their family. The film concludes with Victor achieving a better understanding of Thomas and his unconditional reverence for Arnold. (Wikipedia Courtesy)

The movie is full of symbols : the first one is the coincidence between the 4th of July, and the family drama (4th of July being the foundation of the USA celebration) a reference to origin of the Native Americans misery, perhaps ?

The reservation seems to live in a whole other world : weather is more or less the same, inhabitants use the same cars as 50 years ago. Events repeat themselves as rituals : the KREZ broadcast, Fallsapart everyday traffic report… the Coeur d’alène tribe lives in a bubble that ‘protect’ them from the outside world.
Would that mean the Natives are enjoying their lives in the reservation ? surely not. One could notice that alcohol has an important role : Joseph, an alcoholic among many others, drinks at 9. a.m, and beer is only a way to avoid looking at the misery they live in. Alcohol brings violence, at every level, especially symbolic : the dialogues are usually crude, very far from the subtle exchanges we are acquainted with.

There is this other point that occurs frequently during the movie : everything refers to the past, and not the ‘historical’ or ‘actual’ past, but an ‘idealised’ past, just as Thomas, or Arnold told stories that were not accurate, though thy sounded like myths or legends.
Setting that aside, the first contact with Europeans -as between Natives and the newcomers or settlers- was full of caution, and maybe passive hostility. A road movie full of metaphors that confirm the previous observations : the constant reference to the past -through Thomas’ recollections- and sometimes, attempts of ‘cleansing rituals’ : Phoenix, the mythical bird, the ashes, the fire that started it and will end it.

To sum up, the movie, though low budget and with no famous casting, was easy to watch and appreciate. It gives a fair view on the Native Americans problems, and ends -and perhaps, the only concession made to the American happy ending- in an explicit note of bright future hope.

I couldn’t resist to it, but Geronimo was my favorite Western movie as a Child :

La Formation du premier gouvernement marocain de gauche

Posted in Uncategorized by Zouhair ABH on January 20, 2009

Extrait traduit de la biographie d’A. Ibrahim
ibrahim“l’année 1958 fut chargée d’évènements importants dans la vie politique d’Abdellah Ibrahim. La tentative de constitution de gouvernement sous l’égide d’Allal El Fassi avorta à cause d’une conjugaison d’oppositions internes et étrangères, ce qui décida le Roi Mohamed V à essayer de convaincre le professeur (A. Ibrahim) à accepter de diriger le gouvernement, et ce, dans un contexte extrêmement confus et délicat. A. Ibrahim se rappelle à ce propos : “Lorsqu’Ahmed Balafrej (chef du gouvernement précédent, Istiqlalien) réalisa enfin qu’il s’était engagé dans une voie sans issue, il était trop tard, puisqu’il était en désaccord avec le Roi et avec son Parti (Istiqlal)”. Le Roi Mohamed V s’appliqua à me convaincre à prendre la présidence du conseil, les discussions ayant duré deux mois, à défaut de convergence ou de résultats, il me dit, à bout de nerfs et impatient : “si vous n’acceptez pas, je m’exilerai à la Mecque, et je n’en bougerai pas, jusqu’à la résolution de cette crise.”

Mon accord était naturellement conditionné par l’assurance d’obtenir toutes les prérogatives d’un chef de gouvernement, ce que je disais souvent au prince héritier Moulay Hassan : “mon entrée au gouvernement est conditionnée par un accord avec votre père, et il se doit de respecter cet accord. Dans le cas contraire, je serai obligé de démissionner, car je ne cours pas derrière les honneurs, au contraire, ce sont eux qui courent après moi”.

Il faut noter que l’une de mes premières mesures était de restituer le patrimoine de la famille de l’émir El Khattabi à ses propriétaires. Le patrimoine a été littéralement pillé après la défaite de l’émir et son exil en 1926. Il fallait aussi accélérer le départ des troupes étrangères, libérer l’économie nationale, etc…

Le prince héritier disposait d’un pouvoir d’influence grandissant sur son père. Certes, il avait la main haute sur des institutions comme l’Armée, la sûreté nationale, la gendarmerie ou les services de renseignements, et j’étais chargé de coordonner entre les ministères qui disposaient d’une réelle autonomie. Malgré tout, je ne pouvais empêcher un certain nombre d’incidents plus ou moins grave de se produire. Lorsque j’étais en négociation avec le Roi à propos de mon rôle dans le gouvernement, j’allais assez souvent le rencontrer au Palais royal, et à chaque reprise, un nombre important de gardes aux portes m’imposaient des procédures longues et trop protocolaires, ce dont je fis part, avec un certain agacement à Sa Majesté. Du coup, il chargea un de ses gardes du corps de faciliter mes entrées et mes sorties. Je pus prendre le dessus sur les complications protocolaires.

C’est ainsi que j’ai eu la responsabilité historique de conduire le gouvernement, malgré ce que mes alliés ou mes adversaires auraient déclaré, j’étais résolu à être à la hauteur. Ces donc dans ces conditions que le gouvernement a été officialisé le 24 Décembre 1958. {…} Lorsque je pris mes fonctions, j’étais convaincu que mon gouvernement était apolitique, ayant supposé que Sa Majesté voulait un gouvernement “transitoire” pour la préparation des élections générales incessamment organisées… Ces élections devaient déterminer l’équilibre des forces politiques nationales, et fournir la légitimité au gouvernement issu des urnes. J’avais aussi pleinement confiance dans la volonté du Roi de mettre fin aux manœuvres des autorités françaises, qui n’avaient de cesse de comploter contre mon gouvernement.

… Alors que j’étais chef du gouvernement, Sa Majesté me demanda après une réunion du cabinet ministériel : “que pensez-vous d’une visite aux Etats-Unis, afin de suivre les négociations, et éventuellement de les faire avancer ? {négociations en vue de l’évacuation des troupes américaines du sol national Ndlr} ” Je n’étais pas contre, et le Roi décida donc de m’y envoyer, me demandant donc de me préparer pour le voyage le lendemain samedi matin. Sa Majesté a aussi insisté sur une mobilisation des formations politiques et syndicales sur le thème de l’évacuation des bases américaines au Maroc. C’est donc en Octobre 1959 que je pris l’avions pour les Etats Unis, en compagnie de mon directeur de cabinet, M. Nacer Belarabi. A mon arrivée à l’aéroport de New York, je fus reçu par une importante délégation américaine de haut niveau, puis nous avons été installés dans une résidence officielle. Le programme de visite était aussi diversifié que chargé comme le fait d’assister aux réunions de l’assemblée générale de l’ONU à New York, ou la visite de la maison blanche à Washington, afin d’approfondir les voies de la coopération Américano-marocaine. {…}

Course 1 : an introduction to the deterritorialization

Posted in American Minority Voices by Zouhair ABH on January 14, 2009

First course of American Minority Voices seminar.

A very brief introduction of ‘administrative’ ground rules. The course seems to start sur les chapeaux de roues. Very literary, but I don’t mind it. After the usual procedure, Mrs Dumont started some kind of brain-storming, that is, related words and concept to minorities : racial minorities, mainstream, and the like. Quite an unusual way, but it turned interesting when the professor started to read an extract of the newly-elected president of the US –Barack Obama– book ‘The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream‘ about minorities in the US, and the power they are gaining over the WASPs (or at least, that is what I understood)

Our first concept came with an extract of French philosopher Gilles Deleuze a bout minor literature, and specifically, about the most famous of the jewish czech authors of the 1920’s, Franz Kafka. the Kafka example is a way to introduce the deterritorialization concept. A neologism that is ? maybe, or maybe not. I had -and in facts, I still have- difficulties in finding the true meaning of the concept. The main ideas where as follow :

– the minor author does not express their community’s concerns : in facts, the minor author expresses themselves in the dominant language. As intellectuals, as a part of a ‘non-governmental’ elite (as Pareto describes it), they cannot help but express their feelings, beliefs, fears, opinions, in the mainstream language, yet they cannot claim to be part of this same dominant group, because they are inevitably categorized as ‘minority spokesperson’. On the other hand, they feel as they are aliens to their home community : they have another education, their way of thinking differs violently from the one that characterize their community, and sometimes -like the native American writer Sherman Alexie– they are rejected form both sides.

Franz Kafka

– Language, alienation and dominance : Deterritorialization, in that sense, is a situation where the minor author masters the dominant language, but not its codes. Subsequently, they feel as if their knowledge is poor, and paradoxically, this poverty turns into a productive, innovative and inspirational work. They do not master the codes, and therefore they want to break it by making the most of the poor material they got. The body -i.e the language- becomes a spirit on itself. The minority literature is then a mere gathering of individual statements, it is also an uncoordinated outcry of spiritual wound : ‘the impossibility of not writing, the impossibility of writing in German, the impossibility of writing otherwise‘, as in the text.

The minor author is above all a political writer : because of their situation, the minor author cannot writing without a constant reference to the political struggle -violent or not- they witness everyday. Individual concerns are all merged into a big political problem, that Deleuze sees as a symbol of a new solidarity -that is, between minor authors-  It is a literature of minority people’s concern.