The Moorish Wanderer

Who’s Next?

I did not get elected. That was expected, though I was disappointed I did not get enough votes for the MBAs. Never mind, perhaps next year, and a great thank you to those who supported me throughout. I will nonetheless continue in my folly, those who appreciate it can be assured of that.

Yesterday, late at night, after one too many Jack Daniel’s & Vodka shots (at a birthday party, mainly mingling about), I was staring at television, watching news from Egypt. I dare say it gets pretty hard to impress me, but the pictures of demonstrators on a tank (alive and joyfully chanting ‘Down With Mubarak !‘) took me aback. Drunkenness only just amplifies the sense of amazement that, if something is happening in Egypt, it might not be the same as the Tunisian uprising, it remains a historical day, and a memorable month.

Central Cairo. Demonstrations are genuinely popular and demand ousting Moubarak (Guardian Picture)

If dices keep rolling, the whole MENA region’s geopolitics might be profoundly altered: perhaps my analogy is wrong and misplaced, but it feels quite like the late 1980’s behind the iron curtain: the GDR, the most trustworthy ally to the Soviets, went down as the Berlin Wall was joyfully torn apart by enthusiastic demonstrators. In Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, oppressive Stalinist regimes faded away like houses of cards. If the analogy is far-fetched, the symbolism of iron curtain can be considered to be relevant: in MENA, there is indeed an iron curtain, between the oppressed denizens and their rights, whatever basic they are, between the oppressed and squeezed poor-working classes and the apparatchik, greedy, rapacious cronies. An iron curtain between eternal, sometimes senile rulers and youthful, healthy ruled. In every sense of the word, there is a huge asymmetry between the body politics and the body citizens. Truly, we live in interesting times, and this is not a curse.

Humour me: is there is country where a part of the population desperately rallies behind the ruler, re-affirms its love and devotion for Him, and reiterates the line “we are different”? Hint: It’s most westerner one in North Africa. Moroccan policy-makers are watching carefully, and delivering even more careful statements, trying to anticipate what was already managed but was yet to get worse.

I think why I did not get enough votes for the MBAs. Perhaps I was too critical of the ruler(s) of the land. Perhaps I should have watered down with some lauding comments, or perhaps by expressing understanding sympathy to a Regal will for reform. Cheap lines, as it were, that, even in real life, are of little help: the policy-maker works better when facing opposition, and the more the latter is involved in real debate, enjoying a say on matters of state, then the very epitome of democracy are there for citizens to enjoy. In time of crisis, hurriedly rallying behind His Majesty looks at best sheepish, if not entirely lick-spittle behaviour. What, are all Moroccans -especially on the web- eager to show their monarchical sympathies like a badge of honour? Is there is some greema for every spine-less, herd-minded fool enough to change their profile picture on social networks, start posting fulsome praises to the King, and worse, stifle those questioning their sanity. That, dear readers, is a fit of panic. And with it, the shadows of doubt, indecisiveness begin to close on Morocco’s future.

The next Lego Ad, Perhaps?

It is true Morocco is different. This is such a tautology, considering that all countries are different one from the other when considered globally. Egypt was different from Tunisia, and yet there is an ongoing successful, large-scale protest against the incumbent ruler. What is meant by ‘difference’ is that the reasons why Egyptians, Tunisians and Yemenis took to the street differ, although there can be found some pattern, which can be found in Morocco too. Now, we should address two questions: is Morocco’s profile risk bound to deliver some large scale protests, and what is the ongoing reaction among officials.

First, Morocco shares common features with Tunisia and Egypt, and up to a point, these indicators are even worse concerning Morocco. Their respective economies grew at comparatively high rates, but failed to benefit all but a few members of oligarchy. While the three countries signed free-trade agreements with each other and with other major economies, they commit to free markets and limited state intervention, and yet the economic structures is either monopolistic (private monopolies, that is) or oligopolistic; Furthermore, there are numerous records of opaque relationships between some state officials -some quite close to the rulers’ inner circle- and the largest economic players. In a word, all these countries -and others in the region- are, as far as economics is concerned, crony capitalism. With respect to economic structures, and regardless of regional variations, each countries has a concentrated distribution of wealth. In social and human rights terms however, the differences are more acute: Benali’s Tunisia was considered the ‘Mother Of All Oppressive North African Regimes‘, while Egypt and Morocco, mainly because of their large population -compared to Tunisia- did not crack down on Human Right activists and bloggers with the same viciousness as in Tunisia, but still, both regimes exercise a watchful -and sometimes vengeful- eye on dissidence. Morocco however, has a more liberal dealing with dissidence, though it remains highly repressive.

Second, Morocco witnesses quasi-everyday protests: the unemployed graduates in front of Parliament alley in Rabat, or in the hinterlands, the so-called “Maroc Inutile” the ‘useless Morocco’, where denizens have access to basic services, but only just: reliance on rain barometer, high unemployment, arrogant, corrupt and rapacious local administration are but a few items that sometimes lead these parts of the realm to social resentment, and ultimately, popular protests that are either  put down by use of police force, or defused with usually empty promises. Compared to Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Yemen and other countries, Moroccans are more willing to take to the streets, but only to protest for Palestine, and sometimes, just sometimes, against rising prices. When local demonstrations are staged, they do not usually target anyone in particular, and political claims are watered down by claims for more affordable cost of living. My theory is that by tolerating some minor, localized demonstrations, officials provide the people with an air-valve to defuse their frustrations and neutralize any possibility of a larger, more dangerous uprising. If that happens, there are thousands of unknowns to be determined: if the police is not enough, they might wheel-in the army. Are soldiers going to shoot live rounds to demonstrators? Who will give the ultimate order of ‘fire at will’? what part political powers are likely to play? Is the Regal institution going to be gainsaid too? All of this makes any prediction one way or the other most blurry, most difficult to estimate.
One thing for sure: these idiotic gesticulations about ‘love march’ and ‘we heart the King’ betray an increasing unease about the prospect that, after all, Moroccan people are not so fond of their Sovereign. It’ high time we faced the eventuality of such outcome.

What is to be made out of calls to stage a pro-monarchy demonstration on February 6th? Not much in fact. It could look like a makhzenian demonstration, but things could also turn sour with the police and security forces butting in. And before they know it, the brass would find themselves with a de facto revolt: riots, injured, possibly dead, worldwide TV cameras and bad publicity for a regime dying to distance themselves from the turmoil and marketing its institutions as an isle of democracy and freedom of speech.

The Unknown Lurks in the shadow of sudden twists in History.

So far, theses calls for ostentatious monarchism look at best laughable. It does not make sense, or it looks like a staged coup to reassure the policy-makers: “look Your Majesty, your Regal picture is all over Facebook and Twitter. Your subjects love you, sire”.

As a monarchy, we have a court. Favourites and courtesans prance about, trying to catch the Sovereign’s good graces. It could indeed be a re-enactment of a millennium-old ritual: when the Sultan visits a contumacious province, the local governor lines up the men and women, chanting and dancing for the pleasure of His Imperial Majesty the Sultan, providing such Thespian skills to provide for a façade of submission, good will and undying loyalty to the ruler of the day.

The trouble is, our governance modus operandi is so opaque, so esoteric that whatever event cannot, and will not be considered at its face value. Sane commentators and fair-minded citizens will ultimately see an anxious regime, trying to re-assure themselves that, no, the Moroccans are not Tunisians or Egyptians, and love their King genuinely. As far as things are, the angry mob would direct their frustration to other potentates: Wealthy families, essentially, with some figureheads as scapegoats (that the King might dismiss, when needs to be). But if old farts stick together, there will be a time, we’re no way near it, but still, were such fine nuances would be wiped out.

I hope the fine minds monitoring Morocco would take that into account, start defusing things by preparing real political reforms, and start addressing the economic weaknesses and shunning the fat cats they take to their bosom. Start pumping reforms, before the street takes you over !

(I can help the Royal Cabinet if they want me to. Please contact me for CV and Interview. MAD 80k entry salary, a car and an up-state house, opportunities to travel abroad)

26 Responses

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Zouhair, Zouhair. Zouhair said: Who's Next?: http://wp.me/pRViX-uM […]

  2. Papediouf said, on January 30, 2011 at 19:13

    I think u re wrong about morocco ,most people respect the for all the work he does ,
    Perhaps one or two things to change(education and justice) and it ll be okay ,we know that we re the only Arab country without oil but we have a kind of freedom in many things that compensate

    • The Moorish Wanderer said, on January 30, 2011 at 22:15

      am I wrong about Morocco? Did you read the pieces I posted on the economic conditions? Do you really think His work is enough, or well directed? Don’t you think INDH amounts to nothing but institutionalized charity?

      Sure, education and justice are big issues, unfortunately they are but the tip of the iceberg. The economy is a mess for the less well-off. croynism all around. How can that be “okay” ?

      Also, when one starts stating that ‘we have enough freedom’ that sounds suspiciously dictatorial.

      Thanks for stopping by!

    • fawzi said, on January 31, 2011 at 07:11

      I don’t know how actually much you know about Tunisia and Egypt, but large segments of those societies are/were very supportive of Ben Ali and Moubarak.

  3. hmida said, on January 30, 2011 at 21:20

    “I did not get elected. That was expected, though I was disappointed I did not get enough votes for the MBAs.”

    Si ton papier ne commençait par ce aveu, je me serais donné la peine de le traduire et de le lire, comme je fais pour certains de tes billets ! Mais là, je suis un peu bloqué!

    • The Moorish Wanderer said, on January 30, 2011 at 22:11

      Hello Papy !
      Les chances d’être élu étaient minces. En observant les résultats de toutes les catégories -pas seulement la mienne-, j’ai été déçu par la victoire de la bêtise et du populisme crasse sur la sensibilité et l’honnêteté intellectuelle. D’où l’apparente contradiction dans ma phrase d’ouverture.

      ‘Faut lire entre les lignes grand-père !😀

      Merci pour la visite !

  4. hmida said, on January 31, 2011 at 08:10

    Cela ne me gêne pas d’être traité de “papy”, mais je comprendrai meix cette familiarité si je t’avais traité de “fiston”, ce qui n’est pas le cas!

    Mais il faut dire que je ne connais pas très bien les codes de la “nouvelle” gauche marocaine!

    Je note aussi que tu as un grand respect pour “la bêtise et le populisme crasse” des internautes qui ont participé au vote: tu es donc certain de détenir “la sensibilité et l’honnêteté intellectuelle”!

    Décidément, les marocains se ressemblent tous!

    • The Moorish Wanderer said, on January 31, 2011 at 12:15

      Hello

      Je retire le qualificatif “papy” alors. (Je mets ça sur la susceptibilité du grand-âge…)

      Comme respecter la bêtise et le populisme? Juste parce qu’une majorité a voté pour? Cher Hmida, il faudra revoir ensemble les bases de la démocratie, ses présupposés aussi. Peut être un cours de logique, au cas où.

      Je viens de me rendre compte que ta visite touchait un point négligeable dans mon post. Décidément, les marocains de l’autre bord se ressemblent tous…

      Merci pour la visite.

  5. hmida said, on January 31, 2011 at 13:21

    C’est drôle mais je n’ai jamais eu l’impression qu’il y avait des marocains de ce bord et d’autres marocains de l’autre bord : je croyais qu’on était tous marocains, avec éventuellement des idées différentes!

    Mais il faut bien croire que non et que certains se croient supérieurs aux autres!

    P.S. : si le point que j’ai touché était négligeable, tu ne l’aurais pas mis en exergue de ton billet!

    • kadour said, on January 31, 2011 at 14:58

      “je croyais qu’on était tous marocains, avec éventuellement des idées différentes! Mais il faut bien croire que non et que certains se croient supérieurs aux autres!”

      Relis la constitution. Le roi se croit supérieur aux autres…même s’il est celui qui fait semblant de parler à son papy invisible et omnipotent qui vit dans le ciel pour faire pleuvoir…

  6. xoussef said, on January 31, 2011 at 15:01

    This rant leaves me perplexed, I don’t really know what to make of it. I appreciate your posts very much because they are methodical, logical, and well informed. Sometimes I don’t really understand when a bit too technical for me, but then you’re a specialist. Some are real eye openers, you don’t need anyone to tell you that, but please continue.
    However, I feel a bit hurt here. You know what? I do love, respect and trust the king. Yes, genuinely. I can’t vouch for other Moroccans, so may be you’re right, but don’t you think there is a chance some people out there are actually sincere?
    Admittedly I’m not well versed in politics or economics, well read or even particularly bright, but I don’t want my views to be dismissed, nor derided…
    This didn’t come across the way I want, but it’s a bit early to get drunk ^^

    • kadour said, on January 31, 2011 at 16:06

      With all due respect…if you don’t want your views to be derided, maybe you should work on educating yourself and questioning why you hold those views in the first place. An unexamined life is not worth living in my humble opinion.

      If you love the king, it’s fine by me. You can kiss his hand all you want and donate your hard-earned cash so he can maintain his many palaces. But please don’t expect others to do the same.

    • The Moorish Wanderer said, on January 31, 2011 at 18:00

      Hi

      I think you overrate my ranting here. (or perhaps I should have toned it a bit down…).
      My point is not about the monarchy or His Majesty. I remain agnostic about the whole issue of the most suited political regime we need in Morocco.
      What I cannot stand is the sanctimonious lot -not necessarily sincere- wearing their monarchism as a badge of honour, AND have the balls to excommunicate whoever disagree with their POV. If they can present their view in a rigorous, logical and documented fashion, I’d be delighted to start a debate. This is a challenge to anyone who disagrees with my own line. You have a blog: why don’t you write a reply, stating your point of view, well presented and well-argued, and I’d be happy to answer back with a post. Does it sound ok to you?

      Thanks for the comment, really appreciate your contribution.

      • fawzi said, on January 31, 2011 at 20:40

        You’re asking xoussef to argue with reasonable arguments. I think all you’ll get are appeals to emotions and other sophistries.

        You can’t reason someone out of an intellectual position they haven’t reasoned themselves into. Most of them are…to put it bluntly…brainwashed by the Makhzen’s FUD since the cradle.

      • xoussef said, on February 8, 2011 at 23:52

        I might have well tried to do so some time ago, but as you might have noticed, it’s been a while. Lots of time, but no energy to blog. I’m not sure I’d be of any use as an advocate anyway: Love, trust and respect, that’s an emotional register, and subsequently, my point is not that you’re right or wrong, but that not all those who doesn’t see it the way you do, are necessarily cowards, straw men, cynical hypocrites etc (not that their aren’t either). which is what your post/comments imply, and Fawzi/kadour say outright. At least you’re doing your home work and have valid points (even in a rant, thumbs up), Fawzi/kadour doesn’t rate better than I.
        Cheers

        • The Moorish Wanderer said, on February 9, 2011 at 15:47

          It’s been a long time since I abandoned the idea following which politics in Morocco -or elsewhere to that matter- and politicians behave out of sincerity. Call it cynicism, but that’s the way it goes.

          On the other hand, I always enjoy an intellectual discussion, which I’d be happy to start whenever you feel ready or motivated for😀

          It’s always a pleasure to hear from you !

          M

  7. Mouka said, on January 31, 2011 at 22:50

    @Hmida
    C’est drole que Hmida le “living fossil” vienne ici te donner des lecons. Il censure a mort sur son blog.
    Hmida PUE le makhzenien qui tremble et pisse dans ses couches maintenant qu’il sent qu’un vent de changement souffle sur le monde arabe en general, et l’afrique du nord en particulier.
    @Moorish Wanderer
    As for your post, I think that I would tend to agree with you 100%. Those that are waving the “Morocco is different” flag all over, tend to be nothing more than cronies at the orders and service of the monarchy.
    Morocco is NO exception, in fact, I am thinking we might be the next in line for an overdue change in our regime.
    The king is a “de facto” dictator. He might have learned a lesson or two about how to keep things from ever boiling over, but that doesn’t change anything in the “real” situation in morocco.
    Justice is a joke in morocco.
    Economy is under lock and key
    Politicians are nothing but “Yes” men, anything to please their masters.
    The list is so long that it’s depressing running down the list of wrongdoings of our “beloved” government.
    I think it’s high time a REAL change would take place.

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