The Moorish Wanderer

Wandering Thoughts Vol.7

Posted in Ancient Times, Happy Times, Flash News, Morocco, Read & Heard, The Wanderer by Zouhair ABH on February 15, 2011

I do beseech the reader to allow for a self-indulgent post. Nothing peculiar, just a post that would not try to consider its subject to be serious, nor would it adopt a serious, formal tone. To my horror and surprise -not that much, though I suppose I can be allowed a bit of dramatization- that I can sometimes be pompous, if not entirely bombastic (pedant, was the word a young lady liked to use in describing my prose) and in any case tedious and sometimes esoteric.

Well, I suppose I am. I should perhaps confess a 180° about-face on many issues. First, this ‘dividing line’ about liberals and radicals. It seems to me that, as far as Morocco is concerned, the line is blurry, non-existent, almost. In these troubled time (another related thing upon which I might be digressive) even radical proposals, such as a constitutional convention -something I believe to be premature, even on a long-term time scale- look benign now.

Kalâat Megouna? Tazmamart? Moi?

I mean, one has only to look at the changes Morocco underwent in the 1990’s, when the late Hassan II moved from ‘Kalâat Magouna? It’s the capital of roses, dear lady‘ -a flat denial of the existence of hell-holes like Tazmamart to ‘that shows that if Morocco made mistakes in the past, it is willing to address them, and more importantly, not to repeat them ever again‘, an implicit recognition of ‘human rights abuses’ to put it euphemistically. And whatever -well-founded- criticism international NGOs made on Morocco’s records on human rights, the overall geopolitical changes, i.e. the end of the cold war and the shifting behaviour of western powers over ‘friendly’ dictatorships, compelled the late king into taking steps, the least of which was trying to make some efforts to improve the country’s image in terms of human rights (particularly the pardon to exiles in France and elsewhere), and one can even find commentators to claim that human rights and political freedom were at a better level in the late 1990’s than the late 2000’s.

This got me thinking: is it that much of a sign of weakness, from the top brass to start shuffling the government, the constitution, the economic structure, in short, the lot? Does it sound like panic? I mean, what sort of risks do they run through? I don’t know. There goes the other U-turn: I used to consider the Royal Cabinet -I don’t know why precisely this institution. Perhaps because it wields much more power than does the government- I used to consider it to be the symbol of absolutism. Now, I surprise myself into thinking: ‘how do they take their decision?’. Well, the premise of such seemingly foolish question is logical: they swept clean the Grandes Ecoles looking for new talents, so they are bound to be very rational, very thorough in their decision-making process. So, when all options are emptied, when all issues are discussed, dealt with, rationalized, there remains the only relevant question: “how do they take their decisions?”.

Sorry, I forget myself. Drifting in politics when I promised I should keep it ‘superficial’. What would I be posting about then? I do apologise for the digression, something that would perhaps explain why the feedbacks I got were generally pointing how utterly out of touch I can be in my postings. That is true, and it is multifarious: First, and I think I mentioned it before, there are very few things I care about, setting aside economics and Moroccan politics. I mean the only thing related to the Arab World I ever got close to get involved with was Colonel Lawrence Of Arabia’s wonderful book ‘The 7 Pillars of Wisdom‘, or perhaps a propaganda book I bought not so long ago about Gamal Abdelnasser.

T.E. Lawrence.

Other than that, I have to confess how shockingly disinterested in the recent events in Tunisia or Egypt, or even Algeria, I have felt. I am becoming even increasingly sceptical that the planned demonstrations on February 20th would not really help tip the balance toward more democracy and more equitable redistribution of wealth. That, of course, remains a subjective opinion (sorry for the pleonasm) and as the late Hassan II once said, as such it is not subject to criticism.

Second, when one is out of the country, one tends to be out of touch, not of the course of events -I claim I am more informed than many of my acquaintances back home- but in the little details, what pollsters sometimes fail to grasp; Something quite subjective, fainting, something that only instincts can get. And instincts feed on field experience that requires physical presence. Again, I don’t claim to have toured the country and thus know what every denizen of every god-forsaken spot in Morocco thinks about the constitution, the level of prices or the distribution of income, but living among fellow Moroccans, in a Moroccan context confers a great deal of information that can be captured as ‘the mood’.

So yes, I have to admit my utter failure in meeting the criterion Gramsci set for the organic intellectual. Hell I might as well forfeit my status as a intellectual (I am clearly not doing much thinking, you know). The blame is not entirely mine, though my guilt is substantial.

Perhaps it is a growing exasperation with a political system so senile, so concentrated, so hermetic to outsiders that whatever ambition I was grooming for a potential career have been gradually wiped out to be the shattered boy-dreams of a caustic wannabe policy specialist. End of story, the final act of the burning vision of a holy city.

On the virtual front however, the seeds of civil war have been sown: the anti-February 20th are stock raving mad against what they hold as the ‘enemies within’ or even worse, as an insidious ‘fifth column’. At this very day, I still do not understand why our valiant nationalists cannot accept the fundamental centrepiece of this democracy they are so keen on flogging as the main feature of the ‘Moroccan exception’: in a democratic society, there arise, almost inevitably contradictory opinions. It’s called diversity. On the other hand, trying to stifle opinions that do not ring harmoniously with the doxa, or what is hold to be common sense looks, sounds and feels like dictatorial behaviour, worse, self-enforcement of intellectual terrorism, the means of which are all too familiar and reminiscent of earlier, darker era: the would-be demonstrators are thugs, spies, professional activists and traitors. denigrating dissidence is not democratic, for those claiming that we are such democracy.

What is to be made out of this February 20th business? Overall, the claims are reasonable, in the sense that even some mainstream political parties took the same view -albeit some decades ago-. In fact, save for the minimum wage and the recruitment of unemployed graduates, I wholeheartedly agree with the need for a genuine democratic constitution, an independent judiciary and the rest. I disagree with tenants that such demonstration is not likely to change things. In fact, it shows how ignorant one might be of how the regime (these individuals are Makhzen-deniers) behaves: the top brass are scared witless of any infilat, any large scale riots not for fear for public safety, but because it hurts the PR image our leaders so carefully try to build.

Let me put to the reader this question: what makes a political power’s strength? What makes Al Adl or a couple of decades ago the CDT and USFP so powerful? Simply their ability to get people in the streets. In the perpetual muscle flexing and balance of power between dissidence and the Makhzen, those able to convince large numbers of citizens to demonstrate are considered with caution. Our policy makers would do their best to denigrate first, suppress the ringleaders second, then try to bribe and adulterate these social and political movement. Because the 20Feb movement is not structured as other past movement, only the figureheads are demeaned -through abject means- so as to destabilize and de-legitimize the demonstrations. Everything is done so as to monopolize all opportunities, all legitimacies, as J. Waterbury once stated: ‘It alone claimed to be something of an institution, and it alone combined the elements of […] legitimacy and the rudiments of an administrative and military apparatus

I need however to stress my own scepticism on the outcome. While the imminent showdown might -just might- compel the regime into making concessions on the institutional front, I’m afraid it is going to do its best to defuse it by promising the immediate measures that would pull the movement apart: jobs for the unemployed graduates (who usually abandon every bit of militancy and activism when they get recruited) or by promising subsidies for essential goods. I’m afraid that the demonstrators on February 20th would not be large enough, or geographically diverse enough to be considered a nation-wide. but as the saying goes: “بيناتكم آبضاوى”

I remember a tweet-discussion with our valiant MBA-winner (a feat on which I did not have the opportunity to congratulate him) on the existence -or not- of the Makhzen institution. I put to him, and to those who deny its existence, this paper by John Waterbury, so they can try and find the many occurrences of surviving patterns of behaviour.

Oh, and I reiterate my welcoming of any debate on whether Morocco is going the right path, or whether there’s still a Makhzen dominating the country. Debate anyone?

10 Responses

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  1. Tikchbilol said, on February 15, 2011 at 17:22

    You bring up a legitimate question that I ask myself quiet frequently. How is decision taken Lfou9? But here’s the way I see shit going down:

    Good decisions: His royal Highness singlehandedly brainstormed the idea, finalized it, created the task-force/committee/observatory and eventually cuts the ribbon with his saliva-dripping hand which just underwent a makeout orgy.

    Bad decisions: Bullshit. No such thing.(who’s financing you?) The king is just surrounding himself with a corrupt bunch who are taking advantage of the naivety of his Highness. Dont you know? Fessis are the new Algeriens. I heard they did 9/11 and they’re planning on turning Moroccans into Shia Zioniste.

    Holding someone accountable for a bad decision is almost impossible. You’re stuck in a fuzzy, bureaucratic vicious circle.

    For the protests to “succeed”, they need to establish a clear goal and not make it purely about jobs. Asking the government to hire all unemployed graduates is ridiculous in the first place. Tunisians and Egyptians wanted to “abolish the regime”. Simple, straightforward and it worked. I was disappointed however to see the (cowardly) dropping of “parliamentary monarchy” from the list of the movement’s demands. Selling out before it even started, classy.

    If the right path is the path to democracy then no, we’re way off. And believe me, I come from a Makhzen family (bite me), it does exist and its still dominating.

    • The Moorish Wanderer said, on February 16, 2011 at 01:04

      efficiency at its rawest. Oh, and I am not a Makhzen denier, there are plenty about to convert, though 😀
      So you’re from a Makhzen family. well well, someone has got to be their family’s black sheep, ain’t it?

    • kadour said, on February 16, 2011 at 10:15

      I was disappointed however to see the (cowardly) dropping of “parliamentary monarchy” from the list of the movement’s demands.

      The movement is called “democracy and freedom now”. A constitutional monarchy is the “democratic” form of monarchy. That demand was not, nor will it ever be dropped.

      • The Moorish Wanderer said, on February 16, 2011 at 11:07

        did they now? I was under the impression that they were keeping it (they had some nonsense about abolishing political parties altogether too…) I mean it is implied in the bid for a genuine democratic constitution. I am referring to this facebook note. If you can’t have access to itm here’s the content:

        في ظل ما يعيشه الشعب المغربي اليوم من احتقان اجتماعي والإحساس بالإهانة والدونية، وتراجع القدرة الشرائية للمواطنين بسبب تجميد الأجور والارتفاع الصاروخي للأسعار، والحرمان من الاستفادة من الخدمات الاجتماعية الأساسية (الصحة ، التعليم ، الشغل، السكن …) كل هذا في ظل اقتصاد تبعي ينخره الفساد والغش والرشوة والتهرب الضريبي ومناخ حقوقي يتسم بالقمع الممنهج لحرية الرأي (الاعتقالات المتتالية ، منع حق التظاهر ، قمع حرية الصحافة ….).

        وإيمانا منا كـ “شباب 20 فبراير” أن تراكم المعضلات الاجتماعية يرجع بالأساس إلى الاختيارات السياسية وبنية النظام السياسي المغربي المناهض لمصالح أبناء الشعب الفقراء، نطالب:

        – دستور ديمقراطي يمثل الإرادة الحقيقية للشعب.

        – حل الحكومة والبرلمان وتشكيل حكومة انتقالية مؤقتة تخضع لإرادة الشعب.

        – قضاء مستقل ونزيه

        – محاكمة المتورطين في قضايا الفساد واستغلال النفوذ ونهب خيرات الوطن.

        – الاعتراف باللغة الأمازيغية كلغة رسمية إلى جانب العربية والاهتمام بخصوصيات الهوية المغربية لغة ثقافة وتاريخا

        – إطلاق كافة المعتقلين السياسيين ومعتقلي الرأي ومحاكمة المسؤولين.

        وذلك قصد الاستجابة لتطلعات عموم أحرار هذا الوطن العزيز وتوفير شروط

        العيش الكريم يضمن:

        – الإدماج الفوري والشامل للمعطلين في أسلاك الوظيفة العمومية

        – ضمان حياة كريمة بالحد من غلاء المعيشة والرفع من الحد الأدنى للأجور

        – تمكين عموم المواطنين من ولوج الخدمات الاجتماعية وتحسين مردوديتها

        وبذلك ندعو عموم الأحرار بمغربنا العزيز للمساهمة ودعم هذه المبادرة والمشاركة بكثافة في إنجاحها وجعل يوم 20 فبراير يوما وطنيا سلميا للكرامة ، والتزامنا بالعمل مع الجميع لتوحيد الجهود من اجل الكرامة والعدالة والمواطنة

        شباب 20 فبراير


        • kadour said, on February 16, 2011 at 16:02

          Was that directed at me or at Tikchbilol?

          The constitutional monarchy is implied in the “democratic constitution” point.

          • roumana said, on February 16, 2011 at 16:28

            See, I dont think its assertive enough. My point is that when the media starts picking up on this, the best move would be to “market” the protests as pro constitutional monarchy. Otherwise, little Naciri would pop up the next day announcing that we already have a democratic constitution, a parliament, different parties, freespeech…

            This is the time for playing the “Guess what im implying game”. We’re fighting for the freedom not to have to impy stuff anymore. Just FUCKING say it.

            • roumana said, on February 16, 2011 at 16:31

              And by constitutional monarchy I mean a regime where the King only has ceremonial duties.

  2. CZR said, on February 16, 2011 at 00:59

    Doesn’t the TGV being build in Morocco remind you guys about Marie-Antoinette famous line “Give’em Brioche”. Moroccans are suffering from illiteracy, poverty and Human Rights abuses, yet the King says “Give’em the TGV”. I wonder who’ll ride the TGV (flies? cows maybe?). The only good thing about it is that it might scare the people of the land: given the TGV’s beautiful blue color, everytime they’ll see one race through they’ll think the power is sending a convoy of cops and merda to beat them (no scorn here, just a joke, I myself have family in the land.)

  3. kadour said, on February 16, 2011 at 08:59

    would not try to consider its subject to be serious

    Sounds like what the royal cabinet tells the king!

    they swept clean the Grandes Ecoles looking for new talents, so they are bound to be very rational, very thorough in their decision-making process.

    What utter rubbish! I went through the “Grandes Ecoles”, and it’s full of irrational Moroccans who would argue the existence of winged horses and malevolent spirits (jnoune) with a straight face.

    a political system so senile, so concentrated, so hermetic to outsiders that whatever ambition I was grooming for a potential career

    Career as what? One more lapdog for the palace?

    At this very day, I still do not understand why our valiant nationalists cannot accept the fundamental centrepiece of this democracy they are so keen on flogging as the main feature of the ‘Moroccan exception’

    The Makhzen’s psychology of totalism has been refined over centuries. I don’t fully understand it either, but there are enough visible components around to get the picture.

    denigrating dissidence is not democratic,

    I disagree. The right to denigrate is essential to democracy. The problem is not that the conservative crowd is denigrating dissidents, but that dissidents have no guaranteed right to denigrate the conservatives.

    The “red lines” need to be removed! NOW!

    Our policy makers would do their best to denigrate first, suppress the ringleaders second, then try to bribe and adulterate these social and political movement.

    Or as that Indian guy put it more eloquently: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

    who usually abandon every bit of militancy and activism when they get recruited

    Not the feeling I get talking to young compatriots (granted that it’s a biased sample!). These kids are ideologically driven. But it’s an ideology that’s not cohesive. It’s about freedom, justice, equality, transparency…things that were articulated so long ago but that never reached us because by the time we established a national project, socialism was more appealing to our culture.

    “بيناتكم آبضاوى”

    I can’t come up with a witty retort involving Riaffa. But that is bound to be a hotbed if anything breaks out.

    I remember a tweet-discussion with our valiant MBA-winner

    I remember him posting an article about a couple of European tourists hunting for birds in Tunisia that he turned into Mossad agents or what-not. With that attitude, how can he not win?

    Debate anyone?

    I would advocate action. Debating doesn’t pressure the Makhzen into enacting reform.

    • The Moorish Wanderer said, on February 16, 2011 at 09:11


      you really took the trouble reading through the post. congrats!
      I referred to the Grandes Ecoles because they remain the primary source for the intermediate and upper bound of Morocco’s (public & private) management. Oh, and tell me about it. I’m just glad I’m presently leaving one for a better future 🙂

      I’d advocate action too. But for expatriates like me, debate is, as the Islamic scholar would put it, “أضعف الإيمان”

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