Getting Mad at the Man
I feel becalmed. Not least because the furore abated; Before you know it, we’re back to square one, with regular beatings and random round-ups among the most vocal dissidents. Actually I find the word dissident a bit too much. For all its flaws, Morocco claims to be a democracy; Yet the opposition, the real one, is barely better treated. If anything, we are slowly slipping in an unhealthy situation where beating, fiat arrests and other features of police apparatus are likely to be banalized. Perhaps I am wrong; after all, human rights activists and other fringe opposition groups are gearing up for an attrition engagement to extract concessions from the regime; But if as far as the undecided and uncommitted is concerned, it is of little news.
Oh, there was a very weird thing that popped in prior to the demonstration and shortly afterwards: Youtube videos of regular Moroccan citizens, anonymous or not, openly voicing their opinions and grievances, with the notoriously US-expatriate Moroccan addressing directly His Majesty. This overflowing production of videos is just conforming a blurry idea I had of Moroccan internet-users (which I confess to be a bit of a stereotype), i.e. they are more comfortable with media content (actually, the idea is not really mine, but when a friend bounce it off, it was alluring. I shouldn’t therefore claim credit for it). It also shows that whatever its legitimacy, political institutions are unable to either hear, or voice (or both) citizens’ concerns:
I. The monarchy: the CES speech -although tabled long ago- was a deafening denial of reality. His Majesty has a cohort of young and intelligent minds, plus speech writers that can alter the speech in view of the circumstances. But no, it was business as usual. The dismissal could be justified by the numbers that took to the streets: 37.000 according to the authorities, 200.000 according to the spokespersons, let’s settle for 120.000 (more realistic Mamfakinch news portal estimates) whatever number it is, it is quite low, in absolute and relative numbers. However, one needs to go beyond the flawed statistics of demonstrations; The last-minute dirty-tricks measures, as well as the frenzy on internet and newspapers betrayed vivid anxiety over reform claims. Not that there was no reform campaigning before, but it seems all MENA governments are getting edge since two (and soon, three) stalwart regimes already crumbled. In any case, the apparent nonchalance might backfire, and it is takes a long-term view in politics to see it, a strategic outlook our leaders have always lacked (and are punished for it from time to time)
II. Mainstream political parties: I was slightly amused to read about the USFP attempt to withdraw from the ruling coalition (there was always a latent conflict between the Politburo and the national convention) on the basis of these reforms (most likely because of the still-to-be-confirmed technocratic new Prime Minister) and other political parties -like the moderate islamist PJD, or the MP- trying to catch up with reality. The fact the young core of 20Feb. movement chose unorthodox means to express their grievances only proves mainstream political parties to be out of touch, ageing and definitely discredited among a very large population.
There were some critics pointing out that since the claims are mainly political, why not join a political party? Or vote on every election (there were even suspicions that some ringleaders did not vote in 2007 or 2009). Simply because those asking these very questions ought to have a closer look at the parliamentary and partisan institutions. They really are out of touch, corrupt and incompetent. Why would one grace them with a simulacrum of elections, then? These young demonstrators turned to the political forces that were stalwart proponents of constitutional reforms (yes, AMDH is de facto a political party, just like Al Adl). These fringe forces however, are not publicized or ‘house-trained’, that is why they are either ignored, or labelled as ‘extremists’ or ‘lusting for political opportunities’ (usually from MAP-like commentators).
III. Parliament & Government: Parliament is supposedly there to represent the will of the people. I don’t usually buy into the antiparliamentarianism frenzy, but the dissolution of this institution -with free and fair elections- because of its current corruption and incompetence is quite alluring. Minister –I’m almost certainly getting the sack– Moncef Belkhayat, answered a challenging tweet by inviting his interlocutor by joining in a party. I’m sorry, but the last individual whose political advice I should act upon is certainly Mr Belkhayat. A first-class flip-flopper (he moved from one party to the other in the same coalition) trying to teach us civic principles 101. Charité Bien Ordonnée Commence Par Soi-même, as the French saying goes.
Parliament is actually a melting-pot, a motley of corrupt notables and baronets, young knives eager to prove worthy of political and wealth inheritance, and quite rare honourable men and women; That’s the trouble with the current system. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that our political institutions are democratic and, albeit a bit rusty, doing well. Any political party trying to reach majority, or at least trying to get a big chunk of seats will have to endorse local barons. That’s what happened to USFP (with the pathetic outcome they are now wadding through), that’s what is happening to PJD (and likely to destroy its strength too), and indeed that’s how PAM juggernaut is capturing every disgruntled or hungry for perks MPs in the house. Other parties that do not want to, or cannot attract these notables are condemned to rot with a handful of seats and marginal impact on the legislative process. In view of this bleak configuration, youth vote is ignored, bought or silenced.
Government is no better. As Article 24 of the constitution states, His Majesty is not compelled to chose a Prime Minister from a majority coalition. He doesn’t even have to chose a politician (which He did in 2002, and is more than ever likely to do these days). And, last but not least, majority government are not founded before elections, but rather after, with bizarre configurations even the most gifted pundit fails to decipher. If parliament does not truly represent the people of Morocco, then government represents nothing but an out of touch, ageing, rotten and corrupt elite, whose appointment depends on the minions gravitating around the King awaiting His good pleasure and clannish narrow calculations.
IV. The Media: independent journalism has been patiently suppressed, and that is a blow to freedom of expression. However, that’s the journalists’ problem, mainly because they were objective allies serving the regime when they disparaged politicians (rightly so, but this ferocious criticism went too far, with a great deal of unjustified generalization) and then thought of themselves as maverick politicians. Bad luck, they have been marshalled into submission, like Rachid Nini, who slowly moved from a Robin Hood kind of harangue to a mastermind of slurs and canards, a vicious demagoguery flirting with the reactionary and the islamist. Even high-brow journalists like Jamai and Benchemsi thought they could out-smart the regime and regular politicians at once. That is also why Moroccans, young Moroccans especially, are increasingly turning to the internet to get their news there, and far more important, to voice their opinions, whatever they might be.
In view of these elements, for dissidents and ordinary citizens to voice their problems as well as their grievances, only street protests and cyber-protests remain a viable and effective alternative, all other regular and traditional institutions failed to adapt. It is often said that democratic societies are the most tolerant to dissidents and deviance (the Durkheimian sense) It seems the Moroccan society, though not particularly democratic, admits a great deal of variance around its values and institutions. And again, this apparent permissive atmosphere should not fool the reader or the observer: expressing one’s opinion is good, but that’s only halfway through to genuine democracy. There is a need for a in-depth institutional reforms to allow other political alternatives a real chance to access power. ‘Cause toujours‘ is not a by-product of democracy, it is the early warning signs that it is not working. The Man needs to change in order to preserve social cohesion. The Man is not doing their job, and before they know it, they might be forced out of existence. The Man should listen before it is too late.
One last thing perhaps. I wanted to devote a separate post, but it is the kind of issue I am not well-versed in, and it is bordering voyeurism, or even sensationalism. It’s Fedwa Laroui.
For those who don’t know about Ms. Laroui, she’s a single mother that self-immolated in protest against the discrimination she suffered in social housing program, solely on the basis that she was a single mother. Now, for a sane individual to go on self-harm (self-immolation no less) is always truly horrifying. Once the emotion cools down, one is not really surprised, for one is past beyond such sentiments, as the saying goes ‘ما دمت في المغرب فلا تستغرب’, to learn that the 25-years old was ostracised because she was a single mother.
There’s something terribly wrong about this country. A single mother? That lustful slut got what she deserved. Single mothers used to be (and only too many still do) Morocco’s prostitutes because that was (and again, in one too many instances, still is) their sole mean of subsistence. This sick society is still clinging to macho prejudices and heartlessly casting the underdog.The Man encourages and condones these practises, as part of our ‘undying culture and tradition’. The Man is a macho and punishes harshly vulnerable women who deviate from the fettered norms.
Yes, These are moments when I feel proud of my culture and traditions, moments when women like Fadwa are driven to such desperate measures. That bitch got what she deserved.
In a more serious tone, I am genuinely sorry for her tragic fate. I can only spare a thought for her two children, and voice, but to no avail, a broken anger to the discrimination that drove her to the extreme measure to set herself in fire. My thanks to Abmoul, CJDM and all the others that took more time and a whole post to mourn her loss.