The Moorish Wanderer

Fiat justitia Ruat Caelum

Posted in Morocco, The Wanderer, Wandering Thoughts by Zouhair ABH on July 28, 2012

Doom-sayers have one additional thing to crow about: the abysmal – I might say plainly insulting, certainly brazenly shameless – performance of our Head of Government in his Al Jazeera interview. I say that with all the respect I have for that high office, because neither the journalist nor the interviewee did honour to their respective roles, but that’s quite another matter.

The concept of doom-sayer encompasses both sides of the argument in our national conversation: pro-reform argue the lack of genuine change will spell doom on the enchanted kingdom, while the others put forward the idea of the present omniscient monarchy as the last barrier standing between our civilized society, and chaos, inaptly captioned ‘Siba‘. Strangely enough, I find the danger not in the doomsday scenario, but rather in this perpetual sense of decline, and a feeling that no matter what one wants to and can do, things will always be the same.

I am referring to a je-ne-sais-quoi atmosphere of wait-and-see, which has nothing peculiar about the Moroccan society, but I felt it strongly in my interactions with fellow citizens. I usually build my opinions on statistics and facts -admittedly rigged or biased, but this is stronger than anything else. Perhaps the sight of piles of garbage has helped a bit, too.

The notion of decline is always hard to grasp, and it is harder to gauge in a society where opinion polls are rare, and so uncommon that their findings have to be treated with the utmost caution. But from my little urban neighbourhood and immediate circle of friends and acquaintances, I can sense a certain disappointment, even a resignation before the inevitable decline of… nothing really. Perhaps it was the false hope of a rising movement, and the second political re-alignment that failed to deliver, or even live up to expectations.

This has little to do with the economics really; for sure, the economic stagnation -I don’t know how to describe it otherwise – is only the expression of a malaise, though no one dares enough to take the lead, and lance the boil. I would like, if I may, list some of the aspects of it.

The economic decline: in fairness, there is no particular ‘golden age’ I can relate to personally, or anyone from a previous generation. The past two decades are, for the better, and perhaps especially for the worse, the product of ten years of a painful structural adjustment program, whose dividends, in the final analysis, did not fully pay off, if not at all, according to the World Bank itself. Growth is weak, and its gains consolidate the wealth and power on the top. Growth factors are idle, non-productive, and as they say, “the world does not owe as a living”; unfortunately, we are enjoying while we can. The few sunspots are only there to remind us of their exact role as such in an otherwise stagnant economy.

Society: there is a crisis of morals. Perhaps crisis and morals are too strong words to be used in the context of the consensus-seeking society that is Morocco, but the ongoing debate, regardless of how many people are involved in it, shows the deep divides in the society, and how unlikely these are to be healed, paradoxically in a consensus-seeking society. The crisis of morals is that perpetual back-and-forth movement between beloved but obsolete traditional mechanisms, and the enticing but unpredictable new ways of life. I am afraid this is caricature of reality, but the most recent serious survey -from the 50-year anniversary report- shows a tidal wave of a de facto individualism, but one that coexists (not always peacefully) with more traditional structures and solidarities. The crisis of morals, in this sense, means the transitory models takes too much time, and fails to produce new social interactions, and only succeeds in piling on things in a very heterogeneous environment that refuses to accepts that heterogeneity.

The political arena has hopefully been the most patent example of that decline: a vile mixture of shop-floor populism, kleptocracy and gerontocracy, our political personnel has long lost any sense of realities. That quote from Kypling: “Power without responsibility, the prerogative of harlots throughout the ages” can be applied aptly to Moroccan politicians (activists are a different breed however) unfortunately, the same politicians also participate in undermining themselves by belittling their own role in the political process. No one should be surprised at the low turnout during elections, or how despised the once-noble elected office is now.

And there comes the latin maxim I used as a title: “Fiat justitia Ruat Caelum“, “Let Justice be Done though the Heavens Fall”. What we need is a consensus-breaking, cavalier attitude to customs. That argument put forward by our Head of Government and (Elected) Chief Executive is precisely what I am talking about: the deal he was offered is simple, “leave special interests alone or they will bring this country to a halt”. When a politician with only 107 seats and untrustworthy allies leads a heterogeneous government coalition, that seems like the end of the road. And even if he did have the pre-requisite of a 198-strong super-caucus, there is still that major roadblock that is the SGG, our Cabinet Office. And yet we need an elected executive, backed by an equally fearless legislative body ready to go big and adopt grim-trigger strategy, thuggish, abrasive, whatever, just Let Justice and Reforms be Done though the whole of Morocco Fall.

From a purely economic and political point of view, it has a lot to do with political courage, which everybody in Morocco lacks, including the most radical fringes of the Left. Each and every one of the pro-reform partners have their own taboos and dogma to worship, and these are not necessarily in the long-term interest of the community. The example of tuition-free university system is symptomatic of the Left’s failure to address coherently the problem of public service goods.

To lance the boil of perpetual decline means taking on tough decisions: reforming the compensation fund as well as the penal code. Introducing agrarian reform as well as legislation on heritage and gender equality. I sometimes buy into the argument that economic problems rank first in order to sort out our consensus-made mess, but I am wrong. In fact, we (the Left) should take on all of these problems at once. And this is the beauty of it: reforms will take place even if it splits this country in half – because it won’t. The apparent fragility of the ‘Moroccan Experience’ has proved to be much more resilient than any one has anticipated, perhaps it is time single-minded politicians (I would prefer them to come from the Left, but Thatcherites/Reaganauts are welcomed as well) go the whole hog and test it to its limit.

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4 Responses

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  1. wibsydigitalagency said, on July 28, 2012 at 10:06

    Great read !

  2. van kaas said, on July 28, 2012 at 14:24

    Thank you for this very intellectual article. A remark. Part of one of the last sentences seems to be a flipped one : “reforms will take place even if it splits this country in half”.
    For a simple outsider like me “this country” or Morocco is not a very clear concept. It has no international recognized borders (Western Sahara, Security Council etc.), and Moroccan nationalists complain about Spanish occupied enclaves and in the areas of the defeated Rif republic people are screaming for autonomy. In its own language Morocco calls itself the Maghreb and a greater Maghreb is always on the agenda but there is no clear strategy towards it.
    So should’nt the sentence be flipped to read: “the country will split in half even if no reforms will take place”? Or like “only if the coutry splits in half reforms will take place”?

    • Zouhair Baghough said, on July 28, 2012 at 17:17


      Thank you for your comment. I suppose my meaning of “splits in half” bears no link to the Sahara issue, or the Rif Regionalist streak, or even the Spanish territories.

      It has a lot more to do with the prediction Morocco will be grounded to a halt if too radical a reform agenda is set up. That has been the ‘Official’ argument for quite some time, and the government of the day has just bought into it with that Benkirane interview.

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  3. Si Mo said, on July 29, 2012 at 04:10

    The only people who can change Morocco are those who control the culture and the process of culture-formation in Morocco. China has been successful in achieving economic growth and dynamism despite being a closed and undemocratic nation because theirs is a culture of reverence for hard work and intelligence. (Also the Communists made sure people where literature enough to read government propaganda.) Morocco has nothing that resembles such an ennobling culture. And Culture determines the Economy. The lesson I received from history is that economic growth takes place then human emancipations afterwards. Open Democratic societies are extremely expensive and if there are no resources beforehand how will such a society be tenable? All we will get with absolute democracy are governments quickly being forced to confiscate and violate of property rights. This is inevitable in my opinion, and self-destructive.

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