The Moorish Wanderer

Wandering Thoughts Vol.6

Apparently 13.000 votes have been registered for the MBA. That’s a huge number, and I am sure there’s some 9% that voted for me (the competition on my award class allows me for some support effect, to my benefit). I’ve just realized that the last piece might scare off the less politically engaged voters, so, for the sake of triangulation and bland, tasteless non-political blogging, I shall devote this piece to a benign subject, well not too benign -for I might alienate the likes of me-… well, I suppose this is excellent training for would-be politicians: how to reach out to the crowd by taking centrist views without alienating the hardcore base vote; sell-out, I call that.

A year ago, I read Mounir Bensalah’s fascinating account of Moroccan philosopher Abdellah Laroui, ‘من ديوان السياسة’ (Min Diwan Assyassa). The account in question was very documented, much more documented than the present one, albeit the criticism it bore was, to my opinion, a bit unfair, especially when one bears in mind that Laroui is one of the very few original thinkers Morocco can still claim its own. After El Jabri‘s death, the Moroccan intellectuals’ club is shrinking to depressing proportions.

Abdellah Laroui (Aujourd'hui Le Maroc Picture)

The book is not really a substantial work, not when compared to other Laroui’s production, like the ‘Origines Sociales Et Culturelles du Nationalisme Marocain‘ or ‘Islam & Histoire‘ to name but a few. The book is more of a dictionary, a glossary of concepts Laroui delienates but not too much, and as a former sociology student, I can vouch for the educational benefits for the fledging political sciences student, or the honest citizen trying to make sense of politics and its history in Morocco. Other than that, there is no luminaries to be found, no ground-breaking revelations. Contrary to Mounir, I do not find the book explicitly discussing current politics: there are a few references to the late King Hassan II, when he mentioned the first Constitution (rightfully denoted the granted constitution) and I think current politics was his main subject. If anything, he had plenty of opportunities; The entry on the  ‘آل الذمة’ (traditionally Jewish or Christian subjects living under Islamic rule with a status involving paying special taxes) the recent troubles with MALI, or the fact that AMDH human rights organization put secularism top of their political agenda did not elicit him into making some kind of comparison with the tradition dimmi status non-Muslims enjoyed (the word is inappropriate, for the Jewish denizens in ghettos, mellahs, were frequently subject to pogroms)

Laroui does not attempt any formal lecturing of our officials into the intellectual and philosophical foundations of our present regime. At best, some helpful reminders of post-1956 Moroccan history are referenced once a while, as well as the almost common-place, definitely banal references of Islam, initial Salafism and other concepts he details in more academic books. The book looked to me as though it was more of a cross-breed between Nietzsche’s quotes and an introduction to Moroccan Political Sociology. I can still remember last summer, touring the prominent bookshops in Rabat and Casablanca, well, I can tell that book production is dying. It’s only a matter of time, the Philistines are putting the final touches to a complete intellectual comatose. And for this, whatever Laroui’s short-sighted actions and quotes, he remains worthy of respect (I am sure Mounir did not intend to offend his intellectual stature, or gainsay any of his academic contributions)

I wanted also to write something about British politics. Since the May 2010 elections and the coalition agreements between the Conservatives and the Liberal-Democrats, and especially since George -The Human Chainsaw- Osborne prepared his emergency budget, and the subsequent ‘swinging cuts’. (the coalition agreement signs the death warrant of left-wing lib-dem influence, and Vince Cable had to curb his liberal tendencies…)

Gideon Georges Osborne, Conservative Chancellor: the return of nasty economic policies

But the appointment of Ed Balls as Shadow Chancellor Of the Exchequer in lieu of a resigning Alan Johnson just prompted me to write some lines about it.

First, I cannot exhaust my enthusiasm for the political system in the United Kingdom: The highest ambition I would ever have for my country is, within my lifetime, to bear witness to the establishment of a constitutional monarchy where the King is revered by his subjects as a symbol of national unity (not out of fear or venal expectation for a grima), and where politicians do the politics. A parliament with genuine powers able to hold government accountable, and a free press, whatever trashy or politically skewed its content may be, ensuring the elected representatives of the people keep on behaving like good chaps in a club. An image d’épinal, I must admit, of British politics, but their constitutional monarchy has this aura I feel words are not enough to describe. (Anas is of that opinion too…)

Now, why would I mention British politics? Because Ed Balls is back to front-line politics. His similarity to Piers Fletcher-Dervich belies a very combative spirit, some would describe as divisive, cliquish and retort. A former henchman of Gordon Brown, he is certainly a change from Alan Johnson. Before I elaborate on that, a couple of praising lines on the system of shadow cabinet: the idea that opposition needs to act as if it was in government gives its media communication, and its own behaviour at question time quite responsible. the Labour party, between 1992 and 1997 perfected the art to unattainable proportions. I’m just saying, political parties back home would benefit tremendously by appointing spokespersons on specific subjects (and large parties could go further by appoint shadow ministers). A matter of organization, I would say. Ed Balls is back to the department he considers -rightfully- his: when Gordon Brown finally took over from Tony Blair in summer 2007 (and I still remember watching Blair’s farewell speech at the Manchester conference), Balls assumed, and was tipped by the press to be the next Chancellor. Brown however had second thoughts about what might look like cronyism or favouritism, which left him disappointed and frustrated. Ed Milliband, after a successful leadership bid in September 2010 also denied Balls promotion, and instead confided him to the Shadow Home Office (Balls’ wife, Yvette Cooper, was given the Shadow FCO portfolio). It can be expected that the new shadow chancellor will put public debate into perspective: the conservative chancellor with no rigourous training in Economics, will have a tough time answering questions from someone with a decade of experience, the training, the wit and intellect to take on the government spending cuts. Looking forwards to PMQs and other parliamentary questions.

Johnson's out. Enter balls, fightin' politics in.

It also avoids Labour media blunders when Johnson admitted he had no idea how and when to cut deficits; Balls was prevented from n°2 in shadow cabinet because he disagreed with Alistair Darling’s deficit reduction plan (Balls deemed it to be too fast and dangerous for growth recovery). Milliband shouldn’t worry about his leadership  -if he ever does; It’s a matter of winning economic argument, i.e. the conservatives will mess up the economy.that usually goes down well with ‘middle England’, or indeed the ‘squeezed middle’.

Last thing I adore about British politics: scandals. Not the expenses scandal, but the current one, involving Lord Strathclyde, leader of the House of Lords and cabinet minister, whom affair with a single mother rocks the boat of the conservative government, and their pledge for family values. I love it, I love it, it has a flavour of ‘back to basis‘, Major-style !

Joke aside, the more I get interested British politics, the more distant I feel from mainstream politics in Morocco: we are so bogged down on trivial issues we should have long got past by, and yet here we are, still trying to promote the idea that elected institutions need to be trusted and given more power, and the same old argument, the same tantrum hammering back that we are not up to it, that the Royal circle has better to be in charge… deeply distressing, I can tell you.

All in all, do not forget to vote for me for the Maroc Blog Award. And for my friends in the other categories: TalkMorocco, Anas Alaoui, Rimerrante, Agharass & Lbadikho.


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