The Moorish Wanderer

Wandering Thoughts, Vol.9

Posted in Ancient Times, Happy Times, Flash News, Read & Heard, The Wanderer, Wandering Thoughts by Zouhair ABH on March 9, 2011

Enjoy the little things. Perhaps I am turning into a crap Buddha. I could never enjoy the little things. There’s always that sense of urgency, that even at that very moment I am typing this post, there’s a feeling of time waste. Like there is something more urgent to do, more important (like my MSc thesis, for instance, or taking out the garbage). It actually depends on what one defines as ‘little things’: books are not ‘little things’. Reading is a serious activity, however trivial the book is. These menacing pages plough seeds of compunction, hanging like vocal reproaches: ‘why wouldn’t you finish up the book?’

Karl Popper in 1990.

Karl Popper (1902-1994) Image via Wikipedia

Oh, I am reading ‘From Russia With Love’; With all due respect to Sean Connery’s talent and Harry Saltzman’s artistic craftsmanship, the movie is not up to scratch. Just to set the record straight: up to the Pierce Brosnan period, James Bond movies were artistic jewels. But right now, the novels –at least the one I am reading now- are way more engaging, more exciting. I’m also re-reading Karl Popper -I read a book of his in French at first,  and in English now- it seems my concentration span has shrunk since the days I read it first. Ah, happy days, prep school days…

There is no specific subject in the wandering thoughts series. Perhaps it is just a pretext not to post on something serious (or as I like to re-write such sentences, to look like I am posting on something serious). Something superficial, like Dita Von Teese: I keep bringing up the subject, but that is so because of the numerous visits from Burlesque-related keywords (every time I tag a post with her name, total visits increase by some dozen Google search results). Ego has to be satisfied from time to time, and for a blogger to stand up, take up the microphone and spill their political guts, it either takes a lot of balls, or an ego so huge the Internet is not enough to satisfy.

On the other hand, in an institutional framework that excludes everyone that does not belong to the Master Race, or the offspring of a local notable, and/or did not graduate from a Grande Ecole (all right, I may fall into that category, but that’s not the point), or affect an indefectible support for the official line. After all these draconian filters have been applied, the field is wide empty, with either the product of con-sanguine mating, or the by-product of local baronetcies that are actually groomed for leadership. The aspiring Rastignac like me have only their anger to voice and their bitterness to nurse. On top of that, the field is mined. Talk about Moroccan meritocracy (actually, I heard that lousy line from someone).

‘The Wanderer is bitter about something’, one might think. Damn straight, and it might explain why I would be supporting constitutional reforms or indeed opening up power to outsiders and mavericks, and at the same time ousting some patronyms from power.

Petit-bourgeois reflex: I am prevented from joining in power; therefore I support any mechanism that allows me to be powerful. Constitutional reforms allow me to get political power, therefore I support them. A very cynical view indeed, but it is rooted in the obvious observation that a lot of key positions are trusted by young heirs, albeit with some prestigious degrees; Ah, there goes the unmasked thrust of an ambitious careerist. Not so simple. As Pareto did say, a society crumbles when the incumbent elite slips into an aggregate of effete, inbred, mafia-like apparatus. And when things do go tumbling down, the non-governmental elite goes away too. And there goes the petit-bourgeois instinct again: loosen up the co-optation mechanisms: marriages for instance. Diversify upper-intermediate echelon, affirmative action for Amazighs and ‘Aroubis. I don’t know, something, anything to keep the rabble -like me- happy and at the same time reach a more peaceful status-quo. [It feels good to voice one’s frustrations, doesn’t it ? Thank you for contributing to my group therapy]

The trouble with what many still fail to recognize as the Makhzen, is that it cannot be reduced to a set of historical institutions, in the western sense (i.e. in the Weberian sense). Makhzen also encompasses less formalized items: tribal loyalties, family ties. It’s a bit like Victorian England: purchased positions, family influence and hermetic elite. But there’s something else to it: a mixture of rigid bureaucracy and the idea of submission that goes with it. Hierarchy is not a matter of technical organization; it evolves into a disciple-master relationship.  So in that sense, Makhzenian ‘way-of-life’ extends to all forms of social organization: families, mainstream political parties, charities, etc. The hierarchy relationship is just a make-believe. This rotten superstructure is the blocking institutional element that prevents the radical changes we need. The trouble is, it looks a bit like a Quixotian struggle: The windmills are there, but they are not there.

So that was the politics two-bits. Keep it wandering.

Twitter is such a wonderful instrument: as you may know, the blogoma lacks formal connections between its distinguished members. I mean in that sense that bloggers, like writers, do not take the trouble to engage in meaningful discussions (I might be missing scores of fruitful blog-epistolary correspondence) so we do our best to compensate on twitter. 140 characters do not help however, to formalize these discussions, which are doomed to remain chit-chat. But a couple of days ago, there was some interesting chit-chat about Economics in Arabic. An interesting suggestion came by to post on economics in French, or better still, in Arabic. I’d love to, but -as far as both languages are concerned- there is a formidable obstacle -among others- that prevents me stepping up and meet the challenge: lack of proper vocabulary.

French language has exhausted very early its vocabulary span to keep-up with the essentially Anglo-saxon scientific production in the economic field. Sometimes, it goes as far as literally using the same words: ‘Averse au Risque‘ for ‘Risk Aversion’, for instance. Native French economists seem to be either poorly educated in English language (an ordeal I had unfortunately to put up with time and again) or with little or no imagination to come up with alternative translations. In terms of scientific production (and I refer here to breakthrough academia) the French academic world is senile if not already dead (did you see the way they treat their PhD Student? And I don’t blame the state-controlled scientific research schemes, I blame the political will to adopt Anglo-saxon procedures with half-measures). plus their clinging to their language as the primary language is just ridiculous.

What about the Arab-speaking/writing academia? What words can be devised to refer to concepts? inflation is معدل التضخم but more sophisticated concepts are difficult to translate, or even to find words that can approximate the meaning. I looked up some vocabulary, and here’s what I’ve found:

Inflation: معدل التضخم
Goods & Services: بضاعة و خدمات
Deficit: عجز
Unemployment: بطالة
GDP: الناتج الوطني الخام
Monetary Creation: معدل طبع النقود
Recovery: إنتعاش
Capital: رأسمال
Labour: اليد العاملة
Import/Export: إستيراد و التصدير
Wage: أجر
Utility Function: نظرية المنفعة
and the killer, privatization: خصخصة

As long as the concepts are often used in media outlets, or belong to the basic notions of economics, there are plenty of words out there. But in hardcore academics, concepts like Risk aversion, liquidity trap, savings glut, etc… are simply missing, not because of lack of words, but because contrary to the more popular concepts, these belong essentially to a rarefied audience. And such as it is, the Arab-speaking research program is unable to come up with new concepts. At best, there might be some clever translation, but there you go.

Now, I haven’t given much thoughts about it, since I am utterly uninterested in the future of Arabic language: I can read and write it, and I enjoy a good reading when I find one,  but I simply cannot feel that fire and brimstone pan-Arab passion and Arab revival. I feel some ideological sympathy towards Gamal Abdel Nasser, but I don’t buy into this ‘great Arab nation’ grandiose project, not to mention the supra-national pet project of any political islamist movement, the much fantasied about Umma.