The Moorish Wanderer

False Patriotism and Other Tricks

The trouble with events like those we witnessed on May 23rd, is that temptation to say: “I told you so”, where pessimism takes over. The sudden stiffening of security measures -most probably prompted by the May 15th daring picnic project around the Temara security compound– may well be a turning point in the extraordinary times our domestic politics is living through. I have this strange image on my mind of the security apparatus behaving like a wild beast, a bit intimidated by demonstrations on February 20th (and those following on March 20th and April 23th) and definitely entrenched in a hostile defence. But when demonstrators wanted to picnic outside the Temara compound (dumbed Guantemara) the security services’ own lair, the latter stroke back, with their customary violence.

The Dark Side of the (Police/Merda/CMI) Force is taking over, and the Temara headquarters is their Death Star.

Two events put security forces back into the limelight, namely the Marrakesh bombings and the Temara affair. It is basically a sequential, repeated chicken game between the movement and the authorities: at every stage of this process, Feb20 chose the radical outcome, and one way or the other, got away with it. The first stage was the demonstration itself. Regime made some incredible threats, but the demonstration took place nonetheless. Then after the King’s Speech on March 9th, authorities approached the movement for a possible negotiation on the constitutional reforms, they refused to be associated with the commission; At every stage, Feb20 forced the outcome and turned the tables. But the successive blows these last weeks ring out as a recovery of old stick-and-stick policy our security people have been trained and educated for. As a matter of fact, planned demonstration next Sunday, May 29th are going to determine the movement’s next course of action.

If they fail again to mobilize enough people around Morocco, then our Evolution -in contrast with Revolutions in other parts of the MENA region– is likely to be a short fuse, and the Silent Majority, those who do not demonstrate every week, might well slip back into political apathy. This is even more crucial when considering that the movement does not have the power to set the agenda, the King does. And now time is in favour of the constitutional reform process as designed and prepared by Royal advisers; The margin shifts back to the Empire, and the Rebels are so pressed for time.

Referendum day is now scheduled July 1st. This is the only public date available (with no official confirmation yet) and was leaked to the general public, probably as a heads-up to some move in the coming month (June?) on May 18th Khalid Hariry MP mentioned the date on his twitter feed

Proposition Min. Interieur aux partis: “referendum 1 juillet, législatives 7 octobre” ouverture parlement 14 octobre

Mr Hariry may be just an ordinary Member of Parliament, but his social media activism (there aren’t much Moroccan ministers and MPs on twitter, or posting on their personal blogs around) is a convenient way to get the message out about the hidden agenda -first rule of Moroccan politics, the authorities always have a hidden agenda. This is not paranoia, it is only empirical observation. So the Interior Minister tells the MPs that referendum day might be on July 1st, with General Elections on October 7th, and most probably the new parliament in session for October 14th. That means high up, there is confidence these elections will yield some strong majority, or that party leaders will be amenable to any deal presented to them for some government coalition; better still, the old line of ‘national unity’ government following the new constitution might be appealing to mainstream political parties and large scores of Moroccan public.

This ‘rumour’ (there is no official communication about it yet) has also been mentioned by TelQuel Magazine mentioned on their edition May 19th-20th (about the same day) that the Commission has been asked to make haste on their draft:

Dernière ligne droite pour la Commission consultative pour la révision de la Constitution (CCRC). Le cabinet royal aurait demandé à la Commission d’accélérer la cadence afin de rendre sa copie, avant la fin du mois de mai, au lieu de mi-juin. En parallèle, les listes électorales sont en cours d’actualisation dans la perspective du référendum.

So we might be expecting some news on the issue by the end of this week, most likely early June. Are these good or bad news? From the dissidence’s point of view, this is disaster. Because everyday Referendum day gets closer, and when Moroccan citizens go to the polls and vote massively in favour of the proposed draft, then Feb20 movement will lose one of its remaining legitimacies, i.e. a certain representation among the people.

Repression is still there, and kicking. More than ever. (Pic from Demain Online)

I have disillusioned myself quite early on the outcome of this referendum. What I can hope for, on the other hand, is that the combined numbers of boycott (or blank votes) and the ‘No’ Vote would be large enough (say at least 30% of total electoral corps) to build up on a civic platform that would wage large demonstrations from time to time, perhaps venture to publish some alternative proposals, until it forces another reform, this time more amenable to its own agenda. As for the possibility of a swift political confrontation on July or September, or the likelihood of a mass boycott, I foresee it to be very unlikely.

I also keep thinking about the following scenario: the latest declarations of our own Ron Ziegler, Mr Khalid Naciri (Communications Minister and government spokesman) are very worrying, because the explicit criticism made on the May 23rd demonstrations was that Al Adl and Left-wingers (he did not specify which ones, certainly not his own PPS party) manipulated the youth, and were also guilty of their lack of patriotism. After his blunt denial of any torture infrastructure at the Temara Compound, Minister Naciri only confirms his favourite line, which brands dissidents and ‘nihilists‘ as potentially traitors to the nation and fully-paid foreign agents.

When one considers the previous referendums, the late King Hassan II resorted more than often to this ‘Patriotism’ line (this seem to confirm what S. Johnson said about scoundrels and patriotism) to appease opposition parties and elicit their support for his constitutional projects. Istiqlal was more than often ready to do his bidding, but overall Koutla parties held steady, especially on the 1992 Referendum, but not so much on 1996. The subsequent Alternance was also the result of this alluring proposal to save the country. Former Prime Minister Abderrahamane Youssoufi -as well as his USFP party- still justify their compromise by stating that “Morocco was in danger“. All elements indicate the same old tricks will be used and followed by the gullible.

It’s a bit overconfident -and peculiar- of the Interior Minister to tell Members of Parliament about the project of holding elections straight after referendum (spare August for a Ramadanesque truce), and even more brazen, to call parliament in session ten days after elections. It means there’s strong confidence a government with a workable majority has been formed, or that the King stepped in and called for a National Unity government (a governmental consensus built around the new constitution, presumably). I don’t know why I keep thinking about this. Perhaps because for many mainstream politicians, Feb20 has shaken their monopoly over partisan politics, so they would only too obligingly gather and denounce the demonstrations as unpatriotic and revert back to the old accusations of  ‘Commies, Atheists, Faggots, Islamists and Pro-Polisario‘.

Because of the security tightening, the old mantra of Fifth Column accusations will be yet again put to use to discredit the movement. Last Sunday, ordinary citizens stood idly by while demonstrators were beaten up. If things do get worse, the young people might be branded as traitors and lose whatever sympathy they might enjoy among the Silent Majority. This June will certainly turn out to be the moment of truth, both for the constitutional reform and Feb20’s future as an alternative movement.

Politics Away, Bring the Burlesque

I don’t feel like discussing politics today.

I sometimes wonder: are the Moroccan leftS built for democracy? Or rather, are our left-wing politicians party to leave behind their personal griefs and over-sized prides (as well as shamless u-turns for the governmental of them…), and build the Unified Left (no less). Not one party, you understand, that would be too difficult and I for one, wouldn’t be at ease with it (that’s the sectarian part of me, I can’t rid of it, sorry…).

Let’s talk about something superficial, or something too elaborate in its superficiality perhaps. Let us leave aside the average populace to their regular uproars; Although these times, new records were set it seems. Naciri junior went a bit berserk on his way home, he seemingly did beat up some random guy for a minor car friction. Other than that, I didn’t find Naciri father very convincing in explaining himself: I did lap it up though; the “on my honour” part. Very dignified, very much indeed. It just happened he has a turbulent son that needs protection (with a justified record of bad behaviour I am told)

Then there’s the Elton John outcry: Attajdid lost the initiative it seems, and wanted to gain it back, you know, call up the primary islamic/islamist instincts of their public to get a grip on their (average) readers.The facts Elton John being gay and performed a concert in Israel are just irrelevant. No parallel intended,  but I didn’t recall Attajdid chums protesting much against the concert the Red Army Choir presented before HRH Prince Rashid for the FAR’s 50th anniversary in 2006. And they, the Red Army Choir, did too perform in Israel, and moreover, the Russian army is killing Chechen Muslim brothers. Attajdid, and the PJD too, it seems, are just trying to re-attract attention to them after the blow related to the surreal fatwas. They eventually caved, as Elton John did come to Morocco, and he did perform a wonderful piece last night.

What worries me more is the AMDH business. Leaving aside political loyalties, I am very fond of Annahj -although I am not a member, and it so happens I disagree with some of their stands- but the fact they had the majority at the last conference should not prompt their “comrades” in the PADS and the PSU to deafened us with their plaintive cries: “but look, they’ve got everything and they are party to turn the NGO into their own boutique !”. What upsets me more is how delighted the Makhzen left was, to this. I can hear them already: “hey, you can’t even get together on this”, plus you know, there’s still a look-down attitude towards the radical left; Because parties like the USFP and the PPS gambled, lost their bet and are in the process in loosing some more, while trying to sank promising projects with them. And it’s not like the “little” ones are fond of pursing their own project. No, they are under the despicable illusion they still can do some good in ‘discussing’ with the other side. Politics-fiction is nothing compared to Moroccan politics, we’ve just got cross another layer of surreal politics.

I drifted a bit, sorry. I was about to discuss something interesting (to those of us who have any interest in it).

Let us talk about Neo-burlesque. First off, do we need it to be construed as demeaning to Women ? As a matter of fact, it is indeed. It boils down to stripping but with an elaborate choregraphy, with music, all elegantly of course a real change from “regular” stripping, though it must be pointed out, that all this takes place in a very 1940’s-1950’s mood: the clothes (or what’s left of them, that is), the performer’s features (haircut, makeup, etc…), as if the “new sexy” (and I am not referring to the Lady Gaga sort of sexy, or what the teenage girls want to look like) is to bring back the gorgeous Pin-ups so much fantasized about for many decades.

Dita Von Teese, Neo-Burlesque star show, draws a lot from the 1950's pin-up presentation.

When I was doing my research about it, I found this book, “The Happy Stripper: pleasures and politics of new burlesque” on the matter; Very interesting indeed. Jacki Willson went to see a performance -a stripping presented as artistic-. After the show, she felt a mix of confusion, anger and pleasure. The author is definitely a feminist, but she didn’t know what to make out of the performance: was Ursula Martinez (the stripper, but then again she is a little more than that…) a dis-empowered worker, or was she shining indeed in all its provocative sexiness? Is it fine to sell stripping as art, while the public is in a voyeuristic state? All of these questions prompted J. Willson to write the present book we are discussing. Right from the 1950’s all the way to the 1980’s, the feminists struggled to make women more minds than bodies; To redefine all the essential parameters of femininity in order to overcome, as Willson puts it, ‘to-be-looked-at-ness’ state. As it was rightfully pointed out, normative clothes and behaviour were -and to a certain extent, still are- designed function to the male gaze/pleasure. Think about it in our own societies: why does a young woman put the veil? the very quick, simple and completely acceptable motivation (within the society’s normative set of references) is that of protecting the lady’s virtue from male temptation. Is it not that the veil, the burqa, the niqab, or any piece of clothing considered to be of shari’a origin are for protecting and shading women from men’s temptation?

Western feminists wanted too -in their whole heterogeneous lot- to bring intelligence and wittiness in women’s personalities. Away the ‘dumb blonde’ or ‘hot redhead’ stereotypes, women can too have witty repartee, biting intelligence and holding senior offices at work. What Willson just saw in the cabaret joint was a shock: there she was -the stripper/artist I mean- getting rid in the sexiest way possible of her incredibly sexy clothes, but in the same time, with a majesty, a self-confidence and afterwards, with a wit and humour that indeed, it must be troubling for the feminist the author is to sort it out.

She then goes on: “ We are in the thick of a new wave of burlesque. This formidable display of flesh seductively draws us back to a time of the eroticized pin-up. It propels us back into that era of hard glamour where such cinematic characters as Marlene Dietrich or Elizabeth Taylor reigned supreme. This provocative sexuality bubbles breathlessly from the fashion pages of glossy magazines and lures up from pop music videos and film. Does this forthright display of sexualized women take us right back to a pre(-)feminist 1950’s state, or does it communicate something much more pressing about our present post-feminist condition?

Though not a 1950's Pin-up, Greta Garbo was of first class in her own.

The more interesting part of course, is when Willson finds sociological ties to the whole business of burlesque. As an American, she drew mainly from the late 19th century (when Burlesque was first introduced in the US) to the Neo-Burlesque of late 1990’s, when iconic performers, like Dita Von Teese brought back the sexy pin-ups then so much revered in the post-WW2 period. In facts, she found that in times of economic crisis -such as the current one-, times of uncertainty and confusion, all unsettling, the burlesque, the theatrical representation of sexuality was brought back. She does however points out that as time goes by, and with the steady middle-class shaping of US society, these representations, tend to be of, as she puts it, of “bourgeoisification” of burlesque: the French Can-Can has little to do with the current shows, much more elaborate, sophisticated, very 1950’s like (which is not a coincidence, the 1950’s/1960’s where the âge d’or of US bourgeois middle-class society, as well as the fore running signs of sexual liberation)

So, is there any link between (post)feminism and burlesque? It is true the 1950’s pin-ups have something of a sex-appeal, and in facts, some of them indirectly provided role model for sexual-liberty aspiring young women. After all, Marlene Dietrich and, to some extent, Greta Garbo are iconic within the lesbian -and more widely, for GBT as well- community. Not only because of their sexual orientations, but because of how at ease they seemed and acted with their personal choices. Dita Von Teese might as well be a model for aspiring post-modern, post-industrial young women: witty, openly sexual with a great taste (I am sorry, but Men and Women alike dressed in a much better fashion in the 1950’s than they do now. Arguably, clothes were of far inferior material, but the cuts and looks were much better, as far as I am concerned).

Marlene Dietrich in a Boyish oufit. One of the Hollywood stars with an assumed bisexual identity. The cold sexual allure of her "blonde mystery" was Dietrich's trademark.

Why would the male gentry feel threatened by this horde of sexually aggressive Femina? Or is it just because the old paradigm of the predator male is actually outdated? It looks as though some would be happy to watch Dita in her giant Martini glass, but would be too afraid to have something like her at home, or at bed. Too much intimidating perhaps?