The Gloomy Year of O-Ten

For many Moroccans, 2010 is a sort of a psychological threshold, says Zouzou, who offers an informed account of the numerous challenges ahead.


Blogger & activist interested in public management & Sociology 9 comments

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

For many Moroccans, 2010 is (or was) a sort of a psychological threshold. Remember, we were supposed to welcome some 10 Million tourists, cash in $ 48 billion, and put to work something a little under 700.000 strong workforce.
According to the official figures, we are not getting [fr] any nearer. I brought forth this tourism business just to stress how important a symbol 2010 represents (just remember in 2004, a lot of our fellow citizens were fed up [fr] because we were not elected to host the 2010 Football World Cup), and how cruel were our delusions, for those who had any illusions at all. 2010 brings an ineffable mixture of hope and despair, akin to these moments when one is waiting by their computer screen, their telly, or their radio, for important news: an outbreak of urban riots, or an official Royal statement about a constitutional reform.

I mean, what is so important about 2010? What is it, 10 years after the millennium? Only 90 years to go to the 22nd century? It is not as though I am unable to write something about it, I simply cannot understand this unhealthy obsession of ‘symbolic’ dates: I still remember, in 2000, newspapers and television, altogether, prophesying wonderful Morocco in 2010 (even the Highest authority subscribed to this view [fr]). And yes, I too adhered to this vision: by the end of the decade, we could have done a lot, not everything, but a pretty big chunk of these necessary, vital–if I may say so–changes Morocco needs. And now, here we are, with stationary or worsening figures.

Although I am not particularly fond of pessimism as a philosophical way of life, I have to admit, recent events (among many others) are just confirming the general trend our beloved regime is drawn in: civil liberties are methodically squeezed, and with novel techniques.  Newspapers [fr] are heavily fined for ‘crossing the red line’ (that seems to be even thinner than the much known one…) and even bloggers [fr] (I have to say, in our vast majority, we are quite harmless, for those of us who are involved in politics, that is) are targeted. It looks as though the Moroccan authorities are longing for the Hassan II-era repression, where no one dared to speak, or complain for that matter. The regime just passed by some of its own commitments to the Moroccan people and to the international community.

Indeed, one cannot deal in one year with a system that lasted for the last twelve centuries-–and renewed itself pretty quickly with the contact of Western civilization. Little things could be achieved though, in the fullness of time…

Or perhaps, I’ve just got my hopes too high. Many times freedom-seeking Moroccans saw their hopes shattered and scattered, and democracy in Morocco remains a mere talk, as Dalida once sung, ‘Paroles, Paroles…

My fears are quite numerous about what could go wrong in 2010. For a start, I worry about myself. I have actually no guarantee that my tiny voice won’t be suppressed. And even though my public is quite restrained-–and usually bored with my soliloquies–, I tend to put aside ideas and projects that might make a lot of powerful people quite upset. Bloggers, I guess, are the new target for our Makhzen. I think Laroui said something about this: the Makhzen always looks for a hypothetical adversary to justify its own existence in order to crush this perceived enemy. That was the case for Leftists, Islamists, freelance Journalists. Now bloggers are on the Makhzen’s target, precisely because they cannot get hold of them altogether.

Could 2010 be the breaking point?

Difficult to say; Morocco is in what one might call ‘an unstable equilibrium’. The old socio-economic structures are collapsing; traditional mechanisms are giving way to new structures, without mutual checks or social regulations, which leads to galloping inequalities and rising extremism. It is like basic cooking: too much pressure and heat, the little whistler pops up inevitably. I shouldn’t give such superficial account of the Moroccan situation here, nevertheless, Morocco is changing fast, whether in a good or a bad way that is left to one’s own opinion.

In modern Morocco, urban riots [Ar] broke out in 1965, 1981, 1984 and 1991, not to mention the daily demonstrations [Ar] throughout Morocco against…or rather for, basic rights actually.

Why am I so concerned about the risks of urban or rural riots? The unstable equilibrium means that all over Morocco, things are not going as well as the official Media is trying to convince us as well as the outside world. All over Morocco, people are expressing their anger and despair, perhaps their disillusions. I might be too alarmist; after all, there are more peaceful demonstrations than violent riots and the latter are often provoked by the police repression. And 2010 doesn’t differ much from the previous years, and news from god-forsaken places such as Sidi Ifni or Taghjijt occur ordinarily, it’s just that the information spreads quickly and quicker.

So what is this wrong that could possibly get worse? I fear some of our leaders in the shadow-–with effective powers–are more and more drawn in a police state model. Police State does not necessarily mean absence of equality. Indeed, Tunisia has a real progressive stand [Fr] on Women’s rights, quite remarkable with respect to the global feminine rights in the MENA region. That’s the bizarre thing. Paradoxical is not an overstatement. I’m afraid this move on women’s rights-–as well as on the Amazigh front–is just a tiny step forward, whilst some deeper social issues remain unresolved. Unfortunately, Waterbury’s axiom is still in effect: the regime offers sporadic measures to deal with structural problems. Pleased as I would have been with the new Moudawana, I don’t think it brings that much change in women’s everyday lives. The law was fairly easy to change, but the judiciary and society are still clinging to the fundamental idea of gender inequality.

How can I speak of such a non-democratic behaviour in Morocco? That is the worst part of it: when the going gets tough, the tough hopes for something better. And here is what I could possibly dream of for Morocco in 2010:

– Food in their bellies, knowledge in their brains and citizenship and dignity for every Moroccan. It could seem quite basic and suspiciously altruistic, but I believe it to be something paramount to political quibbles, and although no empirical relation ties development and democratic institutions, I think it is strong enough to note here that it has been proved that democratic institutions can deliver, on average, a steadier growth rate and a smaller inequality scale with stronger economy in the event of exogenous economic shocks.  I cannot help but compare the present state of affairs with the much-promised new era [Ar]. Surely one year isn’t enough to address all the hardships, but let us, for a change, just hope for a slightly improving Morocco.

– Setting all political loyalties aside, IER [Ar] (Instance Equité et Réconciliation) recommendations should, I believe, be put into practice [Fr]. They are indeed, but carried out in a fragmentized and much diluted fashion, conducted ironically by some whom responsibilities are known in the ‘lead years’ [Ar] and onwards. Human Rights Watch put on a heavy criticism to the Moroccan authorities’ lack of commitment to the IER recommendations. It is a duty of remembrance we owe to the victims of these dreadful years to ask for those recommendations to be implemented.

So… happy 2010 everyone !

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Posted on Monday, February 22nd, 2010

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9 comments on “The Gloomy Year of O-Ten”

  1. “Food in their bellies, knowledge in their brains and citizenship and dignity for every Moroccan.”

    I see that you’re not familiar with Vasak’s work.

    • Indeed I am not. But then again, even the basic rights are not granted…

      • FYI fly, Syassator, also known as Zouzou, is of course the author of this essay.

      • @Syassator: “But then again, even the basic rights are not granted…”

        My point exactly! You can’t talk about the right to education or welfare until you sort out the most basic rights.

  2. @ Fly

    I take your point.
    Education and welfare are -in my perspective anyway- more than basic needs, just equal to citizenship and human dignity.
    I would be quite interested to hear from you about what you consider to be basic rights :-)

    • First-generation human rights deal essentially with liberty and participation in political life. They are fundamentally civil and political in nature, and serve to protect the individual from excesses of the state. First-generation rights include, among other things, freedom of speech, the right to a fair trial, freedom of religion, and voting rights. Pioneered by the United States Bill of Rights and in France by the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in the 18th century, they were first enshrined at the global level by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and given status in international law in Articles 3 to 21 of the Universal Declaration, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

      When first generation human rights are limited this directly limits second generation rights. Improving first generation rights is the “causal link from first generation human rights to improved socio-economic outcomes”.

      • that’s one theory.
        I came across some papers that did prove that there’s no substantial link between first generation human rights and a significant improvment of socio-economic outcomes. On the other hand, there’s strong evidence that these rights could, ceteris paribus, guarantee a stability in the socio-economic structures. I think North produced some interesting papers to study

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