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Circle of Deception

Our friend Doga gives us his latest report from the ground in Morocco.

For thirty years or more, with each new Moroccan government the same problems are discussed, with a bit of variation in style. Poverty, health care, unemployment—these have been the daily concerns of Moroccans for a long time. The fact that the same conversation keeps repeating itself without noticable results has brought frustration to the hearts of Moroccans, especially young people. The boycott of the legislative elections of 2007 is one sign of these frustrations.

Instead of falling into this trap ourselves by repeating the same old complaints, we should evolve our vision through new readings of the situation, and also change our form of protest. In my opinion, before criticizing the government and its officials, we need to take an objective look at the terrain on which the political game is played. The negative attributes of society such as corruption, abuse of power, and theft of public funds aren’t due to the bad behavior of individuals, so much as to a bad system of government. This is why these negative attributes, rather than being the cause, are the effect of a system of government that hasn’t changed since Morocco gained its independence. This is the vicious circle in which we are endlessly trapped.

It’s easy to see how the centralization of power, coupled with individual choices, gives us either obedient politicians ready to blindly applaud the Makhzen, or politicians excluded from power. Those who accept the political game as defined by the Makhzen lose their legitimacy in the eyes of the citizens, because when they make promises at election time which they know will be impossible to implement due to the Constitution and the way the political game is played, they are lying to Moroccans. If they were sincere, they would insist on constitutional reforms that adhere to global democratic norms, but instead we have a mediocre political game that thumbs its nose at Moroccans and their future. We have political parties that reassure us that the poverty crisis is easing so long as they are in government, but as soon as they are out of power for even a few months, their analysis reverses itself, and poverty is getting worse again!

It’s also easy to see how the economic monopoly of the rich, and the non-distribution of wealth, block the socio-economic development of society by obliging people to depend on intermediaries to advance their interests and those of their families. Those intermediaries are often the type of politician already mentioned, which is why we can observe small groupings in society that share reciprocal interests outside the public interest, while the majority of the population remains marginalized.

Let’s suppose that I’m a nihilist as the Makhzen wants to call me, even though I’m just a simple citizen who is expressing himself spontaneously. Does this mean that the international agencies are nihilistic as well, whose reports rank Morocco in a shameful position in all areas of development? We are badly in need of self-criticism and acknowledgement that the system itself is corrupt. If the authorities attack an article that says something about the Makhzen, for example, claiming that its author has taken improper advantage of the freedom of expression he was given, this shows that the Makhzen isn’t protecting people’s natural and international rights, but rather treating them as handouts like it does in politics and the economy! So it isn’t surprising to see institutions like education and public health go from one crisis to the next, when the people who are responsible for the crisis in the first place are later put in charge of proposing solutions.

Along with all this, there is a parallel policy of manufacturing consent, in which the majority of intellectuals and the press participate to one degree or another. The intellectuals are genuinely isolated from the concerns of the people. We only hear from them when it’s a question of criticizing the Islamists, who tend to be opponents of the Makhzen. The majority of the press isn’t much better. They improve upon the intellectuals by reporting on demonstrations held by unions or activist groups, or by expressing solidarity with unemployed college graduates assaulted by the Makhzen. It isn’t hard to find criticism in our press of the workings of government and its institutions. We can read this type of crtitcism here and there, because people need to hear it and experience a bit of solidarity, even though nothing fundamental will change. It lets the crowd breathe a little. Still, these criticisms don’t go to the root of the matter, nor do they bother to fill in the gaps in our understanding or provide a positive critique.

What they do is repeat the discourse of the Makhzen. Even in the best case, I would say that the majority of the press closely follows the official line. With headlines like “Morocco in Motion,” “Morocco in Development,” “Democratic Transition,” “National Initiative for Human Development” and “The Just State,” we might be excused for believing that Morocco will soon surpass Sweden. But these are just expressions for manipulating popular sentiment. Saying “Democratic Transition” without mentioning the need for constitutional reforms, or saying “The Just State” without mentioning the need for an independent judiciary, does nothing but give the empty impression that things are better now than they once were.

Comments

Comment from Ahmed
Time: March 15, 2008, 07:41

Excellent analysis of the political game being played in Morocco. It’s true that our path to democracy is stymied by the government’s refusal to seriously discuss constitutional reforms; the lack of accountability is staggering. I personally believe that poverty and illeteracy in Morocco are political tools. I have stated so in my articles.

Comment from Hisham
Time: March 19, 2008, 08:40

I couldn’t agree more with Doga.

Have you learn about Fouad’s release? is it confirmed?

Comment from eatbees
Time: March 20, 2008, 02:01

@Ahmed — “I personally believe that poverty and illeteracy in Morocco are political tools” — if you haven’t already, see my post “Waiting for the Rain” for an in-depth discussion of this.

@Hisham — Apparently Fouad received a royal pardon and was freed on Tuesday evening. So internet solidarity campaigns really do work occasionally! Unfortunately this doesn’t make it “all better” because this should never have happened. And Fouad isn’t the only prisoner of conscience whose fate we should care about. But I’m happy tonight for Fouad and his family.

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