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Bastard Modernization

Tangier, August 14, 2009. Click image to see a larger version.

Not long ago, I wrote an article called “Why Is Morocco Stuck?” in which I blamed Morocco’s lack of progress on two things: “the political and economic system, and the mentality of the people.” This provoked the following exchange with one of my readers, which I think is worth reproducing here.

reader: You’re naive to say it’s the people’s responsibility. Take those magazines that always get slammed illegally but soundly by the authorities. That’s terror against a corporation, and the authorities don’t fear public opinion. So what do you think can happen to individuals put in the same situation? Simply worse.

I won’t say we’re stuck, we’re just slow. Some people just have to bear with it because change is progressive. I think you’re being naive, but also impatient. I believe that if Morocco becomes a lot better in the future, with democracy and clean streets, you probably won’t like it.

eatbees: You mention the dangers involved when individuals speak out, but my point is that people need to take this risk in large numbers, because the authorities can’t use their techniques against millions at the same time. Yet this requires a change in mentality.

For the moment, the majority accepts things the way they are. They’re ruled by “fear and ignorance” as a friend of mine says, and the authorities get their way. But African Americans in the 1950s and 1960s, or those living under communism or third world dictatorships (Chile, Philippines, South Africa…) changed things by no longer accepting the way things were, and the regime was unable to put down this new mentality.

So the situation in Morocco is first of all the responsibility of the authorities, but it’s also the responsibility of the people, because the people accept it—and in many cases, actively collaborate! As a guy I know recently put it, “The mafia is us. We’re all part of the corrupt system in one way or another. It won’t change until we change ourselves.”

I don’t know why you say, “If Morocco becomes a lot better in the future, with democracy and clean streets, you probably won’t like it.” If a traditional beach is destroyed to put in fancy apartments and cafés for the rich (and launder their money from trafficking) then it’s true I won’t like it. But if Moroccans are able to choose their own leaders and plan their own destiny, and this results in cleaner streets, better schools and a more modern lifestyle, why wouldn’t I like it?

reader: Maybe you don’t say it, but it’s what I think. I can imagine cities after getting modernized, turning to be exactly the same as Casa or Rabat, which you and I dislike.

eatbees: There’s good and bad forms of modernization. Casa has its good points and bad points. What I like there is the freedom there, and the autonomous culture among young people. What I don’t like is the chaos, pollution and lack of planning.

Too often in Morocco, modernization is what I call “bastard modernization,” which is either bricolage to serve the needs of the moment, with no thought to sustainability; or projects designed to enrich the interests of well-positioned individuals without serving the needs of the people from the bottom up.

Maybe any developing nation has to start this way. I guess the U.S. began with bricolage too, and evolved its ideas of citizenship and humanistic development later. But there have been so many theorists studying how to integrate economic development with concerns for the environment, sustainability, local tastes, and a healthy quality of life. What I’d love to see in Morocco is development driven by the choices of citizens, aided by experts, and designed for high quality over the long term. I don’t think that would turn out like Casa today!


Comment from Wydadi
Time: September 5, 2009, 05:34

In the same perspective here’s a link to a conference of professor El Manjra whom i bet you know and who seems to make the same point you made.

Comment from y
Time: January 6, 2010, 17:45


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