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A Nation of Gigolos

Zmagri posted some observations yesterday that felt so honest to me, I had to translate them for those who can’t read French. (Zmagri is slang for a Moroccan living abroad. It comes from the French les émigrés.)

Our friend Zmagri is in Morocco for a visit. He goes into an internet club in a poor neighborhood, which is full to bursting. While waiting for a free terminal, he notices the lively scene around him. Jammed four or five to a screen, teenagers watch video clips, discuss soccer, download pirated .mp3s, do their homework, even watch porn. Finally he sits down and starts up Microsoft Messenger.

    An acquaintance approaches me, greets me, sits down next to me. After the usual “formalities” (“and your dad? and your mom? and your brother? and your sister?”) he asks me (without missing a beat): “Can you slip me the addresses of some French chicks? No? C’mon…. Don’t be stingy, be a pal!” I frown when he asks me to speed up the transaction…this slight hesitation I feel about handing over my female connections, and more particularly “female and European,” to strangers irritates my countrymen to no end, and remains mostly misunderstood: I come off as an egotist who doesn’t want to share his conquests (because a young woman and most of all a European can’t be a simple “friend”…much less the equivalent of a sister…everyone knows that, and they tease me with knowing smiles and conspiratorial winks if I have the presumptuousness to claim otherwise). I can insist that these young women aren’t used to talking with men they don’t know, they aren’t necessarily experts in “naughty” encounters, they might even feel offended and betrayed if I hand over their MSN addresses to just anyone: nothing works! The Western woman can’t be shy, and surely she has no other desire but to make new friends (eventually future lovers)….
    In preventing them from getting to know these young women, I stupidly prevent them from getting ahead in life. Because that’s the heart of the matter: they want to “burn” their past, leave the country, flee from misery and corruption, the Makhzen, Morocco and its Moroccans (because I’ve never seen anyone from any other country have such harsh words for his countrymen: “Moroccans” this, “Moroccans” that…as if the one talking wasn’t a Moroccan himself…). Emigrate! At any price! And they’re ready do anything for it, even be “gigolos” without anyone thinking twice about it. Seduce the first female web surfer who comes along, connect with her, make himself indispensable, cure her loneliness, make true love shimmer for her with “I love you, my gazelle”—all this seems normal to the typical client of a Moroccan internet club. No one takes offense: neither the young women behind their webcams—who certainly don’t want to miss an opportunity (which for them are rare) to meet the “man of her life”—nor the young men drooling for a little piece of laminated plastic instead of flesh…because love for them has such sweet names: “papers,” “visa,” “residence card,” “contract.”
    Gigolo…one might think it’s become a job like any other. A relatively ordinary way to succeed (and one of which not even parents, family, or friends disapprove). A marriage contract with a gawria [white woman] is Morocco’s real high school diploma. How many times have I heard: studying in Morocco gets you nowhere; leave, the future is elsewhere. What good is it to waste years sitting in a university or high school? Even in the best families never give up hope of finding a lovely gazelle during a trip to Europe or somewhere else. A country whose youth aspire to the profession of gigolo before that of doctor, lawyer or executive should ask itself some serious questions about the lowering of moral standards and the depravity it encourages…such a state of moral, social and economic misery (everything is linked) can’t help but make us uneasy…a word to the wise.

This brings me back to a discussion I had last summer, in Essaouira, home of the Gnawa Festival. My friend Mohamed was incensed that the Minister of Culture, standing before an audience of young people—and according to him, slightly drunk—called out to them, “Free your bodies!” This was no call to youthful rebellion as happened in 1968, but in context, has to be seen as an official endorsement of the same “gigolo” mentality Zmagri is talking about.

Essaouira is a town that lives entirely from tourism, because nothing else is happening there except a little fishing. Year round, it is possible to see older European women, also a few men, accompanied by young Moroccans who dote on their every move. The European suddenly feels special, surrounded by handsome suitors. The Moroccan clings to his catch like a life raft on the high sea. This is romance born of desperation, and it is enough to break your heart. It is the situation the State is endorsing when its solution to poverty and underdevelopment is yet more tourism. Morocco, a nation of 33 million people, is set to play host to 10 million tourists a year by 2010.

Check out my observations here and here.


Comment from Liosliath
Time: December 18, 2006, 21:54

Harragas are so sad, particularly harragas for hubb. [joke]

It really is sad, and I don’t see any easy solution. I once tried to warn a girl that agreed to marry her internet suitor after one week of chatting, she was having none of it.

Comment from Yahia
Time: December 18, 2006, 22:16

I love those observations.
I hope you keep that good old website. There are real treasures out there I don’t want to miss.

Else.. I don’t have much to say about the article’s facts :/

Comment from eatbees
Time: December 18, 2006, 22:47

@Liosliath — A little interpretation for those not in the know: “harraga” = someone who “burns” his past, leaving everything in pursuit of a future in another land (usually nothing but illusions); “hubb” = love.

I think the solution Zmagri is pointing to is that Moroccans must transform their country from within, provide some hope for their young people, some reason to stay rather than to flee—see my last post (I know you did) about the willful destruction of the education system—put it together with this, and what kind of picture does it give you!? But it is up to the Moroccan people to make the change.

@Yahia — Always a pleasure, my friend, to have you here—and no, I’m not planning to take down any part of this site, inch’allah! In fact I’m still adding to it over there. Think how lucky we are to live in the age of the internet and be able to communicate with no borders between us, only the limits of language or understanding. We’re just getting started!

Comment from Magda
Time: December 19, 2006, 00:49

This topic is very familiar to me, since emigration was also a “solution” for many Poles – when I was growing up, Poland was part of Eastern bloc, and I remember overhearing many conversations , which had the same theme: there are no perspectives in Poland, better life is somewhere else… Sadly it didn’t change that much, and now, when Poland joined EU, many young professionals are still looking for opportunity for success outside the country. Although I wouldn’t say we are Nation of Gigolos – we are more Nation of Nomads.
The issue of seduction, in order to get papers…it’s another story, and I guess I can’t be objective on this subject…

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