For the past three months, I have been struggling with the notion that Joseph de Maistre’s famous “every country has the government it deserves,” found in his “Lettres et Opuscules Inédits vol. 1, letter 53,” is indeed an accurate delineation of Morocco. Could it be conceivable that we, Moroccans, are not aware of the judiciary’s pliancy? Do we lack proof of the politicians’ venality? Does it come as a shock to us that the nation’s polity is task organized like a mafia where the King and his confederates, Mounir Majidi et al, are intolerant of criticism and intemperate in their disregard for basic standards of freedom? Do we need Ahmed Benchemsi and other journalists and intellectuals to inform us that this cartel monopolizes the country’s economic resources, controls its financial institutions, directs its security and military assets against civilians they perceive as threats to their personal interests, and eviscerates the minute grassroots opposition that occasionally flows into the streets to demand a participatory government?
We know all that!
As we watch the unfolding of a democracy we surely know to be illusionary, we bemoan how we lack representative political institutions. Those sleepy clowns we elect to the parliament we know to be beholden to the whims of an oligarchy of über-Moroccans no better, in fact worse, than any foreign colonizer. People jeer at how fractured Abdelilah Benkirane’s government is, how crude his ministers, whose directives are snubbed by subordinate officials, are. Mr. Benkirane finds himself making the same mistake Abderrahman al-Youssoufi committed during his tenure as a Prime Minister in the transitional government of 1998 – 2002: ingratiating himself with the King at the expense of his credibility in the street by excessively running to the palace to beseech the King’s imprimatur to force the application of any comprehensive reform on his own rank and file. Everybody is aware our spurious political opposition is a slapstick act. No one in Morocco is shocked to know that the economy is weak, corruption widespread, the education system bankrupt, healthcare inefficient, elections fraudulent.
We know all that!
We allow ourselves to be entertained by the old guard’s obstructionist strategies to the overly conservative reforms of the Islamist government. Cafés have been abuzz with how Faycal Laraichi and Samira Sitail are the steadfast withstanders of Islamisation, the last bulwark against the sweeping advance of an intolerant, misogynist Islamic discourse into Morocco ‘secular and permissive mindset. Mosques are filled with chatter about how Islam is under attack and the PJD is the shield protecting country and faith from a denigrating Western culture set on undermining our identity, stymieing our progress, indoctrinating our minds.
But there is a more salient reason why Morocco is a sinkhole for democracy. We gripe about the government more openly now, but we act little. We are an ambivalent and empathic lot, bloated by greed and spectacular cynicism. Everybody’s looking for a way to fool the system and con the other. Nurses who surreptitiously eat the food brought by families of patients under their care are not exceptions, nor are pregnant women who are forced to deliver their babies at the gates of a regional hospital deserted by its on-duty doctors. Ambulance drivers ask patients for “gas money” while government clerks demand their “cup of coffee,” euphemisms for bribery, in exchange for their services. The teachers, the doctors, the nurses, the civil servants, the lawyers, the judges, the policemen, the military, the politicians, and anybody in a position that bestows upon him an iota of power is for sale. When the Tunisian and Libyan governments collapsed, the Direction générale de la surveillance du territoire (DGST), Morocco’s counterintelligence service, was advised that the security services of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Mummar Gaddafi had recruited Moroccan journalists, intellectuals, parliamentarians, and government officials, as sources tasked to collect and report on their own country; in exchange for their services, they received salaries and gifts.
Integrity and philanthropy are raindrops in the desert. We condemn the repression of journalists, artists, and bloggers, but we suppose they deserve it after all; we preach tolerance and yet chastise those Moroccans who opt for different religions and cultures. We at once lament child servitude and accept it as a cultural fait accompli; we growl about the suicide of a teenage woman forced to marry her rapist, but rationalize the marriage as protection to her honor; we complain about trash in our streets, but we too litter.
The people want change so long it is designed and implemented by the King. He is regarded by most as a beacon of light among sleaze. Any such change cannot subvert his moral authority to govern. Forget about democratic institutions governed by laws and procedures; Moroccans would rather rely on one man’s wisdom and sense of justice. The King of course relies for his governance on a perfidious ecosystem of which the Moroccan society as a whole is a part. No wonder then the Moroccan society is hardly reactive and has such high tolerance for political and economic shenanigans – in pari delicto. Its members are riddled with self-destructive pathologies. What’s worse? We are in denial. We have yet to face up to reality. We live in a paracosm in which frenzied adulation to the King and his entourage are rooted in the deepest recesses of our psyche. So long we remain this way, there will be no change for a thousand years to come.
A. T. B. © 2012