by Zineb belmkaddem
Two years have passed since the first call for protests was made by Moroccan youth-led pro democracy movement #Feb20. Ignited by awe-inspiring and then-peaceful uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, February 20th Movement in Morocco launched a Youtube video inviting people to take to the streets as social media orchestrated revolutions dominoed their way through MENA, overthrowing dictators that had formed rigid statutes blocking the esophagus of democracy in the region. The video prompted tens of thousands to flood the streets nationwide, calling for change. Overall, the demands were not explicitly linked to the monarch or the fall of the regime. Those who did not take to the streets blamed the movement for stirring instability and jeopardizing national security.
The most disenfranchised were convinced by decades of national state-run TV propaganda through daily 10-minute opening news segments showing the King’s activities, that the country’s progress is completely dependent upon his generosity. The King inaugurates as many places as possible, regardless of which ministry, CSO, foundation, or foreign institution actually funded said projects. He takes credit for each and every community center, initiative, while Moroccan people would be shocked to know that he takes millions from taxpayers’ money for each – very costly –inauguration trip with his entourage, and more for his palaces, family member salaries, while still keeping a firm grip on the country’s political scene and economy, as he is the top Moroccan business man.
With half the population kept consciously illiterate during King Mohamed 2nd’s rule and high percentage of poverty: survival and coping strategies that involved corruption to make ends meet became institutionalized, while political opportunism in Morocco became the norm, advertised in most TV shows and movies as such. Issues related to identity and values grew, as the palace’s executive tentacle – the ministry of interior- continued filling the void with the King’s name, coupled with fear when deemed necessary.
Nowadays, there is an uneasiness filling the current Moroccan political scene with confusion, as the strain of potential austerity measures heightens, shyly peeking out of the imminent recession’s intestines and out of cautious ministers mouths. So many struggle to figure out a bloodless way out of this mess, and February 20th comes as a checkpoint: is the second anniversary a time to celebrate the martyrs and few survivors of the regime-waged war on megaphones of truth, youth, rappers, cartoonists, and protestors, systematically crushed seeds whose voices the regime fails to recognize are a dire necessity to the progress of Morocco? Or is the anniversary another date to point at each other and play the blame game citizens and representatives have become so proficient in?
Two years after the first hemorrhage, the deeply rooted issues that caused much of the turmoil in this country remain unchanged; while a PJD (Party for Justice and Development, a bleached Islamic party) led coalition government that is reminiscent of USFP (Socialist opposition party that ended up making concessions under the monarchy and joined the government in the nineties after a long fight by founders, while some were assassinated, members tortured by the regime in the seventies) forms a solid shield that protects the real decision makers from blame and perpetuates the concept of the King’s perceived holiness. The King, his friends, his advisors, his entourage, and his officials in the Ministry of Interior steer the country and rule through a shadow-ish government with all prerogatives, using elected representatives to bow to phone-call-instructions. Meteor rain from up above continues, as gibberish speeches and gibberish documents land on a Molotov cocktail of illiteracy and poverty, with the constitution of “sidna” (meaning “our master” in Darija and referring to King Mohammed 6th) voted yes in July 2011 as herds of people yelled and chanted “long live the king”, for 10-50 Dirhams each, courtesy of the ministry of interior.
This –sadly- renders the process of blame rather convenient for the King and his agents when things go wrong: they are never questioned, their mistakes never associated with them. Moroccan people vent their frustrations by blaming the representatives/ King’s couriers openly, the elected pseudo-decision makers take the blame, with no unspoken fear of going to jail for attacking the “sacred”, and media outlets get their fake minute of political buzz, while the absurdity behind our country’s system of governance prevails as real power is not linked to responsibility. Moroccans know that. We know that we live in a country where the King is above all. We deserve to live in a country where rule of law is above all.
The ruling foggy-whateverness that has taken over our country for decades -playing puppet master- is only there because civil society is weak, scared, and people’s representatives allow themselves to be used as pawns for the concrete ceiling that is blocking the light from this country. These representatives that have come to desire their titles so bad, that they agreed to believe their own lies that strengthen the core of injustice in place. For their own convenience, they chose to believe that “little is better than nothing”. Two years after the Feb20 protests, and regardless of how bloody and confusing other uprisings have become today, people in Morocco are still coming to the realization that “little is not enough”, and that our revolution might be different, but we need to change, individually, collectively, and change the way our system is thought and designed in order to be better and do better for ourselves and our people. Moroccans deserve to know better.
Today, the only thing equally rigid, and even more stubborn than the Moroccan regime is people’s drive to move forward. People’s conscious and subconscious unwavering expectations will shape up the future of this country. Moroccan people’s aspiration for change continues. Many Moroccans might not have liked the members of Feb20, nor adhered to protests (certainly not after random arrests, beatings and incarceration began), but the quest for dignity, freedom, a government that actually represents people and answers to them as a opposed to a higher power, and an independent judiciary for a better tomorrow in this country will not falter. Moroccans know that. Thanks to Feb20, we were able to knock off two stages of experiential learning. We are past « concrete experience » stage, as we sort of experimented with protests, saw how other countries are emerging (or not) from their own uprisings, and we are now approaching the end of the « observation and reflection » stage, albeit being a bit stuck in it. The next stage is forming abstract concepts, and that is a pivotal step to move forward.
February 20th, 2013 is approaching, and I think this date is worth pausing to identify our society’s ills, and not in a superficial bullet point format. It is time to assess what WE have been thinking and doing wrong all along, and start to think about better ways WE could think and act as active citizens to address the underlying issues that have hampered progress and change for so long. The intellectual vacuum needs to be addressed and filled with what could restore Moroccan identity and shape the future of being Moroccan. Beyond “reporting”, “analyzing”, chewing and spitting events that occur in Morocco over and over again (although that is needed as well, and exposing is an important part of educating and lobbying), we need to learn to think creatively, learn to know who we are, and capitalize on existing models and extraordinary experiences from our own history, link them to the best the rest around us has to offer, and finally break away from copying and pasting ideologies, to come up with new, worthy martyr concepts that Moroccans can discuss openly and widely, tweak, perfect and reorganize as alternatives to the vicious cycle we’re stuck in.
Morocco’s biggest challenge is to ensure a bold move is made beyond the phase of perpetual transition, chronic denial, defensiveness and self-righteousness regarding who is responsible for the ills in our society and who is responsible for setting things straight. The even bigger challenge is to do so with certainty as to why we’re making said move, all the while securing popular acknowledgement regarding the vision of what Morocco should be after that, in every aspect. We deserve to know that we are responsible and learn to take responsibility.
A young member from the Feb20 protest movement, openly plucked out of a Casablanca protest, tortured and thrown in jail, has recently said: “Soon, when things turn bad, both the people and the regime will say: we wish we had listened to the nice protestors from the Feb20 movement, at least, they were peaceful”. It is time for us to know that disagreeing properly is constructive. In a region where heroism beyond being killed in a protest was abolished by the crowds throughout the uprisings in MENA, and no one (individual or distinct group) is allowed to stand and pretend to lead while aspiring to control again, calling for creative thinkers is crucial to sketch other ways that would make use of available resources (even if limited in places like Morocco where accepted dictatorships still exist) to think, write about, launch, discuss, and try alternative and transitory systems, custom designed for us.
This cannot be hijacked, it cannot be imported to fail, time and again, and if we all define and work every single detail together towards an acceptable common ground concept of who we are, and of what “change” is, and know why we’re doing it, “how” will follow. Moroccans know.