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Moroccan Women’s ‘Other’ Life inside the Hammam

By Moundir Alamrani

Morocco World News

Rabat, May 2, 2012

Moroccan Women’s ‘Other’ Life inside the Hammam

Visiting a hammam, as it is known locally or public bathhouse is an enriching experience for Western women, who are exposed to the privacy offered by the hamman in a non-Western country. A couple of decades ago, Western women found it difficult to visit these bathhouses in some regions of Morocco, particularly in small villages and towns. Today, however, you will rarely encounter a female tourist who does not have a visit to the hammam on her to-do list.

A woman’s hammam is a space for women to gather and socialize in the total absence of men, creating a meeting place that transcends its primary role as a washroom and becomes a culturally significant space that most women visit on a regular basis. Western knowledge of these bathhouses is derived mainly from literature and travel accounts.

The bathing ritual of a hammam requires two prerequisites to be performed properly: the hammam “kit” and proper knowledge of hammam etiquette. In addition to usual toiletries, the kit consists of four other highly important elements: traditional soap, or sabon beldi, a greasy black substance, the rhasoul, a traditional shampoo made of mineral clay and melted in water, a hand mitt, or kees, and a small pumice rock; both used for scrubbing the skin, especially to slough off dead skin on the heels.

Bathers follow a series of steps as soon as they enter the hammam and continue after they have finished bathing. Women begin by removing their clothing (except for underclothes) in the dressing room, although some women take off everything. After this, they enter the hammam, which consists of two or three rooms with varying degrees of heat. Before sitting down, the bather must wash the floor area where she intends to bathe; this should be conducted upstream to prevent the dirty water from contaminating the clean spaces. Following this, the bathing area becomes that of the bather alone, with boundaries marked by water buckets and the general understanding that no one will cross the boundaries of their neighbors.

The bathing ritual begins with the application of sabon bildi to the whole body, followed by a brief waiting period before scrubbing the skin with the kees, an activity that eases as the sabon bildi melts into the skin.

When a woman is done bathing, she stands up and douses herself with the water left in her buckets and returns to the dressing room. While there, she sits or lies down to rest and acclimates to the temperature outside. Some women bring oranges as a thirst quenching mechanism.

For most women, the hammam is a place for bonding and cultivating new friendships. It is common, for instance, to see women scrubbing each other’s backs and offering to do so without being asked, although most bathhouses offer similar services for a fee. The act of scrubbing is usually accompanied by chitchat and gossip, which is typically how most women spend the long bathing hours. Occasionally quarrels and disputes occur over water or bathing spots, but they are soon forgotten.

A great deal of the local culture can be observed in the hammam, while also being a venue for information exchange, as well as a place for cleansing and relaxation. It is a world of its own that allows women the opportunity to escape their confinement within the house, domestic tasks and male domination. Moreover, it is a place where women can spend several hours talking with friends and neighbors and also make new friends. The hammam also gives women time to spend on themselves and take care of their bodies.

This is not the only role the hammam plays in Moroccan society, however, as it has traditionally been associated with marriage and courtship. It is very common for mothers to look for brides for their sons in the hammam, where they can be sure they have selected the right girl. The hammam obstructs the typical barriers experienced in public, in which no makeup or trendy clothes can conceal the true nature of a woman and her body. A mother may ask a girl she likes to scrub her back for her simply as a way to chat and get to know her better.

Bathing is also part of wedding preparations; a bride’s close friends and relatives take her to the hammamto prepare her for her next phase of life as a woman. This is considered an act of purification and is done with milk in some regions to symbolize purity. The ceremonial bath is accompanied by songs and shrills, emphasizing the cultural significance of the ritual.

The way Westerners deal with women and their life in ‘Oriental’ societies does not differ much from the way they deal with the ‘Orient’ as a whole. The West first experienced the Turkish hammam, with its opulent and exotic architecture, and images of upper class and aristocratic ladies attended to by their slaves. As such, the hammam has remained one of the most attractive social institutions of the ‘Orient.’ Contrary to its Turkish counterpart, the Moroccan hammam is a popular destination characterized by varying degrees of quality and price. Any woman who can afford the price of the hammam of her choice is permitted, regardless of her social class.

The hammam is also a place where the ‘Orient,’ as related to women, can be broken down. Women are observed and scrutinized willingly as they undress and reveal themselves to Western gaze. Women of the ‘Orient’ are often conceived of as objects, rather than human beings with human attributes and figures. Their physical appearance is described in terms of separate parts rather than one human entity, which is part of the concept of ‘othering’ that has been occurring since the very start of the East and West’s relationship.

Moroccan society has grown complex and multifaceted as the years of colonization and its geographical proximity to Europe have tarnished its social fabric and altered its social codes and traditions. This makes writing about Moroccan society difficult, especially the issue of women, which is too complex to deal with in simplistic terms.

Edited by Caryn Benisch

 

Development in Morocco and the Enemy From Within

By Moundir Al Amrani

Morocco World News

Rabat, January 12, 2012

Development in Morocco and the Enemy From Within

Morocco is a developing country that has suffered under the yoke of corruption for many years. It is still burdened by economic and social challenges that exercise enormous stress on the country’s progress and development. Until not long ago it had been in the iron grip of a rigid regime. We need to add to this the issue of the Moroccan Sahara and the other colonized enclaves that drain much of the country’s political and economic efforts and potential. These are facts that have to be noted and remembered before embarking on any discussion or criticism of the country’s current situation. It is primordial to bear them in mind if we really want to be fair in our assessment and evaluation of our country’s achievements.

Unfortunately, it has become a recurrent practice and habit to show a lack of appreciation and ingratitude to anyone for anything they have done for the good of our country, which is not fair. It also hurts so much to see and hear some of our fellow Moroccans butcher our country’s image and underestimate any efforts to make a step towards development. These are the enemy from within who are good at nothing but expressing their skepticism and casting their cynicism on us.

The first thing we need to do is to look back at the past years and remember how things had been up until the end of last century, the thing that many young people do not know or do not realize. Most of the people who take to the streets on a weekly basis demanding change and calling on the people to voice their demands are mainly young people, and it has been a defining characteristic of the demonstrations to consist, for the large part, of young people. Looking at their age, we can easily conclude that they are too young to know anything about Morocco’s past, and those pushing them to the streets have excelled in manipulating their innocence and ignorance perfectly.

Most of the young people who rally in the streets have no idea that at a certain time in Morocco one would not dare talk about politics even to oneself, and they have no idea, too, that there was a time when the lowest Auxiliary Forces private ruled the streets and frightened people just by passing by.

Those days are gone, and we live in very much different Morocco. We can all see that people express themselves openly and publicly; otherwise, we would not have heard calls for public lunch in open air while the people are fasting during Ramadan such as what happened in Mohamedia a couple of years ago. Also, we all see open calls for a non-religious state on social media with no fear, let alone similar calls for unconditioned sexual freedom and liberty. Clear evidence of the new era that began when King Mohamed VI acceded to the throne was his initiative to reconcile with the past through the Commission of Equity and Reconciliation, revealing his intentions and the kind of Morocco he sought to build. This commission was created and accomplished its mission long before any signs of the Arab Spring had been observed. We did not need to wait for Tunisia or Egypt to be ripped apart to do this.

As for the issue of development, it would be ungrateful of some of us to deny any progress or development; and we all should really start to learn how to appreciate what Morocco has been achieving. It is true that the pace of development is considered by many to be slow, but, then, we should also note that it is steady. We cannot just say there is no development whatsoever. Change and development are obvious and significant, but are we playing an active part in all of this?

This brings us to an issue that is really serious and dangerous, and bringing it up really hurts and irritates at the same time. The stance of those who think that the rhythm of development is slow can be understood and debatable, but the problem is in those who criticize anything and everything in exaggerated ways. These are the enemies from within, people with a completely different mindset. They have turned into campaigners whose sole task is to criticize in a destructive rather than a constructive way. Again, small examples can make this point tangible.

People have had different reactions to Morocco’s high speed train project as they swing between those who bless it and see it as a step into the future and those who curse it and think it is unnecessary. Those who look at the project with positive eyes are optimistic and look forward to having similar projects; whereas, those who trivialize it and describe it as unnecessary cannot see the potential it will bring to the country. As for those who are counted among intellectuals and are supposedly well-aware of the reality of life in Morocco, things get alarming when these people choose to underestimate the country’s potential. These are the ones I call pseudo-intellectuals because they just pretend to be who they cannot be.

It is unbelievable how naïve and unaware a person could be when dealing with issues that might harm our country’s image. Such people look at the initiative for high speed rail, for example, as no more than a form of saving French companies from bankruptcy by offering them projects in Morocco. In other words, they believe that Morocco has become some sort of El dorado to crisis-hit French firms. In a sense, I would agree with these people that we are still economically annexed to France and dependent on it. But what have we done to change this?

We all know that East-West relations are governed by politics and economy, but are the West the one to blame for that? What have we done to serve our country? Risk our lives crossing the Mediterranean to reach its northern shores to collect their garbage for a handful of euros then come and say that our country is worthless?

Such things can be understandable if they come from a common person whose main concern is to earn their daily bread, but what is intolerable is to find people writing all sorts of irresponsible things and pretend to be aware of our reality. Moreover, what is equally as bad is to find it written for an international readership and give them the worst false images about Morocco and Moroccans.

From another perspective, we really should stop blaming others for our own backwardness and inability to have a strong economy, despite their historical involvement in it. If we are dependent on the West and its technology, we should then confess and admit that we have never done anything to achieve our independence.

I personally have never heard of any country so burdened by its own people and so mercilessly butchered under the pretext that it has given them nothing. Is this how things should be? Who is supposed to build the other? We should be aware that we have been carried away by our own egos at the expense of our national role, and if we do not wake up soon, we will all go down and take our country down with us.

Edited by Benjamin Villanti

Love and Hypocrisy in Moroccan society

By Moundir Al Amrani

Morocco World News

Rabat, April 2, 2012

Love and Hypocrisy in Moroccan society

It is not unusual to see people in Morocco express their disdain and resentment at teenagers’ and adolescents’ public display of affection, like holding hands and hugging. However, this has done little to put an end to this practice or limit it. The phenomenon of public display of affection did not exist in our culture and society, but the practice in private has always been there albeit wrapped in secrecy and concealment.

The first interpretation and justification of people’s attitudes towards teenagers’ and adolescents’ new vision of gender relations in Moroccan society is that religion prohibits such practices. From a religious point of view, this is true as these types of romantic relationships between boys and girls are not allowed in the first place, let alone going public with their affection. Nevertheless, it is hard to see people’s negative attitudes as being totally and exclusively based on religious considerations, though the presence of religion in Moroccan society is strongly felt.

When we get to the bottom of this issue, we find that people’s resentment is, in great part, based on beliefs that are culturally and socially conditioned and which foster emotional hypocrisy in gender relations. This entrenches relationships between men and women, in general, in culturally concocted conflicts and antagonism. This hypocrisy can be seen in our society’s view of the form and kind of relationship that should govern gender relations.

For the sake of legitimacy of my arguments and their validity, let us consider the politics that govern the relationship of a married couple. We need to ask ourselves, what is the typical form and kind of a marital relationship which our culture and society have constructed and perpetuated? When we take a look around, it is not unexpected to notice signs of discomfort and uneasiness on the faces and gestures of some couples on the street.

The degrees of this vary from region to region and between rural and urban areas, but it is always there. We can notice, for example, the walking distance some husbands maintain between themselves and their wives, with the latter lagging behind trying to keep pace. Similarly, it is a way of showing manliness and masculinity when a man displays some sign of rigidity and firmness with his wife before family members and relatives. A man thinks that such gestures and behaviors show him as a real man worthy of respect and admiration.

It seems that being a man depends on denying the existence of feelings of love and affection towards one’s wife. A man who gathers the courage to reveal his love of and appreciation of his wife is usually thought of as ‘bewitched’ and in need of help to regain his senses.

By the same token, it is very common to hear couples fight and shout behind closed doors as well as in front of other people. A man may not feel reluctant or hesitant to scold or shout at his wife, believing that such behavior is proof that he has things under his control.

Paradoxically, the other face of the coin could be the total opposite of what is seen, as what happens in public contradicts reality in many cases. While what is commonly observed is patriarchy at work, with men showing off and demonstrating their masculine power, there are cases when women are the ones in control inside the house.

Women are able to exercise their authority over their husbands, but in secret and within the walls of the house. There are cases when men relinquish control to their wives out of love and respect, and there are women who excel at taking power from the hands of their husbands peacefully and with the total consent of the husband. But, again, this happens in secret, as the manliness of the husband should remain intact in public. This is very noticeable in society but at the same time the same society, where this is common, denies the existence of female power.

Showing love and affection for one’s wife is a sign of weakness and society is merciless when it comes to judging men’s patriarchic role. Our culture and society encourage hypocrisy by stagnating men in the typical image of being in control, when only then do they deserve respect and appreciation. On the other hand, affection and love even for one’s wife must remain under the radar and confined to the household.

 

Revisiting Gender Roles in Morocco

By Moundir Al Amrani

Morocco World News

Rabat, February 15, 2012

Revisiting Gender Roles in Morocco

Once again, gender roles has proven itself to be a deeply controversial and hard to deal with issue. Such an issue allows bias to filter arguments and ideas; likewise, no matter how hard one tries to stick to neutrality, there is always a possibility for misreadings and misinterpretations to occur. So far this sounds normal and understandable, but the issue gets thorny when it trespasses the limits of misreading and misinterpretation to passing judgments. This piece is more of a clarification of certain misunderstandings and confusion on the part of some readers who found fault with the contents of my previous article. I will start by delineating the misunderstood points and then elaborate on the ideas I discussed previously.

My reference is to Linda Harris’ article “Morocco: Gender Roles and the Rhetoric of Change?” published in Morocco World News on February 4, 2012. In her article, Harris argues against my idea that Moroccan society is witnessing significant changes in gender roles. Moreover, she goes further in judging the ideas behind the article and the author’s personal attitude towards the whole issue. As a matter of fact, Harris’ article provides us with a perfect case in point of a western misreading of eastern cultures .

Harris’ tone in her article is intense and agitated and from the outset she is direct and straightforward in stating her strong belief in the falsity of the ideas forwarded in the article. These she sometimes describes as “foolish.” Harris’ point of view is respected and her attempt to enrich the discussion is highly appreciated; however, a great deal of her article is an emotional reaction, (as she points out when she says “I strongly believe [the author] to be mistaken”), and based on emotional reading of the article rather than the result of reasonable understanding.

Understanding eastern societies in general calls for more than theory, which is the main problem with Harris’ article. The claims in her article are best asserted in theory rather than in the reality of Moroccan society. Her understanding of my article boils down to falsely limiting it to a discussion “of changes in the structure of Moroccan society that include changes in women’s rights.” She goes on to state that I make “the case that Morocco has shifted its control and power from that of a patriarchy to that of a matriarchy.”

This conclusion is unfounded because I never declare in any way that Moroccan society has shifted to a matriarchy, nor do I deal with women’s rights. The contention in my article is that gender relations are changing in society. This, Harris seems unable to grasp as the viewpoint of the article. My article never discusses any change in women’s rights. Although both women’s rights and women’s role are related, Harris seems to need to wrestle with making a difference between the two.

Indeed, the last twelve years have brought about a lot of changes in women’s rights in Morocco, exemplified by the implementation of a new family code. The code has reshaped the whole frame of gender relations and has redefined gender roles. However, what I deal with in my article is a by-product of such changes, not the changes per se.

Women do have their needs met if they stay at home: it is part of Moroccan culture that a man provides for his family, and it is part of the image of the man to be manly. The husband, the father, or sometimes the son in the absence of the father, are the ones in charge of bringing food to the table, because a family in Morocco is headed by a male who has to live up to his role.

From another perspective, however, there are many instances of women being in charge, partly or completely, of the family. Indeed, women in Morocco are active participants in society, be it in rural or urban areas. In the country, women take part in farming and are in charge, for example, of dairy products of farms and other crops for sale in the souk. Men take care of more arduous tasks such as plowing the land and carrying heavy loads. But it is very common, too, to find men and women side by side in complementary activities, like sowing and harvesting.

Likewise, in the city, getting a job has become more of a necessity for women, especially if the husband’s income is limited. A woman’s income can allow a couple to lead a relatively comfortable life and provides for services that may be considered luxuries by other couples. This is how life in the city has shaped itself in Morocco; women in cities have an active presence in social life because now they have a say in it. This empowerment of women, though insignificant to Harris, could be the beginning of a rising matriarchy, but it is not known if this matriarchy will materialize or not. This explains why the title of my article is in the interrogative form, but Harris fails to see it and insists on providing her personal definition of matriarchy.

To Harris, “a matriarchy is by definition a society structured in such a way that females hold all central roles in government and political leadership, as well as all ideological, religious, and moral authority.” Once again, Harris seems to have a problem with the definition of her terms. Such a definition of matriarchy is reductionist and echoes political feminism. Matriarchy is a social system before being a political one. Matriarchy is a system where the oldest woman controls the family and its resources as well as possessions. From here, we can stretch it to touch politics as Harris defines it, but her definition remains narrow and reductionist.

Moroccan women’s role in Moroccan society have changed, and this is a fact that can only be seen from within, not from without. The socioeconomic changes that have taken place not only in Morocco, but globally as well, together with other factors have empowered women to advance in participation of social development and the welfare of their country.

Harris’ denial of such a fact is unfounded and remains a stereotypical response, since a great deal of her response to the idea of change is based on theory. This makes one wonder whether Harris is in the right position to make such claims and to judge the reality of Moroccan society and culture. Her attitude seems based in personal feelings and theoretical hypotheses.

Another problem with Harris’ article is her judgmental attitude when she says that I refer to a social problem, and that I fail to find solutions to the problem of male attitude towards women. This is bewildering—I never say there is a problem to begin with. As for failing to find solutions, I wonder why I should find solutions to a problem I never said existed in the first place.

By the same token, Harris finds the article to defend the culture of incarceration. There is no place in the article where such a defense can be found and it seems that Harris has a problem with grasping figurative use of language, as she sticks to the literal meaning of the word “incarceration” and refuses to acknowledge its figurative use.

More than this, Harris claims and accuses the author of opposing or having some grave problem with gender progress in Morocco. First, it is hard to see how Harris manages to come to this conclusion, as after rereading the article again, no indication of such a claim has been found. Moreover, her very statement betrays her as it ironically reveals her acknowledgement that there is change in gender roles in Moroccan society. Harris’ next accuses the author of insulting women implicitly while, once again, her words betray her as she explicitly insults Moroccan men by recommending they “grow as human beings.”

The next issue Harris finds fault with is religion because it is male-dominated. Her claim stands on the fact that imams in mosques are all male with no chance for women to have a similar leading position in religion. Harris’ claim reveals her ignorance of the role of religion and its foundations.

Harris’ lack of depth in dealing with the issue of gender in Morocco and her shallow arguments trap her in many contradictions and inconsistencies. Therefore, to put things in the right order, I recommend that she rereads my article as a response to hers, not the other way round. Learning about eastern societies cannot be limited to theory or stereotypes. Her position gives her little credibility in assessing social dynamics in Morocco and the changes it has been witnessing. One needs to come down from the ivory tower and get experience in real life.

Edited by Jasmine Davey

 

Gender Roles in Morocco: Is It the Decline of Patriarchy and the Rise of Matriarchy?

By Moundir Al Amrani

Morocco World News

Rabat, January 10, 2012

Gender Roles in Morocco: Is It the Decline of Patriarchy and the Rise of Matriarchy?

Patriarchy is neither a concealed nor a restricted practice in Morocco. Until a couple of decades ago, public space had been male-dominated and women’s presence outside the house had to be chaperoned. Men and women seemed to move in separate spheres, with very few exceptions. The family is traditionally headed by the father whose decisions are unquestionable and, in the case of his absence, the elder son is always there to take over. Women are inherently unable to thrive in separation of a male and she is not supposed to seek autonomy and claim responsibility.

However, as a result of recent socio-economic developments and the rapidly metamorphosed lifestyles, the stable and unshakable foundations of a traditionally patriarchic society have been quaked by the rise of what seems to be matriarchic power. Such a view asserts itself in the governing nature of the transmuted relationship between genders in Morocco, a relationship challenged by shifting politics of power. This makes one wonder if this is ever possible and, if it is the case, how it is going to take place and be received by men who are stripped of what they consider validation of manliness.

Like any other oriental society where traditions and customs are strictly observed and manliness is highly cherished and valued, Moroccan society considers a woman a precarious and vulnerable spot in its fabric. She, consequently, requires constant and unusual care, as any breach of this vulnerability is direct harm and injury to manliness and a man’s pride. This explains oriental men’s over-conservatism and excessive jealousy when it comes to their women. However, this should not be understood as totally negative, for in return for what seems like confinement and incarceration of women within the household, they enjoy total care and their needs are totally satisfied.

There is also the fear of manipulation of women by other men and even women, since they are considered as susceptible to bad influence. Hence, in order to ensure their manliness is untarnished and clean, oriental men in general are inclined to protect their women from turning into a threat to themselves and to society. This has been the balance for ages, but with the passing of time and the world shrinking, new lifestyles have emerged and have brought with them new conceptions to the role of women in society.

Moroccan society has been subjected to many changes dictated by socioeconomic factors that have redefined gender roles for a long time. Now women rub shoulders with men in many domains and fields that have been until recently male-exclusive. Moroccan women had to run the gauntlet to assert themselves as active members in the country, which has gained them ground not only in their battle for work, but also in society. Women’s financial autonomy has been decisive in rearranging the Moroccan social scene. We can now find women sitting in cafes and restaurants, wearing all sorts of clothes like jeans and min-skirts. Moreover, we can also find more westernized women smoking cigarettes or even drinking liquor, especially in big cities. These are all manifestations of their break away from male domination and social chains as they now dictate their own rules and define their own social role, but this has had another effect on men.

When comparing the mutation of women to that of men within the Moroccan society, it becomes evident that women have adopted a totally different mode of life and changed their views of their role in the Moroccan society. In other words, they have reversed the balance of power. This change has occurred so fast and in such a short period of time that it has enabled women not only to subvert male power but also surpass it, leaving men lagging behind in their efforts to adjust to tremendous and speedy change.

It is evident that men have found it immensely hard to keep up with the pace of change in the Moroccan society; however, this has had a counter effect on their situation. Instead of embracing the new social order, men have found compensation in stepping back. What this means is that instead of bridging the huge gap between them and women, men have chosen to cling to their historical principles and fight for preserving their leading role in society.

It is no wonder that an abrupt change such as this has been perplexing and overwhelming to Moroccan men who have found in the growing freedom of women a compensation for their lost influence and power. On the one hand, women gaining power is a scary issue; on the other hand, with women mingling in society as they go out to work, men believe they have more chance of gratifying their ego with the abundance of females around them. Likewise, women, too, have been overwhelmed by their success in subverting a lot of traditions that had been, until recently, sacred and unquestionable. They, therefore, have embraced their new life with zeal and enthusiasm and become carried away by their eagerness for more freedom, breaking away from what they consider now as a social embargo to bring down any obstacles that have always stood between them and their male counterparts.

One direct outcome of this is that it has become very common, though not in a systematic way, to talk about friendship between males and females, a new concept that has instated itself in Moroccan society as a reference to the possibility of the existence of a platonic and chastised relationship between men and women. It is not easy to refute such a claim as no one is in a position to doubt anyone else, but affirming its validity also remains too strong of a claim to make. Nonetheless, it is worth mentioning that the whole situation has turned on itself, resulting in a loss of trust between both men and women in Moroccan society.

As mentioned above, while women have completely metamorphosed their role within society, men have preserved their own attitudes, unable to digest or accept this change as it has been explained to them. To any Moroccan man, with varying degrees of course, it is unperceivable how a man and a woman can coexist in immunity from sin. We can add to this the over-protective nature of Moroccan men towards their women. This has not disappeared altogether and jealousy is still governing much of their interaction with women.

The dynamics of the relationship between men and women in Moroccan society and the abrupt change this relationship has witnessed have restructured it from patriarchy to matriarchy, with women gaining more independence and stripping men of their historical superiority. It is true that these changes are not systematic and there are places where women’s situation is still the same as always, but at the same time there are countless instances that prove the immense change witnessed in the role of women, and which testify to the shift in the balance of power in favor of women. This ‘new social order’ has its own byproducts that have established themselves as defining characteristics of this order, which is to be dealt with in the upcoming article.

 

What Does it Mean NOT to Be Moroccan?

By Moundir Alamrani

Morocco World News

Rabat, February 3, 2012

 

What Does it Mean NOT to Be Moroccan?

The ideas discussed here are inspired by an interesting and insightful article published on Morocco World News on August 26th, 2011 entitled “What does it mean to be Moroccan?” in which Yassmine Zerrouki problematizes the meaning of being Moroccan and what defines Moroccan identity. The debate boils down to interesting ideas that define us as Moroccans. These include loving our homeland, being proud of belonging to it, and keeping hope in seeing it develop and prosper. I do agree that these are what should define us as Moroccans. If we adhere to them, we will be able to make a step forward.

From another perspective, however, we are also defined as Moroccans by different negative traits. I feel that we can never become a better nation if we do not dispose of these negative qualities that tarnish our collective unconsciousness and affect us negatively.

I choose to do the devil’s work not out of pessimism or cynicism, but out of love for my country and hope for a better future. My article is strictly and honestly meant as constructive self-criticism and as a wake up call to many people who believe in negativity as a style of life. In my opinion, we can never be a better nation unless we rid ourselves of all the bad traits that are holding us back and hindering our nation’s progress.

In a couple of previous articles, I emphasized the role of proactive citizenship in the progress of our country and toppling down corruption. In other words, change comes from within. We can never step forward if we do not stop stepping backwards, and we cannot look at the future through a rear view mirror.

As a matter of fact, my present article does not preach a new creed and it does not claim to teach Moroccan people how to love their country, because they do. History has been keeping records of historic and heroic instances of our love for our country and the sacrifices the Moroccan people have offered for the sake of their homeland. However, we need to open our eyes to certain practices and attitudes that serve no one and nothing. For this reason, I find myself bound to reiterate ideas that I have discussed before.

There are many practices and conducts that have come to define us as Moroccans. In order to be better Moroccans, we need to learn how not to be bad Moroccans. In this way, what it means to be Moroccan and what it means not to be Moroccan are two faces of the same coin. We do not just lack positive attitude and practices; we also need to dispose of what defines us negatively as Moroccans.

We need to learn how to be responsible citizens instead of enjoying the role of the helpless victims. We should stop whining and grumbling and take control of our lives. Only by taking the initiative, can we  make a change. Blaming invisible powers for our misery is really not healthy for us as people aspiring for a better future. The conspiracy theory is just a pretext not an excuse.

It is our own way of life that keeps us from planning our future. We waste too much energy in useless interests and activities. Reference here is to one of the most ravishing social diseases we suffer from—sticking our noses in each other’s business. Our society has extraordinarily empowered itself with illegitimate authority to interfere in each and every individual’s personal life. We, as individuals, disdain this practice but we all do the same thing to each other. It is ironic to try and make a difference between society and individuals, because after all society is what individuals make out of it.

So unless we focus our energy on positive things and stop watching and judging each other, there is no chance for us to make a step forward and be a better people living in a better place. We need to learn where our freedom ends and where that of others starts; only then can we be a better people.

Likewise, we cannot claim progress if we keep belittling and criticizing anything and everything. In my article “Development in Morocco and the Enemy From Within,” I talk about people who drain their energy in depreciating Morocco’s slow but steady progress. It is unfortunate to notice that this has become a defining trait of us Moroccans and a recurrent practice that we pass on to our children ad grand-children. It hurts to see people who are supposed to have acquired a high level of moral, social, and intellectual maturity tarnish our country’s image and underestimate any efforts to make a step towards development. These are the enemy from within who are good at nothing but expressing their skepticism and casting their cynicism on us.

Understanding and defining who we are is as important as understanding and defining who we should not be. There is no doubt that we carry strong and deep love for our country and for each other, but the problem is that we keep it sealed and confined within us in favor of other things that vilify our true identity. We should show our love for our country and be proud of being Moroccans. At the same time, we should also cleanse ourselves of many negative traits that have become identical with us. Moroccans are not that bad and they deserve a lot much better than what they have. What it means to be Moroccan and what it means not to be Moroccan lie in our own hands and it is up to us to make of ourselves better people.

Photo by: Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times

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