stop, look, and listen

February 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

I have not been back to Kenitra since Sunday morning, when my train was stalled for an hour before finally leaving for Rabat, where thousands of demonstrators were already gathered. Since then, I’ve spent 4 days going to a European film festival, reading on the terrace, and keeping an eye on the streets. When I run out of excuses to stay in Rabat, I promise I will upload some photos from the march. It’s not unrestrained catharsis, but until I charge my camera battery, here are snapshots of my senses, what I’ve been seeing and hearing.

What has been seen and what has been heard: Late on Sunday, when the crowd had cleared, when the camera crews slept in their hotel rooms, the few resolute remaining protesters were beaten and dispersed. There were similar skirmishes the following day. In general, the people’s demands emerged somewhat cautiously due to the presence of conspicuously undercover police. And I have heard that there may be more movements, though most likely more specific in the coming weeks.

What I am hearing (from Moroccan sources): that the 5 bodies in the bank in Al Hoceima were part of the troublemakers, that the king will inject money into subsidies, that the protests were peaceful except 115 police officers who were injured. In other words, no concrete reaction.

What I’m seeing at the moment, sitting on a bench on the boulevard where the march took place: 3 motorcycles force their way to the front lines of a traffic warzone. 2 women sit next to me in wide-heeled black boots and wool overcoats. A man in a grey suit counts a handful of crumbled bills, folds them, and returns to the exact building he came from. A group of tourists with wide-eyes pass boys with squints who mutter a barely audible offer of the day’s going currency exchange rate. On the lawn beside a fountain, a pigeon heaves exhausted breaths face down, wings spread, and only one child notices. A begging couple of what academics would call “sub-saharians”, what Moroccans would call “the Africans”, and what society calls invisible follow their noses towards pastilla and prejudice. I am ignored, approached, up-downed, oblivious, and surrounded. It is business as usual, it is life as usual, or rather, the business of life as usual.

The furthest to the left in placement and perhaps figuratively (to some extent), there is not the same chaos here in Morocco as in the other North African countries. If North Africa was an apartment complex, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Egypt would be the noisy neighbors yelling at each other whose domestic disputes Morocco can’t help but overhear through paper-thin walls. And yet, Morocco cannot simply drown out the rumble. Precisely what changes, if any, will be made is unclear. But as I sit in this “Arab Spring” of 68 degrees and counting, who can be sure. The incredible thing about the uprisings is that they come not from a foreign power, not from a single political party, but from the people themselves. This questions the idea that democracy is an American or European value to be applied strategically where and when the keepers of that value deem necessary (or fiscally feasible/of interest to our security). So though the mundane beauty of life in this corner of the world marches on, the example, the plight, the courage of neighboring countries is no tiny miracle.

 

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