As Long as you are in Morocco, do not be Astonished


Omar Bihmidine is a high school teacher of English. He holds a BA from Ibn Zohr University, Agadir. His writings take the form of short stories, poems and articles, many of which have been published in Sous Pens magazine  and  ALC Oasis magazine in Agadir.

 Sidi Ifni, Morocco,
“As long as you are in Morocco, do not be astonished,” goes the purely Moroccan saying. In all frankness, this holds true to the extent that many strange things have happened in Morocco without taking Moroccans aback. Perhaps, Moroccans are so attuned to being shocked and surprised for the umpteenth time, and they have lost their sense of wonder. Many occurrences, incidents, decisions, and phenomena in Morocco give us the impression that things are turning upside down and the winds of change are going the other way. Yet, as the Moroccan saying goes, most people seem not be surprised. Only those with some common sense are aware of the bitter reality of what is going on in the country.
Every year, nearly 4000 people die, not because they commit suicide or wage war on each other, but, simply, because of traffic accidents. Whereas other countries, including underdeveloped ones, read about how Moroccans find it commonplace to hear of an accident and mourn the victims as though a natural force brought about their death, the current government is still in a dilemma and has not yet dug up the key factors underlying the rampant phenomenon. Most astounding of all is that, instead of carrying out a diagnosis and laying down safe roads all over the country for the sake of preventing the loss of more innocent lives, the Moroccan government has gone to consult Sweden about their practical experiences, forgetting that the foundation of Swedish experience is their solid infrastructure.

Strangest is the fact that the more we talk about Swedish experience with fighting traffic accidents, the more frequently accidents occur in Morocco and the more plans the government suggests about the issue, the more rampant the phenomenon grows. Most Moroccans do not react much to the heart-rending occurrence of accidents. This is partly because they have lost their sense of astonishment, especially as regards the witless decisions made by the government.

While turning a blind eye to the real source of the problem, such as the extremely shoddy infrastructure and the unconscious Moroccan minds for which our deplorable education system must be held accountable, the government is busy involving itself in experience sharing. So, as long as Moroccans still live in Morocco and drive on its roads, they should not be astonished. For too much astonishment usually leads to the loss of this sense. At present, the Minister of Transportation, Rbah, is far from being a philosopher to preach to people what should be done and what should not.

Controversy was stirred soon after Hamid Chabat, Mayor of Fez and Secretary General of Al Istiqlal Party, decided to build a replica of Eiffel Tower in Fez. What is clearly astounding about Chabat’s decision is not the building of the replica itself, but, rather, the purpose behind its existence in one of the most beautiful, imperial Moroccan cities.

If the benefit is beautifying Fez, then are people from Fez in the mood for going sightseeing when a number of houses have fallen down due to their ramshackle conditions, while the city is threatened with flooding whenever rains falls? What is strange about the decision of some of our so-called responsible officials in charge of our interests is that they begin with the accessories and forget about the priorities. More still, the same tower disappeared all of a sudden early this week and no one is calling to hold those who built it responsible for squandering public funds. This very fact is another surprising phenomenon in Morocco. Now it is crystal clear why our ancestors advised us not to be taken by surprise.

A few days ago, in a so-called unprecedented move, the list of beneficiaries of sand quarries was made. What is the use of the disclosure if it is not taken seriously? Is this what the Moroccan masses have long looked forward to? Absolutely not! Moroccans are more than aware that corruption has torn apart state institutions. If they were not, they would not have voted for Abdelilah Benkirane, the PJD leader. The current head of government, Benkirane once promised Moroccans to fight corruption. Another surprising fact about our new government is the newly-adopted philosophy, pioneered by Benkirane, which states that the corrupt must be pardoned for fear that bringing them to justice will bring about chaos and instability.

At a time when other governments bring their corrupt prime ministers to justice over fears they are confiscating the population’s livelihood, our government protects corrupt people for fear of bringing about chaos. Moroccan officials think differently from others. For instance, for Benkirane, it does not matter if his decisions take people aback. He, too, probably believes that as long as we are in Morocco, we should not be astonished.

Many foreigners have wondered how the Moroccan people have tolerated such bizarre decisions and swallowed philosophies pioneered by those in authority. Of course, their wonderment can be dispelled the minute they are informed that in Morocco, one must never be astonished, as our ancestors have passed down.

In our country, when an accident occurs, we are asked to blame the drivers, not the snake-like roads built by the government. When a pregnant woman gives birth outside a hospital, we are asked to blame the ambulance driver, not the shoddy service provided by hospitals. When a person is unable to read and write, we are asked to blame people for being slow on the uptake, not the deplorable education system created by the government. When faucet drinking water turns brown, our sheikhs ask us to be patient for a reward from Allah, not to castigate the irresponsible government for our safety.

In Morocco, when corrupt officials steal our money in stealth or in public, we are asked to pardon them rather than bring them to justice on the grounds that justice will get us nowhere. When fuel prices rise, we are told that this will be for the benefit of the poor rather than to our detriment. When some foreign novelists write that Morocco is the most beautiful country in the world, Moroccans rack their brains hard to find out where this beauty lies as they cannot fathom it.

When those in authority try to convince us that life in our country is getting ahead day after day, many reports released by American research centers reveal that Moroccans are among the most melancholic and forlorn people on earth. Yet, as our ancestors have taught us, while we are in Morocco, we should not be astonished, should we?

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