Saturday, June 23, 2018

IN THE SHADE OF HISTORY           I

 

IN THE SHADE OF HISTORY          II

 

IN THE SHADE OF HISTORY          III   

(in French)

 

IN THE SHADE OF HISTORY          IV

 

IN THE SHADE OF HISTORY         V

 

IN THE SHADE OF HISTORY         VI

 

IN THE SHADE OF HISTORY         VII

 


IN THE SHADE OF HISTORY         VIII

IN THE SHADE OF HISTORY VIII

Even a great emperor would be afraid of losing his throne. More than fear, which may not always be justifiable, there are many undeniable realities. Age is a fact : nobody remains young and strong forever, and there's death at the end of the road. Even at the height of our youth and physical and mental strength there’s sleep, for example, and this sleep is a form of total helplessness.

The world does not work in a mechanical or automatic way. Certainly, a wheat grain will always give a grain of wheat and an egg will always give a hen's chick. That's the rule. But it is not because there was sexual intercourse between a man and a woman that there will inevitably be a child. It is not because it rains that the land will yield fruit and vegetables. It's not because it's the same father and the same mother that the children will have the same size or the same facial features...

A baby could be born in the best birthing clinic or in the best palace in the world, but for him, at birth, it's not like in the womb. That's why he cries! What does this mean? It simply means that man should expect danger before quietude, problems before solutions, boos before applause, suffering before deliverance ... Even if we started thinking about it in the most complex way we would never be able to understand everything. We cannot even understand who built Stonehenge or how or why, yet it is seen on earth and specifically in England. All we know about it is only assumptions. Scientists still do not fully understand  how quantum physics works, yet it is thanks to it that we had the Internet and other applications. Scientists can send humans onto Mars but cannot ward off earthquakes or hurricanes.

We more or less made good use of this land we live on: we have built cities and kingdoms, built splendid civilizations, developed political, economic, social ... systems . We gave free rein to our imagination, with all the inventions we know, the technology, arts, lifestyles, etc. We did all that and more.

People see things in dreams that materialize ten years, twenty years later, and science, which wants to put everything under the microscope, cannot explain this.

We can’t count the deities to whom man has attributed the privilege of having created the world. Logically, there can be no more than a single creator. When we agree on a single creator, we credit him with several religions or cults. When we agree on one cult we differ as to the details, we speak of multiple versions of the same cult that are all attributed to the same God. Despite wars and disasters that have always been caused by these differences, there are still among us followers of this cult or that one, of this version of the cult or that one. At one point in history, a third of the German population was decimated in religious wars. Yet one of the most influential German political parties still carries the attribute "Christian". Similarly, in England, half of whose  history is made up of religious wars, it still being said "God Save the Queen". Even the president of the United States say "God Bless America." Even in many of these countries where people fought for the sake of God the common man is still baptized and marries and is buried according to religious rites. Sould we therefore position ourselves in relation to this reality? Would it not be necessary to choose? Whether we have to choose to change or keep one’s father’s  religion, it's not always easy. Speaking only for myself, there are many Muslims like me for whom I pass for an ungodly for the simple reason that I do not wear a beard and I dress in a manner other than their own. So what do we do? Well, we choose, each according to one’s personal beliefs, and then we assume responsibilty for our choices. Our choices, active or passive, free or coerced, can move us away from each other as they can bring us together where our human intelligence can only bring us together.

We are invited to make use of our intelligence to discern right from wrong. It’s up to us to see this beauty in humans, in birds, in streams, in animals, in the starry sky, in the sea, in poetry, in music, in arts, in our clothes, in our differences: physical, cultural, civilizational and other. It’s up to us to appreciate this chance we’ve been given to feel and sense beauty in all its forms.

Should we be content to be inspired by birds only to make an aircraft and not see the beautiful plumage of these birds or their incredible migration? Should we be content to distinguish colours and shapes and give them names and not  think about where all these colours and shapes came from?

We're all human. We're all fragile. We have the same fears, the same aspirations. We have the same eyes to see the beauty of the world. Hunger is the same for all. Unemployment is the same for all. Death is the same for all. Compassion is the same for all. Life is the same for all.

Our eyes do not always have the same colour. Even eyes with the same colour are not identical. Why ? Well, everyone is a separate being, regardless of his beliefs. Everyone has his/her own fingerprint and his/her own eyeprint, and it's not because he/she is Christian, Muslim or Buddhist. Everyone has his/her own voice, own heart, own brain, own life.

Without a doubt, the world could have been a better place with neither poor nor beggar, no widow nor orphan, no war nor famine. But what would be our merit, we humans, if we did not show our humanity at the moment of earthquakes, droughts, floods, volcanic eruptions, economic crises, etc. ?

Why, in our worst adversity, do we see incredible mutual aid, solidarity, compassion, and, at the same time, we see thieves and robbers? Why, in times of war, do we see those who slaughter the innocent, who rape women, and, at the same time, we see people who take incredible risks to save lives? Why should we not therefore see in these events and in our own personal problems kind of alert, a reminder that we have perhaps forgotten too much that we're just passing on this earth and that it is high time that we prepared for some eternal life after death? It is man who dared to kill humans. A man killed his brother for a matter of jealousy. That same jealousy is still making war and putting on the road millions of refugees. It’s up to us humans to see what is wrong with us. It is not any deity who burns down hundreds of tons of wheat or throw them into the sea in order to raise prices. It is not any deity who imposed to anyone opting for the nuclear or allowed anyone to exploit people. The air is free for everyone. The sun is free for everyone. Life is free for everyone. What to ask more?

We’re all like actors on a stage : a handicapped person on a stage, or a blind person or an orphan or a wretched beggar or a homeless old woman on a stage may be people in good shape and far better off in real life. They may sit at a posh dinner table outside of the theatre and laugh at what they were doing on stage. The play is for them just a good memory. It’s the same with us Earth people. That homeless person you fed on a bad Winter day, that blind person you helped cross the road, that orphaned child you helped with food or clothes, that old man you extricated from under the rubble in the wake of an earthquake, that jobless widow you helped find a job,… all these people might become friends of you if you met after death. It’s like having a good experience while in exile before returing home. You can’t build roads and bridges, but you can help rebuild broken hearts.

So next time you see or hear of a hurricane, an earthquake, a war, a famine, a period of harsh unemployment… next time you see an orphan, a blind or homeless person or an obese person…. then think of how you can make real life better than life on a stage.

For love some people lost their lives. Others went bankrupt. Some became philosophers. Others went mad. Some wrote books. Others versified. Some hated the whole world save the beloved.

From inside the trenches, surrounded by the smell of blood and the fear of an unseen enemy, young soldiers wrote home to say how much they missed the smile of their women (wives and fiancées), how much they longed to go back home and kiss their lips and fondle their breasts.

From the plane taking them far away, some pick up their mobiles and say to that dear person back at home, “Don’t forget, Katy. I love you. See you soon.”
Some stop somewhere to pick and choose a postcard and words to write on the back of the postcard. Others buy flowers or pullovers or whatever they think would make their beloved happy. Others just don’t bother to buy anything. Not because they are mean. But simply because they cannot find anything that would translate what they feel more than a smile from the bottom of the heart or a tear long held back.

For love some get so happy that they start doing what they never did before. Mean people become generous. Proud people become humble.

But not all people love people. Some people love things rather than people. This kind of love brought in the past and still brings today hate and war.

The Prophet Muhammad was offered the opportunity to be the Bill Gates of his time, but he just refused to “seize” that opportunity. He slept on a harsh bed, lived on bread and dates, and once he had to roam the streets at night simply because he felt too hungry to stay at home. And yet his followers managed to build great (ambitious) empires. He could have made for himself a heaven on earth had he so willed, even if it meant waging bloody wars.

The Prophet Muhammad wanted to be with al-Masakeen “the have-nots”, not with the rich. He wanted to be a man of the masses, not of the elite. He wanted to set an example. Once a governor came before Caliph Umar Ibn al-Khattab and offered him cakes. Umar said to him: “Do all people in your region eat such good cakes?” How on earth could a close companion of the Prophet Muhammad eat cakes which only the haves could afford?

Mohamed Ali LAGOUADER


IN THE SHADE OF HISTORY VII

We hide behind alibis, behind vague concepts of self-esteem, dignity, honour...to reject any kind of compromise. We would prefer living in the worst misery in the world to taking a very small step towards compromise and reconciliation. If that happens to states, to governments, leading them to bloody wars and loss of lives and wealth, how about a poor individual with psychological complexes? How about a poor individual who loves self-victimization and passionate complaining?

Is compromise always possible, though? Of course not. But we can know who loves us and who hates us, who wants peace and who wants war. We can know who we should defy and who we should befriend. We can know that, we can feel that, but our psychological complexes beautify to us defiance to and undervaluing people who show us some kind of interest, some kind of good will, some kind of ‘weakness’. We get the feeling that by only defying such people (such good, well-intentioned people) we can defeat them, we can push them to make all the concessions we want. We assume that we know all about those people we are defying, we can predict their moves, we can know how to react to whatever they do. Our psychological complexes blind us with mad illusions, and when we are disillusioned, when the truth is out, it’s too late... We break down, we lose everything. We lose the love we were after, we lose the peace we craved for, we lose a lot, a lot of our precious time. Regrets, remorse, disappointments. We are left with black holes in the heart, holes that won’t be closed with anything, anytime.

What is more fascinating than that is that black holes in the heart are to be found on the ‘victors’’ side too! You are sitting with others round a coffee table, sipping your coffee in silence and trying your best to quell a sigh. The people you’re sitting with (family or friends) are all chatting and laughing merrily, as though nothing ever happened. But you can’t help remembering those black days when you were poor, needing help all the time. Now you are alright: you don’t need anybody anymore. You have a good income, you’re married, you have a lovely son. You don’t have any real problems. But you have black holes in the heart. Black holes widened by black memories. You remember how you were let down by some of those you’re sitting with; you remember the humiliation you suffered at their hands; you remember how some of them provided you with some of the things you needed in that remote past (food or a few coins from time to time), you remember that they gave you all that grudgingly, you remember they too said hurting words to or about you… You remember all that and you feel your heart about to explode with so much hot sighs, but you’re striving to stifle all those sighs. You don’t want to hurt anybody. In the end, you rise from the coffee table and go somewhere else to forget all those dark memories… But you can’t. Why did they do that to me? Why didn’t they give me that little help that they gave me with a smile, not with frowns or a humiliating look or hurting words?.... Your questions will remain unanswered. You only have to laugh, if you can, each time those memories come back to you. At least, you are ‘the victor’: they are the losers. They were better off than you in the past, now you are much better off than all of them. Maybe they were laughing in front of you only to save their face. You don’t know what’s in their hearts. Maybe they were embarrassed, but didn’t want to show it. Maybe you too made some kind of mistake in the past, in the remote past, that left a black hole in your heart. Maybe you feel ashamed of yourself each time you recall that sin, that gaffe, that bad thing you did to somebody who didn’t harm you. Would you go to that person and say sorry? It’s not that easy. That’s not always safe. In America a man wrote to a woman saying sorry for raping her. He apologized to her for something he did many years before. She replied to his letters until he believed she forgave him. She did not forgive him. She only wanted to set a trap for him. She sent him to prison. You too fear such a bad surprise, but you wish you could apologize and make amends to that person you wronged. The mere fact that you sigh when you remember your sin, the mere fact that you feel embarrassed within yourself –that is a sign that you are a human, that you have a live heart, a healthy soul. So you could find something to blame yourself for when you remember the wrong done to you by family or friends in that remote past. Maybe those persons behaved in that bad manner because you would ask “too much” or “too often”. The Moroccan proverb goes: “katrat ateeni matkhalli had yabgheeni” (The more I say to people “give me” the more I make myself hateful to them.) Suppose your father- or brother-in-law said to you “give me” once a week, or once a month, what would be your reaction? You should consider yourself a hero for the mere fact that you didn’t break with everybody who wronged you in the past. What would you feel if you had no relatives (good or bad), no friends (good or bad), no colleagues, no neighbours, no acquaintances? You could give up all your close friends (and you should if they are tormenting you), you could give up one relative or two, one neighbour or two, but you can’t be a Robinson Crusoe in a city full of people with different aspirations and different disappointments. At least you will have to smile at and exchange a few words with the grocer, the hairdresser, the nurse, the taxi-driver or the postman, if you still have one. If you keep on complaining about everybody around you, can you live alone?

Life has always been full of disappointments and broken dreams. Even within a tiny community, a small hamlet of less than a hundred people in the heart of a forest or a desert, you would find somebody who is jealous of somebody else, somebody who hates somebody else… Each of the young lads in that community would dream to marry the most beautiful girl in the hamlet, but only one man will marry her, and that man may not be the one who loves her or the one whom she loves. You certainly know the story of Cain and Abel. Well, that story repeats itself in various forms. Up to this day, many people live with black holes in their hearts because they failed to marry that particular person  they loved so much or who loved them so much, because they failed to get that particular diploma or degree, because they failed to get that particular job (which could have revolutionized their lives), because their father/mother did not attend their wedding, because they found out (when it was too late) that their partner loved somebody  else and had never loved them, because they want a particular person (an old friend they no longer speak to, or an old neighbour, or a distant family member, or an old colleague…) –they want that particular person to recognize their success, but they’re not so sure.

These feelings that ache many of us date back to old school days or to previous family life. The way we were educated at school, with unending grading, examinations, year after year, would only make us feel jealous of our classmates when they got better marks, when they graduated before us, when they got better jobs… Competition was not only in school, it was –for many of us– at home as well.

Some parents tend to favour this son or this daughter, for one reason or another, and this can only create a sense of competition, a sense of jealousy, a sense of hatred. Injustice in the home, especially for materialistic reasons, does leave very, very black holes in the heart. But what to do? You can’t help turning a blind eye or a deaf ear to that gloomy past. You can’t help giving some kind of importance to those people who were unkind to you: even if you become very successful in your life, you will always wish that those people recognized your success. Even if your father/mother died a long time ago, you would wish he/she attended your wedding or saw your first child…

We, human beings, may be strong in many ways, physically and morally, but for how long? Strong people become old, healthy people become ill. We are sensitive to the heat, to the cold, to hunger, to thirst, to physical love… Our minds can help us manage our strengths and weaknesses, but there are things that our minds can’t fix. Our logic, however genius we are, can’t always help us understand other people’s behaviour towards us –because we assume that people (should) behave in a certain logical way. Well, that is not always the case. It’s not big thinking that drives people crazy, it’s very small, trivial things that defy all logic, all rational thinking. If your younger brother/sister is always robbing your underpants, and, on top of that, always denying that he/she is robbing your underpants, that may drive you mad literally! If your mother knows your salary and yet she’s always asking you to give her more and more, more than you earn, that may drive you mad. Because you are “thinking” with your mind only. In a previous chapter, I talked about a strong psyche. One should develop such a strong psyche as early as possible, because nobody knows what the future holds for us. If you have a strong psyche you may fly into a temper occasionally, but you wouldn’t go mad for the reasons I mentioned above. You would break, for a short or long period of time, with that person who is trying to turn your life into hell – and then you’ll deal with the problem ‘in cold blood’. You will ‘restore order’ in your feelings. Such a strong psyche would be a wonderful tool to ‘manage’ (as a manager would) our feelings, our black holes. If a black hole in our heart costs us an occasional sigh or two, that’s a good thing. The problem is when that black hole turns into an obsession.

As a child you dreamt to become an engineer (or a doctor). You did everything you possibly could at school, but failed to be an engineer (or a doctor). That left a very dark hole in your heart. Now that you are a parent you want your child to become what you failed to be. Now that your child is at school, the only thing you think about is his marks in scientific subjects, his progress throughout the school year, you count the years he still has to go before becoming an engineer (or a doctor). You don’t care about his feelings: the pressure you’re putting on him. You don’t care if he feels he’s only worth the marks (grades) he gets at school, no more than that. You don’t care if you turn him into a learning machine. Suppose he became an engineer (or a doctor), couldn’t he be faced, one day, with social or emotional problems? How would he cope with those problems? Suppose you want him to grow up and marry and beget children for you to see before you die, and then, one day, you discover that your boy, your successful son, is not straight. What would be your reaction? Suppose your son, who grew up deprived of your real love, fell in love with a star that he saw only on TV, and then his love, his impossible love, caused him incurable trauma or even pushed him to suicide. What would be your reaction? Yes, these are extreme examples, but they do happen. For some people a black hole may become an obsession and that obsession may lead to disaster. Would you show your child how to behave in society, how to be a good person, how to respect himself, how to improve his personal talents/capabilities? Would you show him the importance of universal virtues: courage, truthfulness, faithfulness, altruism, hard work, patience… ? Would you tell him about your dream without trying to impose it on him? If you feel he is interested, then help him go on that road. You know some children can’t live with their parents when they grow old. They put them away in infirmaries. Would it be OK for you if your dear, lovely sonny put you in an infirmary and went to live with a beautiful young woman engineer?

Once a Moroccan man called a Moroccan radio station to tell his story: “I was an immigrant in a European until I retired at age 60. While I worked there, I would send money to my wife to build for us a home here in Morocco. We got a daughter. I would come to see them during the Summer break. When I retired and decided to come back to Morocco for good, my wife and daughter closed the door in my face. They said to me: ‘Go away! We don’t know you!’ Now I’m just living with a distant relative. I have nowhere else to live. (He started weeping.) I don’t know what to do. I can’t understand why my wife broke with me in this way. I’m sure it’s her who turned my daughter against me… Can you please help me?”

Imagine the black hole left in that man’s heart. Imagine he didn’t have a strong psyche. Imagine he never, never imagined that this could happen to him. If you can imagine that, you can imagine the importance of our hearts.


Mohamed Ali LAGOUADER

IN THE SHADE OF HISTORY VI

The world of liberty began some six decades ago when, by virtue of the 1954 and 1964 Obscene Publication Acts, government no longer decided what was immoral in literature. Of course, this happened in Britain, where women succeeded in getting the right to wear trousers wherever they wished. They even went out in mini-skirts. A student strike over when girls were allowed into boys' dorm rooms triggered off a revolt in France. Noted Former French Minister of Culture Jack Lang in TIME Magazine (August, 2002): "May 1968 was a grand movement of liberation in the American sense, but also a movement of simple respiration (…) The French state then was a symbol of oppression. It seemed to have a lid on everything, with state-run television and radio putting out permanent propaganda. Suddenly, it became apparent that the state wasn't all-powerful after all, and for many of us everything seemed to even smell different."

History repeated itself in Tunisia and in Egypt in 2011. An Arab Revolution broke out, reaching my country, Morocco, on February 20. The February 20 Movement called for a new constitution. The King promptly ordred one. The new constitution has been hailed as a 'revoltution' in its own right. But people didn't want a new constitution for the sake of a new constitution. They wanted social justice. But then they didn't want social justice for the sake of social justice. What they wanted, in fact, was a better life: jobs, housing, better schooling, better health services, better infrastructure, stadiums...and a lot of freedom. All this is now in the new constitution. The question is, where do we go from here?

In his wonderful book about the British people and their culture, Understanding Britain, John Randle (Basil Blackwell Publisher, 1981) wrote: "The British were inclined to think they had avoided upheaval by virtue of their glorious constitution and their acceptance of gradual reform. This argument may have had some merit, but Britain's wealth increased dramatically in the nineteenth century, and though its distribution was highly uneven, the increase in prosperity among the working class was sufficient to give its members a growing feeling of betterment and security." This kind of prosperity is unfortuanely hard to imagine in the foreseeable future in this part of the golbe, North Africa.

In his book, "Dreaming of Damascus: Arab Voices from a Region in Turmoil", published in 2003, Stephen Glain wrote: "One of the most potent threats to Middle East stability (...) is chronic illiquidilty --the main source of rising unemployment and stagnent economies in the Arab world. The problem is not merely weak revenue, but a lack of modern banks and financial tools to lure cash out of burgeoning black markets and into the faltering daylight economy. From Syria to Morocco, Arab financial institutions are too primitive and regimes too inept to meet their economies' basic need for capital". That may be true for other Arab countries, but not as much for Morocco. The Moroccan state itself has its own wholly or partly owned ultra modern banks which lend a lot of money.

But here's one of the real problems. Morocco is a Muslim state and Islam prohibits usury based banking dealings. In an article entiltled "Paying More for Money", George J. Church wrote in TIME Magazine (March 8, 1982): "In the past three years, interest rates have shot up higher than anyone could have imagined earlier, and they have suddenly become Topic A in the beleaguered American economy (...) Bankruptcies around the country are beginning to rival those of the Great Depression." Twenty years later, in October 2002, Fareed Zakaria of NEWSWEEK quoted Al Gore as saying in a speech to the Commonwealth Club: "(...) what worries me as much as the Middle East is the Middle West. The American economy is dead in the water (...) Every day we hear of a new round of lay-offs, a new bout of cost-cutting, a new set of economic numbers –alln worse than expected. Profits and business investment have fallen more sharply that at any point since the Great Depression. This year the average American household's net worth will decline for the third year running, which has not happened since World War II. The traditional optimism of Americans is being replaced by nervousness and gloom." Nine years later, in 2011, I heard Ralph Nader, who ran for President several times, say on Aljazeera English: "This country [the USA] is heading towards Third World status"! Then three European Union economies (Greece, Ireland and Portugal) were bailed out to save them from bankruptcy. What to say of my dear country's economy whose GDP is about 100 billion dollars US and whose job-seeking population is ever increasing?

And it's not only the State that has a debt problem. Many, many thousands, if not millions, of my fellow citizens bought houses on credit and are purchasing all kinds of consumer goods on credit. Many of these people are living on a tight budget. The question is, why do those people hurry to borrow from usury based banks? The answer is very simple and very clear. With their salaries, they believe, they can pay for just anything they want, even interest on loans. Samuel Smiles claimed in his book Self-help, published in 1859, that success was the product of four virtues --thrift, character, self-help and duty. I know of no one here, in my hometown of Mohammedia at least, who has ever heard of Samuel Smiles or his book. But when I speak to people, what I hear is paraphrasings of those four virtues. Very seldom do I hear someone quote the Koran.

When I go out for a walk --which I do very often-- I find beaches, sea shores, roadsides, woods---all littered with stoppers of bottles and cans of all kinds of wine and beer.
Pay is money received in exchange for work. Volunteers apart, every worker expects to be paid. Some even refuse to work unless they get holidays with pay, a right to sick leave and a pension. What more could a worker ask for?

Some workers do negotiate their pay with their employers. Highly skilled people with prestigious university degrees usually get the best salaries. Some job hop for better pay or more comfortable work conditions. Less qualified workers can join unions to ask for pay rise or other rights. But, still, is that all?
Interestingly, some people downshift for the sake of peace. They give up positions where they were rightly paid and take jobs meant for people with less qualifications. The reason, they say, is stress. They were willing to sacrifice some of their original income so as to save their nerves, they would tell you.

There is yet another category of workers. These are people who do not “work” and yet get their pay each month. They just go to their place of work, report for work and sit idly in chairs while others work long hours so as to get the same salary at the end of the month. Curiously, those who “work” are much happier than those who “do not work”. The last-mentioned are not happy at all because their “working” colleagues tease them always, saying something like, “You useless people, we work to feed you. You steal our money…”

Many of those who do work before getting paid are not happy, either. The reason(s) could be stress, harassment, bullying or any form of injustice. The employer could be just, but not thoughtful enough. He may not care if you have personal or family problems. Your problems are your own problem; they must not affect your work.

Other workers just take it easy and seldom, if ever, protest. Some work in dangerous mines or in steel industry, where fire is a daily sight. Others work in the fields in the blazing sun. Others work far away from home, leaving spouse, children and relatives behind. Some are emigrants, others are in the army or sailors on the high seas. They do all that as uncomplainingly as possible because they cannot be paid if they don’t.

Hard work is much better than unemployment. A worker can pay for things a jobless person cannot. It makes a big difference when you cannot borrow money to fill an urgent need because you cannot guarantee paying the money back, while a worker with a steady income can. Worse, it is absolutely painful when you see yourself unemployed at the age of forty or older, while younger friends and relatives are already well-off.

But once you get a job you become like other workers. You too start suffering from new/old problems. You start thinking of holidays, among other things.

Holidays are the opportunity for many to rest and have fun. In France, for example, as soon as people come back from the annual holiday, they start preparing for the next, which obviously won’t come before eleven long months. One reason might be the French like boasting about their holidays. Another reason might be they simply get fed up with work between four walls.
The British, too, take holidays. Some holidays are long, others short- fortunately. Many Brits get bored by the end of Christmas holiday. Some claim that January is the month when so many people in Britain consider divorce. It is perhaps a silly assumption that Brits are anywhere close to work-addiction. But one just cannot help asking why there is so much quarrelling in British homes over Christmas. Does that not have anything to do with work between four walls?

Some people do dream of holidays, but they just cannot afford it. The City Authorities in Paris, France, thought up a brilliant idea to solve this problem. They turned part of the Seine River banks into something like Moroccan beaches. So those who cannot come to the golden beaches of my town, Mohammédia, can enjoy themselves there, in Paris.

What has stricken me all the time as strange is that most of those who fill tour operator buses here are old folks. Far be it from me to suggest that senior citizens should stay at home and help their grandchildren with their homework. But this, however, sets me wondering whether a large number of people do not really look forward to old age and retirement. Couldn’t this be, for them, the time to make up for the “lost time” spent “between four walls”?

Now let me scream: why should one wait so long? After all, work is not a curse. Indeed, work is something wonderful. Yet the pay that an employer gives to an employee is but a nominal -say, moral- compensation for the effort made at work. This pay just cannot compensate for all the effort that a worker invests in his work. Every physical, mental or psychological effort you make to fulfil whatever task your employer expects you to will certainly have some (negative) bearing on your body or on your psyche at some point in later life. Whatever money or privileges you may get in exchange for your work will not replace any part of your body once damaged. Money cannot replace a lost nerve or a burn-out lung.

Smoking, obesity and high blood pressure are some work-related problems. If you add to this harassment or bullying, for example, what would your life be like? How would you behave towards your family? Would it be alright for you to shout at your loving spouse at home and smile at your bullying boss at work? How would you bear the stress of formality and etiquette if your child is suffering in hospital?

Things get worse when yours is not a steady job. As long as your work is precarious, anxiety will hardly let go of you. If you cannot provide for your pension in later life, what do you do?

Your children too will suffer if you lose your job. They will shun the company of their closest pals because they just cannot pay for the same little things, a sweet plus. What do you do then? Will you wait until the next elections to vote for the party promising more jobs?

Even if you do get a job after years of waiting, that will not “wipe out” the effects of your unemployment. The fear of losing your job will stay with you. That fear will affect your health at some point in later life.

Almost all workers lose something as they do their work. The peasant working in the fields in the blazing sun will have to deal with his aching head one day. The constant fear of bad crops will add to his problems. Idem for so many other workers.

One might imagine that some “workers” do not have anything to worry about. One would imagine that, say, an artist, for example, is someone who is free, who can work at his leisure and have a successful, enjoyable work life. But artists too do suffer. (As a novelist, I can tell you so.) An artist may have to weep days and nights, maybe years, before making you smile for a few seconds. An artist too does experience such things as stress and anxiety. An artist too needs money and stability. He too has his own social relationships. He too fears poverty, if he is not poor already.

Even those stars out there have their own “work problems”. It is not easy to become a star. The glamour of fame and opulence may not last a lifetime. And, for artists, this is painful. As soon as a star becomes a has-been, his problems will start piling up.

It’s not unusual to see a writer with a happy smile on his face after finishing a long novel. It’s not unusual to see a woman smile blissfully after delivering a baby. It’s not unusual to see a student on top of the world after obtaining a degree. But that novel has yet to be sold, and that baby has to be brought up, and that degree has to be accepted by an employer. Meanwhile, each of those may have to suffer.

Scientists say that if your head cools down after a heatstroke, that does not mean that you will escape the long-term effects of that heatstroke. The pain will go, but the effects of that and any subsequent heatstroke will pile up so that they may -God forbid- develop into something worse in the future. By analogy, all work-related problems will only accumulate over time.

Mohamed Ali LAGOUADER



Thursday, June 21, 2018

IN THE SHADE OF HISTORY V


Quand j'oeuvre pour le partage, je rejoins, en fait, l'ensemble de l'humanité dans son parcours en quête de la vérité. Chacun de nous a une fraction de cette vérité universelle. L'ensemble de ces fractions constitue le Savoir humain, nos expériences communes. Par exemple, le code de la route est le résultat de ce Savoir humain, lequel n'appartient ni aux occidentaux, ni aux orientaux. Il est pour le bien de toute l'Humanité. Comme le zéro, que les arabes ont appris des indiens pour le transmettre ensuite aux occidentaux. Beaucoup de gens ont trouvé une certaine quiétude en pratiquant le Yoga, par exemple. D'autres, en embrassant une religion. Dans tous ces cas, qu'est-ce qu'on cherche, en fait? Eh bien, on cherche son bien-être. Certains prient Buddha, d'autres prient Ram, d'autres prient Jesus ou Allah, pour obtenir d'eux ce à quoi on aspire tous: du travail, un(e) conjoint(e), une bonne santé, de bons enfants.... Pourquoi, dirait-on, endurer les peines de la patience et du sacrifice pour une chose dont on n'est pas vraiment sûr? Alors les gens se tournent vers ceux chez qui ils croient pouvoir trouver ce à quoi ils aspirent. D'où L'ETAT-PROVIDENCE. On n'avait pas ça dans nos cultures orientales avant les indépendances. Or on assiste à présent à des scènes de misères socioéconomiques dans des pays sensés être des havres de paix sociale, où les démunis et indigents n'auraient pas à s'inquiéter de leur avenir puisqu'il y a un Etat-Providente qui est là pour subvenir à leurs besoins et faire en sorte que tous soient égaux devant la loi. Les SDF de Grèce, 'Los Indignos' d'Espagne, les membres de Occupy Wall Str....les jeunes chômeurs qui cousent leurs bouches dans les rues de Tunis, etc, tout ça nous montre qu'il y a une certaine limite à ce que l'Homme peut faire pour l'Homme. Il y a donc un certain besoin d'une certaine force plus puissante que l'Homme: pourquoi pas Dieu? De plus en plus de gens cherchent "la vérité" de ce côté-là.

Un syndicaliste britannique du 19ème siècle (dont je ne me rappelle pas le nom) a dit: "Pour résoudre le problème du chômage de nos jeunes, nous n'avons qu'une solution: l'impérialisme." Cela était possible au 19ème siècle. Mais maintenant que des jeunes peuvent concocter des bombes à partir de site-webs, il est de plus en plus difficile d'envisager de telles solutions. Que faire alors? Les multinationales ont de plus en plus mal à affronter la concurrence mutuelle pendant que le pouvoir d'achat s'écroule un peu partout dans le monde. Les systèmes d'éducation font faillites même dans des pays développés. Le moral des ménages et des jeunes n'est pas du tout brillant. Bref, il y a problème. Les Etats qui peinent sous le poids de la dette et des déficits se révèlent impuissants. Les gens ne peuvent pas attendre toute une génération pour pouvoir voir une amélioration dans leur vie. Alors, dans ce contexte qui n'inspire pas confiance, il y a des gens qui voudraient essayer d'autre chose. A eux, il y a la Torah, la Bible, le Coran, le Bouddhisme....
Et il y a aussi ma poésie et mes romans!

Quand on aime un artiste, une équipe de foot, un genre d'art, on aimerait que tout le monde partage notre amour de ce que l'on aime.     Cependant, cet artiste, cette équipe de foot, ce genre d'art... pourrait ne pas être ce qui est de meilleur au monde. En ce qui me concerne, je ne peux qu'exprimer ce qui est dans mon coeur. Et au lecteur de juger.

Journalism students learn that "when a dog bites a man, that is not news" ; “Man bites dog" is news. A woman called a doctor live on a Moroccan radio program to ask why her three-year-old daughter still sucked at her baby's bottle (even if it were empty!). THAT IS NOT NEWS. Another listener later called to advise that woman to put something bitter in the feeding bottle or on its teat to make it disgusting to the child. He said that he had tried that out on his own daughter when she was three and it worked. THAT IS NOT NEWS, either. But then the man conceded that there arose a much bigger problem. "Now my daughter is 27 years old," he explained. "She is a university professor in a foreign country and yet she still sucks her thumb!" THAT IS NEWS, isn't it? But is it odd enough to provoke wonder in anyone?
So what provokes wonder in us? The Kenyan DAILY NATION excalimed : "It’s a mystery: Africans can’t shoot Olympic arrows!" For the author of this article "it is puzzling that Africa doesn’t dominate archery yet no other continent uses bows and arrows for primary purposes as much."
In The Unique Necklace, Ibn Abd Rabbih relates the story of a tabi'i (follower of the Prophet Muhammad's Companions) who was travelling with some of his students when they came across a drunken man singing a beautiful couplet in Arabic, something like: My heart has become sick with love, But there's no way to reach my love. The tabi'i then alighted from his horse and hastened to write down those lines. Amazed, his students asked, "You write down words said by a drunken man?" The tabi'i replied: "Haven't you heard the proverb that goes 'A pearl could very well be found in the garbage.' Well, this is a pearl in a garbage!"
Somebody was introduced to the Abbassid caliph Harun al-Rasheed as a man of genius who could insert a hundred needles into the eyes of each other in such a way that not a single needle would fall down. The caliph asked the man to show him how he could do that, and when the latter had done that in the most brilliant manner, the caliph turned to his men, and said: "Give this man one hundred dinars and one hundred lashes." Stunned and stupefied, the genius man asked: "Majesty, I can understand why you give me one hundred dinards, but not why you give me one hundred lashes!" The caliph replied: "I give you a hundred dinars for your genius, and a hundred lashes because you wasted your genius on trivialties."
We are all intelligent, aren't we, but do we always put our intelligence to good use?
As a twenty-year-old student, I was once standing alone, facing our classroom, when a classmate came up to me, and said, shaking with laughter: "On my way to the Faculty (College), a group of little children stopped me, and said, 'Tell us, if you know: does a hen urinate?' You know what, I had never thought about that before!" Now I ask you the same question: does a hen urinate?
We tend to take so many things for granted –small things, I mean. How many times have you stopped to think about the tick-tock of your watch, about that tiny insect that you sometimes find scurrying across the page when you are reading through a book, about the fallen leaves in your garden or in the woods, about the human mind that made all the inventions you're using every day? Like people in antiquity, who wondered at the Seven Wonders and forgot about the million small wonders around them, we still marvel at such big things as the Pyramids and forget to give a thought to small things in ourselves and in our environment.
People marveled at the Montgolfier Balloon, at the first solo nonstop transatlantic Flight in history, at the Airbus A380. They still marvel at the Great Wall of China, at the Guizeh Pyramids, at the Eiffel Tower and Lady Liberty. We still marvel at the breathtaking performances of circus animals and clowns, at the stunning achievements of record-breaking athletes, at the extraordinary talents of our artists (that we sometimes take for gods!). Almost every week, there's a new entry into the famous Guinness World Records. There you can learn about the longest moustache, the thinnest waistline, the tallest woman, the shortest man, the largest cake –all mad records. All that man has been able "to achieve".
When people think of something, they often forget something else--something more important. When we look at ourselves in the mirror, do we think of the mirror itself? When we think of our computer, do we think of the one who invented it in the first place? When we wonder at our (human) power of imagination, do we think of where the human mind came from in the first place? How many of us wonder at the fact that although we have the same father and the same mother, we still are not identical. Even so-called "identical twins" are differentiated by their fingerprints and irises.
Sometimes you suddenly find yourself in a situation where you feel like a fool, when the most obvious things become hard to understand, when your life suddenly becomes a burden, void of any meaning. That's perhaps because you are not used to meditating.
Just as exercise rids your body of its "poisons", so does meditation to the "poisons" of your soul.

Meditation about small things –those things that most people don't think about– may give you a light that most people don't have.
Once, an American man went missing in Australia. After three months or so, he emerged from the other end of the Australian desert, wearing an ordinary shirt and a pair of trousers, with leather sandals on, and a big bottle of water in his hand. Asked why he had braved such a frightening desert alone and with so little equipment, the man said: "I just wanted to discover God." Personally, I couldn't believe my eyes and ears as I saw those TV pictures, having read about the times when Afghan camel leaders took European settlers through the uncharted deserts of the Australian continent.

Just go to the woods or open countryside around your town. Go there alone, with no cam, no walkman, no cigarettes. Just go in your jellaba, or jeans, or shorts, or pajamas. Go and sit bang on the ground, and stop TIME for a while. Open your eyes wide, and your ears, and your heart, and you'll see how small you are and how great you are! Small, because you belong to a planet that is just a drop in the ocean compared to the Universe and you are but a drop in the ocean compared to the billions of creatures that live on this planet. Great, because you belong to a species that has turned this once deserted planet into prosperous cities, ever-growing towns, beautiful villages, nice farms and fields, with lots of good people in them –despite all the evil, all the horrors this same species has caused over time.
Look up at the sun: isn't it the same sun everyone sees everywhere? It's the same moon all people all around the world know –there's no other moon in our minds when we hear someone from another country or continent speak of the moon. It's the same sky, the same stars, the same earth, the same water, the same air, the same human body, the same human soul. So couldn't it be the same God Who made all these things for us all? Shouldn't we marvel at the fact that people share the same things and yet worship different gods?
These are old stats, but they can give you an idea. In 2008 there were in the Arab region around 600 satellite TV channels, and more than 70% of Arab people would sit up to four hours daily in front of their TV screens. Some statistics show that in 2007 these TV channels swamped their televiewers with nearly 630 billion images." What about America and Europe? How could one "think" with so many images falling like an avalanche over one's mind?

So how long will it be before you go to the woods (with no cam, no walkman, no cigarettes), with just a mind and a heart, and two feet willing to go from place to place, and eyes willing to look at beautiful flowers –small flowers– hiding behind small rocks that few people care to glance at? In the woods look at the fallen leaves, and touch them, scrutinize them; look at the insects, look for migrant birds, listen to their twitter, and think about your whole life.

The blame game is part of human nature. We all blame others for our misfortunes. When there’s nobody specific to blame, we blame bad luck. But let’s be objective for a moment! The best intentioned, most competent government can’t guarantee jobs for all. The most compassionate, most patriotic business establishment in the world can’t guarantee lasting economic growth. There will always be a minority of “unlucky” people. Even highly educated people (doctors, engineers…) may be surprised not to find suitable jobs. (See my article Salam Layla 5.) Even governments of developed countries plead with other governments of developed countries to do better for their national economy. The French want Germans to do more for German economic growth. The Germans want the French to do more to reduce their budget deficit. The U.S. appeals to Europe to do more to get out of recession.
People don’t go to the weekly market because they love the marketplace. They go there to sell things. They sell their goods to get money. They want the money to buy other things: food, clothes, etc. There’s always some ‘end’ (purpose) at the end. Well, the hierarchy which is painful to many of us is, if we think about it objectively, vital. Hierarchy in any economic, political, social, administrative or familial structure is absolutely vital for the normal order of things; otherwise, if everyone started obstructing, to please his own ‘ego’, what other than havoc, chaos and anarchy shall we have? If everybody were rich, who would work in the fields or in mines or in factories? For things to be easier for US, for you and me, there should normally be a rich man who has a factory or a farm or a mine, then other people to work in the factory, farm, mine, etc., people with different ranks, one higher than another in rank, so that everybody will 'accept' to do his 'small' job. Also, some people are better at some things than others. Can any French native speaker be a good teacher of French Grammar ? Can any good football commentator be a good football coach ? Can any professor of Management make a good company manager? Our salaries are not mirrors of our 'merits', they don’t necessarily reflect what we really are worth. They are the means, not the end.
Now, where does our arrogance come from? It comes from our desire to show off. We want to show people around us that we are self-independent, we are the best. We want the world to know that we got our job because, as they say, "one Scotsman's worth 3 Englishmen". Idem for one's spouse. Idem for one's children. Idem for one's fortune. It's all the fruit of our ambition. It's all a matter of merit.
Scientists can invent techniques. They can develop technologies. They can make our lives easier. But they can’t explain our problems. They can’t explain to a highly educated person why he should be jobless –although he tried out all logical, practical, pragmatic means to get a job. They can’t explain to an ambitious start-upper  why he should fail again and again and again –although he tried out all logical, practical, pragmatic means to set up a successful business. Scientists can’t explain why a married couple should fail to have a child, despite all imaginable and unimaginable efforts. But scientists can explain the physical thing that prevented the couple from begetting a child. Scientists don’t have problems with the physical world. That’s why they have been so kind as to make our physical world so easy: they developed for us wonderful transportation means, fairy-tale telecommunication means, unhoped-for medical services. Our kitchens, our living-rooms, our offices, our bags are full of technological gadgets that we owe to our venerable scientists. But scientists are like us, like you and me. They too have feelings. What can science do about feelings? In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks thousands of people in France rushed to libraries to purchase …not books of science and technology, but copies of the Koran. How can a scientist explain this? Even non-scientific people need explanations.

A non-Muslim visitor to many of our Arab cities won’t get the impression that he sees something different from what he left at home. The same towers, same boutiques, same beaches.

Now, why should the rest of the world care about our religion in the first place? How much relevant would Islam be  to a non-Muslim? 

The world is all about beauty and greatness. Man aspires to beauty and greatness. When we are not beautiful ourselves, we strive to get somebody or something beautiful. When we can't be great, we identify to somebody or something great.

When Islam reached the lands beyond the Arabean peninsula, non-Arab Muslims (who learned Arabic for social, political, professional and scientific reasons) shared the Arabs' astonishment at the wonderful language of the Koran. If Romans and Persians had hitherto expressed their aesthetic tastes and know-how through the way they adorned their palaces, churches and temples, the Arabs had expressed beauty through poetic descriptions of every beautiful thing they could find or see around them: horses, camels, gazelles, human bodies and faces, landscape... Putting the same Arabic letters together, the Koran did unimaginably better than any Arab or non-Arab poet. The Koran came with something simple and sophisticated at the same time for both Arabs and non-Arabs. Those non-Arabs used tiny pieces of wood, glass, stone, etc, that they put together in basic geometric forms (in imitation of flowers, stars...) to adorn gates, domes, walls, floors, thrones, etc, in the best beautiful way possible.

Islam was a victim of its own success. Islam appeared in Mecca, then moved to Medina, then spread in a matter of years to virtually the whole of the Arabian peninsula. Medina became the Capital. There was so much money coming in, an ever-expanding territory, plentiful opportunities for ambitious people. This could only lead to rivalries even amongst Arab Muslims. This is human. This has happened in all nations throughout History. In all nations kings killed sons and brothers and princes killed their fathers and uncles –for the sake of power. The Prophet Muhammad’s grand-sons were both killed for political reasons: Hussein was beheaded and Hassan was poisoned. That happened under the Umayyad dynasty, the same dynasty that built the beautiful Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and brought Islam into Spain. The last Caliph of the Abbasid dynasty was, according to some historians, “rolled in a carpet and trampled to death” by the Mongols, the same Mongols who later built the beautiful Taj Mahal in India. The Mongols not only massacred countless people during their conquest of Iraq, they also destroyed the libraries of Baghdad, which contained books of Greek philosophy and sciences, books of Indian and Persian wisdom and arts, books of the Islamic theology: all was thrown into the Tigris River. But those ‘barbarian’ Mongols gave birth to greatly civilized Mongol rulers who brought Islam to lands stretching from India to China to Russia… Most of the old mosques in those places were built by Mongols –the same Mongols who committed atrocities against not only Arabs, but many other nations as well. It’s them who sold into slavery free men from Central Asia, men such as Baibars, who became one of the greatest rulers in Egyptian and Syrian history! The Mamluks, Baibars’ dynasty, had their part of ‘barbarism’. They too committed atrocities, but people remember them more for their beautiful legacy than for their ‘barbarian’ side. Cairo, Jerusalem and Damascus are full of beautiful Mamluk monuments. The Mamluks were succeeded by the Ottomans, who brought Islam deep into Europe and built a great empire including most of the Arab world.

 In my Baccalaureate year, I was assigned to give a lecture in Arabic on Mahmoud Sami al-Baroudi, an Egyptian poet of Turkish origin. Some classmates were avid readers and they read almost everything, especially philosophy and literature. I knew I would have hard time once they began asking me questions, however my lecture might be. Their questions were very hard indeed and I was embarrassed, but I had a trick up my sleeve. When I felt defeated, I offered to read excerpts of al-Baroudi's poetry. I read out one of his love poems and there was loud applause in the classroom! Even those hardtalkers, who had never been convinced by anybody's answers, were bewitched by the beauty of al-Baroudi's poem. Al-Baroudi was a soldier who loved the Arabic language. He gave it his heart and it gave him fame and glory. His time marked the beginning of the so-called Arab Renaissance. This Arab renaissance began with Arabic poetry. Ahmad Shawqi, who was nicknamed "Prince of Poets", was of Turkish origin, too. His poems sung by Umm Kaltoum 'united' the souls of so many Arabs and Muslims around the world. Those "new Arabs" realized how much important Classical Arabic was even in their time. Cairo, Beirut and Baghdad revived that beautiful Arabic language. As a student, I used to hear the saying: "Cairo writes, Beirut prints and Baghdad reads"! But there were Arabic readers and writers even in the Americas! In fact, non-Muslim Arab writers, such as Christian Jubran Khalil Jubran, Elia Abu Madi and Mikha'il Na'ima, who lived in the U.S.A., further enriched the Arabic literature with their poetry and prose in Arabic. So many old Arab and Islamic books were snatched from oblivion (by Arabs and Orientalists) and broke into print, for the first time. Cairo became the Mecca of Arabic-language writers and translators. The number of Arab schools and Arab literate people started growing by the day. But not all Arabs were proud of their history, of their language, of their religion, of their civilization. Many Arabs were impressed by the colonizers. Ibn Khaldoun, the famous Arab sociologist, had pointed out in his Muqaddima that the vanquished peoples tended to ape the victors.

The so-called Arab Revoltution revealed the various trends in the Arab society of today. Some said they clearly wanted a ‘modern, civil and democratic State’ à l’occidentale. Others said they wanted «more religion» whatever the State was called. This quickly developed into bloody wars that proved to everybody that it wasall about politics. These catastrphes, brought about by our insane armed conflicts, will paradoxically make us, sooner or later, more prone to peace and peaceful sollutions, more sensible guys. It will appear to appear to everybody that the economy is more important than any form of State, that a few billions of dollars can buy a lot of weapons, but is not enough to finance education and healthcare for millions of people who only want the life of the world and who can put in jeopardy any kind of State. Economic factors will bring us –Arabs– back to reason and we will realize that scientific and technological development has its side-effects, the least of which Paris- and Beijing-like pollution. Time will show us that petrol and gas are not enough. The economy will change a lot in us all, Arabs and non Arabs, Muslims and non-Muslims, for better or for worse.

A century ago, most Arabs lived in the countryside, most were illiterate, most lived on agriculture and grazing. Under colonial rule, many Arabs drifted to towns, many gave up agriculture and grazing to work as blue-collars in factories or as artisans in small shops. Their children went to school and, when the colonizers went away, became white-collars in franchises. Some became State-employees in the new Adminstration. More and more people tasted the pleasures of lifelong jobs; youths became financially independent, then socially independent. Anybody could lead the life he/she wanted in his/her new home. Within a few decades, villages became towns and towns became cities. A lot of jobs with the State, a lot of factories (mostly franchises), a lot of workshops, a lot of shops of all kinds and sizes. Prosperity was within reach for so many people, literate and illiterate. It was easy for many people to build a home, to send children to school, to set up buisnesses, to live in the city. Those who went abroad, mostly as blue-collars, sent money back home, then built their own homes, set up their own buisnesses. Their children became very successful. In newly independent oil-rich Arab States opportunities were much, much more important.

Then, the first economic crisis (in the 1980’s). Then, the ever-worsening problem of unemployment. Then, the ever-growing crisis of housing. Then, all sorts of problems. Life is no longer asrosy as it was. People are now worried about their retirement pensions, about the future of their children, about the consequences of pollution… People have less and less faith in the State. Fewer and fewer people dream of lifelong jobs and comfortable retirement. And in the midst of all this, in the midst of the so many newly constructed neighbourhoods, apartments upon apartments upon apartments, you see a new mosque every year or so. Why ?

When, in 1995, the Qataries launched Aljazeera, many Arab regimes were afraid for their local audiences, afraid that these audiences might snub their propaganda-based radio and TV stations. Aljazeera was followed by a myriad other Arabic-language sattelite TV stations, mostly financed by TV ads. This inspired people in many Arab States to launch, if not 'free, independent' TV stations, at least radio stations. In Morocco, for example, we have no less than nine independent radio stations, all financed by ads. At least half of these radio stations have religious-related shows. Some of these shows turned out to be so popular, so successful, that some of the best known preachers and religious scholars in the country were hired to boost the audience, to bring in more cash to the radios. Similarly, other people became increasingly convinced that Islamic banks (also called participative banks) would have a huge success. Result: we are likely to have these banks in the next couple of years. See how the economy can change a lot of things in us? A radio listener will listen to his favourite sports or variety show for weeks or months, all day long, and may find himself one day listening to a skilful preacher! Many of those who listen to religious-related shows may also listen to other shows that have nothing to do with religion. This is freedom of choice. On some such radio shows you would hear an Islamist university professor discuss peacefully with a communist activist; you would hear people talk of their problems, of their sufferings, of their criticisms of the government without being persecuted. Is this a first step towards a better society?

Some people can’t accept the idea of being dependent of or obedient to anybody, to any deity. They see themselves as self-made, self-dependent, self-sufficing, and that they don’t owe anything to anybody, to any deity. They have nothing to thank God for: because if they accept the idea of being obliged to a deity, they fear they might be asked to behave according to that deity’s wishes, not as they see fit.

Now, what does Man want ?   In other words, Man wants beauty and greatness. Men want beautiful women and women want handsome men. Both want beautiful children, a lot of money for housing, for education, for food and leisure. They want big cars, and property in the countryside...to impress friend and foe. They want the comfort of the life of the world as a sign of success, of greatness. Is there anything wrong with that ?  Our knowledge of the world is supposed to help us discern between good and bad and forcus on what is lasting rather than what is transient. 

Scientists can develop techniques and treat human bodies and improve agriculture, etc, but could not prevent death, drought, floods, hurricanes or earthquakes. Coercion can only bring about hypocrisy and underground violence. People are best when they think freely, when they know about the world and when they know why something is good for them.
Some Muslim people want to change the Koran, others want to change the Constitution., others want to change social and cultural practices. No matter: change does not occur overnight. It’s a long process. Our elites, within and without our Arab States, will themselves undergo a lot of change, because of the economic factors. We only need to read our History. Islam was introduced into Morocco by the Arabs. But three of the first four dynasties who ruled Morocco were Berber. The rulers were Berber and most of the scholars, architects, engineers and artisans were Arab. There was an apparent win-win outcome for everybody. What we need most in our difficult times is more solidarity towards one another.

Many people who revert to Islam get shocked when they visit Islamic countries for the first time. They don’t see the beauty and greatness of Islam translated into real Muslims’ acts of everyday. They see prostitution (as elsewhere), drugs (as elsewhere), gangsters (as elsewhere), and all kinds of illnness. These visitors cannot have the time and motivation to look more closely at many aspects of our life, for there are still a lot of good things in us. When the economy changes us a little more, for better, those good things in us will help others overlook our mistakes.


Mohamed Ali Lagouader