Friday, October 12, 2018

Heart Flowers : Chapter One

I am not a great reader myself. But I have read History books, among other things. History teaches us that life is so beautiful for those who understand it. It teaches us that, in normal circumstances (i.e. no war, no natural disasters…), one can live happily with the bare minimum if one can define one’s essential needs from the needs imposed by society.

By taking a philosophical look at life from a historical point of view we can overcome many difficulties of psychic nature. Today we see the glamour of others, we see how “lucky” people live, we see the growing gap between the poor and the rich ... and we just cannot understand all that. And what do we see when we take a close look at History? Well, roughly speaking, we see that there were before us, in those ancient times, as well as in more recent times, people who enjoyed some glamour, too; there were handsome men and beautiful women who loved each other, who had children, who lived in beautiful mansions, who worked (for some), who listened to music, who walked in beautiful gardens, who said sweet things to each other, who made love, who dreamed of better days, who fell ill, who divorced, who waged war, who killed each other, who got injured, and who died. People just like us. Are we therefore simply a continuation of the human species? Where are we heading? Will we always have the same so-called pleasures, the same frustrations? Why are we here on this earth? Will there not be a day when misfortune disappears for ever? What’s life worth if one does not live it fully, in joy and quietude? What’s the use of History, what’s the use of philosophy, what’s the use of literature... if historians themselves, if philosophers, if male and female writers take their own lives sometimes to escape their terrible realities? I do not have answers to that. However, I just notice that there are many people who do not commit suicide. They confront life with the few means they have. That means that, at least for these people, life is worth living. Now, is life really worth living – whatever our sorrows? To try to answer this question, it is necessary, I think, to see how people in all corners of the planet are leading their lives.

We have been led to believe that man has gone through several stages. We were told about pre-history, where man was rather wild, and about the Bronze Age, and so on. But in some parts of the earth there are still humans that could be called 'savages', according to historical terminology. There are people who could be said to be still in the 'Bronze Age'. Why aren’t these people 'like' us? But who has the right to say that these people are not like us? At least they have eyes, mouths, ears, feet, sexes like us. At least they get hungry like us. At least they marry, laugh, dream... like us. Are we therefore like animals? What about animals? They too have eyes, ears, feet, genitals... They too make love and give birth to little ones... They too eat and die as we do. What about plants? They too live and die like us. They cannot live without water, just like us, and like animals. They too are of different colours, different shapes, different degrees of beauty... They grow everywhere. Where there are men there are plants and animals. We all need water and oxygen. The same water from the Seine (River), or the Nile, is drunk by plants, animals, whites, blacks, Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists ... This water does not stop at the borders. It has no nationality. Provided there is water for all! Sometimes there is none, or not enough. People are dying of hunger or thirst. Others migrate to flee famine. They go to countries where there are humans like them. Some of these migrants are beautiful, for beauty, like ugliness, is everywhere. Some of these migrants settle where they arrived. They marry people from the host country. There will follow mixed children. Mixed but not so different, because all remain human after all. All eat vegetables and fruit, bread and cheese. All want to grow up, work, get married. All will have the same problems and the same pleasures. A mere continuation of the human species? Americans of Irish descent may not be exactly like their ancestors who had to leave Ireland after years of scarcity. There is some progress, nonetheless. Both at the material and intellectual level. These brave Irish children have contributed to the emergence of one of the greatest civilizations in the world. Some of their American brothers had to flee persecution in Europe. Together, the Americans built a fabulous federal state governed by strong democratic institutions. However, evil is still not eradicated from this country, nor from any other country in the world, for that matter. Is that a frustration? Should we, even if we could, completely eradicate evil? Is it possible, for example, to dispense with military means for national defense, since it only serves war, and war is evil? Yes, it may be necessary to go through this to be able to answer strictly personal questions.

Now, let’s have a quick survey of History. Whether we read History books or ancient tales or poems we can easily notice that people have always been more important than their dwellings, mounts, money or anything else they might possess. Man has always been afraid of sickness, death, poverty, among other things. Man has always needed to feel reassured, protected, safe. Man has always made peace after the war; he has always created courts to do justice; he has always built schools to educate future generations; he has always built cities and villages to enable men to feel close to each other, to create all kinds of healthy relationships, to join hands, to exchange services, even when personal relations or between immediate neighbours or clans are not perfect. At times man may suffer from the cold, heat, hunger, thirst, fatigue, fear, loss of loves ones ... But then he would enjoy the pleasure of eating after hunger, the pleasure of drinking after thirst, the pleasure of rest after getting tired, sexual pleasure, etc.

In the past people brought knowledge – in their heads – from their old people, and then they passed it on to the next generations. Each time new palaces, schools, roads, gardens, factories, etc, were built. Man’s knowledge of the world expanded. And each time there was a new kingdom, good or bad. The question is, why didn’t those "good" kingdoms last for ever ? Why were there "bad" kingdoms as well ? That’s a hard one to answer. But, interestingly, History gives us some clues.

Many of the things we use today were invented by different peoples in different places at different times. Bronze, for example, was invented by the Chinese, glass by people in Mesopotamia, paper by the Egyptians, alphabet by Phoenicians, and so on. Each people learned from the other peoples and made their own inventions, thus expanding man’s knowledge of the world. This knowledge spread through trade and conquest. The conquerors inherited the knowledge of the vanquished people and took it home or spread it to other places. At the same time, the conquerors brought in their own way of life, their thoughts, their arts and their religion.

The interaction between so many powers, so many civilizations and so many ways of life made it necessary for each people to defend their own existence. Each people had to defend everything that was at stake for them. That included their culture. So those who happened to believe in a deity, any deity, had to defend their own faith by using all the tools available, including those that had been invented or developed by nations who did not share their faith. Such tools may have included Phoenicians’ alphabet and Greeks’ logic. Thus all nations were anything but "redundant". They were just as useful to one another.

It is also interesting to notice that most of those early interactions between various contending nations took place just in or around Palestine. The Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Hittites, the Greeks, the Romans, and many more in between – all had a foothold there at some point in history. And then came the Arabs, from Makkah. Those Arabs found themselves thrusting in every direction, going towards nations who had known impressive empires, and ended up building their own empire stretching across most of the then known world.

There followed a magnificent world interaction. The Arabs borrowed old, dormant knowledge from the Greeks, the Persians and other nations, and updated and enriched it, and then spread it in every direction. Baghdad emerged as the world capital of science. And in the West there was Cordoba, where Arab science was passed on to Europe through translation. Averroes spoke to Muslims and non-Muslim Europeans of God using Aristotle’s logic.

Baghdad was destroyed, but Islamic knowledge survived. It survived because it was not only in the books that the Mongols threw into the Tigris River, but also in people’s hearts and minds. Like the destruction of the Alexandria Library in antiquity, the loss of Baghdad libraries could have been a much more awful tragedy had there not been what I called interactions. Marrakesh, which was built and made their capital by Morocco’s Almoravid dynasty, was deliberately and completely destroyed by their Almohad successors. These rebuilt the whole city in the most beautiful way possible, because they had already "received" the necessary knowledge from their predecessors. As long as knowledge is intact, it does not matter how beautiful or big a destroyed place was. It can be rebuilt.

Even the rebuilding of a whole nation is possible if there is the necessary knowledge and will. Europe milked the Arabs of their knowledge and rebuilt itself in a matter of generations because its own people had the will to do so.

But the Arabs’ knowledge was "poisonous" somehow. Averroes’ lectures taught Europeans how to look at religion differently. This led to voices rising against the way the Church taught religion. The Church defended itself by persecuting people of knowledge such as Galileo.

The conflict between the Church and new scientists resulted in new thinking. Some clung to their religious beliefs, defending themselves by use of logic and philosophy. Others broke with the Church altogether and called their way "Secularism". They defended themselves by experimenting with their knowledge of the world, excluding any reference to the Invisible.

The new knowledge of the world, based on experimentation, led to the Industrial Revolution. The boom in industry led to the spread of knowledge on a phenomenal scale. But this knowledge remained confined to where industry was thriving.

The Church made good use of that thriving industry. Wherever there was a new industrial site there was a large church. Moreover, church men paved the way for their respective industrial states to seize new lands on other continents. Both church men and those who were only interested in wealth agreed on a magic word: civilization. That civilization had to be spread through colonization.

Colonization made it possible for more people to go to more places. Africans "went" to America, taking with them their religions, including Islam. Other Muslims were taken into Europe, where they continued to practise their faith, at a time when large numbers of Christians ceased to go to Church. Orientalists (from Europe) went to the Arab and Islamic world to "return" part of the Arabic and Islamic heritage to the newly awakening Arabs and Muslims.

Now that imported material is being re-exported with a value added. It is done through the Internet and satellite TV stations.

Islam has become the fastest growing religion in America, which invented the Internet and satellite TV. There are now American-born imams who know the Koran and the Haddith by heart and are authorized to issue fatwas. All the Islamic literature is now everywhere, thanks to the Internet. This was made possible by American technology and Arab oil money.

Arab oil money has contributed to the building of large mosques, big Islamic institutes and libraries, and to the printing of the Koran and other religious books in large quantities in many languages in many parts of the world.

Even within the poorest Islamic states Islam is growing as fast as demography. Wherever you go, there is a new mosque and a new school because there is a new village, town or suburb. Small towns are swelling into big cities, and so small mosques and schools are becoming bigger and bigger.

Modern means of communication and transportation together with modern educational systems have made world interaction incredibly easier every day. More and more people are coming out of illiteracy. More and more people are learning more and more about each other. More and more people are coming towards each other. Migration, tourism and business travel are playing a great role in the ever-increasing exchange of human experience. Globalization has pushed this exchange even further.

It is again interesting to remember that Islam entered many parts of the world without having to draw the sword for it. Indonesia and parts of sub-Saharan Africa are such places where Islam was introduced through trade rather than war. Similarly, lots of Western things (the ways of dressing, eating, learning…) have been introduced to the Arab-Muslim world through trade rather than war.

When, in the 7th century AD, Islam reached the lands beyond the Arabian 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.

In a way the history of Islam cannot be different from the history of ancient Egypt or Greece or any other civilization or empire. They all reflect human nature one way or another. Islam was a victim of its own success. Islam appeared in Makka, then moved to Madinah, then spread in a matter of years to virtually the whole of the Arabian Peninsula. Madinah became the Capital. There was so much money coming in, an ever-expanding territory, and 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 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, no matter what  my lecture might be like. 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 hard-talkers, 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 Kulthum '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, Christian Arab writers, such as 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 Makkah of Arabic-language writers and translators. The number of Arab schools and Arab literate people started to  grow 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 Khaldun, the famous Arab sociologist, had pointed out in his Muqaddima that the vanquished peoples tended to ape the victors.

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 Administration. 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 businesses, 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 businesses. 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 as rosy 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.

What happened in the Arab world also happened in other parts of the world. The Welfare State was created to give people a certain sense of security. Some are still nostalgic for the communist era when they could, at least, find with the state a safe haven: housing facilities, schooling for children, free medical care, etc. Neither the welfare state nor the communist state nor the best democratic state in the world can now reassure anybody any more. Globalization has surpassed everyone. Nobody knows anymore what the future will be like. Hence the fear of the unknown. This fear could translate into chaos, as we’ve seen in some Arab countries in this decade.

Heart Flowers : Chapter Two

A British trade unionist of the 19th century (whose name I do not remember) said: "To solve the problem of unemployment of our young people, we have only one solution: imperialism." This was possible in the 19th century. But now that young people can make bombs with the help of free web-sites, it's increasingly difficult to think of such solutions. What to do, then? Multinationals are finding it increasingly difficult to compete with each other as purchasing power crumbles around the world. Education systems go bankrupt even in many developed countries. The morale of households and young people is not at all brilliant. Young people went bankrupt even before they started working because they were too indebted for their higher education. Others turn to prostitution to fund  their studies. In short, there is a problem.

An Arab Revolution broke out in Tunisia in 2010, then in Egypt, then reached my country, Morocco, on February 20, 2011. The February 20 Movement called for a new constitution. The King promptly ordred one. The new constitution was 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, published in 1981, John Randle 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 – all worse than expected. Profits and business investment have fallen more sharply than 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.

Now, what about those who don’t have money to spend? In my country, we often hear business people, economic analysts, and even government officials, say that if tens of thousands of our youth can’t find work it’s because their training is inadequate for business. People with degrees in Islamic Studies, History and Geography, Arabic language, Philosophy, etc., have nothing to do in the business world. They only wasted their time at Faculty. Business wants competent people. It wants engineers, managers, specialized technicians, etc. If you have a degree in the Arabic language, why don’t you be a poet? You’d do well to sell potato chips to kids in front of schools by day and write poetry and love stories at night.

So what to do? Will you study what business wants so that business will be pleased with you? Will you sell chips by day and write poetry at night? Will you join sit-ins in front of Government buildings to pressure the Government to find you a job? Will you wait for economic recovery or better economic growth? Will you use heroin or cocaine to forget all about these problems? Will you turn to religion? Can you wait more and be patient when religion asks you to do so? Can you decide for yourself? Can you defy all people around you? Can you trust yourself? Do you trust yourself in the first place?

One source of our unhappiness is our anxiety about the future. How long will I keep my job in this time of crisis? What about my children? How will I be able to give them the appropriate education if I lose my job? Horrible nightmares. Childless people are anxious, too. Who will look after me when I grow old? I don’t have any social security, will I have anybody to feed me when I grow too old to work?

We live in a world where precariousness and vulnerability no longer really surprise anyone, with young people not knowing what to study, for how long, for what business opportunity; parents do not know what to make of their meager income, if they still have some. Chronic unemployment, divorce, children born out of wedlock, abandoned children, single mothers, homeless people, drugs, prostitution, pollution, fierce competition in all areas, excessive individualism, fear of the unknown ... We are reduced to dreaming of what we are not or what we can not be. But at the same time we do not want to resign ourselves to witnessing our helplessness, however helpless we are, however crushed, devoid of any tools of change. Even our cherished democracy guarantees us nothing more than what we can and should receive from our happy elect. Nothing can be done. The system is stronger than us. We only have to manage our anger, our weakness, our fear. And if only we could understand what is happening around us! But how can we understand a world full of wealth, full of castles and Limousines and where we are told that's it, it's the end of work. Your jobs today will be worth nothing soon.  You're on your own from now on…! We are constantly being told about restructuring plans, job protection plans, unavoidable relocation to save national companies and jobs; we are being lectured on public deficit, public debt, global crisis... We are bombarded morning and evening with alarming statistics. Come on, you're on your own! Needless to mention war and terrorism. Needless to mention consumerism and loneliness. How to get out of this?

Well, anger and indignation do not seem to make any more sense. Even strikes and protests do not seem to be able to bring forth any good fruit in recent times. We have seen what revolutions have brought about all around us. What to do, then? To endure one’s distress and depression without acting? To continue to suffer in silence? If STATES no longer have answers, what could a mere dreamer like me suggest as a solution?

But what are we looking for, in reality? Well, we are looking for our well-being. Some pray Buddha, others pray to Ram, others pray to Jesus or Allah, to get from them what we all aspire to: work, a spouse, good health, good children... But wait a minute! Why, one would say, endure the pain of patience and sacrifice for something of which one is not really sure? So people turn to those who they believe can provide them with what they want. Hence the WELFARE STATE. We did not have this in our Oriental cultures before independence. Now, we are witnessing scenes of socio-economic miseries in countries that are supposed to be havens of social peace, where the destitute and the needy should not normally have to worry about their future, since there is a Welfare State that is out there. to provide for their needs and to ensure that everyone is equal before the law. Before now it was Greece, today it is Venezuela, tomorrow it will be another country.... And these young unemployed who sew their mouths in the streets of Tunis, etc, all this shows us that there has a certain limit to what man can do for man. There may be some need for a stronger force than Man: why not God? More and more people are looking for “the truth”, for a solution,  on that side. States struggling with the burden of debt and deficits are powerless. People cannot wait a generation to see an improvement in their lives. So in this context that does not inspire confidence, there are people who are ready to try out something else. But what?

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. 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.

Now, suppose we have work, we have a salary. We can buy what we need. We can purchase what we want. Is that the end of our problem? Well, 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 migrants, 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, many years ago. 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.

So what to do ? Well, apart from being kind of an informal philosopher, like myself, I don’t see any other solution. At least do understand life and the world around you.

Heart Flowers : Chapter Three

Now, what does Man want ? 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 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 ? Well, our knowledge of the world is supposed to help us discern between good and bad and focus on what is lasting rather than what is transient.

Let’s consider this allegory. It’s Saturday afternoon. Jilali, a construction worker, gets his weekly pay (800 dhs), thanks his boss and mounts his old motorbike. On his way home, he stops at the hairdresser’s. While waiting for his turn, he calls his wife, from his old smartphone, telling her to prepare hot water for his ‘shower’. After getting a nice hair cut, Jilali moves on to the grocer’s in his neighbourhood. He pays his week’s debts and orders new stuff to please his wife. Hearing the familiar sound of his motorbike’s engine, his children rush to open the door. The children and the wife are all smiles. Jilali is happy too. The children are jubilating : Father bought us biscuits and yogurt ! The wife takes the bag, with all the stuff in it, into the kitchen.

Minutes later, Jilali is having a ‘shower’. He takes water from a bucket and pours it on himself. This is a shantytown, and there are no showers in shantytowns. But Jilali is happy.
After the shower, Jilali is sitting in the mrah, kind of living-room but also dining-room and everything. The television is there. In front of him is a tea-tray with a hot teapot and bread. Jilali is delighted. He is waiting for the night to fall, and for the children to go to sleep, so that he too can go to sleep with his wife, so that his enjoyment can be complete.

Enjoyment is English for Arabic (almut’atu المُتْعَةُ ).

Now count with me how many things Jilali enjoys. (1) Jilali has work, he enjoys that. (Not everybody has got work. Jobless people can’t really enjoy themselves, can they ?) (2) Jilali gets his pay every Saturday afternoon. (3) Jilali has a motorbike. (Some of his comrades come to work on foot.) (4) Jilali can afford a nice hair cut. (5) Jilali has got a smartphone. (6) Jilali has a wife. (7) Jilali has children too. (8) Jilali’s wife and children receive him with smiles. (9) Jilali has got a place to wash himself in his small abode. (Compare with homeless people.) (10) Jilali has got a television. (11) Jilali has got someone to make him tea on his return from work. HOW CAN’T JILALI BE HAPPY ?

Who could say bad things on Jilali ? The grocer has never complained about him. Nobody has ever seen or heard him beg anybody anywhere. He is a MAN, a capable MAN. He can support his family without anybody’s help. He does not need anybody’s advice or preaching. His wife and children are always as nicely dressed as anybody else in the neighbourhood. His children go to school and get good marks. His wife goes to the weekly market every Sunday and to the Turkish bath once a week. Everybody knows that Jilali has many things to boast about. Jilali has no worries about his image.

Image is English for Arabic (assum’atu السُّمْعَةُ).

As you see, Jilali has got a good image. But his cousin Larbi has a much better image than him. Unlike Jilali, Larbi went to school, and it’s at school that Larbi learned gypsum work. Larbi works for the same boss as Jilali, but he is paid differently. Larbi does not touch gypsum with his hands. He’s got three apprentices who do that for him. The boss pays Larbi for the whole gypsum work and Larbi gives weekly pays to his apprentices. That’s why Larbi comes to work by car, and he’s got a nice big smart-phone. He left the shantytown a long time ago and then bought a small apartment in an old building in an old neighbourhood, and now he lives in a three-storey house near downtown. And he married a second wife. His personal developmenthas made several people jealous of him.

(Personal) development is English for Arabic (annumuwu النُّمُوُّ).

If Larbi is in a better situation than Jilali, he is far from being the best. If he’s got a three-storey house, there are many, many people who have got villas and even riyads. If he got a nice, new car, there are many, many people who have got much, much nicer and more expensive cars. If he got two wives, there are others who have four. His possessions do not really distinguish him from the rest of the crowd. To stand out, he got to do something outstanding. He should be like his boss’s brother-in-law, who rose from nothing to become President of the Municipal Council of the city. He became one of the important people of the city. Many people still marvel at his meteoric rise in local politics.

Rise (in esteem) is “approximate” English for Arabic (assumuwu السُّمُوُّ ).

The story of the brother-in-law of Larbi’s boss is nothing compared to the story of Alejandro Toledo who, at the age of six, worked as a street shoe shiner, before he became a distinguished economist, then President of his country, Peru, from 2001 and 2006. Not every shoe shiner can hope to become President of his country.

And not only Jilali and Larbi live for almut’a (enjoyment) and assum’a (image). We all do. We all aspire to annumuw (personal growth). Do we all aspire to assumuw (rise in esteem) ?

Nineteenth-century French Author Alphonse Daudet’s Lettres de mon moulin (1869) is a good example of human beings’ (instinctive) care about enjoyment and image. His story Le Secret de Maître Cornille is a good example of personal growth. To grind their wheat, some people moved away from windmills to steam mills. In the nineteenth century, people moved away from horse-drawn carriages to trains, etc.
Personal growth is horizontal, one among many. Rise is vertical, up to higher grades. Alphonse Daudet’s father was a rich man, he had a factory. (He was a rich man among many.) He then went bankrupt and became an ordinary worker. Nobody would have heard of him had he not begotten a son called Alphonse. As he explains in his novel Le petit chose, Alphonse was looked down upon by both his teachers and classmates because he was poor and dressed like an orphan. Those teachers and classmates are forgotten. Now we only know Alphonse Daudet.

This is a form of undeclared boasting. Look at me, I'm walking my dog. I am a modern person. I am like Europeans. Look at my wife and daughters. They're wearing mini skirts, just like modern women, like American and European women. Look at me, I'm speaking French. I am just like any French man. I am modern. Look at me, I am listening to music on my MP3. I am modern. Look at me, I am shopping at the biggest mall in the city. Look at me, I am playing Golf. I am a V.I.P. Look at me, I am a rich German. I have a spendid riyad in Marrakesh. Look at me, I am a Moroccan girl living in France. I never wear a long skirt. Look at me, I know by heart all of Madonna's songs. Look at me, I am with my buddies at the cafe waiting for the Real Madrid game. I never miss Real games. Look at me, I am a Widadi, I love Widad Casablanca. I never miss a Widad game. I follow them wherever they go. Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) used to sing "Look at me: I am old, but I am happy." It's all boasting and it's all human. We began boasting as kids, and it grew up with us.
In Alphonse Daudet's times one would boast that he invented a steam mill, one that he installed steam mills, one that he ground his wheat and barley at steam mills. One would boast that he invented the train, one that he conducted a train, one that he travelled by train. One that he invented (produced) something, one that he used (consumed) something.

Moroccan Rachid Yazami would boast about his research that led to the invention of Lithium batteries. Another Moroccan would boast that he purchased the latest Samsung smartphone. Moroccan Kamal Oudrhiri would boast about his work with NASA. Another Moroccan would boast that he goes to MacDonald's twice a week.

A recent report suggested that air pollution costs France and the French over € 100 billion every year. People in France, and in many other countries, can’t breathe oxygen only. It’s the same with our daily talk. You can’t hope to talk a whole day without succumbing to the temptation of basting to somebody or other about something or other. Every one of us needs to feel that he/she is important, that he/she is not less worthy than others. Then, why do we look at ourselves in the mirror? It’s a basic need for recognition.

You go in a crowded street, enter a hotel lobby, sit at a café, and all eyes are on you. All eyes will follow you as a snake would follow a snake-charmer’s pipe. You were born with a beautiful face and your beauty has stayed with you, dazzling people wherever you go. Or maybe you went to market and spent hours picking and choosing until you found a dream of a dress or suit. And you feel great when people look at you.

The more beautiful you are, the more stunning your dress is, the more people will look at you. You are aware of that, and so you seldom –if ever – go out before looking at yourself in the mirror.

But whatever you do, you can’t always be eye-catching. You may get completely eclipsed by the Rich and the Famous. Even beautiful people prick up their ears on hearing the jingle of coins. No wonder if a beautiful girl preferred a rich, pimply-faced old man to a handsome youth with little or no income.

Unless you’re that handsome youth who is head over heels in love with such a beautiful girl, you’ll find that very normal. But if you are that very handsome youth, your life will become hell. You’ll feel weak. You’ll start asking questions : Why him ? Why not me ? You’ll try to forget all about your love. But you are so weak. You need love. You love her because you want her to love you. You want somebody to love you. You feel that you lack something, but if somebody does love you, that means (to you) that you are someone important. You then not only mean such a lot to that somebody, but you (start thinking that you) have all the good qualities of the world that would make people care about you.

The problem is when we don’t have things to boast about while others around us don’t stop boasting. Unfortunately, we are exposed to boasting everyday. Even when you shun people and stay at (your secluded) home, your television will bring you all the boasting of the world. Boasting in adverts, boasting in soap opera, boasting in music, plus undeclared boasting of all sorts. This leads many people to delinquency or even crime. In Morocco a phenomenon has arisen called tcharmil: youths attack other people (especially women), rob them of their jewelry, cellphones, PC’s, etc, then they photograph themselves with their ‘booty’ and post the pics on Facebook. Many of those tcharmil youths have been arrested, but the real problem remains. Instead of inspiring people to be more compassionate, to advocate more solidarity, our television still inspires people to be more egoistic, more individualistic, more selfish. Solidarity and compassion, modesty and wisdom – that’s what we will need more and more, in Morocco and everywhere in the world. We will need more generosity, more altruism, more chivalry, more kindness. If the rich don’t help the destitute, the police won’t be able to arrest all the tcharmilists in the future. If relatives don’t help each other fewer and fewer people would be able to support themselves and governments will have bigger and bigger problems. We need to philosophize life, to “study” society, to think a lot so as to determine one’s real place in society. Television has to do that for us when we can’t do it ourselves. Television could give us much better than fake happiness.

Television could give us beautiful stories that would make us beautiful. Beautiful words bring tears to the eyes and beauty to the hearts.

I once heard on the radio many years ago, the late Moroccan eminent scholar Mahdi Elmanjra say: “Wajih once came to me and said, ‘Professor, I am sorry, I will have to be absent from some lectures.’ I thought he might have some personal or family problem that prevented him from coming to Faculty (College). But then I discovered that he was a cardiovascular surgeon at Rabat Hospital and a professor of Medicine. That’s why he couldn’t come to my lectures!” Wajih Maazouzi smiled and explained: “My younger brother died suddenly as he was preparing his PhD dissertation on Law. To honour his memory, I vowed to get a PhD in Law. So I enrolled in the Law Course at the Faculty of Rabat and began from the beginning. I studied four years to get my B.A., and Professor Mahdi Elmanjra was one of my dear tutors…” Professor Wajih Maazouzi did that for love, not for money.

There are millions of Wajihs around the world. You can’t count good people, from all nations and all cultures, who are volunteering for good causes. You can’t count free “workers” on the Web, from all nations and cultures, who are spending their time and money to share their work free with other people. Free websites on Mathematics and all sorts of sciences, all sorts of literature, all sorts of knowledge. All free. Without boasting. Only contentment and love for good for other human souls. This is the beauty of mankind.

Now, let’s move on to this other kind of boasting.

Football, which began as a game to be played for fun, became, among other things, a source of honour for the winners and dishonour for the losers.

When an athlete wins a gold medal in an international competition, the national anthem is played in honour of his /her country. Perhaps that’s why some states "buy" star athletes to compete in their name. But does it do an athlete’s country honour when he/she cheats in order to get a gold medal ?

Does a country really need to associate itself with the sporting achievement of one of its individual citizens ? Ethiopia was honoured by its legendary long-distance runners, but then there’s still hunger – not to say famine – in parts of the country. Argentina was honoured by its football stars, such as Maradona, but then Argentinians took to the streets brandishing empty saucepans. Germany won the World Football Cup, then, four years later, went out in the first round. In July 2018 Russia was unanimously praised for organizing « the best World Football Cup ever. » A few weeks later thousands of Russian citizens took to the street in protest against plans to hike pension age.

There’s a "World Snail Racing Championship" in which each competing snail wears the colours of a different national flag. Is this pure fun, or rather a subtle form of national extremism ? Is it reasonable for a nation to make its honour conditional on the outcome of a football match, a long-distance race, or a snail race?

Some states have brought the spirit of competition into another arena : Faith. While Côte d'Ivoire was facing growing economic problems, the late Félix Houphouët-Boigny, with the help of his sister, constructed the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro, the largest Christian church in the world, at a cost of $300 million. Then Algeria signed with a German-Tunisian group a contract to build a mosque with the tallest minaret ever. Would the Guinness World Records become more sacred than the Koran?

Normally, many states (create and then) exploit people's interest in sports because sports provide advertisers with a golden chance, and advertisement helps economic growth, which, in turn, helps the State coffers. This is neither totally false nor totally true. South Korea and Mexico, for example, suffered economic disasters even after hosting the 1988 Summer Olympics and the 1986 FIFA World Cup respectively.

All nations go through ups and downs. Great Britain, on which the Sun Never Set when China bowed to Western powers, is now a much smaller power. Portugal, whose sailors were once the masters of much of the world's seas, is now much, much smaller than Britain. Paris, which hosted the 1924 Summer Olympics, was then invaded by Hitler's troops. Berlin, which hosted the 1936 Summer Olympics, was then invaded by the Allies. All these nations are still anxious to see their national anthem performed at the most prestigious international Games as many times as possible. Every nation has its hour of glory, and every nation has every right to show off its power and civilization at its hour of glory. We all tend to pride ourselves on our achievements. All that is understandable.

Now the question is, what's the use of a country's honour if this country's individual citizens lose their own honour? You may have heard the story of that Italian bride whose wedding-dress came apart at the seams and fell to the ground in front of her future husband and wedding guests, leaving her half naked. These two people were understandably hurt in their dignity, all the more so since their ordeal made worldwide headlines. But there are millions of anonymous people who are hurt in their dignity on a daily basis. In many African, Caribbean and Asian countries, some of which do get gold medals at the Olympic Games, there are so many people humbled by poverty and hunger. Will these people be honoured with a handful of gold medals?

Yet another question is, do athletes really care about the honour of their country as much as they do about their personal glory? That doesn't seem to always be the case – given the innumerable cases of doping. Why so, one wonders? It's because man wants to be at the top wherever there is room for competition. Even when a country's security is at stake, you'd find the soldiers of that country more worried about their medals, promotion and worldly acquisitions than the honour of their country.
One last question: do all people care about their national stars? Well, the legendary Brazilian football player Pele has recently been attacked and robbed at gunpoint some ten years ago, if my memory is good.

Another question is, do you really need to be loved or to be looked at or to hear someone call your name in a crowded street to have that feeling that “you’re worth something” ? Do you need to get an autograph by someone famous or buy for the highest price a piece of memorabilia of a deceased star in order to have that feeling of importance ?

Why should I care if people recognize me at all ? Should I pride myself on my appearance or on having an autograph by so-and-so ? Why don’t I try to emulate what I like in that so-and-so if he/she means so much to me ?