Nov 13, 2004

Pas de Problem

His name is not important and if I mentionned it, perhaps his job would be in jeapordy. So now you see I have the illness myself: the bacterial arc from doubt to despair.
Here's how it began. I wanted to pay for something at the school store. They wouldn't take cash, only the cash wallet, a credit card for students and faculty. They knew me; they'd seen me around. We can't take any cash, they said. All I want are some laundary tokens, I said. They shook their head. Surely, you can take a few dihramms. They looked at the next person in line...
Later, I asked my friend why that was, "well," he said. "they don't trust the people that work in those kinds of jobs."
Who doesn't?
He waved his hand, the people at the top. By which he meant the administrators, the people who handle the budgets.
Why don't they trust them?
Because you see this is a culture of mistrust. Nobody trusts anybody. Underneath the smile, there is doubt. You only trust your family, your, how do you say, immediate family. Not your cousins necessarily....
And so we began a long conversation. Suffice to say my friend is learned, and a student of Moroccan mores and history.
It's the nature of this socieity, he went on. It's who we are or who we've become.
He leaned closer: Don't you think it occurs to people that when they look at Spain they see prosperity and they look here and they see the distance we have to go to get to that prosperity. Spain, which we ruled through the 12th Century. How could that be? How could they be doing so well and we once ruled them and we are not doing well? How can that be? They are a few miles away. Look at the geology, very similar. Look at the weather. It's the same in the south. The people? Are they so different?
He shook his head. Why?
We are Europe's Latin America and the sub Sahara is our Latin America. And don't you see how they have derogatory names for us in Europe and we have the same names for the people coming up from Niger and Congo.
I pressed him on this culture of mistrust.
All I can tell you is it's how we are. You and I have just met. We've been talking for what, an hour. I would trust you more than I trust someone here. How can that be?
I wondered if this was true and later I wondered if I trusted him as much as he trusted me.
You see everyone here wants to make it, to make money. Everyone needs a job and they will do anything to get it. So everyone is clawing their way up, holding on to anything they can. The imam in the mosque here. He is not a true imam. He is a servant of the powers that be. He needs his job just like everyone else, but he is not a free spiritual leader. You would not go to him for real advice. Because you don't know if he would keep it a secret. Or would he use the information against you? You don't know. You doubt so you cannot trust.
Well so where does it end? I asked. How could change such a system?
Couldn't, he said. It will take a long time. Look at the king. He's probably a good person. I think he is a good person. He's trying his best but look at who surrounds him. They need him for their petty empires, their contracts and so they keep him safe. This whole thing starts at the top....
And so everyone wants to leave, I said. Top and bottom. Morocco is a wating room, as Hicham once put it. Everyone wants out.
Exactly, said my friend. There is no future except if you know someone. If you have connections.
He paused. I have to go now. I'll tell you more later.

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