By Moundir Alamrani*
By Moundir Alamrani*
Morocco World News
Rabat, October 18, 2011
Any Moroccan who has reached a certain degree of social and intellectual maturity and awareness would agree that a big deal of our social backwardness and the factors behind our slow, or even lack of, progress are due to our own way of life. Before making any step forward, one is required by logic and the aimed results to see where one stands; this is absolutely and definitely the case when it comes to us Moroccans who seem to have no habit of, or inclination for self-criticism at all, despite the paramount importance of the latter in channeling efforts and energy into the right direction. Unfortunately, and pitifully, this is not the case and whatever we do are wasted and squandered efforts and energy invested in vain. Here, I am trying to draw the readers’ attention to the bitter fact that we need to realize and work towards eliminating one of the most ravishing social diseases we suffer from—spending time and energy surveying and watching each other and interfering in people’s private lives.
Before starting my discussion, I’d like to emphasize that my contention in this article is not to preach private and individual behavior in their extreme sense with all their negative connotations and denotations. My contention is rather to unveil and reveal the practice or habit of keeping each other under surveillance and constant watch, and to show the way this practice is keeping us from getting to the front line with the other more developed societies of the world.
The start is with the family and its initiation of the individual to social control and authority. I am sure that most of us have witnessed at different times and different occasions how a child is made conscious of the existence of a social code of behavior and how primordial it is to abide by it. To exemplify this, let us contemplate a situation I consider typical to Moroccan society.
A child, let us say of 4 or 5, is walking down a street or sitting in a restaurant with her parents. For one reason or another, the child starts making a scene by crying and shouting. The parents, of course, are embarrassed by such a scene and the only thing they care about at the moment is how to make the child stop; therefore, the first and immediate thing that comes to their mind is to tell the child how the people and children around are laughing at her because she is making a scene.
We can expect the same response from the parents, or anyone accompanying the child, in a similar situation that involves a child making a scene. I have seen similar scenes at parties, weddings, on the street, and in many other places, and I also remember witnessing instances of these when I was a child and had such experiences. Because I realized how embarrassing this was, I have always done my best not to be a victim of other people’s and children’s laughs. Therefore, I had to be careful even at school.
What started within the family is fostered and reinforced at school, although it is an educational institution that is supposed to correct students’ behavior and prepare them to be good citizens. In addition to the situations I have witnessed personally, many people have recited to me similar accounts. I continue to hear stories about teachers humiliating pupils in front of their classmates for not doing their homework. A similar practice is also found in universities where alleged ‘wrong-doers’ undergo what is called ‘public trials’ by who consider themselves the guardians of ethics and morality where other fellow students are the judges, jury, and executioners.
What the family starts and the school fosters and reinforces perpetuates the iron grip of society over individuals and empowers it with illegitimate authority to interfere in each and every member’s personal life. It is ironic to try and make a difference between society and individuals because after all society is what individuals make out of it.
It is unbelievable how society grants itself the authority to exert its power on individuals to the extent that some people find it their right to get into the middle of other people’s homes. There is always someone watching you from behind their window curtains. If you live by yourself, then there is always someone surveying your moves and in case you receive some guests, they need to make sure of their identity. Even when one goes shopping, the butcher, grocer and baker all know if you live on your own or with family by what and how much you buy, and if they ever notice some change in that quantity, they feel no shame to tell you right to your face “You must have guests at home!” This explains the mystery of how come Morocco is one of the safest countries in the world; everybody is keeping an eye on everybody else.
Worse than the examples above is when people act as if they had some divine right to be the guardians of morality and ethics and were ordained to correct people’s behavior. There are cases when some people allow themselves to walk up to you and tell you how you should not do what you are doing because it was wrong according to their definition of right and wrong. Likewise, someone may just look over your shoulder when you are buying a book at a bookstore and tell you how interesting, bad, or good a book is and they can even recommend to you, or rather dictate to you, a book they have read recently even though you may not be interested in it.
This is exactly what happened to me once at a bookstore when I was looking for a good book to buy. I was looking at a book in Arabic when a guy jumped from behind and before I even had the chance to see what it was about, the guy started praising it and making all sorts of comments on the story and the author and providing critical feedback on both. I had to spend some time listening to the guy before I finally had the chance to take a look at the book and realize that it was a translation of Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. I put the book down and left.
What these examples, as well as many others, show is that we tend to waste a lot of energy and time watching each other instead of minding our own personal business. Society has gained control of our lives and there are even decisions we cannot make simply because we are afraid that others may disapprove of them, which makes our life even harder. Because one cares too much about people, one may do anything to be able to afford anything that might make them look good in other people’s eyes.
So unless we focus our energy on positive thing and stop watching and judging each other, there is no chance for us to make a step forward and be a better people living in a better place. We need to learn where each one’s limits are and respect each other’s privacy and personal life. Only then can we be a better people.
* Moundir Alamrani is contributor to Morocco World News.
Editing By Benjamin Villanti.