Casablanca - The claim that one race or culture is superior to another is still perceptible in multifarious discourses today.
Casablanca – The claim that one race or culture is superior to another is still perceptible in multifarious discourses today.
Even after gaining their political independence, former colonies like Morocco are still deemed by many as inferior to their ex-colonizers, and dependent on them in many ways.
A recent statement about Morocco made by the French ambassador to the U.S. has polemically reproduced the same ideas inherent in the past French colonial discourse during its territorial occupation of the Kingdom.
“Morocco is a mistress with whom we sleep every day, and for whom we feel no particular love; yet we feel obliged to defend it,” the French Ambassador boldly stated, with the same tone of supremacy that was once explicit in France’s colonial discourse on Morocco.
While many Moroccan and foreign political analysts have focused almost exclusively on the possible motives behind the ambassador’s statement, the question we may find more interesting to pose is, what does this statement reveal about the Moroccan-French relations we have been idealizing for so long?.
The diplomatic relations between the nations have often been described as “exceptional” and “unshakable” in almost all public discourse in both countries. The international diplomatic community has also idealized the relations between France and Morocco to the extent that they have become an international model of “exceptional binational diplomacy.”
Although minor tensions between the countries in a number of realms were occasionally discernible, especially in French media and literary discourses on Morocco’s cultural and traditional practices, the overall relations between the countries were officially beyond any speculation of a potential diplomatic crisis such as the current one.
The French president’s visit to Morocco in April 2013 was described as an historic event. The visit aimed to solidify the bond between the two nations and to highlight the longstanding partnership that has marked their relations for decades.
François Hollande’s speech in the Moroccan parliament lauded Morocco’s remarkable progress on the path of democracy and development, and was loaded with optimism on the future of both countries.
Nevertheless, to the acute disappointment of many of us, the recent disgraceful statement made by the French ambassador has shaken years of brotherly relations between the nations—all because of a typical, abasing colonial metaphor, the colonized mistress and the colonial master.
However, the French ambassador’s statement, which has resurrected the forgotten colonial tensions between both countries, still reveals a number of interesting facts about diplomacy in general, and the relations between Morocco and France in particular.
1. Diplomacy is a Process, not a Fixed State!
There is still a pervasive belief that the strength of diplomatic relations can be measured by how many years the involved nations have sustained these relations. However, unpredictable political blunders like the French ambassador’s have taught us an interesting lesson on diplomacy in general: it is an ongoing process, and not an established state of things!
Diplomacy, just like democracy, is an ongoing, never-ending process at which nations, regardless of their past glories or tragedies and their future aspirations, must work relentlessly. On the contrary, we have taken for granted that the relations between Morocco and France are so exceptionally ideal that a conflict or tension could never erupt between them.
We have been claiming up to now that the nations share many commonalities, including history and strategic interests, which is somewhat true. Based on this claim, we have disregarded the possibility that any incident or mistake of any sort could threaten the durability and continuity of these exceptional relations. However, time and shared interests seem to form more of a precarious ground for diplomatic relations than a solid foundation.
Our conceptualization of diplomacy needs urgent reconsideration. Celebrating ties of friendship and past historical glories has never been enough. This is similar to the rampant “happy talk” about multiculturalism and diversity, which instead of fostering our sense of acceptance of the other, ends up concealing the daily manifestations of intolerance, discrimination and racism.
We need to view diplomacy as a process, in which the involved nations invest equal efforts and target similar ends. True diplomacy requires us to forget past tensions and conflicts in order to leave room for future exploits and breakthroughs from which those involved can benefit equally.
This does not mean that we should turn a blind eye to the enduring aftermath of the colonial past, as well as the inexorable manifestations of a neocolonial present. However, instead of placing all of our attention on the dangers of economic, cultural and political dependence through cynical and unproductive discourses, we need to find practical ways to substitute our dependencies.
Diplomatic success does not reside in past or present exploits: it rather lies in our continuous efforts to sustain the diplomatic success our countries enjoy. The day we start thinking that we have reached a stage in our diplomacy so advanced that tensions have become obsolete is the day our diplomacy begins going backward instead of onward.
2. The Colonial Past is never Dead
Does independence end colonial dominance? This question has been the crux of much academic and critical work on post-colonialism.
Morocco is no exception, and the French ambassador’s statement implies the persistence of Morocco’s dependence on its former colonizer. France no longer occupies the kingdom territorially, but France’s economy, culture and politics are so important for us that we are greatly affected by crises that take place in France. We are not as independent as we claim to be, it is sad to say.
However, cynical thoughts about the past and vitriolic ideas about our ex-colonizers will neither push our economy forward, nor improve our education, nor contribute to achieving any particular aspiration for development and progress that we have. It only absorbs our energy and diverts our attention from the problems that still plague our nation’s most vital sectors, thus obstructing our development.
We must not forget the past, nor should we let the past shape our present! The negative impulses that our past, as shameful as it is for us and for our ex-colonizers, engender in us need to be converted into positive energy, into an urge to construct the new rather than reproduce the old.
We are sometimes so engrossed in understanding why our past was the way it was that we forget to understand why our present does not reflect our aspirations and hopes, and why our future seems to be an everlasting mirage.
The French ambassador’s statement is surely to be condemned,, because it is a blatant attempt to bring forth the same ideology and thinking that led to the start of imperialism and territorial colonization, with all of the inhumanity and barbarism that these ideologies bring.
Ironically, however, the French ambassador’s statement on Morocco was necessary. It will teach us invaluable lessons on diplomacy and the political strategy of false optimism. This will teach us that even underneath the most esteemed discourses, like that of diplomacy, political narcissism and self-interest can still lurk. Only when these detrimental motives are eradicated, will we perhaps start speaking of genuinely successful diplomacy.
Edited by Jessica Rohan
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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