New Jersey - Is it possible to restore social solidarity and cohesion through associations?
New Jersey – Is it possible to restore social solidarity and cohesion through associations?
Moroccan history includes many stories about solidarity and its significant benefit to our society. We have also learned the importance of kindness and cooperation in making a society strong. But in recent years, changes within Morocco have raised serious questions about the social values that our parents and grandparents long cherished. More specifically, Moroccans now feel skepticism, distrust and suspicion towards its traditionally supportive groups and institutions. With such feelings, can social solidarity be restored?
Continuous efforts of the Moroccan government, collaborating with UNESCO and other local organizations, offers more opportunities for the dissemination of current news, leading to citizens being better informed. But, with more knowledge comes more awareness, including claims of corruption and selfishness within political, economic and social institutions in Morocco. As a result, government, corporations, associations, the media, the mosques, organized labor, banks, businesses and other mainstays of a healthy society are more and more becoming the subjects of distrust. A study by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (The Political Party Experience in Morocco: Obscurity and Obfuscation April 2012), reveals that Moroccans feel that “Moroccan Political Parties are empty, useless shells, ridden with corruption and nepotism, unworthy of participation in governance. Such groups (Moroccans) chorus a condemnation of political parties and politics in general, describing them as rotten, stagnant and opportunistic.” Thus, there is a feeling that institutions have failed to consider, and may not even care about, the Moroccan populations’ basic needs. A loss of confidence in them will naturally follow.
According to Issandr Amrani of the International Crisis Group (ICG), “There is a danger in the disappointment that many Moroccans feel with the quality of their government.” And, young people will feel this pain the most. “The Challenge of Youth Inclusion in Morocco” published by The World Bank News (May 14, 2012), states that youth between the ages of 15 and 29 constitute more than 30% of Morocco’s population. Forty-nine percent of these youth are not in school and unemployed, says the same report.
If youth are idle, unemployed and lose faith in government, these feelings may turn into hostility. Hostility may be the cause for the creation of gangs such as Tsharmil and Faracha. More extreme, but certainly possible, such feelings may lead to rebellions, such as those in Syria, Libya and Egypt. Despite bringing down regimes, these rebellions left people in a daily struggle with violence and instability. In the Palestine-Israel Journal, a report by Z. Abu Zayyad, “The Arab Spring: Progress Report and Conclusions” concludes that “No one can predict where these revolutions are heading. They all are speaking about democracy, free elections, dignity, justice, human values, etc. But translating this into reality is another issue. So far, Libya, Yemen and Egypt have proven that this will not be an easy task.” Moroccans are highly opposed to chaos, resulting from rebellions or any source, so other options to address these feelings are needed. And, before this situation becomes critical, real actions are needed to at least restore some of the social solidarity and cohesion by which our communities were once operated.
Young Moroccans do not have to wait for others to solve their problems. They could act themselves and create valuable and meaningful associations, over which they have control. If the youth do not trust government or institutions, by relying on historical, tried and true social solidarity, they can build trust within associations, engage cooperation and at the same time make their communities and society better as a whole.
We are already comfortable with the use of associations in Morocco. The number of associations in Morocco was estimated between 40,000 and 50,000 in 2007 (National Synthesis Report Survey on Non-profitable Organizations (December 2011)). But, according to the Moroccan Daily Attajdid (2012), only 7,000 are active and of those, only a hundred of these associations are for the benefit of the public. Moroccan Daily Attajdid reported that the Minister in Charge of Relations with the Parliament and Civil Society declared that a number of associations do not serve the common interest at all and added that 97% of them do not even submit any documentation of financial transactions, such as receipt and vouchers. With these statistics, it might be a big challenge to get Moroccans interested in creating more of them.
Another challenge in creating associations is the fact that Moroccans tend to question engagement in civil society. Instead, they seem inclined to rely on personal resources to address common challenges rather than address issues community-wide. In an interview published by Le Matin.ma, on May 20, 2014, Mr. Driss Guerraoui, President of the International Council of Social Solidarity in MENA Region, said that “the economic, social, political and cultural realities have an impact on social cohesion” and that “the former networks of solidarity, family, community, tribal and neighborhood are breaking down in a continuous and accelerated way because of the predominance of social relations that have become more based mainly on trading. The rationales that dictate these trade relationships and the money conflicts they produce lead, due to their intrinsic rationale, to withdrawal on oneself, selfishness and exclusive research of particular interest. Therefore, this systemic rationale leads to isolation, loneliness and sometimes even to despair, eroding the social link and the idea of living together and eventually the social cohesion.”
This tendency unconsciously promotes the idea of individualism as said in the dialect “Rassi ya Rassi,” emphasizing the “I” and the “self.” This idea is further supported by the lack of Moroccan associations in the U.S.A, even though there they are easy to create, tax exempted and popular. According to 2009 statistics from ASAE, The Center for Association Leadership, there were 90,908 trade and professional associations, and 1,238,201 philanthropic or charitable organizations in America. But per Wikipedia, just a handful of these associations are created by Moroccans and only scattered throughout the larger states. It appears that, although Moroccans have integrated into the U.S.A., they are not participating in their Moroccan communities by creating associations. And, as Moroccans get busier and busier with individual pursuits, individualism is bound to become more rooted in our mentalities and lifestyles. It is sad to see the social values of solidarity vanish when our community is so much in need of them to overcome modern lifestyle complications in Morocco and outside.
In addition, there is the question of trust of other Moroccans when it comes to associations. Comments posted in the Morocco News Board Website as a response to a call for the creation of a Moroccan American Network prove this very point.
“This is very stupid. Do you really think we are going to trust any Moroccan to represent us?” said Said Jillali.
“It doesn’t sound like you are developing this resource to benefit Moroccans in US. I think you are trying to achieve a personal purpose. I will advise you to look for another way to gain your selfish purpose. I am Moroccan lived here in US, doing great, have great position in US, and I know what best for us. Please keep your hands in your pockets not other’s lives,” said Said Majd.
“I believe all Moroccans are proud of their culture and legacy and they all want to give back… the last thing they want is bureaucratic interference in their life and dictating their dreams. After all, it`s a free and just country here. So, please, stop the harassment and go find a real job instead of making your salaries pretending to represent our rights…we are fine and we are working hard and decent as should all real patriotic Moroccan does,” furiously expressed Lasfar.
By all accounts, there is not only this lack of trust among Moroccans living in the United States, but also a wide, spreading lack of interaction. There is no occasion that may bring them together like an association would.
That being said, is it possible to heal the Moroccans psyche by restoring trust in associations, both in Morocco and in the U.S.? We must improve accountability through honesty and loyalty. New associations must offer something of value, beneficial to citizens. That value must be communicated and the news spread. If so, Moroccans may be much more eager to contribute their own time and money.
To sum it all up, Moroccans need associations that will provide them with exceptional experiences, make of them a vibrant community, and create for them the essential tools that help to make a better life. These associations must be made up of people with a strong sense of community, able to prepare volunteers to respond to Moroccan’s needs. These associations should be able to move with one purpose in moments of crisis, coordinate assistance to all individuals and families in times of natural disasters or urgent needs. Associations could be created to affect every aspect of need, from children, to education, to professional training, to family assistance.
It is high time that we, as Moroccans, acknowledge that our society is in great need of community participation and involvement and realize that this can be done through associations. Solidarity, cooperation and kindness should once again be our goals. Using those goals, people can restore trust, engage in valuable responsibility, share goals and dreams and work for the good of the community, not the self. As beautifully defined by Wendell Berry “A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other’s lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, and the freedom with which they come and go among themselves.”
Edited by Ann Smith
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