I have never known the man, but I can only guess how dark it must have been in his head. He had just been slapped, spat on and beaten by the police. His merchandise had just been “confiscated”. Hopeful still, he insisted on demanding some retribution. All doors were shut in his face. He figured that if his basic human rights did not matter, then there was no point in living. Facing the powers that be, he lit himself on fire. That fire is still burning in Tunisia, Egypt, Lybia, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. But in the beautiful Kingdom where I live, we have some pretty skilled firefighters.
It is always healthy to go back to the root of it all, especially when thinking of a phenomenon as complicated and confusing as the Arab Spring. In simple terms, it all started because Mohamed Bouazizi, a street vendor, witnessed his dignity infringed upon by more powerful forces. Just because they could. Whoever got to the streets after that was really just defending the right to human dignity. It wasn’t Israel. It wasn’t America. It wasn’t the Freemasons. It was Middle Easterns and North Africans who recognized the necessity of a governance system that does not violate their rights, but protects them. It was, while it lasted, quite beautiful to watch.
In Morocco, we first blamed Algeria for the revolutionary trend gaining momentum (because it’s always an enemy’s fault). Understanding the genuineness of the people’s demands, the Moroccan Monarchy proposed a series of constitutional “reforms” which, thinking back, were anything but. The new constitution kept most sovereign powers in the hands of the King. There was no debate on the implications of each and every constitutional clause in there. Just two months of trying not to end up like Tunisians or Egyptians (you wish). It felt like watching “The Italian Job”. Troubleshooting at its best. 98% adoption rate. Try topping that.
Imagine my surprise at Moroccans’ most recent surprise: at the request of his buddy Juan Carlos, Mohamed VI just pardoned a convicted Spanish pedophile who raped 11 Moroccan children. On social media, the bulk of the posts and comments converged towards a single message: “How Dare You?”. The answer is quite straightforward. Because His Majesty can. Because you willingly and aggressively gave him the right to (I still can’t believe it was 98%). Because when every single aspect of your life in this country depended on a piece of paper, you did not care to examine it. Otherwise you would have undoubtedly noticed Article 58, which is as concise as it gets:
The King exercises the right of pardon.”
Yet that did not matter. The implications of a single non-elected unaccountable individual having a final say on who endures the measure of the law were hardly a source of concern. And who had time for that, really? Islam, Monarchy and “stability” – don’t forget Football – mattered most. We in Morocco were worried about keeping the status quo rather than changing things. Nobody had time for debate, protests and riots. The average Moroccan just needed to be able to wake up, go to work, make a living and go back to their children at night knowing that the latter are safe.
Today, it is only fair to ask: how safe are they, really? And whose fault is that?
This is only the first of a potential series of debacles that are likely to remind Moroccans that when they went sheering “Yes!” to the voting booth on July 1st, 2011, they have not only failed themselves but their children as well. Will any Moroccan adult today be able to explain to a kid why a monster who raped another kid was let free? I do not think so.
At best, Mohamed VI did not know who he was pardoning – which begs another question: why not? At worst, this is quite an illustration of the wide disconnect between the realities of the ruler and the ruled. Make no mistake about it. We are all responsible for the shame and disgrace falling upon us as Moroccans these days. Those who can really feel safe and dignified at home are the peoples who understood that nobody else but themselves ought to govern them.