This is a very beautifully written editorial by Mohamed Benchicou. It’s a must read.
Les Amuseurs de la République
Par: Mohamed Benchicou
vendredi, 03 mai 2013
Comme tous les quatre ans, à pareille époque préélectorale, ils déferlent, en rangs serrés, avec un nouveau spectacle dans les valises, comme s’ils répondaient à l’appel d’un devoir national du simulacre, bousculant à la fois les règles de l’actualité et celles du théâtre burlesque. Le gang des Amuseurs de la République est à l’œuvre !
Leur nouvelle création de 2013, provisoirement intitulée « Le président peut-il encore gouverner ? », originale et désopilante, basée sur l’allusif, un nouveau style baladin qui consiste à contourner la triste réalité nationale pour s’attarder sur l’ailleurs, raconte les tribulations du chef de l’État d’une île mystérieuse, une contrée fantasmagorique dont je suis incapable de vous dire le nom. À croire certains spécialistes versés dans le monde du burlesque, il s’agirait de Fantasyland, un pays magique de Disneyland, où les contes de fées et les histoires qui ont inspiré les films d’animation de Disney prennent vie, comme par magie. Cela expliquerait, sans doute, le fait que le nouveau spectacle, « Le président peut-il encore gouverner ? », vient d’être enrichi de plusieurs déclinaisons tout aussi drôles les unes que les autres, comme « Le quatrième mandat, c’est fini ! », un gag qui a rencontré un succès foudroyant, « La succession est ouverte », avec Benflis en guest-star, ou « Saïd Bouteflika limogé », une fiction loufoque montée avec adresse et dans laquelle des observateurs avertis ont cru reconnaître à la fois la main d’un célèbre manipulateur et un plagiat de Discoveryland, monde de Disney où les prédictions des grands visionnaires prennent vie.
Le débat autour de la fameuse contrée dont parlent nos opposants et nos journalistes est toujours en cours, mais une chose semble cependant certaine : il ne s’agit pas de l’Algérie. La lecture de l’éditorial d’un des membres les plus influents des Amuseurs, ne laisse, à ce propos, aucun doute. Le respectable analyste décrit, en effet, une province étrange mais démocratique, où la succession du président se réaliserait dans « le respect de la souveraineté du peuple, sans contrainte, et dans la transparence », détails qui excluent, de facto, l’hypothèse Algérie. La chose relève d’ailleurs du bon sens : la maladie d’un chef d’État n’étant handicapante qu’en démocratie, système où l’opinion garde le droit de regard sur la gouvernance, la question « Le président peut-il encore gouverner ? » devient, du coup, parfaitement inadaptée à l’Algérie. Chez nous, Dieu merci, pareille complication nous est épargnée, les citoyens que nous sommes n’étant consultés ni sur l’état de santé du chef de l’État, ni sur sa désignation ni encore moins sur sa reconduction. En retour, ce dernier régnerait sans rien nous devoir. C’est tout le privilège de ce que les Russes appellent les vybori bez vybora (élections sans choix), privilège qui s’ajoute, pour des autocraties comme l’Algérie, à celui d’être parfaitement gouvernables à partir d’un lit d’hôpital. La prouesse paraît d’autant plus à la portée de notre chef de l’État que notre cher pays, où le Conseil des ministres ne se réunit jamais, est unanimement reconnu comme l’unique de la planète à fonctionner sous le mode du pilotage automatique, personne n’y gouvernant et, conformément aux vybori bez vybora, personne n’y étant gouverné.
Tout ça pour dire que l’interrogation « Le président peut-il encore gouverner ? », en plus d’être parfaitement incongrue pour un pays où la sagesse autocratique l’emporte sur la véhémence démocratique, pose incontestablement un problème inédit : dans quelle catégorie classer les chimères généreusement imaginées par une si brillante équipe d’analystes et de brillants politologues, dont le seul mérite aura été de nous apprendre que la grande famille du pouvoir illégitime pouvait, finalement, être aussi drôle que les Simpson ? Dans le théâtre, on avait inventé la comédie, le vaudeville, la bouffonnerie, la parodie, le burlesque, le sketch, le pastiche, la satire, la clownerie, l’arlequinade, la facétie… Aucun de ces styles ne paraît, cependant, correspondre au grotesque de la situation. Ah ! Peut-être dans la pantalonnade, qui n’est pas ce que vous pensez, mais dans le théâtre italien, une posture comique assez drôle dans laquelle excellait le pantalon, qui n’est pas non plus ce que vous pensez, mais un personnage du théâtre vénitien qui porte traditionnellement cette sorte de culotte et qui a laissé son nom pour désigner un homme sans dignité et sans consistance !
Depuis on a cependant su que « pantalonnade » veut dire, en même temps que ce que vous pensez, subterfuge grotesque pour sortir d’embarras. Rappelons-nous : la théorie du « président malade et démissionnaire » avait déjà permis, en 2005, d’avorter les grosses contestations autour des effets catastrophiques de la fameuse Charte pour la paix. Val-de-Grâce avait étouffé le scandale politique. Le régime s’est servi de nouveau, en 2006, de la théorie du « président malade et démissionnaire », pour briser le débat houleux qui commençait à s’installer autour du projet d’amendement de la Constitution. À quoi bon débattre, se disait-on, d’un projet mort-né, compromis par la santé défaillante du président ? Dans les deux cas, le régime a obtenu, par l’esbroufe, un répit salutaire qu’il a su habilement exploiter. Aujourd’hui, en 2013, Bouteflika substitue le débat autour de la corruption de Chakib Khelil, c’est-à-dire la corruption imputable à sa famille politique, par un débat sur l’AVC et ses conséquences sur la gouvernance. Val de Grâce II continue le boulot diversion de Val de Grâce I ! Comme en 2004, le régime utilise la presse minaudière et l’opposition maniérée pour reconduire, « légalement » et dans le cadre du « pluralisme », le président Bouteflika à la tête du pays ! Encore une fois, un des subterfuges par lesquels s’éternisent les autocraties dans nos pays, aura magnifiquement fonctionné. Ainsi, pendant que d’éminents esprits nous rebattent la thèse du « président malade et démissionnaire », que dit et que fait le principal intéressé ? Il affirme à qui veut l’entendre : « Grâce à Dieu, je me porte très bien » ; il prépare la population à l’émotion du « retour au pays » ; il multiplie les flagorneries en direction de l’opinion publique ; il n’oublie pas de « remercier » la presse qu’il gratifie d’une journée spéciale le 22 octobre… Tout cela débouche sur une information capitale : la décision de postuler pour un quatrième mandat est déjà prise !
Alors, je crois bien que, faute d’antécédents dans le genre théâtral, l’on soit obligé de rapprocher la manœuvre complice à laquelle se prêtent une partie de notre presse et de notre opposition, d’une pantalonnade tout à fait remarquable d’adresse et d’inventivité et dont on rirait volontiers si elle n’était un discours de diversion qui finit par laisser au régime l’initiative politique. Nous avons juste oublié que le diable, devant les nigauds, entreprend toujours de jouer au nigaud. Tout autocrate compte sur la bêtise humaine pour enfourcher le monde et l’étrangler de ses sangles. Il suffit de laisser croire. Gouverner c’est faire croire a dit Machiavel. C’est cela, le but de la politique, pour Machiavel, ce n’est pas la morale mais la réussite : obtenir et conserver le pouvoir !
Finissons par un clin d’œil à la journée du 3 mai pour évoquer le « papier » si précieux pour un journaliste et dire que toute cette histoire ressemble, en effet, à celle du papier plié en quatre qu’on découvre au détour d’une ruelle, que l’on ramasse avec une curiosité difficilement contenue, que l’on fourre dans la poche avec cupidité, que l’on ouvre, enfin, avec angoisse pour découvrir que la trouvaille, au final, n’était qu’un prospectus de vente au rabais… Il sera alors l’heure pour l’île mystérieuse de fermer ses portes. Rendez-vous dans quatre ans pour une autre séance de fantasmagorie. Entre-temps, nous aurons au moins appris que la politique n’est pas un jeu, mais un art de la dissimulation au nom de l’efficacité. Et l’efficacité, ici, consistait, tout simplement, tout bêtement, serai-je tenté de dire, à s’assurer de sa propre succession en 2014 !
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was transferred to France–military Hospital Val-de-Grâce near Paris– for medical tests on Saturday night after suffering a minor stroke. Apparently, the autocrat is still alive, the mini-stroke has had no impact on his intellectual capacity. Besides the fact that the president chooses to go to France to seek medical treatment and does not have any confidence and/or trust in his own country’s physicians, this health crisis has very little impact on the future of the Algerian regime.
Photo d’un hôpital Algérien: où Le Peupe se Soigne
Photo d’un bloc opératoire a l’Hôpital du Val-de-Grâce : où Le Bouteflika se Soigne
So what does that all mean? Nothing really. If Bouteflika, who preparing himself to run for another term, doesn’t kick the bucket and die, another thug like him would replace him, and the long nightmare of Algeria continues. If he is successful at fighting the security and military apparatus and imposes himself as the unique candidate again, well he will probably rule for a couple of more years and then dies in office. Either way, it’s a lose-lose situation for Algeria.
There is something that foreign observers of Algeria needs to understand: Nothing seems as it looks, and nothing looks as it seems. In theory, Algeria is a democracy with a vibrant and even sometimes rambunctious political parties. However, in reality and practice, power has always been confined to a small secretive inner-circle of military and security men. All that civilian power is a shiny coast of veneer to provide the regime with some legitimacy on the international scene. So If Bouteflika doesn’t dies or doesn’t run for another term, his successor will most likely be chosen behind closed doors and away from any popular input and accountability because this is where resides the real power in Algeria.
The real power in Algeria is like a vampire always hidden from the sun and abhors transparency and accountability. The real political competition in Algeria is not at the ballot box, but it is between Bouteflika and his clan, and the military-intelligence services and their clan. Briefly stated, the real tug-of-war over power–therefore the control over oil rent–is between General Mohammad Mediène, aka Toufiq, and Bouteflika. And whoever wins, will be the ruler. Anything else is a pure show.
How do you keep the population from uprising and claiming transparency? Well, open up social spending, subsidize everything, and engage in systemic and systematic disinformation.
In describing what Stalin was able to do in Russia during WWII and the post-period, and how he was able to make the Russian people tacitly accept his dictatorial rule, the great British historian Alan Charles Bullock said the following
“No one understood better than Stalin that the true object of propaganda is neither to convince nor even to persuade, but to produce a uniform pattern of public utterance in which the first trace of unorthodox thought immediately reveals itself as a jarring dissonance.”
Well, in Algeria, 50 years of systematic and systemic social, religious, economic, and especially intellectual charlatanism and “charlatanization” of the Algerian people has produced a uniform pattern of public utterance in which the first trace of unorthodox thought immediately reveals itself as a jarring dissonance. Therefore, even if the people are unhappy, they accept the dictate because they are incapable of imagining by themselves and for themselves an alternative model of governance; because they have built their lives and livelihood on a system that has no rules; because they have grown accustomed to anarchy, chaos, thievery; and because most Algerians have become a thieving, conniving, and corrupt people. So any change in Algeria has to be more than political. Any change has to be so drastic and so radical that it will need to shake the very foundations of the country, of our history, of our social and political structure. And this change, ladies and gentlemen, can only be violent, bloody, and with a long period of unrest.
So, let me comfort my dear DRS readers who have been bombarding me with hateful emails and messages. I know that you are reading every post i write, and thank you for that. At least you sleep less stupid every time you read my posts. But i leave you with Churchill’s warning about change. He said “We must take change by the hand or rest assuredly, change will take us by the throat.” So you have the choice. You either take change and guide it, or it will take you and claim you as a victim.
Everyone seems to be surprised that the FLN, this old and discredited party, keeps on winning and keeps on being the first and most important party in Algeria. The media are bamboozled, the talking-heads are rolling their eyes, and raising their hands in total disbelief, and the inept and non-existent political opposition is accusing the FLN of electoral fraud, belligerent campaigning, and unbecoming behavior. Well, let me tell you right now: all of these is total bull-crap.
The FLN won and its victory is pretty much legitimate because the FLN is an institution in the classic sense. And as such, it is sticky. So, a more appropriate title would’ve been: “It’s the institution, stupid!”
And everyone who doesn’t acknowledge and/or understand this victory has no understanding of what a political party is, and what it does, and for what purpose it exists. If you are among the idiots who believe this nonsense, like our newspapers and media personalities, I urge you to go read some books and educate yourself on the topic.
The question is why the FLN won? What’s it about this party that allows it to win? And that, ladies and gentlemen, is because the FLN is a real party. It has a brand name. It has owned issues for as long as Algeria has been independent. It has an organizational structure and framework that allows it to exist and be present in every wilaya, city, municipality, county, and village in the country. It has a base of faithful, although this base is not what it used to be. It has a hierarchy that pretty much dictates and delineates the paths toward career advancement, although we can’t discount the important role of corruption and nepotism here. Briefly stated, the FLN looks like a party, functions like a party, behaves likes a party, walks like a party, and talks like a party. Hence, it is a party. In a country where most political parties are paper-tigers, being a real party is a big plus.
Yes, the FLN is an old discredited party. Yes, the FLN is chuck full of corruption and nepotism. Yes, the FLN is the party of the past, an archaic and antiquated party. Yes, the FLN hasn’t had one single new and innovative idea since November 1, 1954. Yes, the FLN is a broken political clock that gets the time right twice a day. Nevertheless, the FLN is a party in the electorate; it is a party as an organization; and it is a party in government. And as such, it is the only political party in Algeria right now that has these features. The rest of the parties of the opposition or in whatever place they want to be have never bothered to build their parties nationally and provide them with serious structures and organization. Granted, the FLN party-identification numbers are not that great, but they exist; they are not fictional, and that’s what allows this party to win. The rest of the opposition exists on paper, and nowhere else.
Corruption, ineptitude, and archaism do not cause huge and consecutive electoral defeats and major realignments of the electorate. It is only the loss of the brand of a given party, and the loss of its institutional structure, which is geared for victory, that causes the collapse of a political party. The last two features are very strong within the FLN, and that’s why the FLN wins.
Juan Cole posted on his blog an excellent analysis of the movie that caused such an uproar in Libya, Egypt, and Muslim countries. He investigated in details (and with links) the origin of the movie, who shot it, who funded it, and for what purpose. As we already know, the U.S. government is in no way or shape linked to the production and/or promotion of this movie. Moreover, the U.S. government, federal and/or state, cannot shut down or ban this movie because it has no constitutional basis for doing so. Yes ladies and gentlemen, the first amendment protects your right to be a jackass.
So without further do, i let you read Juan Cole’s article.
The late science fiction writer Ray Bradbury authored a short story about time travelers. They were careful, when they went back to the Jurassic, not to change anything, but one of them stepped on a butterfly. When they got back to the present, the world was slightly different.
When scientists studying complexity put forward the idea that small initial events could have large effects in non-linear, dynamic systems like the weather, they chose the term ‘butterfly effect.” One of the images students of weather instanced was that a butterfly flapping its wings might set off minor turbulence that ultimately turned into a hurricane. (In the older model of Newtonian physics, small events have small effects and large events have large effects, so you wouldn’t expect a minor action to produce big changes).
So the Associated Press did a careful investigation of the ‘Sam Bacile’ who supposedly directed the hate film, ‘The Innocence of Muslims.’ And AP found that probably he does not exist, but is a persona used by a convicted Coptic Egyptian fraudster, Nakoula Bassely Nakoula.
But the story gets more complex. Nakoula had Coptic and evangelical associates in the shooting of the film, including Steve Klein, a former Marine and current extremist Christian who has helped train militiamen in California churches and has led “protests outside abortion clinics, Mormon temples and mosques.” My guess is that most of the Egyptian Copts involved are converts to American-style fundamentalism.
The Egyptian Coptic church has roundly condemned the hateful film they made smearing the Prophet Muhammad.
Anyway, the bigotry of the edited film, directed at Muslims, is part of a movement of religious prejudice that also targets . . . Mormons.
Mitt Romney may want to rethink his ‘visceral’ reaction to the US embassy in Cairo’s tweet condemning the group’s hate speech.
Then it turns out that the film was shot in such a way that there was originally no mention of the Prophet Muhammad in the script, and the cast had no idea what they were getting themselves into, and then the name of Muhammad was clumsily dubbed into the final edit.
So, the film was from the beginning a fraud. It was directed by a fraud. It was promoted by a militia trainer. And Nakoula marketed it fraudulently as the work of a fictitious Israeli-American Jewish real estate agent, ‘Sam Bacile,’ and falsely said it had been funded by “a hundred Jewish donors.”
The group behind the film, in other words, managed to evoke all the classic themes of anti-Semitism as a way of disguising the Coptic and evangelical network out of which the ‘film’ came. When they weren’t busy picketing Mormons and defaming Muslims they were trying to get Jews killed for their own smears of Islam!
Of course, given the strident hatred of Muslims promoted by a handful of Jewish American extremists such as Pamela Geller, David Horowitz, Daniel Pipes and others, in which they gleefully join with white supremacists and Christian fundamentalists, it was only a matter of time before their partners in hate turned on them and used them.
The bad, dubbed ‘film’ only had one theater showing in some dowdy place in LA. Then in July the group had the trailer for it dubbed into Arabic with subtitles as well, and put it on Youtube, where it was found by strident Egyptian Muslim fundamentalist Sheikh Khaled Abdallah, who had it shown on al-Nas television and caused the sensation that led to Tuesday’s demonstrations in Cairo and Benghazi. As I argued yesterday, the vigilante extremists or ‘jihadis’ have been left on the garbage pile of history by the democratic elections in Egypt and Libya, and are whipping up the issue of this film in a desperate attempt to remain relevant.
Aware of the building sensation about the film, an employee of the US embassy in Cairo condemned it as hate speech before the rally began outside its premises.
In other words, this is a non-film and a non-story, a fraud, promoted by the worst people in each culture.
In Cairo, the rally allegedly got out of hand because the Ultras or soccer ruffians joined in, and they were probably the ones who tore down the American flag and ran up a black Muslim-fundamentalist one. Ultras are not fundamentalists but they are mischievous and resent authority, so a superpower that backs the army and police they hate might be a target of their wrath. There may have also been a handful of al-Qaeda supporters there, not surprising on the anniversary of September 11. The crowd at the American embassy was tiny by Egyptian protest standards.
In Benghazi, Hadeel Al Shalchi got the story. She talked to Libyan special forces members who explained that there were three stages to the events there. First, there was a demonstration. Then when the police and consulate guards tried to curb it, the demonstrators got angry and some of them went for guns and a rocket propelled grenade, so that the consulate was set on fire and looted. It was at that second stage that US ambassador Chris Stevens and another diplomat were killed (Stevens inhaled too much smoke in the fire and the other man was shot). Stevens’ death is a great tragedy and irony, since he was liaison to the transitional national council during the Libyan revolution and many Libyans lionize him. Why in the world he was in an insecure minor consulate in a provincial city on September 11 is a mystery to me.
Then 37 embassy personnel escaped to a rural safe house. The Libyan special forces commander charged with evacuating them to Tripoli at first was stymied by not having enough vehicles for so many people. Then the safe house came under fairly precise mortar fire from members of an al-Qaeda affiliate operating in Benghazi, which must have been surveilling consular personnel. Finally, the Libyan government forces got the Americans to the airport and they flew back to the capital of Tripoli.
It should be remembered that Libyan forces fought and risked their lives to protect Americans. In opinion polling in Eastern Libya, the United States has a 60% favorability rating, while the Salafis or hard line Muslims stand at only 28% favorable.
It was while all that was going on in Cairo and Benghazi that Mitt Romney took it into his head to condemn Barack Obama for the tweet issued by the Cairo embassy before the demonstration. He alleged that Obama had *reacted* to the embassy attacks by showing some sympathy for the attackers. This allegation is untrue and absurd, but Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan went on repeating it all day Wednesday.
Romney was caught on camera walking away from that shameful performance with a shark-like grin on his face. Since he was talking about matters of life and death, the expression was inappropriate. But a darker theory is that he was grinning about having stuck it to Obama.
Romney’s politicization of September 11 and of the horrible events in Benghazi was poorly received among opinion leaders, including prominent Republicans, and some observers suggest that this miscalculation may have been a decisive nail in the coffin of his sputtering campaign.
Meanwhile, the Libyan government apologized for and vehemently condemned the attack on the consulate and the killing of its personnel. And, on Wednesday Libyans staged pro-American demonstrations in several cities.
In Egypt, in contrast, small demonstrations were held again in front of the US embassy, until police pushed the activists back. When, on Thursday morning, protesters set two cars afire with Molotov cocktails, police arrested 12 of them. The police have the embassy surrounded and have closed the roads leading to it in Garden City.
Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, fell short of strongly condemning the Cairo and Benghazi attacks. Late on Wednesday the Muslim Brotherhood finally retweeted comments of one of its other leaders, Khairat al-Shater, in condemnation of the attacks. Nevertheless, the Brotherhood is sponsoring rallies protesting the film on Friday, a ‘day of rage.’ Morsi is no doubt worried that religious and political currents to his right will outflank him on the issue of the blasphemous film and its American provenance. But Morsi has a Ph.D. from the US and surely knows that the US government cannot suppress films, and it is shameful that he did not condemn forthrightly the killing of Ambassador Stevens and the others.
In Tunisia, Salafis rallied on Wednesday in front of the US embassy, but were fairly quickly dispersed by police deploying tear gas. Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki denounced the killing of Stevens and the others as an “act of terrorism.”
So the Butterfly Effect set off by a low-budget bad propaganda film gotten up by two-bit frauds and Christian supremacists, and then promoted by two-bit Egyptian and Libyan fundamentalists, has provoked some squalls and cost the lives of four good men.
The storm provoked by this butterfly has revealed character on an international scale. The steely determination of an Obama to achieve justice, the embarrassing grandstanding of a Romney, the destructive hatred of a handful of extremists in Cairo and Benghazi, and the decency and warmth toward the US of the Libyan crowds, all were thrown into stark relief by the beating of the butterfly’s wings.
In the end, the violence and extremism of the hardliners on both sides is a phantasm of the past, not a harbinger of the future. The wave of democratic politics sweeping the region has left the haters behind, reducing them to desperate and senseless acts of violence that will gain them no good will, no popularity, no political credibility.
A little-noted major event of Wednesday was the democratic selection of a new prime minister in Libya for the first time in the country’s history. Mustafa Abushagur defeated the Muslim Brotherhood candidate handily. Abushagur for a long time taught college in the US, at the University of Alabama Huntsville. Libyans again showed themselves nationalist and non-fundamentalist. This remarkable achievement, and what it portends for the shape of Libyan politics, will be drowned out by the atrocity in Benghazi, but it is the development that is likely to be marked by future historians as a turning point in Libya and in the Middle East.
130 ans de colonialisme et 50 ans de kleptocratie ont fait de ce peuple une bande de charlatans. Il n’y a ni une élite commerciale, ni une élite intellectuelle, ni une élite universitaire, ni une élite politique, ou même une élite religieuse. Pas d’élite tout court. L’Algerie est un pays qui est rongé par le charlatanisme et le médiévalisme du nord au sud et de l’est à l’ouest.
Je vous laisse apprécier les conseils de ce charlatan sur le mariage.
What do you want me to tell you about the legislative elections. You know already my opinion about this sad masquerade ball. Nothing will come out of these elections. Nothing. Maybe if the turnout rate is very low, these elections would solidify the fact that the Algerian people has rejected this power and continues to reject it. Any other political analysis is just an asinine attempt at putting some lipstick on a pig.
But we need to laugh and these elections have been a constant source of laughter for me. From the ridiculous stumps speeches, to the unbelievable number of electoral lists to the hilarious political ads, this campaign was a vaudeville slapstick comedy. The Three Stooges wrapped in a Buster Keaton comedy and the whole thing is directed by the sinister and satirical eye of Tim Burton. If you don’t believe me, watch this video. The president, Bouteflika, shows up to vote with a little kid wearing a suit and a tie–already this is creepy. The mummified president, moving at the glacier speed, spends more than 3 minutes gathering all the electoral lists. This goes on and on until he felt the need to stop for a breather. I mean, this is ridiculous. I counted at least 35 electoral lists in that district and i am told that in the Wilaya of Msila, there are 48 lists. Come on folks, after reading this and watching this hilarious piece of comedy, do you really need an analysis? Just sit, watch, and laugh. Nothing will change, everything will worsen, and the nightmare will continue. FYI, i am not a pessimist at all. I am just a realist.
“The Mummy,” A slapstick comedy featuring the president Bouteflika
By the way, If you don’t laugh watching this, you need to go find your sense of humor because you have lost it.
So let’s talk about Mohamed Merah (for my American readers and followers who are not up-to-date on this story here is a CNN link and BCC top 10 articles on this incident, which should be enough to bring you up to speed). I didn’t want to write anything about this story for the simple reason that I thought it didn’t need more attention that it already had. However, after reading whatever was written on this terrorist/murder/killing-spree incident, and watching news summaries linked to it, I noticed something that bothered me a lot; something that was missing from the debate surround this incident. The way the whole story was presented was as if Merah and what he did was sui generis; he came out of nowhere; those incidents were not caused by any structural and/or institutional variables. For French politicians, pundits, and blowhards alike, Merah was just like Jesus; both men were the result of an immaculate conception. However, Merah’s immaculate conception was neither biological nor divine; it was institutional and structural conception. For them, Merah just hated so much the Jews and the French soldiers, and loved so much radical Islam that he woke up one day and decided to kill some Jews and some soldiers. This explanation is as misleading as idiotic. No one has yet to ask: how did Merah get to this point? What are the structural reasons? Are there institutional causes? No one wants to ask these tough questions because no one likes or wants to hear the answers.
Because of this, I decided to bestow on Mohammed Merah the status of victim. Yes, he was actually a victim, and no one dared to say it. But how can I say that Merah was a victim when he was allegedly accused (I am using “allegedly” because the courts and/or the prosecutors have not yet indicted and/or charged Merah with these crimes) of killing 3 Jewish kids, 3 soldiers and 1 adult male? Have I lost my mind? Have I lost all sense of compassion for the victims? Am I justifying these horrendously inhumane crimes? No, I have not and i do not by any stretch of the imagination. Merah is as much a killer as he is a victim. He is victim of the French Republic; he is the victim of his own name, his own skin color, of his own accent, of his own religion, of his own appearance, of his own history, of his own socioeconomic situation, of his own culture, and of his own identity. Everyone of these aspects of his victimhood (or victimology as criminalists would called it) were aggravated, manipulated, isolated, amplified and used against Merah by the French Republic to shame him, to isolate him, to degrade him, to debase him, to dehumanize him, and to strip him of any honor and any pride in himself, his family, his community, and his country.
Merah was an outcast living in a society that despised his forefathers, his fathers, and despised him. He was living in a country that dehumanized his forefathers, his fathers, and dehumanized him. He grew up seeing his parents disrespected and afraid of whom they are. He was probably ashamed of his father’s accent, his grammar mistakes, and he wanted so much his daddy to just speak like a “normal” Frenchman. As a young kid in school, Merah had probably asked himself several times, “why don’t I have blue eyes and a fair skin? Why is my name so different and so hated and synonymous with ugliness and poverty? If only my name was Francois or Jacques or Pierre, and I had fair skin and blue eyes, I wouldn’t be living in these dire conditions.”
Merah was ashamed of his religious tradition because he was told repeatedly that Islam is an evil and backward religion. He was told that the hijab that his grandmothers wore for years, and probably his mother too, wasn’t a religious practice, but a sign of proselytism, fanaticism, and inferiority that was not welcome in the Republic. He was told that the Republic would fight and criminalize his religious tradition. He was told that he lived in a secular country, yet he noticed that Catholic holidays are recognized and celebrated while his are demeaned and forgotten. He was told that he lived in a country that did not distinguish at all between all religions, yet he watched his father pray in a dilapidated cave-like make-shift mosques while churches are erected at every corner like majestic architectural marvels.
Merah was ashamed of his history and the history of his community because his forefathers migrated to France as second-class indigenous Muslims who were neither Algerians nor French. Politically speaking, his fathers and grandfathers were bastards as far as the French Republic was concerned. And even when his father embraced the Republic and became a French citizen, the Republic never embraced him back. In fact, the Republic fought his father’s religion and origin and wanted him to erase his distinctiveness and live in a cultural, religious, ethnic, and linguistic vacuum; a no-man’s-land identity where he could neither prosper as a French citizen nor could he be proud of his Algerian heritage. So his father was just like his grandfather: a bastard of the Republic. This didn’t change with Merah. Although he is of this new generation, these young beurres who were born in 1980s and 1990s and think they are fully assimilated into the French societal fabric. But to Merah great sadness and psychological despair, he discovered that to be assimilated in the French societal fabric he needed to radically change and become someone else. He found out that speaking French without an accent wasn’t enough. He needed to strip himself of his religion, his past, his culture, and hide who he really is so deep in the confines of his psyche that no one would dare call him anything else but French. But every time Merah rode the train, he was reminded that he didn’t look “French”. Every time he wanted to talk to a pretty “French” girl, he was reminded of his origins. Every time he crossed the path of a cop, he was reminded that he was presumably guilty, not innocent. Every time he watched politicians on the news, he was reminded of his second-class citizen status. Every time he listened to the minister of Interior (to all of ministers of Interior since 1970s), he was reminded that he and his parents belonged to a backward civilization. Every time he watched his president campaign, he felt that he was just a guest in a foreign country; that he was just an electoral merchandize bartered around between the radical right and the extreme right. Briefly stated, Merah was not French, though he has no other citizenship. He was never French not because of the lack of wanting to be French, but because the French Republic and the French society refused to accept him or accept any of his heritage with respect, dignity, and equality.
See, to be assimilated in the cultural and the sociopolitical fabric of a country, that country has to assimilate you and accept your culture, your ethnicity, and your tradition as well. Assimilation works both ways. Assimilation is an endogenous phenomenon; you embrace a country, and at its turn, the country embraces you too. In the case of Merah and many like him, assimilation meant one thing: leave who you are behind and wear this new foreign suit hoping that the suit would fit you. After a while, Merah felt like a clown who was acting his part in a circus called France. The problem was that Merah was just acting the part, not living or becoming the part. This daily dissociation from reality is hard to maintain, and if a person is not psychologically strong, that person could start looking for alternatives. Unfortunately for Merah, he found an alternative to the republic. A radical and perverted form of a religious belief that provided him with an easy explanation and designated an already guilty target. That’s the whole story of Merah and that is the story that no one is telling out there. No, it is not about Islam and radical fanaticism. It’s all about the Republic and its failed models of integration and assimilation. Yes, Merah pulled the trigger and there is no doubt about that, but we need to backup a little, get our story straight, and determine how he got to that decision. In the case of Merah, genetics loaded the gun, his cultural, social, and political environment aimed the gun, and the French Republic pulled the trigger.