Enjoy this translation of the article Une classe très moyenne ( A very middle class ). This article originally written in French by M. Abdellah Tourabi, was published in the Moroccan magazine Goud on March 5th. It was gracefully translated by Simo Alji for the English speaking audience interested in Morocco. Please feel free to leave a thank you note for Simo on this blog or on our Facebook page: Moroccans For Change. Thank you and enjoy!
“Weakened and greatly reduced in the 80s and 90s, the Moroccan middle class has made a comeback in the last ten years. As in other countries in the region, particularly Tunisia, it is the product of globalization, foreign investment, outsourcing and tourism economy.
The return of this middle class was praised as a sign for economic development, especially as the advent of a social class, able to buffer between the rich and the poor, between a thin layer of wealthy and privileged, and a majority of poor and destitute people. The expansion of the middle class is perceived as a guarantor of social peace and reducing inequalities among Moroccans. Essentially made of graduates, professionals, mastering several languages, and open to the world, and people with high cultural capital, the middle class is naturally expected to guide and accompany the social and political changes in Morocco. Unfortunately, this is just an illusion.
The dynamic, triggered by the February 20 movement, illustrated how the Moroccan middle class is cautious, individualistic and anguished by the preservation of its thin privileges. In contrast with its Tunisian counterpart, which was at the forefront of change and now leading the country towards democracy and freedom, the Middle Class in Morocco, displayed astonishing conservatism. Its weak mobilization in the protests, its apathy, indifference, and sometimes its bad faith, are signs of its inclination for inaction and inertia. The Moroccan middle class applauded the revolts in the Arab world, waving the Tunisian and the Egyptian flags on Facebook, lamenting the fate of the Libyan people and cursing Gaddafi and his progeny, but when time came to demand reforms in its own country, all it showed was silence, evasion or flawed arguments. It took refuge behind a supposedly “Moroccan exception” and typical speeches of “extraordinary advances” in a country still at the bottom of all indices and international rankings for corruption, freedom of expression and human development.
The Moroccan middle class gargles of “major projects”, the Rabat tramway, highways, new stadiums, the TGV in 2013, as if the existence of natural and essential infrastructure was a luxury, and as if the use of taxes paid by Moroccans was an extraordinary act deserving praise and astonishment. In this middle class, people confuse their own personal success and the actual state of the country, where people still die under torture in police stations, where children, like at Anfgou, die of cold and starvation, where corruption infects all the institutions of the state and at all levels. The Middle class is concerned about its little comfort, its privileges and its small achievements. For this class, the first freedom is to consume, and the true pluralism is that of restaurants and the franchise of ready-to-wear gear.
According to the Moroccan Middle Class, the right to have coffee at Chez Paul would have more legitimacy in a new Constitution than the right to strike or the right for education. When it says “do not touch my country”, it really means “do not touch my credit”, and when it says that “time is not right to protest”, it is saying it is time to pay bills and make bank payments. She is unable to rise above this fragile and blinding comfort to understand that the real guarantee of its interests and their sustainability remain in a democratic, fair society, purged of corruption and inequality. She does not grasp that implementing real reforms cannot happen without public demand and without strong pressure exercised by the society over the state.
In the middle class, there is a frightening contempt against other Moroccans, those belonging to the less fortunate masses. The Middle class sees ignorance, inclination to violence and destruction. It is offended, indignant, shocked, when it watches the French channels with their politicians and intellectuals racist, asserting that “the Arabs are not made for democracy”, but it does not think less of its own citizens. “We’re not yet ready for democracy”, “Here, people do not know how to use freedom”, it argues again to justify the fear and inertia. The Moroccan middle class must then meditate this sentence from Kant: “I cannot admit the expression, used even by intelligent men: A certain people is not yet ripe for freedom (…) According to such a presupposition, freedom will never arrive; for we cannot yet ripen to this freedom unless we are already set free”. Let us move in the direction of democracy and dignity and all the people will follow.”