#Feb20, Democracy, Freedom Of Speech, Fun Stuff, Moroccans For Change, Morocco, Protests

The Smart Ass in Me…

When I am asked: what is the worst insult in Morocco? I remember to warn people not to ever dare call someone an ass (donkey). For this gentle, hard working and resilient animal brings out the worst in Moroccans, and the simple use of the word can lead to disproportionate physical violence. I too always wondered why that is. But I might have finally found the answer…

Donkeys remind me of my beautiful country. When my first child was born, I bought him a stuffed one, though I gave up trying to find a Moroccan looking one, and resigned myself to the fluffy and cute Eeyore (Winnie the Pooh’s buddy). Then, as my son grew older, I was excited to find an even bigger one, the smart and plump Donkey from Shrek, which still didn’t look nor act a bit like the donkeys that reminded me of back home. Coming from Morocco, donkeys had a special place in my heart. When I was invited to go horseback riding with my in-laws during my first visit to the Midwest, I asked to trade my horse for a donkey. I was confident that it was the only animal that wouldn’t buck me off, and yet patiently take me on a long and pleasant promenade. Of course, they all laughed at my goofiness.

Last week, I was again reminded of the donkey, and it was while I watching the beating of my fellow Moroccans protesting for democracy.  Brains are surprising that way. They venture and dig into the deepest corners of our unconscious to pull out the most unexpected associations. But there it was before me, a hard working donkey, so resilient, so dedicated, dodging sticks on the head and kicks in the ribs, and never gratified.

A donkey is a donkey: he is no pet. He doesn’t have the speed of a horse. He seemingly has no grace, and yet when you need him, he is usually there, and he will carry you and your belongings, across miles, despite your fiercest and most indifferent heel or stick kicks. He is in every village, laboring in interminable circles, grinding grains, transporting harvest or water, and plowing soil.

If only the donkey could speak, he would say: I deserve as good of a treatment as a stallion, and maybe even just a little more appreciation. He would brag that he nailed his role in Shrek, and he would protest that he deserves just as much love as Eeyore.  But mostly, he would remind us that US president Andrew Jackson was the “jackass” who proclaimed: “let the people rule,” turning the donkey into a symbol of democracy in the most powerful country in the world.

But, our donkey is not allowed to speak, for when he dares to make a sound, we frown at his strident unmelodious bray, and wish he didn’t have a voice, or didn’t even have a soul. After all he is just a donkey, and he will always be.

Which brings me back to why the word donkey brings out the worst in my people: Is it because it reminds us of who we really are? How we are treated in our own country? What happens to us when we dare to speak up? How vulnerable and miserable it is to live without freedom or dignity? Aren’t our doctors merely donkeys when they are asked to work hard, accept their conditions, or get brutalized when they dare to protest?

I realized finally why I wanted to buy a stuffed donkey for my son. It was my way to reconnect and reconcile with my own inner donkey, that other hard working, dedicated Moroccan, who strives for social justice, and dignity, and who wakes up every morning wondering if he will ever see a better day.  Lately, the smart ass in me has been whispering:  donkeys can come together to make a change and we can finally get the love and appreciation that we deserve. Every donkey counts. As we patiently continue to live up to our donkiness, we too can aspire to become someday an emblem of freedom and dignity.



6 thoughts on “The Smart Ass in Me…

  1. M4C,

    Thanks for an insightful piece of reflections on our national donkiness. Your musings brought to my mind the fact that the Amazigh word for donkey in south-eastern Morocco (where I hail from) and, indeed, far afield in North Africa is 1) ‘aghyoul’ or 2) ‘aghayoul’. When broken down to their morphological constituents, these two works for our beloved beast simply mean ‘take heart’ or ‘take my heart,’ respectively. The donkey is thus at the centre stage of our national consciousness and any future in our land will have to bring the donkey to the table. No doubt both meanings of ‘donkey’ in Tamazight are relevant and could not be timelier for the state of a nation gone adrift.

    At this juncture in the history of our country and the wider North Africa, we, the people, must always remember to take heart and love each other in the face of adversity and a police state apparatus hell-bent on exterminating us to the last one if that’s what it is going to take to keep a despot in the seat of power.

    Donkeologically yours,

    Posted by Muha | June 3, 2011, 5:42 pm
  2. Dear Moha, Thank you, I enjoyed your comment, and also knowing that I am not the only smart ass out there who feels for our brotherly beast. Clearly: you and I are in perfect symbiosis with our inner donkeys…M4C

    Posted by M4C | June 3, 2011, 6:56 pm
  3. Take heart, dear M4C, for we, the wretched of the earth, are going to inherit it in the end.

    “People are dangerous. If they’re able to involve themselves in issues that matter,
    they may change the distribution of power, to the detriment of those who are
    rich and privileged” (Noam Chomsky).

    Posted by Moha | June 4, 2011, 1:20 pm
    • Someone finally sat me down and shwoed me the book of Judges in a new light (still scary ).It starts out pretty cool. The first few judges were decent. Then they start doing evil in the eyes of the Lord . By the time you get to Samson, there’s a big drunk bully womanizer who murders a bunch of guys. Each judge is worse than the last one, was the point. And that story is just kind of the icing on the cake, right at the end of the book.The funny thing to me is that Saul, the first king (right after that story), was a Benjaminite. He wasn’t the best guy either

      Posted by Mike | May 22, 2012, 2:30 pm
  4. Donkeys of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!

    I agree that the donkeys of Morocco are a proud symbol, not a shameful one. They are steadfast and forebearing, and they get the job done. They remind me of the stories my grandfather, a Sicilian, used to tell of his childhood in a small village, where donkeys were as much a part of life as they are in rural Morocco.

    But as I believe it is said, “Beware the patient man when he rises to anger,” or “Beware the quiet stream when it becomes a flood.”

    Posted by eatbees | June 8, 2011, 8:49 am


  1. Pingback: eatbees blog » Social Mutants as Pioneers - June 9, 2011

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