Kissing the hand of a prince and the first-person-plural

Oh Morocco Board! Aside from the fact that their editorial board doesn’t feel that giving credit to original work is necessary, I must say, as an English website that posts material on Morocco, critical analysis isn’t their strong point. The only exception to that are the occasional times they cross-post something from the Moorish Wanderer who is probably the only person giving their site some substance.

I had the misfortune of stumbling across this article, “Morocco: Kissing the Young Prince’s Hand,” which seeks to–I don’t even know what it seeks to do, to be honest. It’s a really sad attempt at defending the gesture of several officials kissing the hand of the 9-year old Prince Hassan. The writer begins the article with the following:

In Egypt and Sudan female circumcision is still practiced, in Tibet, we are told, one can be cut in pieces  and have the pieces thrown to birds, in East Africa some tribes slice their phallus, in India there are still instances of widows burning, and in Kuwait men shake noses instead of shaking hands.

What an introduction, huh? Digging beneath the exoticism, the mentioning of these alleged practices in various societies serves absolutely no purpose without a context other than sensationalism. Then there is the dreaded “we,” which carries on for the rest of the article. According to a Wikipedia page, “In the first-person-plural point of view, narrators tell the story using “we”. That is, no individual speaker is identified; the narrator is a member of a group that acts as a unit.” This “group” is very clearly the Moroccan population. The usage of “we” is what sparked me most to react to this article. I, as a Moroccan, have not given any figure the authority to speak for me. As a writer myself, I put myself in positions where I express my opinions, some of which are not widely accepted. However, expressing your opinion as an individual is one thing. Expressing an opinion, especially a politically-sensitive one, in the first-person-plural is a dangerous act that perpetuates misconceptions, forcefully defines people, and generates a very unproductive discussion.

The writer then ties in Nasserism, somehow, and provides a very monolithic and reductionist explanation of the pro-democracy uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. The writer groups Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Tunisia in one category, under the guise that it was solely the failure of Nasser’s pan-Arabist philosophy that sparked dissent. No mention of Egypt though.

Then, perhaps the most infuriating and shameful part of the article follows as such:

Yes Hassan II was a hard father on us. Yes you can call him a dictator in regards to certain decisions he took. But, that clever king saved us from 60 years of  “ideological adolescence”

Again, the use of the dreaded first-person-plural! The analogy of Hassan II as a father and the Moroccan population as his children is extremely inappropriate, considering the killings, violent police repression of protests, human right violations, and arbitrary arrests carried out under his approval. The analogy assumes that the relationship was familial, mutually respectful, loving, when that was far from the case. The brutality of his reign lives on in the memories of the generation that endured those 60 years. What’s worse is that the writer claims that Moroccans were “saved” from “ideological adolescence.” Does this somehow explain why Morocco currently has the highest illiteracy rate in the entire region? The stigma of illiteracy in Morocco is deplorable and a direct result of Hassan II’s reign, namely when public school systems were arabized, while university level education continued on in French, systematically excluding people with lesser income who couldn’t afford to pay the tuition of French-taught private schools. Consequently, the best and most well-paying jobs almost all required and continue to require a proficient level of French.

The conclusion leaves a bitter taste and regret of having read the entire article in the first place:

None of your business if we want to kiss our monarchy’s hands or a..s!

“We!” “Our!” Damn this first-person-plural! As a Moroccan, I absolutely abhor this. This article was obviously not intended to stimulate an intellectual discussion, and I’ve exercised a huge amount of restraint in responding to it. For my conclusion, I’ll leave it to the ever-expressive Kristen Wiig.

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2 thoughts on “Kissing the hand of a prince and the first-person-plural

  1. Thank you for this brilliant article and for setting the records straight. As a Moroccan as well, I never authorized this Sarah Zaimi to speak for me. Her “analysis” is outrageous! Moreover she apparently is not aware of the other “we” who, in the Moroccan newspaper Al Ayam (march 2011), among others, was asking for the cessation of the hand kissing and bowing??

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