Today marks the one year anniversary of the protests in Morocco that spurred King Mohamed 6th’s decision to upend the constitution (sort of) and establish a democratically elected parliament (sort of). This time last year, the streets of Tangier were full of protests and, as I’ve come to learn, full of looters. The main street of town, known locally simply as Boulevard, faced massive looting and businesses were shut down for days. This year, the #Feb20 movement planned protests all across the country- some protesting the monarchy, some protesting the ever-pressing issue of youth unemployment, and some protesting the Islamist party that won the parliamentary elections this past fall. Though today is the anniversary, the movement made a decision to hold the protests yesterday, on the 19th. Why, you ask? Well, because people have work today, and the protesters wouldn’t want them to miss it.
And therein lies the contradiction. Aren’t the majority of the protesters supposed to be un(der)employed and overeducated young people? If they have work on Monday, work so important that missing a few hours would ruin their career, then why exactly are they protesting in the first place? Furthermore, isn’t the point of a protest sacrifice? Sacrifices made in the name of the greater good, justice, and equality seem to be worth a few hours off work. From my brief perusal of the Boulevard, though, the problem is more than that. Even on a Sunday, few people showed up here in Tangier. In fact, the biggest protests here yesterday were related to the Islamist party, and even that was a trickling flow of people at best. No doubt there were larger protests elsewhere in the country, and maybe even in Tangier, but the most visible protests took play in absence. That is, by not showing up for the protests, the majority of Tangawi were–maybe inadvertently–sending a message: it’s not worth it. In many eyes, these protests are a farce. The “Arab Spring” is a media created sensation that froze over during Tangier’s unusually cold winter.
Several evenings ago, I walked past the plaza where the protests were to be held. It was jam packed with people- the majority of them were just passing through and gazing out across the sea. The wall of the plaza, known as the “lazy wall,” is notorious for being a place for loitering and nothing-doing. As I passed through, a friend suggested we stop by a bar for a quick beer and tapas. The bar’s name is (in French) “The Heart of Tangier” and is situated on top of the notorious Cafe de Paris. As we sat relaxing over the Place de France, right in the center of downtown, I gazed out over the plaza. I had never seen the view from the height before, and I noticed the flag of France proudly flying over the consulate. At first glance, it appeared to be the highest point in the view. After another look through, I saw something bright yellow peaking out from behind the trees of the Consulate’s luscious grounds.
There, just barely out-doing the French flag was a sign of the coming era. At one point, it was the epitome of American democratic capitalism. Here in Morocco, it’s a sign of Westernism, luxury, and modernity. In the distance, fluorescent and flickering, McDonald’s had made its mark on the Place de France. Move over 20th century colonialism- McArabia is here.