A thing that prevents someone from giving full attention to something else. This is the definition the dictionary gives for distraction.
Everyone uses distractions. Parents do distract their children when they become bothersome. Teachers do the same with their pupils. But those with cunning and most dangerous distraction strategies are probably the politicians. Whether in domestic and foreign affairs, distractions are an important tool to pass laws, hide information or even invade a country. Politicians are even able to use clustered distractions where A is used to prevent from noticing B which in turn is used to distract from thinking of C. Oumelkheir gives an example here.

As usual, and because Algeria’s recent history is still unknown to most of its people, subjects related to the past are the best distractions one could find in our country. They are fertile topics creating storms of (sterile) discussions and debates which will lead nowhere before they vanish leaving the place to new distractions.

I have a passion for history and, like many of my nationals, I am generally interested in anything related to Algeria’s past and most specifically to the pre and post-independence period. This makes me one of the potential (and easy?) victims of Algeria’s preferred distractions.
These past two weeks were packed with these “historical distractions”, and let’s admit it, I very happily decided to drown in them and forget everything else. I did it not only because of my passion but also because I got tired of Algeria’s real issues and needed to be distracted. This probably explains why I remained silent on this blog for weeks and why I post today with this very topic.

So back to our recent distractions. Interestingly one alone was apparently judged insufficient so we got a group of them so everyone is kept busy. Yacef Saadi, the controversial Battle of Algiers’ hero, declared that he had never worked with Louisette Ighilahriz and cannot testify of her being a moudjahida. The press talked a lot about it and the poor Ighilahriz had to find the still alive among her companions who confirmed (for the Nth time as this wasn’t the first time she’s accused of lying) that she had worked with the FLN during the Battle of Algiers.
Before this was over, Algeria’s former president and liberation leader, Ahmed Benbella, gives an interview to Jeune Afrique in which he launches several distraction missiles. It’s like fireworks spreading everywhere and forcing the people to look in their direction. He reminds every one of the grudge he still holds against Abane, he talks of Bouteflika’s celibacy (as if we cared), of Ait-Ahmed whom he classifies as “more Kabyle, less Algerian” and of Boudiaf who, according to Benbella, was useless at handling arms (Nacer Boudiaf felt the need to defend his father offering a longer life to this distraction). He also reminded everyone that his parents were Moroccan and that his naturalisation was done only in 1962. This of course relaunched the eternal idle talks on the Moroccan origins of the Algerian leaders today and during the war. So well done Mr. Benbella!

I don’t know if these distractions worked well on my fellow Algerians. I see the press and people on-line commenting extensively about them, but did the trick really make the Algerians forget a little about their own and their country’s issues? Hard to tell. At least they made me write these few lines and, who knows, I might write again on less distracting topics…


12 thoughts on “Distractions

  1. way to go , keep up the good work , sometimes makes you wonder who you trust , benbella , ait ahmed , yacef or nobody , distraction what about the shortage of groceries on the market all the time , sometimes cooffee , tomorow it’s the cooking oil .etc. a big soccer game like the one against egypt and the list goes on.

    • Football is of course another distraction the politicians in Algeria and elsewhere use. Let’s say it helps increase the distraction effect on the populations which are not moved by history (cf. Martani’s comment). And I believe shortages on consumption goods could also be used as a distraction; people who struggle to make ends meet will most probably not think of anything else.

      • You forgot to also mention all the police road blocks used as a distraction to make the Algerian populace perpetually feel as though they’re under attack. Or how the post office never seems to have cash on hand, so you’re forced to spend an entire day running from post to post searching for cash. Or the Sonatrach endorsed gas shortages in the Eastern part of the country, despite the fact that Algeria’s oil reserves exceed 10 billion barrels, with daily production estimated at 1.2 million barrels.

        Apparently though, they’re all efficient distractions.

  2. To be honest, I’ve never heard of half of the names you mentioned in your article. I always say that I should learn the history of my country, but where to start?

    I don’t find it strange neither that my generation (those in their twenties now), and the ones who are following, are in the same position as mine, they don’t know Algeria’s history (if there is any reliable one), and more importantly, they *don’t care*.

    I mean seriously, who cares if that “Louisette Ighilahriz” is moudjahida or not? really!

    But after all, that’s a relief for you then, since future generations won’t get trapped in these history-related distractions because they won’t buy it anyways.

    • I remember I once wrote about the “fake moudjahidines” and I got a comment similar to yours from somebody “in their twenties”, so I kind of expect such reactions.

      Now am I relieved? No. I think the problem in the new generation is that they don’t care, and I am not talking about you here. They are apathetic and self-distracted; they are already trapped God knows where. The more I think of the new generations the more worried I get; illa man rahima Rabbouk. 🙂

  3. Since I know it is a distraction, the best way to make it fail is to ignore it. So I will ignore Yacef Saadi…
    But Ben Bella… I can’t… he reminds too much me this popular french proverb : “Il vaut mieux fermer sa gueule et passer pour un con que de l’ouvrir et le confirmer”…

    • I’ve got an idea for this proverb. Two days ago I was watching the news, the Sudanese president was speaking and below him was a Quranic verse which I cannot remember. And I remembered “Allah Akbar” that replaced Mubarak’s portraits in Egyptian meeting rooms. So I think it would be better to use the proverb instead of disrespecting God’s words by writing them in such bad places. Needless to say that the verse distracted me from listening to that stupid president.

  4. Merci Mnarvi pour l’exemple et le lien 🙂
    J’ai été “choquée” (relativement bien sur) par les propos du déjà controversé (comme tu dis) Yacef Saadi contre Louisette Ighilahriz, et c’est vrai que je me suis demandée (intérieurement) pourquoi? Pourquoi elle particulièrement? Alors que dire de l’interview “fleuve” de Benbella? A l’occasion de la commémoration des massacres du 8 mai 45, et au lieu de concentrer tous les efforts des anciens moudjahidines (encore vivants), à réclamer une reconnaissance par la France (qui s’obstine à ne pas le faire) des crimes commis contre un peuple entier, on nous distrait avec des batailles d’oreillers… même si bien sur je n’utilise cette expression que pour l’image, sinon, il y en a qui cachaient de gros blocs dans leurs oreillers… la question reste : pourquoi?
    Pourquoi Benbella est-il pris de cette envie soudaine de tout déverser sur ses origines qui nous obligent à réfléchir de nouveau à son fameux “hagrouna”… pourquoi son fiel sur les morts et les vivants? pourquoi Saâdi s’attaque-t-il à une femme qui a subi les pires sévices dans les geôles françaises?

    @Martani : Le probleme de ta génération, c’est que vous êtes arrivés à une époque où vos parents étaient occupés ailleurs par une nouvelle page sanglante de l’Algérie. Ils étaient en même temps saturés par le discours trop pompeux (l’officiel) qui ne racontait l’Histoire de la guerre de libération de l’Algérie qu’à partir d’une seule et unique version autorisée. En même temps, ils n’en connaissaient pas grand chose non plus. Sauf, qu’ils ont eu eux (moi par exemple) des parents qui leurs racontaient la guerre “humanisée”, la guerre de tous les jours, les bons comme les mauvais… nous avons peut-être cet avantage sur vous. Ceci dit, l’histoire est une matière vitale, primordiale, elle doit être rangée aux cotés de la langue et du calcul. C’est a dire, en matière de coefficient elle devrait être au même rang que l’arabe et les maths. Mais elle devrait être “sérieusement” enseignée, pour intéresser l’élève, le passionner… et en cela l’école est plus que défaillante.

    • Pourquoi? La question la plus difficile. J’ai tellement peu de chances de donner la bonne reponse que je m’y risque. Je pense, wal3ilmou lillah, que Benbella a senti son heure arriver et a donc voulu solder ses comptes ici-bas avant qu’on les lui solde la-haut. Ou qu’il s’ennuyait tout simplement a Geneve…

      • Ou en amalgamant les deux, sentant son heure arriver et l’ennui accentuant cette impression, il voudrait peut-etre la retarder (l’heure) en se donnant une importance, un role à jouer… en essayant de se convaincre qu’il était encore utile à la société… Wa Allahou a3lam…


  6. Hi Robert,

    Who are these ‘imperialists’ you are referring to?
    It’s OK we can take mocking, we have matured in 50 years and are slowly but surely developing our special national brand of self-derision 🙂

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