This is one of those moments when I question my own beliefs and try to understand not only what is behind them but also their consequences. I usually do this alone but I thought I’d share it here this time. Do not expect much though; I am not a big fan of answering consecutive questions on the same topic so, very often, I get bored very quickly and think of something else.
In 1984, George Orwell wrote: “There is no way in which the Party can be overthrown. The rule of the Party is for ever. Make that the starting point of your thoughts”. And I thought do I (but I’ll use “we” from now on) believe change is possible in Algeria? I mean do we really believe it? I readily answered YES WE CAN!… I mean yes of course we do!
I’ll elaborate in a moment.
France has occupied Algeria during 132 years, and during a big part of this period many Algerians believed the colonial power was invulnerable. And with this belief carved in their minds and hearts, it was simply impossible for subversive ideas such as resisting or waging a war to occur to them.
Every time the colonial army attempted to conquer an Algerian region it always faced courageous and ferocious resistance movements, and the armed resistance “stopped” only after the Algerian Sahara was completely conquered around the second decade of the 20th century. But then France displayed its might and power, its science and technology, its art and literature… It was one of the world’s biggest empires after all. On the other hand, the Algerian people were poor, they were hungry, they were unemployed, they were illiterate, they depended in everything on the French. They couldn’t but believe in their enemy’s invulnerability and in their helplessness. Just like Orwell said, they had the idea that France couldn’t be defeated as a starting point of any of their thoughts. With this hypothesis, it is normal that they hadn’t attempted anything. I remember in many Algerian historical movies, you would see the Harki trying to convince his village to surrender, explaining that resisting was not worth it, because it had no chance to succeed, because they were too weak and France too strong…
Then things changed. France lost its own independence during WWII and needed the West’s and its colonies’ help to recover it. France lost in Dien Bien Phu. Some colonies of other super powers recovered their independence. Some Algerians got to school and questioned the French invulnerability dogma. They set their minds free and lost their colonisability complex. It was a long process where doubts, hesitations, courage and fear were mixed; wonderfully depicted by Mohamed Dib in his famous trilogy. But at the end they believed in change, that it was possible, that they could bring it, that they must bring it. So they moved from awareness to action and they spoke and fought. My aunt used to say: “Silence is not good. Had we kept silent France would be still in Algeria. So we spoke out, we killed and we got killed, but we succeeded“. This is what these brave men and women thought so they launched the war and eventually won it.
Back to the present. I think everyone agrees that most Algerians want a change, but do they believe it is possible?
We have plenty of reasons to think change is impossible. The Algerian people’s voice has been silenced for 49 years now and things are getting worse. The pouvoir won’t spare any means to stay in power. The few occurrences when the population has moved to make a change were failures and some of them brought, directly or indirectly, more issues and bloodshed. The education system is brought down every year a little further or deeper. Benbouzid declared yesterday that the great BAC’s results were not fortuitous but the result of the great ministry’s reforms during the past 10 years corresponding to Bouteflika’s reign. He was right on one thing, they’re no miracle but they are not great nor are they the result of just 10 years but many more. So the list is long and anyone who believes change is impossible can justify it easily.
On the other hand, and as I showed it above, we have in our history a wonderful example of the possibility of change even when nothing can reasonably make you think so. And this is why I had answered without the slightest hesitation yes and I guess many Algerians share my opinion.
But here comes the real question. What does it mean to believe change is possible? Imam Shafi3i says in a beautiful poem:
تعصي الإله و أنت تظهر حبه ….. هذا محال في القياس بديع
لو كان حبك صادقـاً لأطعتـه ….. إن المحب لمن يحب مطيـع
The same thing goes for belief. If one wants something and believes it is possible then he or she should do something to get it, or am I wrong? What are we doing today to bring change intro reality? Let me be positive here and say that probably many (“many” is because I am trying to be positive) men and women are working on it in their families, at work or with their children. Some even do it at a little larger scale. But what are we doing at the country’s scale? I am talking of something really effective. I am afraid that, even if I am very positive, my answer will be nothing. The only thing we’re doing well at the country’s scale is showing our unhappiness and criticizing our situation, our rulers and our people; which is a typical reaction of the helpless and the weak, of those who think change is not possible, unless a miracle happens that is.
So I ask my question again: Do we believe change is possible? Can we prove it?