I don’t know about the rest of Algeria but, in Bejaia, it is not easy to make an appointment with your doctor. Doctors do not use the phone and don’t have an appointments book. Instead, the patient or a relative must wake up very early, as in about 3 am, to add the patient’s name to a list on a piece of paper that someone (I always wondered who) hangs every night on the doctor’s office door. You can of course come at a more decent time but then be ready to see your name on the second page or even further, meaning you will have to follow the rules and wake up earlier on the next day. Sometimes, a patient may wake up late, say at around 6 am, and finds the first page already full and, angry as he may be, he would tear the list into pieces and hangs a new one on which his name would be the first. This means all those early birds who did their job would just have to “take another appointment”. And while waking up early guarantees you’d be among the lucky who would see the doctor in the morning, it doesn’t mean you wouldn’t see the doctor’s friends and relatives seeing him without a prior appointment.
While the above shows, once more, the little respect most Algerian doctors have for their patients, I find it quite surprising that the “angry bloke” episode doesn’t happen often. The system does actually work well and the population seems to accept it. Being in Bejaia, a Kabyle city, and knowing the Kabyles’ “readiness” to contest and oppose, you’d expect they’d do something about it. But it looks like opposition is only directed at the pouvoir and its representatives (something they cannot be blamed for). Bad things coming from the population itself seem ok or, as we say in Algeria, Normal.
Normal, or nooormaal, is one of the biggest inventions in Algeria. Many things, new and old, good and more often bad, are tagged as nooormaal and then you couldn’t do anything against them. Nooormaal means the people have learnt to live with them and are not ready to move a finger to change them. And if someone, unaware of the rule or just stupid, attempts to criticize a nooormaal thing or behaviour then he’d hear everyone tell him, come on what are you doing? it’s nooormaal!
Nooormaal is great because it’s the most effective deterrent one could have invented. The sound of this word will suppress any intention of action let alone the action itself. It is not possible to fight against something declared nooormal. You’d be alone and the people wouldn’t just be neutral but they could fight you back as well. I mean, what the heck, since when normal things need to be changed or suppressed?! So insults and gross talk in the street is nooormaal, lack of respect is nooormaal, smoking in a non-smoking area is nooormaal, playing games or chatting on the net during work hours is nooormaal, burning trash near a primary school is nooormaal, corruption is nooormaal, mugging a woman in the street is nooormaal, watching the scene and not doing anything is nooormaal, kidnapping people by the police is nooormaal, amending the constitution so a specific man gets his third mandate is the most noooooormaaal (it deserves more vowels) of things.
I said I wouldn’t talk of politics so discard the above example on our president. I am more concerned about the society and its illnesses. Each society is built on good values which are shared between its members. I feel everyone in Algeria knows our good values which have their roots in our traditions, customs and religion. But many of them are fading away and are replaced by other values, habitually declared as negative and opposed to the good ones, which are first tagged as nooormaal before perhaps becoming good. And my friends this very process is nooormaal as our society’s evolving so why the hell am I concerned?! Being concerned is the least nooormaal thing…