The true meaning of ‘independence’


I was stuck in traffic the other day and I saw this on the back of a truck:

Hybrid flag

And I thought of the type of questions they used to ask us in high school in philosophy:

حلل و ناقش

Many of us have never known the war of independence, but we are constantly being told that colonialism was awful, unjust, degrading, that the Algerian people rose for ‘freedom‘, ‘dignity‘, ‘honor‘, the ‘right to self-determination‘. All this is very well indeed, but what happened afterwards? Does our story as a people begin and end with the war for independence? It cannot be, we have surely been around for much longer than this brief time-span. But let us concern ourselves with the present, the here and now! What I ask myself is: what measures have been taken by post-independence Algeria which prove effectively, that we are no longer l’Algérie française of the colonial past? There are many, sure. If we count mere slogans as ‘measures’ or ‘intentions of measures’, we’ll end up with an even longer list (couldn’t resist that as the elections are approaching, oops!). But I am thinking of this hybrid flag image above and it evokes many things which have occurred in the recent history of post-independent Algeria and which show that l’Algérie is indeed still française, in many ways – perhaps irrevocably so.

Algerians are split over this issue: some resent it and want to eradicate any frenchness (lots of such zealous policies have failed, not because they were necessarily defective, but precisely because they were based more on ‘zeal’ than cold-headed thought), some do call for a national acceptance of our ‘French heritage’, even insisting that we’re more french than we’re arab and some just want to get the French nationality and go and live in France.

The idea of this post is to invite our commentators to list in their comments, what in their view have been the iconic policies, measures, decisions which post-independence Algeria has taken to demarkate itself from the French rule (cultural, political, economic, administrative – you name it)? Do you not think that France still makes (at least some of) the decisions which matter? How can we break free and be truly independent? Should we? Could we?

حلل و ناقش

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22 thoughts on “The true meaning of ‘independence’

  1. Algeria is not France and France is not Algeria that is simple
    as for politics is considered everybody should look out to himself
    France cannot influence Algerian policy more than Algerians can influence France’s policy
    (should they or shouldn’t they vote out sarkosy)
    England and America are also trying to pucker up and insert their influence on the algerians
    by the way algerians move to live out side the country and algerians move from outside of the country to live in country so migration is normal

    language is a tool it has the ability to open doors
    algerians speak a lot of languages and they live in a lot of different places

    • ilfdinar

      Do you not think that these platitudes could apply to albsolutely any country on Earth without exception? Just strike out the word ‘Algeria’ from your post and replace it with the name of any other country real or imaginary and you’ll see that it applies to them all!

      A bit more nuance please.

  2. 50 years of total and utter bankruptcy, that is the real result of our post-war accomplishments. Education, we are in the doldrums of the medieval era; economics, we have a one-resource exploitative economy; politics, we are in a masquerade ball populated by hustlers, thieves, scumbags, and down right killers; social and culture, we are in a no man’s land. And honestly, what social and cultural institutions? Are you kidding me? So, we are in a intensive state of regression. That’s where we are.

    • laseptiemewilaya

      I tend to agree that the current trend is extremely worrying, but it is simply not true that the last 50 years have just been bad without any good. Again, what is needed is nuance.

      But let me ask you, do you share the opinion of Algerians who say we’d have been better off with outright French rule? Just to avoid any misinderstanding: this simply a convoluted way of saying why did we kick off the French if all we seem capable of doing is wreck our country? The argument goes, at least when the French ruled, there were good things in Algeria alongside all the bad. Now what good things are there (alongside all the bad)?

      • that an alternate universe
        where Algeria experienced the same fate as South Africa a total apartheid and all the ills that come with it and after apartheid
        common now there is no point analyzing what might have happened what if what if
        whether or not Algeria is in the right track I cannot tell but Algerians need to reform their work ethics

        by the way algerianna I do not think France has a special hold on Algerian life/politics unlike benali’s Tunisia or Egypt or morocco Algeria in theory is a strong proponent of the nonaligned movement
        I think what ever influence France has is negated by Spain Britain America china Turkey Russia south Africa even

        • ilfdinar

          You know influencing something does not have to be in the active sense. So the French influence does not necessarily equate to them playing an active role in Algerian affairs. When I hear our politicians till now defining everything with reference to France, whether copying them tacitly or trying to demarcate Algeria from France for me this is still an undeniable proof of continuing dependence. It seems we’re incapable of breaking off – and that applies to the people as well by the way. Perhaps the absence of a strong sense of Algerian identity has a lot to do with it.

          And you’re wrong, am not trying to speculate on what might have been if…I am asking a direct question: what is the true meaning of independence considering what has happened in our country since independence?

      • Have i said anywhere in my comment that we would have been better if we were still colonized by the French? No. So, why do you bring this red herring and make me say things that i had no intention of saying?

        When you say that things have been bad lately, you are delusional my friend or you refused to see the reality of the situation. Since 1962, our country has been in a constant rate of decline. Since 1962, all we have done is spoiled our potential. And ever since, we have been on a severe and steady regression in all fields. I don’t do in demagoguery and fluffy empty rhetoric. I am too old for that and i don’t carry anyone’s water. I have seen my country regress to the point that we have reached the point of no-return as they say. This does not mean that i regret the French rule. This means that we have had one of the most corrupt, most inept, and most malevolent political class of all times. Our political class makes Stalin look like a chore boy.

        • Tahar

          I have asked you a question, hardly a tactic to make you say what you have not said don’t you think?

          Anyhow, thank you for answering my question and hence making your opinion a bit more explicit.

          I think that Algeria as a country (a political and economic entity) would have been better off had the French continued to rule. But Algeria as an ‘indigeneous’ people would have conyinued to suffer terribly.

          Those who have taken power after independence have not been faithful to the november 54 spirit because most of them fought alongside the enemy. A lot of the war heroes were liquidated after independence. It is not really surprising that things have taken a downhill turn since then.

  3. Pingback: Algeria: What Independence means · Global Voices

  4. the Question that mean this post is : are we independent yet?
    and seriously, I used to think “No!!!”
    we don’t really belong to any … ideology, to any political Conglomerate, nor Arabic, neither Islamic, even not an African , we don’t speak Arabic, french, Spanish but a mixture of all that! we had lost our identity, and we still looking for it!
    but it’s time to revoke all that, and start thinking what we should do, or make, or even how to step forward and built a nation , how to be really independent…

    • Adleine

      Interesting. Do you think that there are enough unifying elements for us to build an ‘Algerian nation’?

      Besides tribes and Islam, I see no other bonding and cohesive factors we could exploit. And even then we won’t be building an ‘Algerian nation’ but rather an ‘Islamic nation’ – which is what Islam is all about.

  5. Only an ignorant man with a very narrow understanding of liberty and life would think that we could be in a better condition under the French-genocidal rule. People need to look at their history as a continuum. We kicked the French out of here in 62 after an outstanding sacrifice in a brutal and grueling war to have a free land, but we still, after 50 year, struggling to know how to govern ourselves as a free people.

    Things would have been different instead, if we had our George Washington moment when he handed command to congress – the people – after he won the revolutionary war, And if the FLN leaders at the time were enlightened and acted like the U.S founding fathers and conceived a constitution that reflects the true values of the 54 revolution and pledged their honor to respect and preserve it for a republic worthy of those who gave their lives for it. That would have been a more proper and better heritage than the despicable colonial French heritage of despotism, genocides, torture and evil.

    It doesn’t take much of thinking to conclude that almost none of the Algerian governments since 62 were legitimate in a sense that they were not bound to the consent of the people, and therefore not accountable to anyone, which means that only very few people knows who does what and why. Hence your question does not make much of a sense in a political context except that we have been lucky with oil revenues which made the coming of the moment of truth a little bit late.
    Until then let us hope and ask the Lord to bless this country and gave it a new birth of liberty and prosperity for all.

    • Right. So what makes the US founding fathers enlightened ? The US is a ‘nation’ who has preceded the Algerian independence by many decades, how come we never had our founding fathers? Do you have any explanation?

      • Ceci dit, et au sujet des USA, et même avec un père fondateur (et la main sur le coeur), ils ont eu un président assassiné (deux) et une guerre sanglante moins d’un siècle après leur fondation… des génocides d’indiens, une politique esclavagiste et raciste jusqu’à très récemment…. et une histoire qui n’a pas encore fini d’être écrite….

  6. Pingback: الجزائر: ماذا يعني الاستقلال؟ · Global Voices الأصوات العالمية

  7. Un drapeau pareil accroché au dos d’un camion? je crois bien qu’il est passible de…..? sinon il s’agirait peut-être et tout “bêtement” d’une couleur qui a viré à l’impression, sinon terni au soleil? qu’en penses-tu Algérianna?
    Amma 3an sou2aliki : hallil wa naquich 🙂 j’étais justement en train de réfléchir et d ‘en parler avec mes enfants pendants ces dernières vacances de…. comment on les appelait avant? Y a-t-il des aussi vieux que moi ici? On les appelait : les vacances de Noel (qui soit dit en passant sont l’héritage d’une France laïque qui ne mèle pas Religion et Etat, comme vous devez tous le savoir 😉 Et les vacances qu’on appelle maintenant pudiquement, les vacances de printemps, étaient appelées : les vacances de Pâques.
    Je disais donc…. que tant qu’on n’aura pas des vacances en dehors de ces périodes religieuses “chrétiennes” nous sommes encore en plein sous le coup de l’héritage colonial “chrétien”. Surtout, qu’il est notoire que le premier trimestre est toujours d’une longueeeeuuuuuuuuuuuur inégalée par les deux autres trimestres. ne serait-il pas temps de réfléchir à mieux redistribuer et à équilibrer les trimestres sur les mois ouvrables en dehors de ces “fêtes” qu’on a adopté à force. J’entends depuis quelques temps, qu’on est période de “fêtes” et je me demande toujours lesquelles?
    Quant à la suite, l’héritage se fait toujours sentir lourdement au niveau administratif et judiciaire : cette bureaucratie tant décriée par tout le monde est l’héritage de la France coloniale, et les lois qui nous régissent sont toujours et pour nombreuses d’entre elles ce lourd, très lourd héritage…. en contradiction souvent avec ce que l’Algérie est devenue après l’indépendance….
    Quant à la langue, elle aurait pu (sans l’excès de zèle de certains) et du être réglée au fur et à mesure des années, surtout et plus facilement avec les générations montantes. En faisant en sorte d’enseigner la langue arabe de telle façon à ce que personne ne trouve à redire… mais où en est-on aujourd’hui de la langue arabe à l’école? Et le pire c’est d’entendre nos “officiels” faire des discours en français pour…. leurs compatriotes!
    Même si le pire héritage de la colonisation, ce n’est pas la langue (à mon humble avis, et en dehors des officiels dans des rencontres officielles) mais c’est l’esprit colonisé.
    Mais bon, je vais dire que malgré tout cinquante années restent insuffisantes pour se dégager complètement d’une colonisation de 132 ans qui a tout écrasé (en tout cas bien essayé) et tout effacé pour prendre la place. Mais El Hamdoullah…
    Au fait, je voulais aussi relever un point : les algériens et depuis le début (jusqu’à la fin) ont déclaré le : Djihad. Pourquoi on les appelait Moudjahidines? La liberté, la dignité, l’honneur, le droit à l’auto-détermination (même s’ils ne sont pas en contradiction avec l’esprit du Djihad qui a été accompli) ne faisaient pas partie du lexique des combattants de la première heure, tels l’Emir Abdelkader, Ahmed Bey, Cheikh Bouâmama et autres….

    • Etant en vacances loin de chez moi, je n’ai pas le temps de commenter sur ce sujet. Je le ferai inshallah a mon retour… Mais je ne peux rester sans repondre a ce passage de ton commentaire Oumelkheir 🙂

      Surtout, qu’il est notoire que le premier trimestre est toujours d’une longueeeeuuuuuuuuuuuur inégalée par les deux autres trimestres.

      On devrait faire comme en France et couper le 1er trimestre en deux avec les vacances de la Toussaint. Je pensais que c’etait deja le cas d’ailleurs 🙂

    • Salam Oumelkhir et bonne année 2012!
      Non c’était juste une petite image a`côté de la plaque d’immatricualtion, je l;aurais pas vue si je n’étais pas aussi proche du camion…C’est possible que ce soit juste la couleur qui a terni avec le temps mais en tous les cas ça m’a interpelée parce que justement le vert a viré au bleu, de toutes les couleurs…Enfin bref, que ce soit voulu ou non, la question reste entière. J’aime bien tes arguments, en effet oui, les marques du passé colonial sont partout…C’est vrai que 50 ans ne sont pas suffisants, mais quand même, je ne parle pas d’une Algerie puissance mondiale, mais une structure basique, des fondations solides, une lueur d’espoir en l’avenir…je pense que 50 ans c’est largement suffisant pour une ébauche élémentaire! Mais rien de tout ça, c’est tragique et c’est inquiétant… 50 ans après on nous sert toujours le doublespeak: Les méfaits de la France alors que tout l’argent de l’Algérie pratoquement finit en notre amie la France! Les martyrs sont morts pour l’indépendance, barak Allah fihom, mais c’est après que le vrai travail commence, et helas, il n’a jamais commencé…On attend toujours le commencement de l’indépendance, la pendule a beugué sur le point zéro on dirait. A part les bonnes intentions, tres peu d’actions, pour ne pas dire aucune.

  8. I was reading a book and intended to write a post on my blog about it : « Algérie, 20 août 1955. Insurrection, répression, massacres, de Claire Mauss-Copeaux »(a book I strongly recommend and regret that it was not written by an algerian historian). In the first chapters, the author cleaverly raises to the rank of symbols two things often cited by testimonies from both parts pied-noirs and algerians during colonization : the algerian cakes given as presents to the pied-noirs and the clap in the face of any algerian as a commonplace tool of domination. « Des douceurs contre des gifles » this is what is called « symbiose » by some « pieds-noirs nostalgiques ».
    So for me, the answer to your question is simply : War for independence and the the years after independence achieved first of all this basic goal : putting an end to the claps in the face of the algerian people. This is the first and true meaning of independence. It is not the end of the story though but its beginning. Although one can be appalled (and I am) by the algerian situation nowadays, by al hogra, the lack of democracy and the abuse of power, we must admit that the situation is very far from the one prevailing in colonized Algeria. At least, (let me be ironic for a moment) : in today’s Algeria no ethnic barrier car prevent you from being a policeman, a military man or a Hizbist and be your turn a haggar or a corrupt politician.

    Beyond this simple answer, your question hides a complex issue. The algerians were helpless in front of the colonizers during the 19th century mainly because the colonizers were at a stage of civilisation in every domain that was centuries ahead. The modern world emerging at that time has been introduced in Algeria in the luggage of the french colonizer. Consequently, rejecting « moukhallafat al isti3mar » today is in many domains often synonym of rejecting modernity. In some cases, the effects of the globalization are mixed up with « moukhallafat al isti3mar ». During my childhood, in a period closer to the colonial time, christmas and new year day were far less celebrated by the algerians than today. Celebrating Noël (even in China now) is first of all a side effect of globalization.

    I fundamentally doubt the problem of Algeria lies in « moukhallafat al isti3mar ». For example, Algerians can buy Fiat (an other colonizer cars) instead of Renault to avoid ex-colonizers cars, this will not solve the problem of why they do not make their own cars.

    • Black cat, your comment is very insightful. I shall look forward to your post on your blog about this book you’re reading. I think that your suggestion for the true meaning of independence is very good from a legal perspective as it does not expose any loopholes 😉 Yes I suppose if we keep in mind what the indigenous population was going through, the 50 past years despite everything could be considered as a step away from a very wrong direction albeit not in the right direction.

      I suppose that my question needs unpacking because as you said it hides many complex issues beyond the plain and basic outcome of ‘kicking the French colons out’. However, I do think that it is inspiring to read how different fellow algerians look at the question in its vague form.

      On an irrelevant note, am impressed by your language skills – your English, French and Arabic are impeccable. Where did you learn these languages?

      • Your irrelevant note is an opportunity to sing the praises of independence. Due to my family social level, I would have never been to school if was born during colonial period. Like my fellow algerians, i have learnt arabic, french then english in the algerian education system before Ben Bouzid was appointed emperor of national education.

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