Monday, 27 June 2011

The Algerian Identity

In times of hardship, the bond between humans is fortified, fraternity is reinforced and a sense of belonging emerges bringing people closer to make them stronger and united.

The Algerian people; a nation that has been bruised and battered, emerging from enemy occupation and plunging into civil unrest and government oppression followed by civil war and terrorism, a history that ravaged the country and its people and brought the economy to its knees.

A national identity and a strong nationalism were actively cultivated since 1962 (independence) through strong educational history syllabuses filled with gory details of the bloody war lead against the French occupation, with stories of martyrs and heroes that fell, of our duty to remember and honour the seven year war and genocides in Setif and Kherata.

Cultivated thought remembrance days, patriotic rituals and traditions, such as the flag salute ceremony practiced in every school in the country at the beginning and end of the week, nationalistic bank holidays such as 1st November (revolution day) and 5th July (Independence day), which were great measure taken to reinforce the people’s allegiance to la mere patrie and stop them from running back to France and to reinforce the national identity as one and united.

This national identity developed further and was strengthened through the unfortunate political events and civil unrest, the hardship the Algerian people were put through has produced a new breed of Nationalism, one that is so strong, it is overpowering and over zealous, perhaps even fanatical and can be witnessed in many aspects of the Algerian persona and lifestyle (politics, football, relationships, family…etc); we are one and united.

We Algerians have been indoctrinated to such an extent, we all believed we were all from the same big family with the same values, lives and principles; perhaps it was Boumediene's socialism that rendered everybody equal.

This sense of belonging to the same clan is what gave way to the over bearing Algerian fraternity, when they blindly defend each other even if they don't know each other and the fact they're both Algerian suffices, when they judge other Algerians as though they were brought up in the same house and by the same mother, when they watch each others step as though they were in charge of the principles & piety brigade(1), when they scrutinise the Algerian woman when she travels solo, drinks alcohol, dates openly or marries someone who is not Algerian or even Algerian but different as in not from the same area, background or race, based first on this huge pride pang and race protection instinct they develop and ultimately on the delusion that we are all sons and daughters of our mother Algeria.

The government went to great efforts to perpetrate and create this Algerian pride and strong patriotism, but it seems to be mostly focused towards or perhaps more appropriate to say AGAINST the International scene (France etc) there was no effort in establishing a national unity that is based on embracing the rich diversity Algeria boasts in terms of people, languages, races and religions, so we ended up with a torn sense of identity, United against most things foreign but divided amongst ourselves.

We unite strappingly for football; patriotic songs come out, Algerian flags everywhere, Algerians all together in unison and euphoria, we forget where we come from and what colour we are, yet we divide for domestic matters, over Arabic and Tamazight (Berber language), over religion, we look down each other based on geography and accents, the only time YOU have heard of Tindouf was on TV when they announce Ramadan Iftar times along with Ain Salah and Bordj-baji-Mokhtar(2), the only time you have seen the Sahara desert or the Jurjura mountains was on NatGeo, the only time you were heard of St Augustine’s basilica was because he (St Augustine) was born in Algeria and that makes you proud.

Our Algerian Identity seems to be strong, yet it is visibly torn;
Algerians are torn between being Arabs, Berbers, between being Algérois or Algériens, Moderate or fanatical Muslim, between Mediterranean and African, between white or brown or black, Little to no effort is done by the government to assert the national identity within the country, diversity dismissed and differences ridiculed not revered, allowing a huge gap for conflicts, regionalism, penultimately civil war but ultimately a weak national identity that is visibly threatened with diminishing and complete modification within the next 50 years if no measures are taken.

Malgrès tout Bladi nebghik - will no longer be relevant.

An Algerian and proud Dz-chick

Article of interest:
(1) Police ta3 al akhlaq - made up of course
(2) What on earth does it mean!!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

It’s Pavlovian, I can’t help it

It doesn’t apply only to dogs you know, when you have been burnt and scorned repeatedly, your heart broken so many times, you develop a defence wall around you, the kind of permanent guard that needs superman to take down.

When pain always follows happiness, when your heart is always broken after opening up, you become conditioned to expect pain after pleasure (and not in a good way), you always wait for the catch or for the disappointment, sometimes you expect it knowingly and sometimes you precede it by sabotaging the relationship in an attempt at gaining control and saving your grace.
You have become conditioned just like the dog salivating at the sound of the bell; my stimulus is the slightest attention I get from men, guards are up.

Where is Superman??

A kryptonited Dz-Chick

Monday, 20 June 2011

Takaleed al 3amya: Blind traditions

I believe I was fifteen when I first realised something was amiss with some of our customs and traditions.  They seemed incomplete, odd, a mixture of many cultures resplendent with bits and bobs of other traditions from other countries, I always wondered which part was truly Algerian and which part was imported and passed off as a new tradition.

The wide diversity Algeria boasts in terms of its traditions is primarily due to the diversity that lies within the country geographically with influence in the east from Tunisia and Libya, the West from Morocco and in the South from the Sahara, Mali etc, hostorically through many a civilisation and from the influx of new ways from the Mediterranean basin and Europe.

Traditions are a set of customs, ways to connect the present to the past that people of the same group or country adhere to, I will focus on celebrations' rituals.

In a traditional Algerian wedding, most brides would pay homage to the country’s diversity by donning a traditional attire from all regions; a Karakou from Algiers, a Caftan from the West, a Fergani Dress from Constantine, a Chedda from Tlemcen and L’haf from the Sahara etc, most of these dresses are intricately decorated with gold threads, pearls and lace, heavy looking, unnecessarily expensive and unpractical to wear anywhere, the bride would usually add an evening gown followed by the white wedding gown as a finale.  This is done almost chronologically, reflecting the history of Algeria and the influences of the civilisations that went through our land, from Romans to Ottomans to French, with the latter introducing the white gown and making it the final piece in our wedding rituals.

In recent years, we have seen new trends appear, always reflected on wedding rituals and traditions, such as wearing outfits from India (Sari, shelwar) and hair and make up imported from Lebanon and other non identified customs embraced by the women of Algeria and calling them traditions.

Are traditions supposed to evolve and change? Aren’t they supposed to be set by our forefathers for safekeeping and passed on to our descendants? Or are we experiencing the invention of new traditions?  Which are usually propagated for personal, commercial, political, or for national interest but ultimately alter the core customs.

Algerian celebrations such as weddings are in constant change, a new tradition appears every season, from outfits to music to ritual.  Algerian women seem to be under the impression that changing our traditions and moving them closer to the west or to what they perceive as modern will bring modernism and advancement,  our beautiful traditions are being vandalised by bored women of society, who have too much money and too little sense.

Since we’re in England, let us compare; if you look at English weddings, you will notice consistency, the traditions are almost set in stone and the process of the ceremony and the party are respected as they have been passed down from great grand parents to great-grandchildren, tradition is revered and respected.

Our country is a young one with a strong identity but alas a young personality, still trying to find its bearings, I understand until that happens things will keep moving, evolving and changing, but not traditions, our traditions have been passed down from our forefather, and here lies our dilemmas, who are these forefathers? Yes they are the Romans, the Ottomans, the Berbers and the Arabs.  We cannot deny the strong influence a long era of French-Algeria has had on our traditions and our way of life today either, in fact our current traditions were mostly set during the years that followed the occupation and until the independence.

Algerians seem to claim traditions from all over the world and call it their own because they practiced them once.  A nation has to learn to embrace the traditions of its ancestors, embracing new traditions from different cultures cannot be done on a whim of some socialite because she/he thinks it's on trend, if old customs start to gradually be replaced by new and unrelated ones, we will have nothing to transmit to our children and grandchildren.

Now, no longer that shy fifteen yar old gilr, I want to meet the women who started this Algerian wedding tradition which consists of 9 to 12 dress changes (one equally, if not more repulsive than the other) the 4 hours fashion show with tables of people who sit miserably waiting until the bride decides to come out between dress changes, waiting for their cakes before they defect or risk boredom induced psychosis

A traditional (in an unconventional way) Dz-Chick

Title: Blind traditions - as per my father
The white wedding dress became popular after Queen Victoria wore a white gown at her wedding to Albert of Saxe-Coburg

Friday, 10 June 2011

City girls don’t cry

A typical City office meeting, 90% male, 1% women, 9% hybrids, my presentation was not up to scratch as it didn’t cover certain aspects of the product lines and the quarterly results bla bla bla…
I acknowledge the feedback, hide my frustration, but because I am part of the hybrid breed, tears don't stream out at work, my colleague however, a male colleague naturally, teased me in front of everybody “Don’t cry about it now” knowing  full well that I am not the type to cry at work, his attempt at provoking an emotional reaction and embarass me infront of male colleagues,  succeeded, as I shot him a stare, and committed a faux pas, by expressing my feelings openly “Yeah I’ll need your handkerchief right after you’re done with it”  which is a pathetic response I must admit.

Such a reaction is considered assertive, brave and manly if it came from a man, but because it was a woman’s, it is deemed shocking, unstable, iratonale and aggressive, and the most damaging emotion at work being anger, which comes from the feeling of loosing control over a situation, has direct affect on our work and our relations with colleagues, so we have to control our anger, frustration, tears and pretend all is well whilst secretly hating a colleague or avoiding another, to do this, a lot of energy and a great deal of effort is required, often resulting  in stress, weariness and loss of concentration ergo loss of productivity, sick leave and effectively costing the company money.

But our society and Work ethics in general dictate we have to put on a mask at work to hide our emotions and personal feelings, to leave these at home.

Crying is considered unprofessional and has no place in the work place, women often retreat to their toilet cubicles to shed a few tears, retouch their concealers before putting back the mask, a brave face and marching back to their desks, an angry man would make noise and stamp his fists or feet and his colleagues will think him a strong willed man and female colleagues will think him a sex god and admire his masculinity.

The whole process of disabling our emotional side at work or hiding it creates a frustration and an energy vacuum referred to as “emotional labour” as described by Dr.Sandi Mann (1), it will hinder the performance and delivery of the work at hand, and I will stop you right there, it does not depend on the kind of job you do, as the emotional part of our brain comes into place way before the analytical part does, and all work whatever its nature is affected by emotions.

Stress or sadness makes you less productive and lowers your concentration; Happiness is obviously a positive emotion and will affect your concentration and productivity positively, so why contain such feelings if they are intrinsically part of our identity, personality and creativity.

Companies should promote knowledge of emotional intelligence (EI) instead of cultivating this anti-emotion culture that seems to have spread across the offices in the City and elsewhere I am sure, where reactions are blamed on hormones, where women are unstable and men are rational.
An intimate knowledge of emotions, your own and those of your colleagues can help anybody deal with the highs and lows of the emotional waves at the workplace, from Steve’s morning rants about his commute into work, to Virginie’s personal problems with her husband and David’s fears of redundancy and your own fear of change in view of the recent restructuration the firm is going through or the stress the competition at work creates especially when working with some world class *ankers, sorry I mean Bankers.

Statistics show that women cry about 3-4 times a month, compared with 1.4 for men, women don’t choose to cry nor should it be a sign of weakness (mental), this is purely physiological and should not be used against any women in the professional context or over a male colleague who is deemed more rational or stronger because he will cry 2.6 less times a month than his female counterpart.

And to that end, people (women and men equally) should realise that our employers do not own our emotions; they merely own the time they pay for the services we provide, we need not stamp down on our feelings and emotions but tap into them, recognise and embrace them and use them to channel energy towards self development and career advancement. 
A system that penalises women based on biological differences in order to assert gender equality is a flawed one.
(1) Senior Lecturer in Occupational Psychology at the University of Lancashire

Monday, 6 June 2011

A l'air du temps

Elles me snobent les filles d’Alger, fallait mettre cartes sur table tout de suite, fallait dire “Ouais j’habite à Londres, je suis Banquière, et suis plus belle que toi connasse” et là tu vois le respect, le regard qui change, qui te défigure de haut en bas, qui se dit « ah ouais c’est pour ca que ton Français est bizarre » bien sur trop sure de moi, je continue a sourire avec des yeux moqueurs et des  envies de meurtre que je dissimule avec du sarcasme qui ne sort pas bien hahaha Oui mon français n’est bizarre que pour les oreilles tordues ou moches (le dernier mot je dis dans ma tête) et continue à boire ce café au gout de chaussettes qu’ils servent chez Denbache. Sorry mate.

Je vois des filles arriver sur la Terrace, je murmure à ma copine « wow elles sont belles les Algériennes non? » même si l’une est maquillée comme une voiture volée et l’autre fait le genre de fille qui fait des youyous quand elle jouit, des putes quoi, passant a cote de notre table, l’une d’elles le dis, le mot le plus vulgaire dans la langue algérienne, je l’entends, mes yeux s’écarquillent, je regarde mon amie, elle a peur de lever la tête, je lui demande si j’avais bien entendu, elle confirme avec un sourire qui dit Sorry…

Moi : Mais sorry pourquoi? Tu les as invités ou quoi?
Elle : Non sorry que t’ais eu à voir ca
Moi : Euu mais c’est mon pays aussi merde, je ne suis pas une étrangère que tu espère impressionner, anyway y a des putes ici faut pas rester, déjà que je n’arrive pas à me trouver un mec, je ne veux pas prendre le risque et en plus elles sont super cannons – l’addition svp
Elle : tu parles trop, regarde comme ta phrase est plus longue que la mienne, c’est pour ca que t’es encore célibataire
Moi : Na3dine!!  Je le savais…

Ma copine me dit, la seule différence entre ces filles et le reste, c’est que "le reste" n’utilisent pas le sexe afin d’obtenir quelque chose mis a part le plaisir, si ce n’est pas a leurs gout, elles disparaissent, les putes ben….elles font des Youyous.

On monte dans un taxi, le driver écoute de la musique qui me donne mal au ventre, indigestion en souvenir de cette musique qui passait a la Télé après le Ftour (1) du Ramadan, il conduit comme un Staifi(2), je lui pose la question et me confirme qu’en effet il est de Sétif, ah oui je connais bien Sétif, là, sa tête fait un 180 degrés et commence à se taper la discute, mon dieu je vais mourir a la main d’un Sétifien comme dans mon cauchemar, il me dit qu’il habitait en face de Ain al Fouwara, mais bien sur, tous les Sétifiens habitent en face ou a coté  de la fontaine (Les Algérois aussi habitent tous Hydra ou le Golf), ils vont tous remplir leurs bidons d’eau á la fontaine quand l’eau est coupée ou se masturbent en matant les seins nues de cette statue de femme romaine que personne ne demande ou sait qui elle était.

Quand je lui demande de nous changer la musique, il met 2PAC !!! Ouais il est super en vogue ce mec!!! Le Staifi digne de son nom, nous dépose encore vivantes après une demi heure d’Adrénaline et de Rap fun, quand je descends de sa voiture piégée j’ai le vertige, je déambule vers un autre café, les gens assis a la terrace me voient arriver, me fixent, je tombe, me relève avec un regard qui dit "Je vous emmerde arrêtez de me regarder ya zah" et le mec qui me drague et qui a l’air pas mal, rigole, il rigole ce connard, je me mets a rigoler aussi histoire de ne pas en faire un drame et avoir l’air un peu cool, chose que je suis anyway.

Le mec qui rigolait vient vers moi, il demande s’il peut me parler, wow j’adore comme ils sont directs les mecs chez nous, je souris, fais ma douce, esperant qu'il me demande mon prénom, lui, me demande combien?? ah oauis c'est comme ca maintenant!!
(1) déjeuné

(2) quelqu'un qui vient de Sétif - une ville a l'est d'Algerie

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Les Algériens pour les Algériennes

A subject I have been putting off for a long time now, but cannot ignore it any longer;

How many comments I’d read and heard from Algerian men complaining about the way they have been treated by Algerian women, they gave up on Algerian women, they feel snubbed, criticised and rejected by all Algerian women at home, in France, England and abroad in general, however I am not so sure about Canada and the US, I think perhaps their small community makes for a more united one comparing with the rest of our community here in Europe.

You always hear some Algerian guy describing how he ended up marrying a European woman because he was rejected by all Algerian women when he decided to “settle” for one of them, they bring up bad souvenirs of how the girls snubbed him in high school and then University, how the fact that he comes from a small town makes the girls from big cities snub him and look down on him during his years at University, a continued theme even overseas, Algerian women, it seems still snub men who come from smaller towns even when they meet abroad, their criteria does not seem to have changed and they remain arrogant to their male counterparts based on geographical or linguistic (different accent) reasons.

One of my readers kindly quoted Kateb Yacine , he said something in the sense of “I dread the day when Algerian women would not look at Algerian men anymore"
I think this was such a just and accurate prediction that it is on a Nostradamus’s scale. But what did he base his statement on?

Was he referring to the way Algerian women are evolving past Algerian men or perhaps to the superior speed they are evolving at, or it could be that he (Kateb Yacine) meant that Algerian women have become generally the better tier of the Algerian populace, this may be in some cases, perhaps due to their education, this has a historical cause that is quite known, during the 80s and 90s when women’s rights were suppressed in Algeria and their civil rights were next to nonexistent, These women focused on the one thing they could do with reasonable freedom: Studies; they attended universities, they excelled, obtained degrees and climbed the career ladder as much as there was scope for; making them superior to the general male population of Algeria who were not always as concerned with further studies post the ages of 18, although this is not true for all Algerians but for the most part I believe.

Algerian women having reached a certain level of emancipation and freedom, I will not go as far as claiming gender equality but Algerian women are known for claiming their rights and being fighters, a systematic consequence I believe to the years of suppression, is that when the Algerian women finally reached the level of social status, financial freedom and educational level she strived for, she looked back to the Algerian men and thought “I can do better than this”

The number of Algerian women marrying non Algerians has been on the rise since the late nineties, The Algerian woman in general perceive the Algerian man as the oppressor, the man who would take over from her father and brothers in the confinement regime, the financial sequestration and general cause of her discontent.

In the meantime, men feel resentful towards the Algerian women for many other factors, such as arrogance and snobbishness, being difficult to approach, dishonesty, deceit to a certain level, being materialistic, being extremely superficial and for the false image they present of being the perfect loving and understanding future wife only to undergo a whole personality makeover within weeks of the wedding, making it a sham and leading to discontent and ultimately divorce.

So Algerian men also started looking away from their female counterparts, marrying Europeans (English and Polish being the most popular choices).

The Algerian woman doesn’t seem to take offence at this trend, whereas the Algerian man seems to feel insulted and indignant when Algerian women marry a non Arab/Muslim, this phenomenon seems to be spreading amongst the Algerian community in Algeria and abroad,  Algerian girls now dream of meeting and ultimately marrying a European man with the hope of leading “la belle vie” away from Algeria, this European man who would encourage her self development, acknowledge her religion and culture if she has strong ties to it herself, who will not try to oppress her and hopefully treat her as his equal.

With this new tendency of Algerians turning away from each other and exploring new horizons and opportunities in terms of marriage, women seem to always offer each other the very wise “You don’t belong with an Algerian, you belong with a European”, which seems to be quite the compliment.

I know Algerian men are known to be complicated, difficult, bad tempered, stubborn, macho, jealous, annoying, and judgmental but what man of any other culture or religion is not one or many of these things? It is a sad day when a nation is divided between males and females renouncing each other, if this new trend continues what will become of our culture, language, history and children?

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