Thursday, January 15, 2015


In my page on Akrotiri, I noted that there are both parties and countries which incorporate the "people" into themselves, usually as a fraudulent means of extenuating the right-wing fascism or left-wing totalitarianism of their religious or secular despotism; tyrants generally like to bully the "people" into supporting them, even to use force to obtain their votes in "free and fair elections", because doing so prints an unrestricted licence which they can then use to bully the "people" into supporting them, even to...&c, the cycle endlessly repeating itself.

The People's Democratic Republic of Algeria provides our first example of such a State, and if we are already alerted to despotism by the word "people", the addition of both "democratic" and "republic" should raise scepticism to the level of a religious obligation. Why not "The Free People's Peaceful Democratic Republic of Open-Minded Liberal Algeria" - thereby including not just some but actually all of the core values and principles of an enlightened world which the despot is dedicated to ignoring? "The Woman-Hating Gay-Hating Tyrannical Undemocratic Despotism of Algeria" would not look half so good, on a national flag, or the welcome table at the United Nations.

Like most north African countries, Algeria offers a splendid mix of French Catholic and Moorish Moslem cultures, both using every available method, legal and illegal, to secure power for their faction. The battle for independence from the "pieds noirs" French, in 1962, left more than a million dead, which might have inspired a rewriting of Albert Camus' novel "La Peste", set in an earlier Algeria. But it was unnecessary. Camus' "plague" was already allegorical, and any political reality can literalise an allegory, especially one which ended, as Camus' did, with a prediction that the rats had simply gone underground, and would inexorably re-appear one day. And so they did, the National Liberation Front holding power for a quarter of a century in a manner that confirmed that National Liberation was indeed a Front; until riots in 1988 persuaded the government to hold free elections, though free is a term with a wide range of meanings. When the Islamic Salvation Front won those elections, the military seized power, annulled the election, and put in place a state of emergency that lasted a decade and sparked a civil war in which another 150,000 people fell victim to La Peste. A charter for peace and reconciliation theoretically brought back civilian government, though changes to the constitution kept the same people in power, gave President Abdelaziz Bouteflika a third term, and nobody bothered to vote for what would inevitably be announced as a 98% turnout election with 97% support for the President (intelligent tyrants would surely announce a turnout in the low 60 percentile region and thank the people for the small but clear majority that confirmed their mandate; the high 90s are such a give-away!). He then won a fourth term in 2014, despite having a stroke the year before, making no public appearances, most people boycotting, and the only positive that could be highlighted by his publicity team was the qualification of the national soccer team for that summer's World Cup. The "People's Team of Algeria". Whose historic progress to the knock-out stage was ended by Germany in extra time. By Germany, of all teams! Camus would have been planning a sequel in his grave.

But then came the Arab Spring, and with the Arab Spring the Al-Qaida Summer, or AQLIM as it prefers, "al-Qaida in the Land of Islamic Maghreb". Still more Camusian rats, by whatever falsehood of a name (the reality is, they are the same "Salafist Group for Call and Combat" who fought the civil war back in the 1990s). Watch this space for updates on the number of suicide rats undertaking suicide bombings in the plague-infested one-fifth of Algeria which is habitable.

Marks For: 3 (all awarded to Monsieur Camus, who probably deserves more)

Marks Against: 7

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