The Algerian Warning

Ignored by the West at its peril, dismissed as a unique case of both Islamist and regime viciousness, Algeria can also be viewed as a warning to the comfortable West of things to come: Algeria the neo-liberal showcase.

Algeria and the U.S. are two sides of the neo-liberal coin: the rich exist on a foundation of exploitation. While perhaps true as far as it goes, that static perspective conceals a more threatening reality: Algeria is the end point of neo-liberalism, the U.S. in the 1970s the beginning.While certainly morally troubling, for Americans in the 1970s, that might have imparted a somewhat reassuring message, but after 2008, U.S. citizens find themselves in a rather less encouraging position, visibly further down the road in the direction of Algeria. With millions out of work and more millions out of their homes while financial criminals receive taxpayer bailouts and a “stay out of jail free” card, with a health care system designed for profit rather than public health, with wages declining even as job security and job benefits are evaporating, Americans are beginning to see in the distance the impoverishment of society for the enrichment of the rich that constitutes the only system any living Algerian has ever known.
Algeria neither produces nor invests, living off resource exports, Lyes Akram tells us, with the profits going everywhere except to the people, one might add. With neither rule of law nor political institutions that protect the people, “the situation could not be more dangerous.”
l’Algérie est probablement le seul pays au monde dont l’économie est compréhensible aux enfants de 5 ou 6  ans. Deux axes. On ne produit quasiment rien et on n’investit pas. On importe presque tout et on exporte nos ressources qui sont surtout épuisables. En outre, la rente n’offre pas une vie décente au Algériens, à cause des rapines effrénées et de la corruption débridée. Même si les Algériens voulaient, pour des raisons déraisonnables, oublier l’illégitimité du régime, lui pardonner ses crimes passés et présents, il n’est nullement dans leur droit de permettre des crimes à l’encontre des générations futures. Puisque à l’évidence, la politique économique du régime, c’est l’assassinat de l’économie et la dilapidation irréversibles des ressources.Défaillance totale, ruine de l’économie, destruction du système éducatif, décomposition de la société, mais aussi, rappelle Hocine Aït-Ahmed, « Cinquante ans après la proclamation de l’indépendance nationale, nous voici face aux mêmes absences : Absence d’un Etat de droit, absence de vie politique, absence de constitution digne de ce nom, absence d’institutions légitimes capables de protéger le peuple autant que le pays des abus et d’assurer son droit à vivre dans la liberté et la dignité ». La situation du pays est on ne peut plus dangereuse.
While the Algerian author does not appear to have been thinking about Americans, for us to dismiss the plight of Algerians as irrelevant to the future of U.S. society would be a dangerous delusion. Algeria and America are inexorably bound by our thirst for their oil and the ease with which the Algerian military/intelligence dictatorship (that is the polite description; some Algerians would choose the word “voyoucratie” [thugocracy]) sell the line that only they stand between us and the barbaric hordes of fundamentalist Islam/middle class democracy. (What difference, after all, is there between revolutionary violence and true democracy from the perspective of a repressive and kleptocratic elite? Either way, if you are Pinochet or Somoza, you lose your privileges.)
With the social contract defined by the New Deal now being shredded–e.g., by the breaking of public worker contracts (in Wisconsin) and retirement contracts (throughout the U.S.), the conspiracy theory that the elite might intentionally impoverish the U.S. population—defining it as “superfluous”—just as the population of Algeria has, since 1992, been defined as superfluous, is beginning to appear a bit less crazy. Perhaps it is time we reevaluated the post-colonial experience of Algerians.
READINGS:

The Ugly Truth about Algeria

Violence Radicalizes – lessons from Algeria

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