Morocco’s Pride: Polymath Professor Mahdi Elmandjra

Morocco’s Pride: Polymath Professor Mahdi Elmandjra

The late Mehdi Elmandjra.
The late Mahdi Elmandjra.

Rabat, Morocco- Since the early fifties when Morocco hardly bargained for its independence at Aix- Le-Bain in France, the Third World’s uncompromising advocate Professor Dr. Mahdi Elmandjra had already taken part in liberation movements by devoting himself to committed political activism with the Movement For Colonial Freedom besides the House of Commons during his postgraduate studies at the Prestigious London School of Economics (LSE), where he brilliantly defended his doctorate thesis on the League of Arab States in 1957. Thinker and futurologist Elmandjra passed away on the 13th of June 2014 after a long illness. He was buried the following day in Rabat, his native city.

He is recognized to be a veritable vanguard of future and global change in the Third World, or what is geographically known by  economists and experts as the South, as he superlatively and successfully fulfilled his magnificent mission of excellent educationalist, fabulous futurologist whose forecasts, prophecies and estimates proved to be punctual phenomena and truthful facts. He is deemed to be one of the smartest social scientists, like the Arab social historian Ibnu Khaldun, and rarest scholarships of our contemporary world as he impeccably thrived, through his many works, articles and lectures, on identifying and establishing the contrasts, convergences , coherences and idiosyncrasies among societies, cultures and civilisations of the past, present and the future. This enabled him to explore the real potential of the Arab Islamic culture and civilisation and foresee the challenges that are hindering its progress and primacy and even jeopardizing its survival, and, finally, he forecast the existing expectations and opportunities afforded for the upcoming generations in an era besieged by political crises, economic, environmental disasters and yawning scientific, technological gaps keeping both the rich North and poorer South to remain aloof from each other.

Before academia, the smart schoolboy had experienced the ruthless racist behaviour from the very symbols of French occupation. He valiantly defied that colonial arrogance that cost him a custodial sentence of one month after having a quarrel with a French police superintendent who treated somebody like a “dirty Arab”. For that reason, the 15-year-old rational rebel was expelled from the French colonial secondary school Lycée Lyautey in Casablanca for political reasons. But he could afterwards get his Baccalaureate in 1948.

Mahdi the predictive infant prodigy- as his first name in literal Arabic means “messiah” with lower case m then made his compulsorily exodus, as encouraged by his father, to the United States of America at the eve of a post-war period overwhelmed by the salient stringency of the cold war developments. He spontaneously expressed his scientific passion by graduating  in biochemistry many years before the discovery of the DNA and RNA-basic compounds of the living cells, getting another BA in political Science from Cornel University, New York. Later, he attained the apex of academic glory after being baptized Doctor of Philosophy in international relations at 24 from the University of London, the prime breeding ground for Third World elites and leaderships. After the independence of Morocco, he was the youngest scholar to be appointed a senior lecturer at the newly founded Moroccan State ’s Mohammed V University. Late king Mohammed V appointed him as a Director-General of The Moroccan Broadcasting Company (RTM) (Morocco’s  main state Tv and radio) to ensure the advancement of Morocco’s nascent broadcasting technology.

After running public service broadcasting, Elmandjra was summoned to join the Kingdom of Morocco’s Mission to the United Nations in New York besides renowned political party leaders like Maati Bouabid who represented the branch office of the Istiqlal party in the cosmopolitan city of New York.

Henceforth, Elmandjra fathomed the United Nations System after working and understanding its hierarchy, structure, mechanisms and functions. Since then, he had prolifically written many sound surveys and studies for the United Nations, foreign governments and international organizations upon request. The firm believer in a fair international order had already grasped the failure of implementing justice, peace-keeping and peace-making after devoting two decades (1961-1981) from his life to UN diplomacy in various capacities as he was behind the UN diplomatic and political scenes counselling, studying, predicting, analysing world events and devising initiatives. For him, that unique vision of a peaceful and peace-loving world exists only within the framework of an international community enjoying among its members mutual respect, good governance and good neighbourhood and rejecting ill-founded interference in internal affairs of nascent nations and democracies which are considered to be less developed and less industrialized in comparison to the club of big prevailing powers that are imposing their hegemony, their vision, their  political, economic and cultural patterns and their insights into facts on emerging, developing countries of the Third World.

Today with many challenges rising, globalisation created a civilisational drift generated by the most controversial phenomenon of “the shock of civilisations” forecast by the Third World father of futurology, scholar Dr Mahdi Elmandjra before the American Samuel Huntington who emphasized on the prescriptive aspect of the theory while Elmandjra focused on its pre-emptive nature. It deserves to match that scholarly serendipity or discovery in comparative terms with the corpuscular and wave nature of the matter as described by pundit physicists like Dirac, Schrödinger, Heisenberg, W. Pauli, and Enrico Fermi. By such amazing foresight, Elmandjra might have been discriminated against being a dual Nobel Prize that should have been awarded to him both in economics and peace. Perhaps his counteractive political activism and iconoclasm could have been one of the major disqualifying factors to get the Nobel Prize as an intellectual giant and genius who rubbed shoulders besides famous Nobelist scientists like late Pakistani Professor Mohammed Abdus Salam in many world scientific forums and symposia where Third World vision and perception of science, technology and scientific research were vehemently debated. That civilisational revivalism was not beyond the reach of the Arab-Islamic World in particular and the Third World in general as raw materials and their availability to build up a reliable power was an achievable possibility.

Whatsoever, Elmandjra soldiered at the UNESCO Palace in Paris for two decades developing scopes and boundless horizons of learning basic science from an experimental evidence that could make the facts known and understood.

The dream to see the whole humanity enjoying inalienable rights in a globe suffering from ecological imbalance, scarcity of natural resources after depleting exploitation of minerals, water and basic resources which make the biosphere more endangered without having any guilty conscience towards that extremely endangered environment which is bound to many multi-dimensional constraints such political conflicts, economic crises, social chaos, cultural, civilisational and technological warfares, the arms race, drug dealing and drug trafficking, embezzlement of funds and mismagement of both natural and human resources, which  prompted the post-colonial haemorrhagic phenomenon of  brain drain etc…

Elmandjra’s laboratory of ideas has been constantly and plentifully resourceful to provide foreign governments, nongovernmental organisations, universities and academic and economic institutions with working ideas, plans and strategies to bridge the gap separating the opulent North to the poorer, underdeveloped South, overcome scientific and technical recession, avoid cultural decay and civilisational decline bequeathed to developing countries as a consequence of inertia of their unreformed educational systems. Elmandjra refined and reformed, after many field studies, several educational systems in developed as well as in developing countries from Latin America to Japan.

Between the two distant geographical areas, abdicating constitutional monarch Juan Carlos of Spain suggested to the perfect pioneer in futurology and the renaissance man par excellence Prof. Dr. Mahdi Elmandjra to reform the Iberian Kingdom’s educational system. That major, minute management of ways and strategies of Spanish education and its remarkable improvement enabled the peninsula to make a big and great leap forward after intelligent implementation of educational ethics and international standards of scientific research in all fields. That post-Francoist renaissance and revolution were successful by means of the extreme enthusiasm of both the working class and the Spanish intelligentsia who both worked hard to make a real rupture with the conformist establishment’s views rising after undergoing a totalitarian tide when the military values had prevailed over scientific rationalism and mercantilism of the European Economic Community (EEC), and still Spain had not yet claimed its full membership at the small-scale European Union as the Iberian Kingdom had to reshape its system of government and solve its Foreign Affairs’ persistent problems. Today Spain has perfected its economic policy, agrarian methods and laid a developmental bridge between the impoverished South and the most prosperous industrialized North. After getting rid of the era of pronunciamiento (army coup) and Francoism and its sequels, Spain found itself more productive, more dynamic, and supportive of a futurist perception which has favoured bringing about its industrial revolution, especially in the autonomous region of Catalonia. Unfortunately Third World countries like Morocco completely and sadly failed to approach and apply a similar model to defeat the yokes of underdevelopment, cultural colonialism and unlearn stereotyped values.

Ultimately leading exponent Elmandjra had led, for more than a half century, a multidisciplinary research to purify, homogenize and standardize the universality of human values in a world besieged by mega-imperialism under the best auspices of the United States. This spread especially after the terrorist acts in New York- the symbol of colossal capitalism. The neo- McCarthyist ,witch-hunting views and measures imposed a monolithic, narrow-minded securo-cracy, according to numerous writings of Elmandjra where the magnifying glass of Uncle Sam and its staunch satellites and client states allowed a media hype on America as a highly endangered superpower overseas and all around the world as well as inside its borders and across the American continent. The amazing aftermaths of that American ascendancy were always a sort of displeasing, dissuasive discrepancies, frictions and conflicts occurring between peoples and their governments on one hand and among states on the other hand.

Nevertheless, Elmandjra’s unyielding resistance to phobo-cracy, Islamophobia and humilio-cracy was self-obvious and he is the most inspired author to coin the aforementioned terms he knows absolutely the nuances, connotations and denotations since they are rising completely from an environment where political unanimity lacks. Furthermore, economic expansion  generated a globalisation subject to a reworking re-globalisation and several remedies are not adequate to stand against aspects of formalism, systematic slow-down, then sweeping slump in all various vital fields where the governing and governed parts should forge synergic, solid alliances and pleasing partnerships all in adhering to a lasting gentleman’s agreement.

To extrapolate from his lasting legacy, Professor Elmandjra remains the steadfast militant revolutionary reformer who had spent more than six decades fighting all forms of inequities and abuses overwhelming a world suffering all spectra of humiliations. The only salvation system  may  come desperately from the skies as the earthly system ended in an utter fiasco that had only engendered more divide, more diabolical destruction, more nihilism and a transitional, valueless vacuum resuscitating the Dark Ages lived by the vandals and the valiant victors who have given rise to mobilized and widespread up-risings as it is the case today for the Arab Spring that is still shaking the undemocratically elected and anarchical governments and let the overwhelming majority of masses in the Maghreb and the Machrek live a wait-and-see attitude after the noticeable deterioration of the modus vivendi among living major political forces. The religious establishment from predictive holy men are smoothly winning a victory over the temporal leaders who have accused since ages the former of preaching omens and jeremiads to blacken the name of present rulers who see their political experiments stalemated not to say devastated by fossilized, growing corruption, political and moral bankruptcy and by the end decline and collapse of the whole system. It seems that the painful period of social readjustment is looming all over the Arab-Islamic World in particular and the whole world in general since healthy, peaceful evolution does not abhor popular pressure either by adopting virtues and values of great gurus like Ghandi or maligned mullahs like Mahdi Khomeini. The coming change is unavoidable as far-sighted futurologists like Elmandjra had avowed. May be the prevailing political paradox that proves the rule is inexistent as seeing is believing.

 By Bouzekri Chakroune