Friends in Casablanca- The Brothers
September 10, 2007
I met a pair of brothers while staying in Casablanca: one stayed at home and lived his life in Morocco, the other emigrated to the Ukraine fifteen years ago. The Moroccan was around 22 years old, slenderly built, highly refined, well-kept, and spoke in an almost dainty, eloquent way. The Ukraine brother was in his 40’s, very large, rotund, bald, bearded, and spoke and moved in forceful bursts. The ways in which cultural mechanisms can alter people is simply amazing. Both brothers seemed to be very kind hearted, but the differences between the ways that they carried themselves made me . The Morocco brother seemed to be so Moroccan, while the brother who moved away to the Ukraine seemed so very Russian- I could easily picture him in a heavy wool coat swigging back vodka while engaged in a boisterous game of cards. I find it interesting how this happens? It is so interesting to me how people seem to have such a strong natural inclination to copy the rythems that flow around them. It is so amazing how adaptable humans are. Two brothers from the same home and up-bringing, separated for fifteen years by great cultural distance, reunited to realize how different they are.
“He says that he is Moroccan,” exclaimed the Moroccan brother about his long-lost kin, “but don’t listen to him, he is Ukrainian.” We all laughed at this. The Ukrainian just lifted up his arms, cocked his head, and acknowledged the fact that his little brother was correct.
Perhaps we really are just the makeup of our surroundings after all. It really makes me wonder how the continual, rapid-fire, and ever changing exposure to different cultures shapes the traveller.
It was during this conversation that I revealed myself as a writer for the first time- though I have only ever had one article published- and the impact that this had seemed to be enormous. “What do you write about?” the Moroccan brother asked. “Culture,” I said, for of lack of a better explanation.
Then, all of a sudden, our simple morning tea time conversation turned into a lesson on Moroccan history and culture. I welcomed this turn with open arms, as I knew next to nothing about Morocco. So I sat there absorbing my history lesson, enjoying the tea that the Ukrainian brother
provided me with.
I was told about the King and how he took control of the military in the 7o’s, about the politics behind marijuana production- “If they told people that they could not grow marijuana they would not be able to live”-, about the migrations and divisions of Berber tribes- “Nobody knows the origin of the Berber people, but the Berber language is very similar to German. Maybe the Berbers migrated down from Europe”, and about how football is the modern means of displaying ancient inter-cultural strife through the safe medium of competition.
“To make war in football is easy,” the Moroccan brother told me. He added to this by saying that football provided the many cultures of Morocco a way of carrying out lang standing cultural feuds vicariously through sport. “Every city (and thereby cultural sub-group) has its team.” He went on to explain, almost critically, about how football, as a spectator sport, has also taken on the form of a cultural sedative. “People watch football so that they can forget about their lives,” he told me with a painful expression. “They may not have any food but football allows them to forget about it for a moment,” he continued. He also made it a point that he did not know much about football. He seemed to be part of the young Moroccan intelligentsia. I really enjoyed his lecture.