Second World

My Chilean friend explained to me his idea of what a “second world” country is. He used this example: in Chile, they use an electrical grid whose idea comes from Spain. In Spain, the grid is centralized in Madrid. There, it makes sense because Madrid is pretty central to the country. This copied idea works much less well in Chile, which is over four thousand kilometers long and partially volcanic. The center of the grid is in Santiago and an earthquake of any size will cut off a whole parts of the country.

I don’t know if they do this because they want to copy Spain, or if some of their engineers maybe studied in Spain, or if Spanish engineers were hired to install the grid. The end result, though, is something which might look good on paper but is not well adapted for this particular place. He called it “second world” because Chile is not a “third world” country, but it isn’t sure of itself enough to strike out on their own like a “first world” one.

Morocco is definitely second world, by this definition. They don’t yet have the confidence to find solutions that are adapted to their environment, their land, their climate, and their people. Mostly this is visible in the buildings. There are just hundreds and hundreds of mostly empty cement block buildings everywhere, a good part of them unfinished. The majority have a shop or storage area on the ground floor and a floor or two of apartments above. They might be vacation homes, they might be thought of as an investment in the future (maybe someday this place will become a shop), they might be what the family is building with the money some family member is sending back from wherever they might have migrated to (“See, my family has enough money to build this new thing and boy are we going to cash in with it!”)

The end result is that they are usually unfinished, often ugly, and they are working exactly against the impetus of most of the country that wants to take advantage of tourism. Tourists don’t like to come to ugly places in the middle of nowhere to spend their time, and the locals mostly have no need of them. Some towns are already half emptied because anyone who can moves to where there are more jobs and opportunities (Marrakech, Tangier, Agadir). Instead of investing in places emptied by interior migration, they start something new. Instead of making less expensive, traditional houses which are warm in winter and cool in summer, they build cement buildings that are cold in winter and hot in summer. Instead of spending a bit more on solar panels, they put in cheap diesel generators.

I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining all the time about Morocco, but I find it frustrating here. These half finished buildings are everywhere if you look up, and there’s trash everywhere if you look down. The waterways that still have anything in them after nine years of drought are polluted with plastic, soaps, oil. We went bird watching but there are few birds crazy enough to live in the waterways.

Algae in a dead waterway
Path taken while birdwatching

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