Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Me.... for Algerian President?

An indoor courtyard in the Casbah, Algiers
Someone once asked me on a forum to which I belonged what are the laws I would change/enforce if the world went mad and I became President of Algeria tomorrow.

My first action would most definitely be an overhaul of the education system with a greater emphasis on Islamic teachings, and also a much more self development approach rather than the computer input/output system that is in place at the moment (i.e. people are treated like a computer – input the information, memorise it and then “print it out” in the form of regular exams) which bears no resemblance whatsoever to education!  My aim would be to educate people so that each person could live up to their God-given ability and intellect and have the career for which Allah created them.  I would make it a rule that all students be treated with respect irrespective of their abilities.

I would definitely bring in some legal framework where women had the right to get a divorce without too much hassle, and, if unable to support themselves then be helped to become independent by education, training or some kind of financial support to start their own businesses, with free, high-quality child care provided.  Most women here are very hard working and I have often said that if it weren’t for them and their hard work, Algeria would have slipped into the sea and eternal oblivion a long time ago!

I would have to do something to help those who are physically and mentally impaired and the orphans and the elderly.  It is true that the elderly are usually taken care of by the whole family with a lot of respect and love given to them, but I am certain that there are those who somehow end up being neglected.  In a country like Algeria, which is still struggling to employ a burgeoning, young and often well-educated population it is easy to let those that are weak and disadvantaged slip through the cracks, so I would like to see more day centers, residential centers, where these people can learn skills according to their abilities, are given the correct treatment for their conditions and are given the same Allah given right that the rest of us able bodied and mentally healthy people have been given – the belief that we were born to worship Allah and have something special to contribute to humanity. To be fair there are centers here already who are doing great work but I just want more.  My daughter has a fellow student who is totally blind and who attended a blind school and then came into mainstream education.  He is brought to the bus by a member of his family every morning and then helped off and into school by his school friends.  When it comes to exam time he is taken into a room of his own where a teacher reads out the exam questions and he answers on his braille machine. He usually comes top of the class.  You will often see young children or old people standing at the side of the road waiting to cross and usually someone will come up and stop the traffic for them and help them across.  So there is a will to help the weak in this society…. I would just ensure the funding necessary reached them where they need it most.

I would ban bureaucracy and paperwork – no actually I would ban PAPER except for tissues, serviettes, kitchen paper etc. (Normally I would like to ban them too but don’t think I could cope with the Algerian women in revolt – revolting Algerian women is a sight nobody wants). Did you know that in Algeria, people’s birth certificates expire before they do – it expires after a year and has to be renewed annually.  Heck, people’s DEATH certificates have to be renewed annually!   And when you are asked for documentation, it is not the original that is required, but a photocopy that has been stamped at the council offices.  Maybe I should ban stamps and ink!

Now that the power has gone totally to my head I would ban any obstruction on pavements – I wouldn’t make the culprits pay a fine, instead I would make them clean outside their home or shop or spend a certain period of time cleaning somewhere.  And I would enforce this law particularly outside coffee shops.  So often, if you are not looking ahead to where you are going, you can find yourself suddenly bang in the middle of a coffee shop with all the tables and chairs out on the pavement.  And this may not seem very embarrassing living in the West, but when you realize that the coffee shop is the men’s domain here in Algeria and woe betide any woman who would dare to enter and sit down for a cup of coffee, you can understand why it doesn’t look too good to find yourself, all hijabed up and standing like a lemon in the middle of one!  You know what – I would just ban coffee shops!  During Ramadan it is so wonderful to be able to just walk unobstructed and not be gawped at.  But then I think that particular ban might be too much of a strain on society and might even be the cause of marriage breakdown and family discord, as the women enjoy the freedom in the home while their husbands are out in the coffee shops! So maybe I should have a rethink on that one!

I would ban PLASTIC BAGS – any size, any colour.  When I first came to Algeria 27 years ago, there were few plastic bags – so much so that my sister-in-law used to wash any she got so that she could reuse them.  Now the whole landscape is littered with them – fluttering in trees or electricity wires.  I would have paper bags in shops and charge for them – this is something that has been done in Ireland to great effect.   This, hopefully would encourage people to bring their own bags, which to be fair, a lot of the little old ladies do anyway. 

I would regulate the size of speed bumps – they can vary from slight mounds on the road to small hills with some so difficult to drive over that it’s like driving up onto a pavement. And I would get a sledgehammer to the unofficial ones made by residents (there have been times when I’ve driven over one that made the whole car shudder and shake, and I’ve been sorely tempted to get a sledgehammer to the resident himself), which I’m convinced are not put there as a speed deterrent but more to slow motorists down so that those who have nothing better to do can have a good gawk at the car while it passes by.  Think I’m paranoid?  Next time you’re out and about just look at the groups of men sitting around near these cement monsters.

I would like to knock down all walls and get rid of the “heytists” once and for all.  One of the Arabic words for ‘wall’ (there are a couple, at least) is ‘heyt’ and the Algerian male national pastime is hanging around leaning up against the walls watching the world go by and gossiping, hence the term ‘heytist’.  But again this probably would cause too much stress to family life here, and I have a feeling that even if they had no walls to lean against they would just lean up against each other!

I would reallocate all the buildings that presently are used by the army and government and give them to the hospitals and schools instead.

I would give anyone who married an Algerian and who came to live here in Algeria automatic citizenship and do away with the Residency Cards.  As far as I am concerned anyone who has done this deserves a highly prestigious medal of valor for showing enormous courage and bravery under extremely difficult circumstances, and therefore they have more than proved their eligibility for Algerian citizenship!!!  I would also provide them with free psychiatric care…. for obvious reasons.

I could just go on and on, but there’s only so much a gal can do in one day.  Do you think that Algeria is ready for me as a first lady – even for a day????? Now.... what will I do tomorrow?

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