Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Public & Private in Algeria


I am sitting on a bed, drinking coffee in a bedroom that overlooks the courtyard of our house, set in an orchard, by a country road in a village, next to the city, in the east of the middle... the middle of Algeria. Or is it the other way round?

I am in Algeria, in the middle of the north... not the middle-east though... near a city, in a village up a country road, by the orchard that leads to our house and its courtyard, sitting in a room, on a bed with a coffee cup in my hand.

In this enumeration of geographical locations, I suddenly wonder about space, the private and the public.

Societies have divided space in at least two spheres, the private and the public. Private and public spaces are a kind of market, a place where information is shared and exchanged. Both operate with codes on how information gets exchanged. Some things are spoken about in private, and others in public but their borders aren't so fixed that both spheres never meet. In that meeting place, topics won't be spoken about in the same manner, and sometimes some won't be spoken about at all.

Both private and public spheres exist in Algeria of course, and I had anticipated a difference in both the subject matters that float in these spheres, and the manner in which they would be discussed. I had not anticipated to find that public matters are actually essentially composed of private ones, leaving the public sphere practically empty. It is this imbalance that caught me by surprise and worries me, and is symptomatic of a failing social and political system.

If private sits on a public bench, where has public space gone to? And what's a public space anyway? Is our public space now only used for the garbage and litter found all over our streets and highways?

Politics isn't public, it behaves and is treated like a private matter, matters that are whispered, told behind closed doors, secretive and full of hearsay.

Here privacy is a public affair. Perhaps privacy moved there to replace the vacuum that public affairs created when they left and moved to a very hush-hush location upon independence: the presidential palace, El Mouradia.

Meanwhile, worlds cross and spaces become empty and void. Even the moon's path has changed, still bright and clear in the middle of the day, facing and challenging the sun.


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