In his eleven-volume set of books, the story of civilization, Will Durant confirms that civilization thrives when the state of worry and unrest is over. That’s to say, when man gets rid of fear and anxiety, his natural motives of curiosity and creation become free and thus pave the way to understand life and make prosperity.
The Berbers, throughout their history, have been targeted by many nations and empires; the Romans, the Greeks, the Pharaohs, the Vandals, the Portuguese, the Phoenicians, the Arabs and finally by the French and the Spaniards in the 19th and the 20th centuries.
These prolonged and constant assaults on the Berbers played a great role in the devastation of their civilization and in the killing of their creative soul, too. Arabs, for instance, were Bedouins at that time when they conquered North Africa under the pretext of converting the Berber “infidels” to Islam. At this very point, I’d like to refer to Ibn Khaldoun who describes the Bedouins in his Almoqaddima as enemies and subverters of civilization. In my modest opinion, this is what in fact happened to Berbers; hundreds and hundreds of years of civilization were distorted, crops were burned, and houses and castles were demolished and replaced by tents. This massive destruction and offensive had no reason other than those Bedouins’ instinct to subvert and destroy all what was new and different to them. It is also worthy to mention that Berbers established libraries which were completely burned by those intruders.
This state of trouble always kept the Berbers in a state of self-defence. Thus, they were obliged to give less importance to building a strong “valuable” civilization. In other words, their human instincts of curiosity and their intention to sustain their own community had never been satisfied. According to Will Durant, fear of the unknown is a psychological situation that kills the faculty of creation and organization. Nevertheless, the Berbers had unprecedented symbiosis with foreign civilizations, as a case in point; the Roman Empire and the Pharaons (which, by the way, no longer exist). Also, they led great expeditions to spread Islam in Spain and in the sub-saharian Africa. In addition, there were great writers and thinkers such as Saint Augustine (354-430AD) whose works, including the confessions, are still widely read around the world. Lucius Apuleius who composed the metamorphoses or the golden ass (Assinus Aureus), which inspired W. Shakespeare to draw upon his famous a midsummer night’s dream…
To sum up, their geographical location and other objective and subjective factors kept the Berbers under the mercy of such assaults and offensives. However, the Berber will to exist and co-exist has never been exhausted; history reminds us of great Berber warriors like Adrikan, who fought against the Greeks, Shishong, who fought and ruled over the Egyptians, Ugarthan who baffled the Romans, Axil who resisted the Umayyad occupation, Dehya who succeeded him as the war leader of the Berber tribes in the 680s and opposed the encroaching Arab armies, and recently the founding father of guerrilla-war, M.A. Al-khattabi (1882 – 1963).
Written by Khalid Hajjioui