DEV VIRAHSAWMY AND ICJM
(1) LET’S GET BACK TO IT!
Everybody agrees. Call it Economic State of Emergency or what you will. The situation certainly calls for urgent action but above all for a new way of looking at things, a new vision and a new project.
It all started in the sixties when the call for independence did not generate much enthusiasm. The upper class was against; an important fraction of the middle class, specially the intellingentsia, was simply not on; support had a clear ethnic colouring. Independence came and we need not be surprised that a feeling of national identity and a sense of belonging to a nation has never really developed. The opposite is true. Speeches and emotional pleas will bear no fruits.
Political leaders have their fair share of the blame. Have we not recently witnessed – O how revealing – the pedestrian delving of our chief histrionic bungling botcher in a mess of bouillabaisse in Rue de la Canebière feverishly looking for his roots?
More importantly, neoliberals who control media houses now conceitedly clamour the end of history and the death of ideology.
The end of state capitalism commonly known as – the so-called – communism does not mean the end of history or ideology. Probably it’s only the end of the beginning. The serious problems engendered by capitalism (ecological disaster, oil crisis, etc.) should on the contrary drive us from entropy to new creativity in thought and action, to a new outlook or ideology, to more soul-searching solutions. Less government, privatisation and globalisation under the thumb of US imperialism will simply not work.
A neocolony which Mauritius is has to get back to the drawing board. The present shambles at all levels can be tackled only if we take the right road. We must break the neocolonial shackles. We must chart the course to New Independence which will be nationalistic and democratic or will not be.
To achieve this we need the right approach, programme and leadership.
25 August 2004
(2) POLITICS AT THE HELM
A combination of long-term difficulties eroding the efficiency and performance of export sectors, including tourism coupled with our dependence on an increasingly expensive fossil fuel mean that we have to rethink our development strategy and lifestyle.
Besides judicious adjustments and innovations to keep our textile and tourist heads above water, we need new energy producing schemes but for heaven’s sake let’s not go ‘nuke-crazy’. The sugar industry will willy-nilly have to become ‘the cane energy industry’ and sweetener will be just a mere byproduct. Parallel to this we must develop an energy-saving mindset and culture. New daring town and country planning leading to locally-centered economies which encourage the use of bicycles will also be part of the new landscape. Most importantly food production (food security) must top our political agenda and that would probably mean an agrarian reform capable of releasing our creative and productive potentials. Import substitution of a new kind could be envisaged. It will be argued that WTO rules rule this out. This is true if protective administrative measures are taken but if the people of Mauritius freely choose to buy Mauritian it would be undemocratic to stop them.
This new orientation to our economy and culture will not be the oeuvre of bureacrats or technocrats of the old mindset. It requires new thinking and new leadership at all levels to mobilise national human and material resources.
Of course ‘compradores’ will initially be dead against. But world economic and ecological reality will eventually force them to join national efforts. This survival strategy rests on a class alliance which is all inclusive. This is not to be interpreted as a reneger, an abandonment of class struggle. The struggle against neocolonialism is an expression of class struggle.
There is no doubt that in the process of rebuilding our motherland, establishing strong links with our immediate neighbours (Indian Ocean Islands, SADC etc.) and adopting environment-friendly policies we will strengthen Morisianism (positive nationalism) and build a new forward-looking culture.
This new culture will have to be based on tolerance, justice, caring and sharing. Above all it will have to be democratic. We will have to build a democracy which is not just a system of government but has become a way of life and is vibrant at work, at home, everywhere. At the heart of it there must be gender democracy .
The most difficult task at present is to find the leadership which can incarnate all this. “Anne, ma soeur Anne, ne vois tu rien venir?”
26 August 2004
(3) BACK TO SCHOOL
To successfully steer our country from the neocolonial stranglehold, besides the right leadership and programme, we must also promote high standards of relevant education. And most importantly we must get our priorities right.
The key to progress in all fields is a high standard of literacy and numeracy. Let it be noted that we are not here, I repeat NOT, concerned with the so-called (mythical) polyglotism whereby “Franse ze koz-koz; Angle ze debrouy” but with skills related to the proper handling of the written word.
What is the situation on the literacy front? According to official figures the national rate is approximately 85% but there is no clear definition of literacy. Some define it as the ability to sign/scribble one’s name. Others define it in terms of school attendance, directly linking literacy with schooling, assuming that all those who are schooled do attain a reasonable level of literacy.
Certainly a wrong assumption. Some figures can help us to a proper understanding. First and foremost it must be made unequivocal that by the term literacy we mean ‘functional literacy’ which is best defined as ‘the level of skill in reading and writing that an individual needs to cope with everyday adult life’ (reading newspapers, filling forms, reading and understanding instructions of all sorts etc). In Mauritian terms it would not be unreasonable to associate this skill with at least a pass at secondary school certificate (Form 5).
Broadly speaking, in 2003, out of approximately 90,000 aged between 16 and 19 only 11,000 had a secondary school certificate (SC) and 5,400 had passed the higher school certificate (HSC). Let’s be generous and grant the existence of an additional 1,600 literate people in that age group. That still gives us the very low rate of 20%.
With such a low literacy rate Mauritius will never unlock the manacles of poverty, let alone smash neocolonial fetters. To succeed we should aim in the short term at a functional literacy rate in the neighbourhood of 50% and universal functional literacy in the long run. Moreover any ambition to shine in IT and the knowledge industry requires that in the very short term we manage to produce, yearly , over 10,000 HSC holders or equivalent. To achieve this, the language policy must change.
Up to now all reform attempts have shied away from this crucial issue. Now it’s a question of do or die.
27 August 2004
(4) LANGUAGE POLICY
A word of caution. The neocolonial struggle is not to be construed as xenophobia or autarky (total self-sufficiency). It is not a struggle against the people of the USA or any other country but one against a system which exploits, plunders and destroys and those who wield power within it. Moreover we must condemn the belief that everything which comes from countries governed by the agents of imperialism is bad and is to be opposed. Do not throw away the baby with the bath water.
In the preceding article ‘Back to School’ we claim that a judicious language policy is indispensable to promote the appropriate learning required to service the building of a nation, the smashing of neocolonial fetters and the fostering of the new society.
What is basically wrong with the present policy? The first major flaw is that it is totally blind to mother tongue reality, importance and role. Moreover it pretends that universal basic education can be successfully dispensed in foreign languages. And to crown its infirmity, it first gives no thought to and makes no allowance for the sound pedagogical principle of staggering i.e. spreading the introduction of foreign languages over a long period of time and not, as it is done, bung them all together in a messy, ill-planned and unproductive assortment; and secondly it ignores basic findings in psycholinguistics.
The ongoing language teaching practice is also warped by terminological confusion. Words and expressions such as ‘L1’, mother tongue (first language), second language, foreign language, medium of instruction, support language, language as subject etc. are used loosely and thus prevents a lucid and firm grasp of the matter.
Yoked to the fundamentally defective policy is a severe misconception about the nature and objective of basic education. Instead of focussing on LITERACY and NUMERACY, the system tries to teach so much that consequently it fails to teach anything and year after year it churns out non-literate and non-numerate children by the thousand.
To put our country on the right path of development we must have an educational menu which fosters and sustains literacy and numeracy because these skills are essential to all other educational orientations (academic, vocational, professional). To achieve universal functional literacy our language policy must have at its core two languages: the quasi first language of the republic (Mauritian) and the essential cum official language (English). In pre-primary and primary schools the medium must be Mauritian and English must be taught as a second language. The ethnic languages and French should be taught as subjects in post-primary institutions where the medium must be English and Mauritian taught as a subject.
In passing, then and only then will 11 year schooling have any sense.
29 August 2004
(5) THE POWERFUL CORPORATIONS
To fully comprehend the task ahead we must understand the role and power of the giant corporations which rule the USA and the world. Governments have become mere puppets in their hands. What is now happening to Mauritius Telecom, once a jewel in the crown, since it’s forced marriage to France Telecom, gives a clear idea of what is in store for us when globalisation and its Siamese twin, privatisation, have unchallenged sway and masterdom.
Management pundits of the Peter Drucker calibre have expressed themselves clearly on the subject. ” The largest 100 corporations hold 25 percent of the worldwide productive assets, which in turn control 75 percent of international trade and 98 percent of all foreign direct investment. The multinational corporation puts the economic decision beyond the effective reach of the political process and its decision-makers, national governments.” This simply means that political independence has become an empty word devoid of substance for colonialism has been replaced by neocolonialism, the rule of corporations. Our political leaders, specially young Jugnauth and the neoliberal Berenger, want to divert attention from real issues each time they vociferate and harangue on the virtues of patriotism.
The struggle against the stranglehold by multinational corporations is not going to be easy but it has to be done. Do or die.
How will the local bourgeoisie (old and new money) react and respond. Having most of the time seen their interests closely bound to colonialism and imperialism, their natural reflex is to seek a junior partnership with some giant and hope for the best. Disenchantment will quickly set in. Gargantuan greed is the quintessence of multinational corporations and junior partners are just little snacks. But most importantly, besides the plunder of local resources (although a few will get their kick, package and baksheesh) there will be a rise in poverty, unemployment and all social problems linked with these. Life will get harder and harder leading to greater and greater instability and economic and social chaos. Repression will not work.
Can we expect the local bourgeoisie, specially the upper class, to understand that the solution to existing and forthcoming problems is a strong alliance with the people, the real lifeblood of this country. Selfishness and cupidity are a recipe to catastrophe.
This is going to be a long struggle for self-preservation and dignity. In the process, a long-outstanding problem could also be resolved. The descendants of the victims of slavery could be compensated not with cash but with land for food production (see food security above).
The struggle for real freedom could also become a great moment of national solidarity and reconciliation.
30 August 2004
(6) A NEW LIFESTYLE
The hard times we are most likely to go through, are a blessing in disguise for if we opt for the right solutions we could, in the process, find remedies for many difficulties pestering us. Moreover we must make nation-building rhyme with improvement in the quality of life if it is to have any meaning at all.
The Mauritian economy must be overhauled. This should not be interpreted as an invitation to scrap everything and start anew. It simply suggests the need to fine tune certain sectors, adapt and modernise; new sectors must be developed and old ones reorientated. For example is it reasonable now to think the textile sector in terms of massive cheap unskilled or semi-skilled labour or rather in terms of skilled, literate labour operating sophisticated technology? With the deepening energy crisis coupled with the dramatic universal ecological catastrophe ahead, is it reasonable to expect a substantial rise in middle-market tourist arrival from distant sources or should we rather couple upmarket tourism with, on the one hand, local tourism, encouraging Mauritians to use local tourism infrastructure for their holidays and on the other attract our neighbours from the Indian Ocean islands and SADC countries etc.? Is it wise to invest in new hotels or should we rather ensure that the existing ones run efficiently to full capacity?
Whether the ICT sector will one day become a pillar of the economy can only so far be a matter for speculation but what is certain is that our country must become computer literate. How do we achieve it? Certainly not by decorating a few schools, social halls with a few computers. FIRST OF ALL WE MUST MAKE MAURITIUS A LITERATE COUNTRY WHICH IT IS NOT. Less than 25% of the population are functionnally literate.
Our political culture must undergo important changes. Democracy must become a way of life. The most important innovation process concerns women. They should not accept to be tea-makers while the blokes are discussing whatever they say they are discussing. They should be massively present at all decision-making levels in the private and public sectors. The fight against HIV-AIDS demands that we empower women. Moreover real sex education, which is not to be confused with courses in reproductive biology, should be a recurrent feature of school, extracurricular and adult education.
Changes in economic, political and social life should be concurrent with cultural innovations. Our eating habits need a thorough investigation for they are suspected to be at the root of many serious diseases affecting us.
Moreover different types of addiction should be treated in a humane way. Healthy leisure habits should be promoted whereby the joys of digital/satellite TV or the internet should be balanced with exercises and outdoor activities.
Artistic and sports activities for which suitable venues must be built all over the country will help make of our country a place where the feel-good factor will be strong. Grassroots media houses should also be encouraged.
Conservatism, backward-looking reflexes will only slow down progress. Treasuring cultural elements from the past cannot be erected as walls against the emergence of new, dynamic and vibrant cultural forces of progress. Such an attitude will only prolong our period of misery.
In this series of six short articles I have tried to share with you my fears and my hopes. I only hope that the young professionals, intellectuals and leaders of today will find in them food for thought.
God bless you all.
DETRWA NOUVO EK ANSIEN + TRADIKSION
ANNOUNCING UNIVERSAL FUNCTIONAL BILINGUAL LITERACY
Dilo sakre Granbasen
Kavo sakre Perlaval
Ros Noir sakre dan Kaaba
Tou bann pelren zwenn pou ador Sakre
Mwa pov bachara dan tousa Senier
Mo pa pe trouv twa. Pardonn mwa!
Me kan lame-lipie enn bieneme
atas lekor ar lekor; kan lalev
fonn dan zwisans parfime;
kan laverite touni pe ofer
bote eternel partaze;
kan lekor ekler lespri,
lespri fer lekor vinn sen
dan li se Twa mo adore.
Grand Bassin’s sacred water
Father Laval’s sacred shrine
Kaaba’s sacred stone
Pilgrims meet, worship Sacred
But dear God forgive a poor soul,
In all these I see thee not.
But when limbs with limbs
lovers bind; when lips melt
with perfumed thrills;
when truth naked offers
eternal beauty shared;
when body shines on mind;
and mind blesses body
in her I find You, O Beloved.
Sime la li bien-bien long
Sime la li bien-bien dir
Komie finn pas lor la avan mwa
Zegwi dife dan lesiel
Lapousier dan mo labous
Mo lagorz pe amar-amare
Lasours la li ankor lwen
Bien-bien fre, bien-bien kler
Lasours kot nou tou pou al bwar
Simitier ranpli ar fler
Kot bann frer finn depoz zarm
Sime la li pas kot simitier
Mo lavi kouma lapousier
Pou fini dan simitier
Mo lespwar zame li pa pou tengn
Pou sak flanbo ki pou tengn
Ena mil pou alime
Ziska ki sime tous lasours
Marenwar pe rod noiy mwa
Marekaz pe rod bwar mwa
Ena kamrad ferm koste ar mwa
Me dime komie pou ena
Ler soley manz marenwar
Komie ki pa ankor vinn fler
Seki yer swar ti ar mwa
Zordi nek enn souvenir
Souvenir ki lour dan mo leker
Nou bizen met sime kler
Nou bizen konstrir bann pon
Pous par pous, pa par pa ziska lasours
Mem si nou nou pa gagn sans
Nou zanfan va profite
Lapousier pou vinn lalimier
Lasours la li ankor lwen
Bien-bien fre, bien-bien kler
Lasours kot nou tou pou al bwar
This hard road is mighty long
This long road is mighty hard
How many are they who trod it’s dust
Fiery darts are in the sky
Choking dust is in my mouth
And my throat narrows down to gasp
The fresh fountain’s miles ahead
All so clear, all so cool
That’s where we’ll all drink our joy
Graveyard’s full of pretty flowers
Where pals lay down their arms
The road goes by the burial ground
My life’s just a speck of dust
Which seeks sleep in a graveyard
But hope will not blow out its light
For each light which does go out
Thousands will kindle new hope
Showing the way to the fountain
Darkness tries to gobble me
The swamp tries to swallow me
Some pals and I are huddling through
But tomorrow who’ll be there
When the sun sucks in the swamp
Who’s not buried in petals
Some are gone who once were here
Now only a memory
Memory heavy on my heart
We must all clear out a path
We must all build out bridges
Step by step towards the fresh fountain
Even if we don’t get there
Our children surely will
For dust will turn into light
The fresh fountain’s miles ahead
All so clear, all so cool
That’s where we’ll all drink our joy
Mo kamwad Edouard pa fer diferans
ant fer ti koko, fer gate, lamour
ek fer malis. Mo pa kone kifer.
Eski li dir sa pou mok mo kiltir,
pou dir ki mo lang zis bon pou lisien
– enn desarz difout fertiliz dizef?
Eski dapre li extaz erotik
li zis ekziste lor trotoir Paris?
Kwar mwa mo matlo, dan mo ti lavi
sorti bitasion, lamour li sakre
kan mo bieneme ek mwa donn nou tou
dan tandres, kares, zwisans partaze.
Nou partaz lamour dan plezir lekor
parski samem pli gran kado Bondie.
My friend Edouard kens no difference
between cuddling, petting, loving
and fucking. I don’t know why.
Does he mean to offend me,
meaning my tongue is dog’s breakfast
– a burst of sperm to fertilise?
Does he think erotic bliss
is only found on Parisian walks?
Take it from me, friend – a simple
rural boy I am – love’s sacred
when my lover and I share all
in kind caress and mutual bliss.
We share love in body’s joy
For this is God’s great gift.
papa, patron, pret, paster, profeser
tousa bann P la finn ayjak pouvwar
pou fer devlopman rim ar dominer
bayonet ar labraget; tilespri
ar lapeti pran, pran, pran san done
mama, matronn, mis, maser, mataji
nek donn zot pouvwar, get Matahari
enpoz lor nou tou vazinokrasi
Kan enn zour Bondie dan lakaz baba
ti sem zerm lamour, sa zour la li ti
anons nou nesans sivilizasion
ki sarye lalians Linga ek Yoni.
Ni patriyarka, ni matriyarka!
Nou ador lalians Yoni ek Linga.
pater, patron, priest, pastor, pandits
all these P’s have highjacked power
to get growth to rhyme with oppression
and bayonet with fly; and nitwits
with gusto take, take, take and never give
mater, matron, miss, mother, mataji
give them that power and Mata Hari
When God did sow in woman’s womb
the seed of love, that day He
announced the birth of life
that carries Linga’s and Yoni’s Alliance.
Patriarchy no. Matriarchy no.
We adore Linga’s and Yoni’s Alliance.
YONI EK LINGA
Mo tantinn veritab lera legliz,
nam kalimay, sanbrani, tanbalon
kontan dir chichi kan lisien krwaze,
zenes anbrase ou kares lekor
– tousala bisagn, sime perdision.
So program virzinite eternel
dan rwayom Bondie modi ar lakras
pese ek pianter dan lekor imen.
Sa gran Endou la ki priye Buddha
finn pas akote – finn refiz gete? –
sazes oryantal dan zarden zepis,
plezir parfime, erotism tantrik.
Finn tro tar pou li konn adorasion
dan lalians sakre Yoni ek Linga.
YONI AND LINGA
My aunt’s very church-mouse
ritual faithful and shrine worshipful
spits disgust when dog-bitch crudely mate
when youths kiss, cuddle or pet
– disgusting! the road to perdition.
Her Eternal Virginity Pragramme
in God’s kingdom cursedly spits on
sins and stench of the human body.
This genuine Hindu who worships Buddha
has chosen to miss or ignore
Asian wisdom in the perfumed garden
of erotic bliss and tantric orgasm.
Too late for her to worship
the Sacred in the Yoni-Linga Alliance.
PLIS KI TOMEM
Dir mwa mo tonton, dir mwa Ton Toulsi,
ki vedir lamour.
To finn konn Adan, to finn konn so Ev,
Adam ek so Stiv; Ziliet, Romeo;
twa ki finn souy larm
Marie-Madeleine ar anchrra Dropadi
dir mwa, dir mwa vit ki vedir lamour,
Dir mwa Ton Toulsi.
Kan to kontan li plis ki kontan twa;
kan dan partaze to trouv to boner;
kan to bieneme anflam to lavi,
dan so lizie kler, so lekor beni
to santi prezans to prop kreater
lerla to kone Lamour beni twa.
MORE THAN YOURSELF
Uncle tell me, tell me Ton Toulsi
what is love.
You’ve known Adam and Eve,
Adam and Steve, Juliet and Romeo;
you who have wiped
Mary Madeleine’s tears with Dropadi’s saree
tell me what love is,
tell me Ton Toulsi.
When the other you love more than yourself;
when you find joy in giving;
when your beloved enthuses your life
and in her clear eyes and blessed body
you feel the presence of your Creator,
then you know that Love has blessed you.