BEF DAN DISAB…

HISTORY AND MINDSET

How old is Mauritius, not in geological terms (10,000,000 years) but in terms of human settlement? Less than 400 years if we include the brief Dutch settlement (1638-1710). In that short period of time, the Creole Island of Mauritius has gone through all the great events of human history from slavery to neoliberal capitalism via a form of semi-feudalism and two world wars. What can the impact of this rapid succession of historical events be on the people’s mindset? Would it make people more open-minded, more predisposed to changes or rather less ready and less prepared to accept changes? Moreover, the country and its people have undergone 3 types of colonisation (Dutch, French and British) in this rather short time? What can the impact be? Now, if we add to all this, the peopling of the Creole Island with different waves of immigrants from different parts of the world, namely, France, Great Britain, Mozambique, Madagascar, India and China, what would the outcome be? A biological and cultural melting pot or rather a chequered mess of clannish and tribal loyalties? A rainbow nation or a rather a complex network of ‘noubanns’ and ‘bannlas’? ‘Enn sel lepep, enn sel nasion’ or ‘Bef dan disab, sakenn get so lizié’.

A thorough and honest study of the sixties and seventies can help us see some light through the fog. In 1967, when we had to decide who would run the country, social-democrats or pro-apartheid forces powered by big-white money, the country was divided into 2 clans: the pro-Hindus and the anti-Hindus. Half a century later, not much has changed.

CENTRIPETAL VERSUS CENTRIFUGAL FORCES

There is a constant conflict between a marginal centripetal force which aims at developing a national, supra-ethnic identity and dominant centrifugal forces, powered by ethnic loyalties which are dead against supra-ethnic values. When we have to face natural calamities, we do see some positive reflexes triggered by solidarity and sharing. But when the situation is back to ‘more-or-less normal’, we go back to ‘business as usual’ and take Metro Express to ‘Bef dan disab, sakenn get so lizié’?

Neoliberal capitalism, based on cupidity and selfishness pushed to its upper limit, is presented by its proponents as TINA (there is no alternative), the only system which offers solutions to all problems. Since its inception and first use by the dictator Pinochet with the support of the USA, this system supported by far-right leaders has given power and wealth to the very rich and has plunged the planet into chaos.

But now Covid-19 shows that neoliberal capitalism is a giant with Achilles heel. Trump boasted that the USA would not be affected by it. We now know that the first world power is the most vulnerable. Bolsonaro of Brazil insists in denying that there is a problem although hundreds have died so far and Modi thinks that a lit diya will force the disease to quit India.

Neoliberal capitalism which believes that state power is incompatible with growth, seeks state bailing out each time there is trouble. The present crisis has seen increased state power using taxpayers’ money to rescue the economy run by a handful of giant corporations.

Positive humane attitudes have also emerged. Intraethnic solidarity has been overshadowed by supra-ethnic generosity. Will this new phenomenon grow even when Covid-19 is something of the past? It is to be hoped that we will not relapse into ‘Bef dan disab, sakenn get so lizié’.

5.4.20

NITPICKING LEADERSHIP

Date: 31.03.20
Mauritius as well as the planet is under siege. The government of the day, whether we like it or not, has taken a set of bold and appropriate decisions but response from some people and some political leaders shows that many cannot see the wood for the trees. Of course, nothing is perfect. There may be a 10-15% error margin but that does not mean that we must throw the baby with the bathwater.

In a situation of war against a very dangerous enemy when our survival is at stake, we would have expected political leaders and social media opinion ‘leaders’ to offer life-saving solutions but in most cases we find people so engrossed in the glorification of their egos that nitpicking has become their favourite response to a dramatic, not to say tragic, situation. When simple common sense demands a new mindset based on solidarity and sharing, most politicking self-seekers – and we have lots of them – seek to use the crisis for self-aggrandisement and self-promotion. Only two opposition leaders have risen above the political muck and have shown that they possess the vision and political intelligence which the complex situation demands. They are Dr Arvin Boolell and Mr Xavier Luc Duval.

Most of us have been shocked by the irresponsible behaviour of many Mauritians who do not seem to understand the gravity of the situation. While medical, law-enforcement and NGO personnel are risking their lives, thousands of Mauritians, powered by selfishness and greed, are pouring oil on fire. These people are from different cultural, ethnic and political backgrounds and their political leaders have failed to take them to task. Why? Simply because their votes are invaluable. The mantra of most political leaders is: “DON’T GO AGAINST THE GRAIN; tell people how admirable they are”. Do they have the right sense of priority? Are they ready to leave their comfort zone? It is legitimate to doubt.

Covid-19 has shown how vulnerable we are. Looking after one’s political benefits and advantages in such a situation is CRIMINAL. Dark clouds hang on us but is there a silver lining? Yes, there is. A few lessons can be learnt:

• Neoliberalism, as practised by the Trumps and Bolsonaros, has succeeded in making a handful of SUPER-RICH but has lamentably failed to produce a better world;
• Global burning, climate crisis and ecological destruction have been exacerbated;
• Food security in terms of production, distribution and consumption is the order of the day;
• Solidarity and sharing must replace selfishness and greed;
• Our National Language (Morisien) is a vital tool for survival;
• Hard times have shown our nation-building potentials.

As a new nation in the bud, let us chart a new course!