FAREWELL!

Whether we like it or not, human beings have always needed myths and will always need them. What is a myth? It may be “a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining a natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events” or “a widely held but false belief or idea” or “a misrepresentation of the truth” or a combination of all these.

All societies generate their myths in order to come to terms with reality, to make life meaningful and to have a raison d’être and plural societies have several sets of myths which are often antagonistic. In the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, a dominant myth was that Mauritius was ‘Little France’. The alliance between the new English masters and the local oligarchy led middle-class Euro-Creoles to rally around the French language and ‘Frenchness’.

At present, a dominant myth is the belief that Mauritius is ‘Little India’. This politically motivated myth is linked to another more pernicious one carefully nurtured to support a racial objective. It is to show that people from India belong to a superior race for they have succeeded where Afro-Creoles have failed although both groups experienced the same ill treatment. There is nothing further from the truth. Slavery and indentured labour have nothing in common. The story of my great-grandfather clearly illustrates this. He, a ‘coolie’, came to Mauritius as an indentured labourer and during his stay he was attracted by the beauty of a young lady and when he proposed, his proposal was turned down. At the end of his contract, he returned to his homeland, changed his name, bought a passenger ticket, returned to Mauritius, proposed again and was successful. This is how he and his beloved started the Virahsawmy clan. A slave did not have this kind of freedom.

A very strong myth concerns capitalism which is believed to be irreplaceable, has always existed and always will. The history of the human race shows that this is not true but billions believe it is gospel truth. Skilful and systematic brainwashing has produced the required effect.

I do not intend to condemn mythmaking or mythmakers for the poet that I am, is guilty of much of this.
• Creole is our national language and must be known as Morisien. Myth or reality?
• We can achieve universal bilingual functional literacy in Morisien and English, another creole language. Myth or reality?
• Artocarpus altilis (breadfruit) or madegonn or friyapen will one day become our preferred staple. There cannot be genuine food security without it. Myth or reality?
• It is possible to build a supraethnic identity. Myth or reality?
• Mauritius is a Maritime Republic. Myth or reality?
• Mauritius is a creole island whose flora and fauna have been transfomed by different waves of immigrants from Africa, Europe and Asia. Myth or reality?
• Marxism and religion are compatible. Myth or reality?
• Men and women are different but equal. Myth or reality?

For more than half a century, these ‘myths’ have fuelled my existence. Covid-19 and PPS now tell me to take it easy. How much time is left? Only God knows. One thing is certain: some day soon, like Hamlet, I will say, “The rest is silence.” I promise that I’ll try hard not to pester you anymore with my frivolous myths.

This is my farewell message.

God bless you all.

20.05.2020

WE ARE ALL GUILTY!

DAN PARADI TRILENG

GENUINE SHOCK OR CROCODILE TEARS?

Did you hear that? Shocking! A prison inmate, tortured? A prison inmate, murdered? Ki pe ariv nou douniya? (What the hell is going on?). Lend me your lachrymatory! All handkerchieves out!

Haven’t you had enough of these lachrymatory shows of crocodile tears to give yourself a good conscience while you frantically look for a scapegoat?

Do you know the world in which you live? About 85% of all prison inmates are non-literate and non-numerate. Do you have to be another Einstein to understand why they are there? Is not the education system to blame? Afro-Creoles, most of whom are descendants of victims of the inhuman and criminal slave trade, represent 25% of the global Mauritian population and in our prisons, they represent about 80-85% of the carceral population. Why is that so? The death of Father Roger Cerveaux has not ended the Creole malaise. Don’t curse his soul for raising the issue. Curse yourself for both you and I are guilty. And please don’t argue that indentured labour was as bad as slavery and yet coolie’s children have known much success. Indentured labour was bad but slavery was worse. NO COMPARISON POSSIBLE! Don’t mix issues.

Those who pocketed the abolition of slavery compensation money are guilty for nothing was done to help the children of the liberated slaves on the road to mental growth and cultural freedom. Majoritarian ethnic leaders, whether red or orange, who are often heard saying, “Dan nou napeyna sa!” (We are not like them/ they are not like us.), have a fair share of blame for they have insistently treated Afro-Creoles as less than human. Political leaders, whether blue or purple, for whom Afro-Creoles are just a big vote bank which ensures success in certain constituencies provided they are regularly cajoled and conditioned to despise or hate “bannla” (the others) are also to blame for they are more interested in servicing the power of the rich and powerful than in helping Afro-Creole children to grow and develop. Religious leaders who have systematically ignored the importance of Afro-Creoles’ L1 (mothertongue) have willy-nilly contributed to the Creole malaise.

REHABILITATION AND RECIDIVISM

We are guilty because most Mauritians think that carceral institutions should impose harsh measures of punishment, hard labour and deprivation. The general public thinks that prison life should be ruthless, merciless and full of discomfort, harassment and anxiety of all sorts and that some forms of torture are acceptable. I have often heard people voice views in favour of such barbaric practices as flogging, branding, caning and brutally plucking out nails of prisoners (ras zot zong).

We are guilty because we give power to finger-and-tongue-cutting politicians who have a medieval notion of crime and punishment. A prison is not a chamber of torture and suffering to pay for our misdeeds but a school where we are educated to earn a place in society. REHABILITATION is now the key policy to curb recidivism. Authorities in Mauritius favour violence and repression and ignore totally the basics of rehabilitation.

While some countries are closing down prisons because of social benefits derived from rehabilitation, leading to a fall in recividism and also because of the adoption of a more progressive outlook such as open prison, others are privatising or are planning to privatise prisons with the consequential rise in recidivism and lowering of carceral standards. Good investment for some but bad social repercussions for all.

Radical changes are much needed not only in our correctional institutions but in our society at large. We only hope that Covid-19 will ‘ouver lizie tang’ (arouse tenrecs from hibernation) and help us chart a new course which will help us survive.

16.05.20