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.