LEFT, RIGHT AND FAR RIGHT

Nouvo youg lor baz!
Pa get letid ousa laz.
Nek get so bataz.

The new era’s here!
Learning and age lead nowhere;
Just watch for new gear.

In the good old days, politics was conceived along the ‘LEFT, CENTRE, RIGHT’ spectrum. The demarcation lines were rather clear but not rigid. But today, everything has become blurred. The left has been marginalised; the centre has melted into the right; and the right is slowly creeping into the far right. Look at the Mauritian scene and you’ll understand.

The PTr of Fabian origin is now its own opposite. Fabian socialism believes in evolutionary socialism as opposed to revolutionary socialism (Marxism) but today this party rejects socialism as ‘palaeontological’ and is controlled by neoliberals who are prepared to worship Narendra Modi, a far right leader. Moreover, that party which was the political arm of the Mauritian working class which consists of Hindus, Catholics and Muslims has become the instrument of Hindu power and the next step could be Hindutva with its Varma, Juggoo and Baichoo.

The MSM – Mouvement Socialist Militant – is led by a neoliberal who worships the far right Indian leader.

The MMM which advocated socialism and nation-building in its early days has changed into a neoliberal party which has become the conservative political arm of the Euro-Creoles of Mauritius and is a constant wooer of any force which can help it into power.

The PMSD is ‘social-democratic’ only in name for the leader is a convinced neoliberal who is prepared, if needs be, to coalesce with the far right.

NOT ONLY IN MAURITIUS

This is not a purely Mauritian situation. It is a wide world phenomenon. In France, for example, since WW2, the political struggle has been between left and right – socialist and bourgeois – ideology. Now the left wing organisations are shrinking like ‘peau de chagrin’ and the contest is between the right and the far right with the latter having an edge over the right as working class people driven by racism and xenophobia are dragged into the political mire. We see the same thing happening in the UK, the USA, in Europe in general, in Isreal. In India the anti-Dalit and anti-Muslim sentiment is getting stronger with the growth of BJP popularity.

Do not be surprised if eventually a coalition between MSM and PTr is ordained by their lord and master. Do not be surprised also if that political arrangement is blessed by Mauritian big and medium money of all colours for business with the Ambanis and Co. is very alluring.

WE NEED NOT WORRY TOO MUCH

The situation is alarming but not desperate. Throughout the world, in Hong kong, Latin America, Arab countries, the USA and Europe, common people are taking to the streets to challenge despotic and corrupt state power with some success. The more repressive the authorities, the more determined the people will be. Moreover, the global ecological situation will see a rapid degradation and the known state organisation and savoir-faire will be totally ineffective. Consequently, new and original social organisations will emerge. Humanity will have to invent new ways of production, distribution and consumption.

17/11/19

Answering Allegra and Peter

1. Please share a story that you feel best illustrates how levels of peace are sustained in your community.
D.V. I grew up in 2 villages. In my mother’s village most neighbours were Muslims. My best friend was a Muslim boy. We went to school together and played football in the same team. In my father’s village, I had neighbours from different ethnic backgrounds including Creoles (African-Mauritians). My football hero was Creole. My mother, a Telugu lady, sang Creole songs to me. All these have helped me to develop a cross-ethnic outlook and culture.

2. Given your experience in politics in the region, what do you think it is important for the world to know about why and how Mauritius sustains peace between groups?
D.V. Although there are different sets of tension and conflicts (class, religion, language, skin colour etc.) most people tacitly recognise that we are condemned to live together and so must learn tolerance which is vital for coexistence. We must have learnt from past mistakes which led to loss of lives.

3. We are interested in the work you have done to promote Mauritian (Creole) as the language of the region. Can you discuss the politics of language in Mauritius and how the current use of language promotes or detracts from peace in the area?
D.V. A language can be a wall between people or a bridge, if properly used. In Mauritius, English, the official language is nobody’s L1; French, the semi-official language, is the L1 of 3.8% of the population; there are several identity languages such as Hindi, Urdu, Telugu, Tamil etc, which are not L1’s. Then there is Mauritian Creole (MC) which I call Mauritian, which is the L1 of 90% of the population and the L2 of the remaining 10%. Because of ignorance and prejudices MC is despised and ignored.
I believe MC can become a powerful instrument for global development in terms of nation building and universal functional literacy.

4. How do you think the ways history is remembered in Mauritius contributes or detracts from current levels of peace?
D.V. Mauritius has known all evil practices humanity has known: colonisation, slavery, exploitation of indentured labour from India, racism, communalism, sexism, casteism, class domination etc. But at the same time, we have seen great moments of solidarity and sharing which remain rare and short-lived. There are still more walls than bridges.

5. When thinking about the future, how do you think people envision future relationships between groups?
D.V. In Mauritius, we cannot see the wood for the trees. Take religion as an example. When we study the Bhagavad-Gita, the Old and New Testaments and the Holy Koran we can have a glimpse of the nature of faith but in practice, over-emphasis on rituals leads people to see other people as aliens. Consequently, the liberating power of faith is destroyed by what William Blake called “the mind-forged manacles”.

5. What do you see as the main challenges to peace in Mauritius today? When you think about challenges Mauritius faces now, what is the response, and do/how might these responses contribute to resilience and sustained peace?
D.V. In the years to come, Mauritius will face great difficulties as a result of global warming/burning and climate change/crisis. I am sure that the hard times to come will force us to think anew and realise how important national solidarity and sharing are.

6. Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
D.V. The Mauritian archipelago is made up of several creole islands on which two beautiful creole languages, Mauritian and English, are used. They will both help us to consolidate our national identity and our bilingual literacy will help us become good citizens of Planet Earth.

21 November 2019

A LITERATE NATION? REALLY?

LIR
Met bann sign ansam
E souden enn gran laflam
Ekler mo lasam.

READ
Put signs together
And suddenly like summer
Light shines with laughter.

Recently, a www.lexpress.mu reader wrote on literacy: “The figure I quoted is from UNESCO. In fact, adult literacy rate is 93.5% for male and 90% for female in Mauritius. Adult means 15 years onwards.”

The gentleman is right. But we must ask ourselves if the UNESCO figures are reliable. No, they are not. The UNESCO figures cannot be trusted. Regularly, UNESCO sends a form to be filled by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry of Education to update its data bank on literacy. The officer in charge regularly puts down figures related to ‘SCHOOLING’ (school attendance) and then the form is sent back to UNESCO which publishes it in their report on literacy. The figures are related to schooling, not literacy. This is how the state of Mauritius fools the world and eventually fools itself and the whole population.

This is done on purpose to hide a nasty truth: a great majority of boys and girls after 7-10 years at school remain for all intents and purposes, either semiliterate or plainly illiterate.

We cannot blame UNESCO which is misled by government and unscrupulous civil servants.

WHAT IS LITERACY?

In very simple terms, it means the ability to read, write and count – a combination of literacy and numeracy in at least one language.

Homo Sapiens Sapiens created the spoken word over 200,000 years ago and consequently as a result of evolution we are genetically programmed to speak. Children start to develop language skills in the womb and by the time they are around 10 years old, they have an adequate mastery of the mother tongue to cope with their immediate environment. However, writing is a very recent phenomenon, not older than 5,000 years. Neuro-linguists are aware of difficulties to be faced by learners of literacy and they all agree that it should start in the child’s mother tongue.

This view is also upheld by Ms. Irina Bokova, former Director-General of UNESCO (2009-2017): “Mother languages in a multilingual approach are essential components of quality education, which is itself the foundation for empowering women and men and their societies.”

According to UNESCO, basically literate people should be able to write a text of about 150 words to say who they are in any language of their choice provided the text is grammatically correct, respects spelling and punctuation. This test has never been done in Mauritius and according to my research less than 20% of Mauritians over 10 years old would pass this test. IT’S NOT AN EXAGGERATION!

Please also note that to live in a modern society, basic literacy is insufficient. Citizens need functional literacy which are skills needed to read and understand opinion pieces and leaders/editorials in l’Express for that matter. I doubt that more than 10% of our adult population can do this (about 100,000 adults).

LITERACY AND THE BALLOT PAPER

UNESCO also believes that literacy should start in the mother tongue of the child, not in 3 foreign languages at one and the same time, as it is done in Mauritius. Remember that English, our official language, French, our semi-official language and Hindi, Urdu (identity languages) etc. are foreign languages for most children. Mauritian (Mauritian Creole) on the other hand is the mother tongue (L1) of 90% of the whole population and the second language (L2) of the remaining 10%.

If the UNESCO figures quoted at the beginning of this piece were a reliable expression of reality, there would have been no need for political symbols on the ballot paper (key, cock, sun, heart etc.). Don’t they rather tell us that we are a nation of semilinguals, semiliterates and illiterates?

I am sure that some hysterical half-baked readers will choose anonymity to insult and slander on www.lexpress.mu. This is quite understandable because Mauritians hate to face the truth. They want to hear that they are admirable, beautiful, bright and wonderful. Is not Mauritius “All things bright and beautiful”?

TO CONCLUDE

Depriving children of the right to learn to read and write in their mother tongue is tantamount to a crime against humanity. Is it not a political ploy to keep people in the dark?

But if people choose to remain in the dark, what can we do?

15/11/19

FOOD SECURITY(FS) AND MORE

FRIYAPEN
Li ron, li ranpli
Ar manzé, ar fortifian.
Fatra pa konpran.

BREADFRUIT
It’s plump and it’s full
Of goodies for life and land.
Fools don’t understand.

The economic pundits of the past thought that in line with the spirit of free trade, we should export sugar, tea and T-shirts and with our earnings import all we need, including our precious chow (chaw-chaw). Present day neoliberals adhere to this belief and practice. Food security and renewables are elements of left-wing idealism and fantasy. Land is just a commodity to be used to build sumptuous villas for foreign billionaires.

Those whose eyes are not blinded by rupee specs know that global burning and climate crisis mean that food production will be much affected and food security (FS) is an issue of utmost importance. FS is a two-dimentional problem. It concerns availability and nutrition. In Mauritius we depend on two staples: rice and wheat flower. Both are imported. The FAO has warned that global burning and climate crisis will greatly affect rice production. Mauritius will be hard hit. Wheat production will also be dramatically affected. Scientists believe most parts of the world where the crop is grown will be simultaneously hit by water shortages by the end of the century. Looking for locally grown staples is a top priority. Forget Mauritian wheat or rice! There are very good home-grown alternatives: breadfruit, cassava, potato, sweet potato, maize, arrowroot and taro. These not only give us the calories we need but also have medicinal values.

SEA FOOD

The maritime Republic will have to depend on sea food more than on livestock produce. In that context we will have to replant mangrove forests which have been cleared to make beautiful beaches for the tourist industry which will bear the brunt of the rise in sea level. Mangrove forests are home to a large variety of fish, crab, shrimp, and mollusk species. And they also serve as nurseries for many fish species, including coral reef fish.
Good nutrition is an equally important element of FS. Healthy eating together with regular exercise will help us solve problems of diabetes, blood pressure, overweight and obesity.

GOOD LAND USE

Land is not just a commodity to be disposed of to make money. It is to be considered as a sacred gift to ensure survival. Beside food and shelter, land which is properly used can free us from the chains of fossil fuels. Today we grow cane to make sugar and a by-product, bagasse, is burnt to make electricity. This must be changed through the cultivation of a highly fibrous cane whose main aim is the production of bio-energy and then sugar will become a by-product for local consumption and export if possible.
The use of fossil fuels must be banned and transport must be powered by electricity and muscle power. “Wi, bizen aprann ek kontan pedalé!” Electric public transport for long distances and bicycle ride for short distances will have to become, nilly-willy, our essential transportation and mobility culture. Our roads must be redesigned for these changes and new culture.

THE NEOLIBERAL STAND

The neoliberal tycoons and their political doormats and propagandists will mock and reject the views expressed here. Quite understandable. This new way of life means the end of their power on society and people. BUT it also means the birth of a new civilisation based on solidarity and sharing and not on selfishness and greed. For us, common people, it’s a question of “do or die”. It’s no longer a question of whether we like it or not.

IT’S NOW A QUESTION OF SURVIVAL.

15/11/19

THE ROAD AHEAD

Konsomé nonnstop!
Lor problem pas enn kout mop;
Amizé ar dop.

Consume without thought!
Let all your problems be naught;
Don’t be overwrought.

One thing is clear. Neoliberalism, an ideology caracterised by total reliance on market forces, deregulation and privatisation, now controls both sides of the house. The main political parties, the MSM, the PTr, the MMM and the PMSD, in that order of importance, share the same political ideology and this explains why these parties can easily join forces (MSM/MMM alliance; PTr/MMM alliance; MSM/PTr alliance; PTr/PMSD alliance; MSM/PMSD alliance). It also explains why prominent MMM members can easily fit into the MSM environment, outlook and policy.

Neoliberalism is the dominant worldwide ideology at present be it in the USA, China, India, Russia or Europe. In our region there are two important powerhouses: China and India. They may have different systems but both are driven by the same mantra: BE RICH. They are rivals in our region and both want to colonise us through the DEBT-TRAP diplomacy. India has an edge over its rival for the “CHOTA BHARAT” slogan seems to charm quite a few minds.

Neoliberals have no concern for the environment or the health of the planet. They believe that such concepts as global warming/burning, climate change/crisis are left wing fabulations to stop the march of history. In the Mauritius archipelago, they are the proponents of high-income economy, tax-free country, unending economic growth, wealth and luxury for all. These slogans titillate the imagination of the masses who start to think that manna will fall from heaven. But that is not the truth. Neoliberalism means that 1% of the population controls 90% of the national wealth and consequently, 99% have to share the remaining 10%; it means increasing wealth for the very rich and extreme poverty for the masses; it means a two-tier system (free and fee-paying) in schools and hospital where moneyed people will get the best service; it means that prisons will be privatised and consequently, rehabilitation cum re-education will be abandoned and recidivism will thrive; it means private police, gated cities on the one hand and rising unemployment and crimes on the other.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

As long as the masses trust their leaders nothing can be done. But the situation will not remain rosy for too long. The destruction of rain forests, the burning of fossil fuels, the wiping out of bio-diversity are life-threatening activities and soon we will have to bear the brunt of our mistakes. Then the political promise will sound hollow and angry reaction will start.

With the rise in sea level, our tourist industry will be in deep trouble. We will have to move from beach tourism and explore possibilities of culture and green tourism. Rice producing countries are already facing difficulties and rice supply will eventually dwindle. We will have to rethink our food culture in terms of production and consumption. AREU’S motto, GROW WHAT YOU EAT AND EAT WHAT YOU GROW, must become national wisdom. The “open sesame” of high-income economy will soon lose its lustre and the population at large will understand that they have been taken for a ride.

The oligarchs and their political allies, having a powerful grip over most media outlets, have some success in getting us to think the way they want. However, this will not last forever if artists in all branches of creation – poetry, plays, short stories, novels, paintings, music and dance, films and photography etc. – continue to entertain and educate us and help us to see the rot being hidden away.

At the level of the Mauritius archipelago, artists must not throw in the towel in the face of attacks on our true identity. Our birthplace is made up of creole islands which have given refuge, food and shelter to thousands of immigrants from Africa, Asia and Europe.

We do not live in Little France or Little India.

13/11/19