Tongues of Vitriol: Mo ena ene vision!
— HONITA C.
In 2009, a few words were pronounced by a Black man on the American soil; words which were to create history by roaring into an echo to resound as a universal war-cry. Yes, we can! Those were the words. Several political and social critics who thereafter sat to deconstruct and analyze the power of these words came to one consensual conclusion: these are the words of a man of vision! It was the belief of one lone man that transpired to an entire nation of diverse creed and colour to construct a better America, a better America in terms of its health system, its domestic exercise of equal opportunities, its foreign relations, and better in its nuclear relations.
Why, then, strong words such as these, even if repeatedly pronounced by our Mauritian leaders, do not carry the same effect on the mass and, most importantly, do not have similar concrete political after-effects?
Our landscape is at the zenith of being littered and plastered with les couleurs de l’avenir and le mauve du coeur. Massive platforms are being erected in the most random of places. 4×4 vans are getting decked up with the miserable grey loudspeakers to provide mobile visibility to their waving candidates. While the agents are at it, the candidates themselves are busy scribbling away their speeches, halting after every single sentence to scale the weight of their words: they need to strike the right balance between beating their own drums and demeaning their opponents. But their paramount concern is that their words should create around them the aura of a leader. It should make of them a booted and suited version of the Pied Piper of Hamelin; a leader of the mass who induces followership. Clearly then, every single word they spell out in public determines their political future!
What then, are the words, to grant our Mauritian leaders this image of the uncontested messiah of the nation: Mo ena ene vision! That is the Mauritian answer to Obama’s Yes, we can! Indistinctively, every single candidate standing for the general election seems to have a vision – coming to believe that we are surrounded by clairvoyants! What is it about these words that aspires respect and hope? And more importantly, why does this vision never materialize? Although it is the same old heads who materialise at our doors after every five years, it remains that the visions they prophesized/pursued five years back are never attained.
‘Vision’, when evoked transmits a sense of purity, honesty and dedication. It is the word of comfort, which (a Marxist would say) can act as the opium to the masses. It is one of those impressive connotative words the bourgeois and literati pronounce to establish their power of superior sight. They can see there… far away… what lies beyond the horizon… They can see the united, new Mauritius, with ethnic and gender equality and modernity. Already straining your neck and standing on your toes but yet failing to see that approaching bright future? No need because, of course, we, the mass, are too dwarfed and plagued by cataract to be able to see there… far away!
But while we are on tenterhooks, gazing at the ephemeral vision that our leaders are pointing to, our Mauritian visionaries sneak down to the actual politics behind underlying their concocted vision! They start lashing out all the smelly fodder, manoeuvres and instruments on which our machiavellian political machinery actually survives: the money to fund campaigns, to buy those deafening firecrackers and blinding oriflammes, the money to buy the loyalty of those who will board the lorries to play the jhaal and dholoks. They resort to categorizing us into Tamouls, Chinois, Musulmans, Kreols, Hindous, Telegus, Marathis… They take recourse to igniting bitterness between different ethnic communities by instigating them to defend their ‘rights’ by voting only for candidates speaking their language and of their skin colour and hair type. (The irony is that these captains of ‘ethno-linguistic authenticity’ themselves cannot speak their ethnic language!). They do not hesitate to make personal attacks on their adversaries, do some name-calling and mudslinging. But, of course, all these for the noble cause of the united Mauritius they have envisioned!
All of us are aware that the above is actually true – the scrubbed, polished and perfumed promises of our election candidates exist no more than in rhetoric. The words Mo ena ene vision, nu pe ale ver ene grand, grand, grand victoire and such likes are no more than idiosyncrasies which must be dished out to the citizens. They are no more than catchy words which instantly stick in your head to eventually create a placebo effect! The reality is that those uttering such words are merely applying the jargon of the Mauritian political milieu. How else would you explain a bespectacled man of the 1950s who spent all his years amongst the genteel cohorts shrieking out words like ‘La Faya’ and ‘Pisso’! The clash between the purity of their words and the filthiness of their actions so obviously indicate the lack credibility of their stated vision!
Only a few days till we head to the voting booth to choose the leaders who will sit on our heads for the next five years and all we are hearing is what MMM did to change our lives in the past, what PTr and allies failed to do or what PTr and allies have done for us and what MMM failed to do. How about telling us what each of you proposes to do for the next few years? We need not know whether we made the right or wrong decision in electing or not electing you in our last exercise of our democratic rights; that is so passé! What we need to know is how and when you suggest addressing our most basic concerns: How do you propose to ensure a quicker traffic flow for those heading towards the capital every morning? How will you rescue Chagos from a new exercise of colonialism? How do you envisage to improve the educational performance and opportunities available to our children? How to ensure that each and everyone has a roof over their heads and three square meals a day?
At this time of the year, calling us a democratic nation seems to be a burning slap across our face. The current Mauritian political scenario, as described above, has long trespassed the basic parameters defining a democracy. Accountability, legitimacy, transparency — the key ingredients for such a nation have been completely ignored. No explanation is provided as to where the bundles of money to fund the campaigns are coming from. Two weeks until the elections day and most parties have not yet brought out their manifestos. Where is the little coloured book which they can wave out, à la Mao Tse Tung, to infuse integrity to their talks of bringing waves of evolution or revolution in this nation? Why is it also that this pre-election process of convincing only one-way? It is a clear top-down approach! The candidate stands up there on the meters high altar in front of a mike and vomits his/her heart’s mix of determination of heading ver ene grand grand grand victoire and hatred towards those on the other side ki pane fer narien. Not for one second are you, the one squashed in the crowd, standing there for hours, whose fate is actually being decided upon, given the opportunity to question the candidate!
From experience, we already know that just like their day-to-day loyalty-switching, the declarations, claims and promises our candidates will disappear in thin air after they secure their seats in parliament. However, is it too much to ask for some sincerity in their words and actions? If not in both, at least in one? Or maybe at least, some honesty towards the democratic populace they are working for? We do not expect them to be reincarnated clones of Martin Luther King but mere men and women of synchronised words and deeds – and not emperors of inconsequential and hollow brouhahas!