A Plea for Cultural & Political Work

MT 60 Years Ago — 2nd Year – No 71 – Friday 16th December 1955 —

A Couple of Letters to the Young

I wish, in all humility, to address a couple of letters to young people. This one will make a plea for cultural work. The next one will deal with political work. As there are various cultures and different approaches in this article I am generally thinking of Indo-Mauritian youths. I am thinking of the type of young men and young women who have had the advantage of education in foreign lands and have returned with either a professional or a University degree.

It must be remembered that if the germs of progress have spread in coloured hands, they were largely imported by people who have been abroad. In this way London is the cradle of all freedom governments in the world. But this article does not deal with this aspect.

I must begin by pointing to what I consider to be a kind of spiritual democracy within the fold of the Indian society. In this society rich and poor, learned and illiterate sit together on the occasions of ceremonies and festivals to celebrate their unity. They discuss and dine together.

Indian society does not admit class exclusion. Invitations are sent to all friends and acquaintances and whatever their class or calling we receive them with equal deference and extend to them the same courtesy. This custom is very ancient and it has enabled the essential unity of the society amidst seeming differences.

We must not forget our social background in Mauritius. By and large we are at the fourth generation since the time of the immigrant grandfather. Some of us may have been privileged with education or riches or both. But the fact remains that we have a large number of poor relatives.

Nor must we forget that people of the community are all linked up. People of one village or estate, although not related by blood ties, call one another cousin, uncle, aunt, nephew and keep this relationship with great solemnity.

Educated young people must do all in their power to encourage these time-honoured customs. They are consistent with modern progress. Two heinous tendencies are now in the formation. One is among the rich and the other among the educated. They want to form a class of their own. I hope that highly educated people will have the vision to see the extreme danger of this.

Why should the people continue to honour you or support you professionally when you keep away from them and refuse to share in their joys and sorrows? Do they lack the amour propre and be at your beck and call when you consider yourself to be a superior being on the mere strength of your parchment?

You are children of the community. You have had the privilege and the good luck to have a better dose of education. Your education perhaps enables you to live a decent living. But how is your superior education benefiting the community? Are you using your superior light to guide the less fortunate brethren?

In every village there is a group of very enthusiastic young men who are the heart and soul of social work. They are often very poor, scarcely literate and can hardly make both ends meet. Their public spirit is often wonderful. They devote a good part of their time and a fraction of their scanty earning in helping the less fortunate brethren.

I hope I shall not be misunderstood. Just compare yourselves with this class of people and say in what earthly way you are superior assets to the community? Does not your education impose certain obligations on you? Do not think that you should help the people only when you want to stand for Council.

My appeal is largely to young professionals and such degreed young persons who are serving in Government. What the people expect is very little indeed. They expect that you will give your light, part of your time and sometimes a small part of your income to help in cultural activities. What they will give you back is immense.

Man is a social being. If you just earn your living and enjoy life by forming a class of your own within the fold of your natural society, not only that you are socially useless but you are also perpetuating an evil that will have sinister consequences in the long run.

I repeat that I hope that what I write will be taken in the amical spirit in which it is proferred. There is a great need for cultural work.

It is neither good nor fair to expect everything from politicians.

The community is in fact very proud to see that it has in its midst an increasing number of young people who have had foreign education and experience. What is desired is that far from leaving it idle, you will use your higher culture to spread literacy and social enthusiasm to those who for no fault of theirs have been left in ignorance and squalor.

Are you going to waste your intelligence after such bright academic career by leading a selfish and personal life? Does not the intellectual in you declare war against this kind of life, which should only suit unenlightened self-seekers who cannot understand the simplest of wisdoms that man is a social animal?

Jay Narain Roy

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