By Nita Chicooree-Mercier
With hindsight, one is at a loss to comprehend how bright intellectuals and those gifted with refined and profound thinking could surrender their intelligence to the one person, the leader of a group whom partisans looked up to with dumb admiration notwithstanding the obvious signs of tyranny that such leaders began to display once they were vested with strong powers by their followers.
This was how a new political movement embodying hopes for renewal and heralding an era of lofty ideals of equality and progress for humanity engendered a new breed of leaders who turned out to be bloodthirsty tyrants. From the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, South America to Asia the 20th century is replete with so many Lider Maximo spawned by communist ideology. Not only by leftist extremism but also by fascist movements in Spain, Italy and Germany.
In their quest for higher ideals of political freedom, fraternity and equality for the downtrodden proletariat and citizens across the globe, bright individuals put total trust and faith in political leaders thus contributing to render them overwhelmingly powerful. Bright Russians gave up their intellectual integrity in the quest for a better society. French leftist intellectuals were so brainwashed by communist ideology that they continued to turn a blind eye on the atrocities committed in the name of communism in the former Soviet Union, and even after the fall of communism in the early 1990s showed reluctance in admitting the horrors formerly perpetuated by the régime. How could bright London-educated Bengali young men surrender their intelligence to party ideology still remains a mystery.
Across the world, those party leaders made their way up to assume the highest responsibility at the helm of their country with the thunderous applause of their partisans. They were hoisted to the status of Omniscient Almighty idols adulated by their followers. What followed needs no introduction. Corruption thrived, loyal partisans were granted Paradisiacal rewards, Infidels and Unbelievers were sent to Siberia or simply directly to Hell. There could be no salvation outside the One and Unique leader. Only He was worthy of any worship. His Wrath was terrible. Beware anyone who dared to sully His name and transgressed His rules. Better go on your knees and kowtow to gain His favours, the founder of Truth and Monothinking. Is the era of backward prophets of superstitious promise of paradise over?
Sounds like religious fanaticism. Yet its name is written on many a wall these days.
Panem et Circenses
Bread and games. The end-of-the-year season of shopping, merry-making and festivities does not numb our brains to the point of making us unwary of the future if we let ourselves be lulled by fine speeches. The abolition of a few taxes and the rising prices of food will not improve the purchasing power of common citizens.
We continue to believe that IRS, RES and similar projects which are inflating direct investment are handy short-term solutions to real issues of economic development and job creation and go against long-term public interests. There is a growing awareness of missed opportunities for a viable prosperous economy and administrative inefficiency in materializing projects.
The common man should be made to feel part and parcel of economic progress and not just a powerless onlooker of the overwhelming machinery of wildcat capitalism rolling on. By the way, it seems that the public is given little information on the ins and outs of the Jinfei project. Is the press being investigative enough?
It is in the public interest to have a free and strong press in Mauritius. Despite the principle of ‘content and fill’ which, according to Noam Chomsky, the American leftist intellectual, defines how the press works in developed democratic countries.. It implies that the press is big business, that the ‘content’ is the wide range of colourful publicity serving corporate interests and filling the coffers of press owners, and the ‘fill’ being current events, occasional editorials and a few articles reflecting public opinion. The same principle of expansion shows up in the way financial gains of some media groups are used to set up more newspapers, radios and television channels, which does not necessarily mean more and thorough information for public interest but quite the contrary, misinformation and witholding information.
In this context, we all have in mind the recent scam involving politicians, big business and the press in India. A real shame for the country when billions of rupees disappear in the hands of a few instead of filling public coffers for national interest.
In Mauritius, as in other countries, we can imagine the perverse effects of political power which is given carte blanche to have its way, unimpeded by sound criticism from the press. Unless you want to surrender your intelligence and rational thinking to a group of elected politicians and engage in hero-worship. picnics, briyanis, parties, beautiful clothes, presents, visiting relatives and massage parlours in this festive season still give us time to think if the current Singaporean model has not already begun to instil undemocratic parliamentary behaviour.
* Published in print edition on 23 December 2010
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