Discarding Obamaji’s Advice

By Nita Chicooree-Mercier

Fasting as a solution to his country’s economic problem. Maybe it was half said in jest by the US President when he was accompanied by an Indian writer to pay a visit to Swami Ramdev in Haridwar some time ago.

Obama admitted to the swami that he could hardly miss a single breakfast, and if he were to ask his people to fast, he should learn how to do it himself. But last week, the US Home Ministry was not joking when it issued a statement reminding the Indian government of the democratic principles it should abide by especially as regards the right to free speech. As expected, the Indian Home Minister did not appreciate the US intervention, and retorted with all the rhetoric on sovereignty, big democracy stuff and the like. Indians, however, welcomed the US gentle spanking. No wonder that the government did not waver from its initial determination to mete out the Ramdev treatment to Anna Hazare when he announced a mass rally and fasting on 16 August.

Challenging Elected Monarchs

Indian PM’s address to the nation on the celebration of Independence Day sounded most pathetic when he hinted that he had ‘no magic wand’ to root out corruption. It is perceived as a lack of political will to tackle a serious issue. Even more outrageous was Congress Secretary Digvijay Singh’s attempt to communalize the anti-corruption issue by constant allegations that the RSS would be behind the whole protest movement. Even the pro-Congress leftist press is exasperated by the government’s blindness to public anger and the communal games of the ‘secular’ Congress to divide and derail the anti-corruption movement. The movement is dubbed as being ‘undemocratic’ and ‘unconstitutional’ by the PM who insists that it is the prerogative of Parliament to devise laws. Okay, but since the government is not respecting the democratic principles it was voted to apply in the governance of the country, it is the duty of the public to challenge the present system of elected monarchs. Anna Hazare’s team wants a strong Lokpal Bill and rejects the restrictions imposed by the police on the mass rally against corruption. From Orissa, Karnataka, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Punjab to Mumbai, support for the anti-corruption movement swelled across India after Hazare’s arrest.

Boyz N the Hood

We are reminded of American producer, John Singleton’s film every time violence occurs involving black youths. ‘Hood’ stands for neighborhood and the film revolves around young African-American youngsters getting sucked into the urban street gang culture in Los Angeles which glamorizes violence and where young men lived dog years in the 1990s. Their life expectancy being 18 — they are often killed by other black youths, and reaching 28 made one a fossil in that environment. We are reminded of how Rodney King, a black man was brutally beaten up by the police in the course of routine traffic inspection and was sent to hospital with broken ribs, how the racist and discriminatory behaviour of the policemen sparked riots all across Los Angeles.

It is worth pointing out how rap music that bloomed in Harlem ghetto has been hateful towards mainstream society, advocating disrespect and rejection of ‘established’ social norms and institutions. On TV, young people who were interviewed voiced out their own ideological and behavioural pattern which encouraged stealing and violence. Such twisted moral codes are echoed in rap music in other places in Europe, namely in the French suburbs where Arab and African youths get influenced by such ideology. Even in Mauritius, that kind of thinking has gained ground. Recently, a young man who lives with his parents in a small cottage in the backyard of a sprawling bungalow justified stealing from well-off people as a revenge against historical marginalization. People around point out that he can take advantage of opportunities given to one and all in today’s society to climb up the social ladder but the recommendation falls on deaf ears.

Today, anti-social behaviour involving young people is drawing harsh criticism from political leaders and society at large and the factors of unemployment and poverty identified as basic causes are wearing out in public opinion.

Business as usual?

Concerns arise in developed countries over the slowdown of economic growth. In Mauritius, there is a deep feeling that the country has been living beyond its means while national debt has kept soaring. Do we need so many ministries to run such a small country? A handful of very competent ministers suffices to run a country but it appears that, over decades, the need to reward party candidates has overweighed public interest. As things stand, the various ministries and the government are already overstaffed. MPs have enjoyed the privilege and benefit of high salaries, and sorry to say, whatever contribution they make to progress in their constituencies, they sound more as social workers than politicians. Most of them do not have the mettle of politicians nor are they endowed with high intellectual capacity to position themselves as rulers. Better be honest about it and instead of coveting ministerial posts, they’d better resign and invest their savings in the private sector, create jobs and contribute to economic growth.

* Published in print edition on 19 August 2011

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