11 September – From Far…

By Nita Chicooree-Mercier

A tragedy for the Americans but also a story of how playing with the devil backfired. A sharp reminder of how the world’s biggest power got entangled in the Middle East political turmoil, played one country against another country, did and undid alliances and in a bid to remote-control the course of events while ensuring that it held a firm grip on the lucrative oil business, used and misused radical Islamists to further its own interests.

A reminder also of how George W. Bush’s announcement of American withdrawal from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict triggered the anger of Al Qaeda, an organisation headed by Bin Laden, and marked the beginning of a six-month training of a group of Arab youths to attack the outstanding symbols of American power in its own land. Most of them were Saudi and Egyptian nationals, two key American allies in the region. Angry young Arabs who could not afford to rise against corrupt authoritarian régimes in the immediate Arab world decided to attack the world superpower in retaliation. A shock and awe response fuelled by decades of anti-western rhetoric.

It seems that the enemy culture is the common point between the Americans and the radical Islamists, hence the inability and tacit refusal to cohabit peacefully with other people across the world. About 250 young Indian technicians and professionals were reported to have perished along with others in the flames that devoured the twin towers. Ever since the wounded giant roared and vowed to pursue its enemies in their caves and bunkers in Afghanistan and Iraq, angry radicals took it out on softer targets. India, for example, became the recurrent scapegoat of extremist terrorist rampage.

To say the least, the domino effect of democracy which George W. Bush predicted in the Middle-East as one of the key objectives of American invasion of Iraq had little impact in the region apart from a reluctant move towards some sort of political liberalism in Egypt or Jordania. In short, the twin towers crumbled like a pack of cards, but the domino effect of democracy launched by unmanned drone attacks and foot soldiers has claimed thousands of lives and drained down huge military budgets, and its final outcome is yet to be seen in any concrete terms.

Finally, the call for freedom sprang from the long repressed voice of oppressed people in the Arab world, sparking off organic movements amid the local populations. Not many people are going to mourn the disappearance of the likes of Gaddafi from the leadership of Libya. Let it be remembered that, on a visit to Pakistan, the Colonel pointed to the borders separating Pakistan and India, and disdainfully exhorted Pakistan to invade India. Notwithstanding his brutal rule and expansionist megalomaniac fantasy to preside over vast regions of ‘converted’ territories, he has been honoured as a great hero by like-minded people. It all finally boils down to the knife being driven against yourself. Should serve as a lesson to admirers, we hope.

…and near

Nearer home, the Place d’Armes is said to be going to draw huge crowds that will throng towards it from every nook and cranny of the country to stage a peaceful rally on 11 September to protest against corruption, cronyism, nepotism, conflict of interests and ethnic politics. The crowd, it is believed, will comprise people of all ages who genuinely desire a change in the political discourse, higher standards of governance, more transparency and efficiency in the daily administration of the country’s economic and social policies. Those who have been calling people to take to the streets every week over the past months and blamed the majority of voters as being ‘passive’ and ‘backward’ must be satisfied now that their anger and frustration would be materializing in the ongoing movement.

Apart from a genuine concern for improving overall governance, there are those who are permanently dissatisfied with the running of the country as long as the group they identify themselves with is not wielding political power. This kind of discontent certainly dates back to the Independence era and has been handed down from one generation to the other younger one. The contradiction in the discourses of those concerned is all too obvious.

The so-called anti-communalists in Mauritius happen to count racists of all shades in their ranks. Officially, they are against what they perceive as political nomination on an ethnic basis except when the nomination includes people from their own ethnic group. Then, Mauritius suddenly becomes ‘civilized’ and ‘advanced’ and the level of adrenalin drops down. The paradox is that people with racist orientation themselves are obsessed with the issue of so-called racism of others, projecting their own entrenched prejudices on others, probably believing that ethnicity is the everyday concern of most Mauritians, day in day out. Any new nominee in key para-statal or ministerial body whose ethnic profile stands out from that of his colleagues is warmly acclaimed and his qualities are picked up and praised by certain opinion makers; at long last, here is someone who is ‘humane’, ‘sensitive’ and ‘dynamic’, they say. Any keen observer cannot fail to notice the warped mindset behind such discourses.

Others denounce communalism but in the same breath, they wish to have more nominees from their group to identify with, it is a matter of ‘se retrouver’… Is anyone for genuine meritocracy which might send to selection the most deserving people from only one group? Or, does the definition of meritocracy vary from case to case? Il faut savoir ce qu’on veut!

In a free country, just as in the Classic Greek imperial era, one day in the year should be granted to the public to vent out whatever pent-up feelings of discontent and resentment they have so they could make a clean breast of prejudices. It would be unreasonable to prohibit public rallies. Only insecure governments are likely to fear mass gatherings. But there is nothing to fear about if rulers listen to and address public concerns as efficiently as the posts they have been elected for require them to do.

* Published in print edition on 9 September 2011

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