Interacting with the Public
The road to progress implies a strong will to weed out all the outdated laws, regulations, structures and mindsets that stand as obstacles in the way of advancement towards a more modern and mature society. The quality of political leadership is a major component in setting the pace of progress in various fields. Underlying the culture of governance in post-colonial societies is not only the question of personal competence of those who are entrusted with the responsibility of guiding the political and economic affairs in the right direction but also how the political class perceive themselves in relation to the public who elect them to serve the country.
The question is still relevant even in the few post-colonial countries which boast about having chosen modern political institutions in so far as the culture of governance bears the imprints of colonial legacy. In those days, people were not considered fit to vote or discuss policies which concerned their everyday life. The country was run by an oligarchy for the interests of a clique, and that clique decided what was best for the rest of the population. The public at large was considered as immature adults whose opinions did not matter at all.
How far this sort of mindset has changed among the governing body in its multiple ramifications should be of paramount importance to one and all. Decades of free education have provided quite a wide set of highly qualified, well-informed and competent Mauritians in all sectors and have uplifted the intellectual level of the people. A high number of them have travelled and broadened their intellectual horizons and attained a high degree of professionalism in various domains in developed countries. The question that arises is whether the mindset of elected members has evolved with new sociological circumstances, whether they fully understand their duty as representatives of the people or are they stuck in a feudal mindset which perpetuates the belief that they belong to a special breed entitled to special favours, reigning over obedient serfs. Are they aware that they are not governing a bunch of ignoramuses who have surrendered their intelligence to the bright minds cogitating for them in Parliament?
It is stupefying to see that it does not cross the mind of our elected representatives that consultation with the public is necessary on issues which directly affect their lives. Look at how the electoral reform was announced in the usual monologue or, at best, addressed to a selected few, and no attempt to reach out to the public was made by any of the politicians to explain the reasons and relevance of the reform. How the abolition of the Best Loser System would have been a significant symbol for unity or not, how a presidential system would enable an elected president to choose people from civil society to occupy key posts.
It sparked off a number of debates in the press, public money was generously paid to a foreign expert. Suddenly, the reform was dropped without much ado. Nobody had the politeness, let alone the decency, to come forward and address the public. You can’t just arouse interest on a topic, let some people spend much of their energy and time talking about it and writing on it in the press, and then give up everything without any qualm. Well, folks, that’s the end of it. Go back home and attend to your business.
And this is just one example among others. It shows a total lack of respect for the people. The sooner the governing class as well as the authorities and politicians generally realize that the public should be treated with respect, the better it will be for the public and for their own political survival. Very often, the public is reminded of major reforms and achievements that occurred in the past decades in speeches delivered in the most patronizing manner of benevolent monarchs bestowing generous handouts to their subjects. As if those reforms were favours given to the public. For all we know, politicians are elected to serve the country and implement policies that benefit the majority of the population. Come on! We are no longer living in the 1950s.
No need to hire foreign experts in communication to tell you that the feel-good factor in a country lies primarily in the way the authorities interact with the public. People should be made to feel that they are part of the policy-making process. They are not a bunch of idiots who gape in wonder at every speech that is delivered within the precincts of the august Assembly or on other platforms where every single cultural or social celebration is shamelessly politicized.
Everybody knows that the brightest citizens of the country are not sitting in Parliament, that the dubious credentials of some of those who act as advisors is no secret. Too many MPs from the ruling coalition as well as in the Opposition are idling away, enjoying a handsome package of a monthly super high income with additional perks voted for their own welfare more than a decade ago. It appears that they are the first privileged beneficiaries of the high income policy that has been announced recently, a policy which is still a project for the rest of their countrymen. If anything, we are not aware that innovative ideas are constantly jostling for prominence in the minds of the Honourable Members.
It is high time our leaders made intellectual efforts to realize they are not elected to rule a monarchy in collusion with crony private sector capitalists, but to serve the Republic. Communication is one of the buzzwords in international parlance, and of course, we are living in a global village of high-tech communication in a knowledge-oriented economy and all. Better step out of the ivory tower, drop the monologue and start a new course in the mode of interaction with the public. It implies developing communication skills based on respect and being sensitive to pubic opinion. People from all walks of life including the younger generation, university students should be given opportunities to express themselves on major issues in debates held on national television. It will avoid frustration and antagonism. Change in mindset and adaptation are necessary at turning points in the history of a country. Come on! Is it a Herculean task?
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Violence as a means of Communication
Let Reason triumph over Passion
An association was set last year by a few Mauritians to help their fellowmen in the fight against violence and crime. It would be most useful to bring to public notice the work done by the association so far.
In the wake of a series of crimes that have become almost daily occurrences, it escapes nobody’s notice that most of the victims are girls and women. Notwithstanding the fact that domestic violence cuts across socio-economic groups, the handful of sociologists working in the public sector will certainly carry out research work to confirm that crime is mostly committed in underprivileged groups.
Remember the horrendous murder of an eight-year old whose mother carelessly left her behind in the company of an unstable idle uncle. Beautiful Rukminee in her late twenties was the hapless insecure child of divorced parents and the psychological damage that marked her early childhood landed her in the underworld of drugs where she was slain like an animal in Grand Bay. In Floreal, a row between husband and wife ended with the husband slitting his wife’s throat. In other cases of male overlording, uncontrollable anger and jealousy were the main causes.
Education and economic security appear as key factors to prevent people from getting insane. Uneducated people do not all go berserk, though; neither do unemployed idlers. What can be done to improve minds and promote understanding of oneself and other people we relate to in everyday life? In other words, to root out uncivilized behaviour in the male population. How do we prepare young people to rehearse conflicts, deal with misunderstanding, hostility, aggressiveness, control their emotions and passions before they integrate to the world of adults?
In their last year at college and technical schools, youngsters should be given courses on male and female psychology. It would be most desirable that the Ministry of Education gets a special fund to hire a few psychologists to talk to 17-18 year olds in all the educational institutions as well as to those who have not had access to a formal education. To understand the other sex, boys and girls should have the opportunity to socialize and interact in sports, clubs, etc., since most people seem to subscribe to the principle of single sex schools.
How many couples receive proper counselling before starting a family? How to be responsible, understanding and caring? How to use their brains and check their passions? To let Reason triumph over Passion. Civilized behaviour is not only the work of religious bodies. Atheists and agnostics do not resort to violence to solve issues. We should question the principle of state subsidies to religions. What use is being made of the yearly funds? These funds had better be given to associations where qualified people can interact with those in need of help and counselling in daily interaction with others.