Across the world: where are we heading?

International law and order, world news agency, hot spots and new cold war, lakaz mama on fire, star terrorists, Mo Ibrahim, shifting alliances, the Mauritius Police Farce, Heritage City, Dusserah festival and so on. ‘What a mix !’ one might exclaim, quite a handful of our own concerns to sort out. Borrowed concerns, none of our business. Well, they are.

We are all endeared to the idea of living in countries endowed with modern institutions which are respected by all citizens. An example of how government and local authorities’ lax stance generates disorder and criminal behaviour is the attack on a policemen’s car in the suburb of Essonne in France, one among other suburbs in Paris, Nice, Marseilles and other places where youths of migrant stock and illegal migrants set up exclusive zones, carry out mafiosi illegal activities and indulge in drug traffic and petty crimes. In those zones de non-droit where policemen fear to tread, thugs end up behaving as local chieftains. Town mayors turn a blind eye on the chaos, youths go wild, and successive governments in Paris lack political will to seriously address the issue, unlike in Britain where such situations were efficiently handled more than two decades ago.

What sort of country is this where policemen are attacked? Nuit Debout demonstrators, a hotchpotch of leftist partisans, anarchists, intolerant sectarians infiltrated by hooded delinquents, took to the streets for months and lost control over some of its most belligerent members who brazenly set a police car on fire and marched on to attack policemen who managed to get out. Right from the outset of the demonstration, signs and banners with ‘We hate the Police’ freely float amid the crowd. Quite shocking to many French people, and the ‘hate’ idea too shocking to others like us. We are used to the typical Gallic brawls staged on streets to protest against just anything, any reforms, loud-mouthed, vindicative, shouting slogans to anyone who cares to listen and threatening to bring down right-wing governments usually. But things are getting nastier. One young Frenchwoman brainwashed by her jihadi boyfriend stabbed a policeman right near Notre Dame some time back.

End result of soft and lax democracies? Such scenes are unimaginable in Northern Europe with higher principles and more equality, in China because it is a tough police state, or Singapore, an authoritarian regime with a strong sense of discipline, good level of general education, an efficient administration, a dynamic economy and well-known policy of corporal punishment for any act of vandalism. In some countries people are too poor and underfed to go on rampage. Others living in half-baked post-colonial democracies look up to the institutions, are law-abiding, a bit passive, with a high dose of obedience in national DNA, abhor confrontation, respect policemen and mock their inefficiency.

And where do we stand?

Where do we stand ? The other way round sometimes. The thugs are within the Police Farce. Control freaks among politicians have kept the bad habit of misusing the police force to satisfy their whims and fancies, undermine opponents and harass citizens. A not so efficient overstaffed public body inflated regularly to satisfy all and sundry for obscure reasons, its members hanging around in police stations with mobile phones, texting, reading or whatever.

A shame for the country that Mo Ibrahim does not include in its ratings on good governance. The agency awards a substantial sum to the head of government who ranks first on its list for sound management of the country’s affairs. How much is it this year? Would Mo Ibrahim take note that ministers fly freely with several laden suitcases from rogue countries in the Middle-East in all opacity, and the public is kept in the dark as to the content and motivations?

Burgeoning terrorists hailing from star schools, not a surprise unless we are hypocrites. Just as International Communism brainwashed young minds across the world, the ongoing international propaganda draws support from all quarters in a number of countries, religious conservative hardliners, regular citizens, delinquents of migrant stock in Europe, the finest minds holding conferences in Geneva and given red carpet welcome on television in small islands.

Mo Ibrahim, notice that the country is setting an example for advanced countries in the field of lifelong political careers. The belief in ‘phoenix like’ destiny which is rampant in Mauritius is contagious; Tony Blair airing words about a comeback, Sarkozy’s No Politics and now Yes is even welcome by partisans, and why not Bush Jnr while they are at it.

Why not a Citizens Agency to rate governments and assess the damage done to a nation’s overall progress by lifelong sinecures held by same people, same faces, same names who shamelessly indulge in ethnic politics, favouritism, cronyism, and promoting mediocrity? And imagine how past and present achievements would have yielded better results with innovative, dynamic efficient and deserving people at the helm of key ministries and public bodies. The simple truth is that the rot at the head trickles down to all nooks and cranies of administration and governance.

Never-ending futile discussions, lowly palaver, ego clashes, underhand rivalry and shifting clannish alliances are so puerile and mind-blowing. Now Heritage City is set to change hands. Another step to clip the wings of a new face in politics who has a stronger and more appealing personality and is definitely much smarter than the rest of them. Let one thing be clear. In all professions, teaching, journalism, administration, the same work is given to all members but they all do not perform equally; some have higher work capacity than others and yield better results but, unfairly, they are all paid the same salary. This even more glaring at the Assembly. How much free rein does Good Governance have to be fully efficient when the place is full of opacity and vested interests?

Thanks to all compatriots who wax lyrical in the press over the charms of dear old Port-Louis so afraid were they the capital would lose its status. No worry, a lot can be done to revamp Port-Louis and make it more attractive and practical, and we will still go there to shop in a different way and hang around. By now, many people must have realized how artificial and boring the brand new commercial centres are anyway. Better not burden the new Heritage City with useless sprawling commercial centres. Consumerism is likely to undergo changes in the coming years as people will become more eco-conscious. The public should be informed on the astronomical sums paid for renting ministries and the owners of those buildings so that we get a bigger picture of all stakeholders.

No better elsewhere either

World politics displaying a show of shifting alliances and unstable friendly relationships is veering towards uncertain directions on the international chessboard. After failed coup, Erdogan rushes to Putin, 1917 a distant memory. And now Turkey supports Pakistan on Kashmir. Nothing new. Claims for acknowledgement of Armenian massacre will soon arise in other quarters. As the U.S. distances itself from Saudi Arabia, the latter gets closer to Israel, both highly concerned about survival strategy. Pakistan’s Iron Brother China flexes muscles in Asia and at the U.N. Little Bother North Korea is kept in check. With a new all-weather friend Turkey joining in the fray and Russia giving friendly smiles, what a team !

After Uri and surgical strikes, the Indian PM takes bows and arrows at Dusserah festival to ward off all evils, poverty, filth, corruption and so on. It is bit uncomfortable to watch a statue of Ravana being burnt as a symbol of defeat of Evil. The Dusserah festival is so Un-Hindu. Unlike new religions for whom explaining the presence of Evil posed a real philosophical and ethical problem for the past two thousand years, the millennia-old philosophy of India has not made it a Manichean conflicting opposition. We are more comfortable with the concept of Energy, the Shakti in all its forms. So the physical display of aggressivity over a personification of what is supposed to be evil is a bit disturbing. What is Ravana exactly responsible for? For enacting the Trojan war scenario of stealing a beautiful woman and triggering a fight? Or defending his land? Now, in the purely historical context, the arrival of white skinned Aryans and their settlement in a land where there were other dark skinned original inhabitants, not only Dravidians, was resented and led to armed conflicts.

The Ramayana with the fair-skin Aryan prince Ram as heroic figurehead is a rendering of the actual fight between locals and new arrivals. So Ravana, the local ruler in Lanka located in Bharat itself, is demonized and physically blackened in iconic representations. In Noida, Uttar Pradesh, known as the birthplace of the Lankan ruler, a Mahayajna is organized to pray for the soul of Ravana who was known for his knowledge and devotion towards Lord Shiva. Bhakti tradition predates Aryan presence. Reportedly, Mador in Rajasthan, is the place where Ravana’s wife, daughter of King Mandawa, hails from. A statue of Ravana is also installed in the temple as in Noida and Kanpur. Conservative elements in right-wing groups are said to have vandalised the statue in one temple.

The high caste Brahmin imprint seems most conspicuous in the presentation of Ramayana and its symbolism.

Myths blend with history and inspire profound scriptures where philosophy and ethics emerge. There is no organized coercion for Hindus to follow or not. No one is going to have their throats slit for interpreting differently.

Nita Chicooree-Mercier

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