Of obedience and spiritless, passive societies

In the forthcoming celebration of Independence, please forget the buzzwords of political and economic colonisation and the grand movement of emancipation from a foreign power. Focus on now and whys. Barring a few exceptions, so-called democratic countries worldwide are not including the general interest of the population in policy making, hence the disillusionment with the different faces of the Establishment, political, judiciary and mainstream media, which have distanced themselves from society.

The situation is even worse in post-colonial societies which are ruled in all opacity by greedy political and economic elites for the benefit of cronies, friends and the well-connected happy few. Mauritius is a glaring example of unfathomable greed, nepotism, duplicity, unscrupulous Machiavellian mindset, lack of accountability, sense of impunity, cheating and lies.

It is a country where some voices warn the public about mafiosi groups hanging around the PM’s Office and all. But they do not give out names. The press fully knows the identity of the alleged Jaguar and hyper-luxury car drivers but do not divulge names either. For years, some people suddenly get into a fit of rebellion and threaten to expose corruptors and the corrupt, bribery and illegal self-enrichment, drug dealers and high-ranking protectors, even corrupt lawyers and drug money.

All the noise thereafter dies down and then it’s back to business as usual. Why? Because despite being published in the press and aired on radios, all the discourses take place within closed circles and are addressed to rivals, opponents and potential allies. They are not meant to raise awareness and inform the population. Trade unionists, disgruntled politicians, journalists, activists and so on have the privilege to store stories about skeletons in cupboards. But they will not tell the public for reasons best known to themselves. No one gets to know about the details, precision and truth, and in no time scandals and outrages are blurred and sink into oblivion. In mature democracies, people take to the streets when they realize they are being taken for fools.

Saying that the rot has been left to stink is an understatement. It has been going on for years. Who are the losers? The people of Mauritius. So no one will ever know about the donors of millions of rupees and fresh dollar notes stuffed in coffers, since the law allows the ‘right to silence’. And they have the cheek to come forward with a hollow slogan: A Republican Pact with the people, whose meaning could not be explained by any of the close supporters. It sounded like an advice from Free Mason brothers of the Lodge in France. No sooner was it aired than it fell flat. The public is more accustomed to Faustian Pacts among politicians and rogue characters. Are we entitled to be informed about the content of the several suitcases that a ‘Minis Prince’ carried from the Middle East? Has the press investigated? Or is the answer: diplomatic immunity?

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 What emancipation after half a century of Independence? What is the relation between rulers and the people? Overlordship and obedience? Centuries of obedience create spiritless and passive societies. Undesirable political interference in statal, parastatal bodies, recruitments and appointments and any area possible has stalled efficient and healthy administration for decades. What leverage do unions have to check and remedy arbitrary hire and fire malpractices? Who has the power to challenge the self-proclaimed liberty of politicians to appoint incompetent people in key posts?

Renewal Society and such like associations do not invite mainstream political parties to conferences. They are part and parcel of the rotten system. Do not invite high-profile politicians who are well-versed in the art of standing for national unity and conniving with shady characters to foster division on the sly. The country needs a thorough sanitization and cleansing of its overall governance. Mauritius can survive without the well-known dynastic clans that have strutted on the national scene for far too long.

One must debunk the myth of so-called experienced and seasoned politicians as indispensable key players. Most of them have never done any other real work in their life. More deserving personalities within political parties are often kept at bay while non-entities are unduly rewarded with posts too big for their size. The sad fact is that mediocre party leaders must surely be more comfortable with mediocre sycophants hanging around them.

A barely 39 year-old former banker who served only two years as Minister of Finance set up a new party and is running for the forthcoming presidential elections in France. A barely 40 year-old woman is currently Minister of Education. They are assertive and boldly defend their policies vis-à-vis a French population which is far from being easy to please. Young and older politicians are not rushed to private clinics on stretchers for high blood pressure treatment every time they are accused of wrongdoings in mature countries. They are mentally, intellectually and emotionally strong enough to face hard nuts all year round.

What image do local politicians project? In the light of musical-chair political leadership with today’s foes as tomorrow’s potential allies, what good governance can be expected? Perhaps with a more robust legal system in place since Independence, the scourge of corruption and conflict of interests would not have reached such heights. Only in Third World countries do trade unionists and primary school teachers become millionaires after barely a few years in politics.

Obedience is, unfortunately, what characterizes the relation of the population with the elected rulers. Obedience without questioning freezes people in a quagmire of inertia and lethargy. There will be no progress as long as the public blindly puts up with unacceptable practices out of fear of being singled out or simply out of laziness and lack of rigour.

The onus is on the public to break the shackles of blind obedience and fear. A point in case is the prevailing situation of unaccountability in Parents-Teachers Associations. Reportedly, parents are not even aware of their right to take decisions for the well-being and development of their children. They surrender their right and duty to manage parents’ funds to the authority of headmasters.

It is simply amazing to what extent adults go on their knees in front of authorities and kowtow to unfair expenses from parents’ private funds while there is no accountability of some headmasters’ use of public funds. Mind-boggling and simply revolting. The herd mindset of the public is a huge handicap to emancipation and progress. Just imagine the mismanagement of parents’ private funds at a national level.

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How many people like Noren Seeburn does the country need to raise awareness and make adults stand on their feet and behave like adults in PTAs? And to help them to have a backbone and guts to do the right things for the benefit of children across the country.

In this column we repeatedly lay emphasis on holistic education for the general development of children, and more than once, we have pointed out how a whole generation has been deprived of culture – seeing plays in theatres, of visits to museums, painting exhibitions and archaeological sites, or exploring the national archives. They have never even set foot in a sugarcane or tea factory. As islanders, basic swimming skill is kept to a minimum just to splash about in 50 cms of seawater. Let alone any knowledge of sea life and the islands around when upbringing at home and formal education at school hardly ever make the young learn the names of flowers and trees.

Trips to neighbouring islands, Reunion, Madagascar and Rodrigues are non-existent. So are class exchanges with foreign countries. Is there any vision on how the young generation can best be prepared – other than the main subjects in school curriculum which are exam-oriented? Little wonder the MBC shows children and adolescents drawling out same sentences learnt by heart whenever they are interviewed. Mo bien content mone passé …… mo dir merci mo parents, mo ti a content fer… Same repetitive vocabulary crafted with honeyed words delivered in a monotonous tone.

Last month, the MBC reporting on laureates showed some of them in their family environment, standing like the Statues of Salt in the Old Testament. Transfixed and petrified. Surely, not the effect of cameras. It has more to do with submission and obedience. They will take time to be spontaneous, natural and original.

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 A culture of meeting and consultation at all levels should be encouraged to bring about accountability and real changes. The Renewal Society people and like-minded individuals of this country need to be more assertive and bolder to demand efficiency and transparency in the running of public affairs. They need to lay out a broader, inclusive vision of the type of education that emancipates the younger generation from the slave-colonized mindset that keeps their elders under the yoke of submission and blind obedience. Renewal Society and others should reach out to one and all in every village and town to shake up the lethargy and apathy, and raise awareness on various topics that impact on people’s lives.

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