Our identity trap


By Samad Ramoly

That fake missiles adorned with provocative slogans in an anti-oppression protest can trigger an outrage is quite understandable. This is not about minimising the impact of reckless behaviour, but a bid to explain with detachment why such situations occur.

Stigmatising this or that “community” without factoring in the historical, anthropological and socio-economic dimensions merely feeds and emphasises the gap between the “us” tribe and the “them” tribe. Our living-in-harmony-together is as sacred as it is vulnerable to the doublespeak of our ruling class and our own lazy thinking. Our human capital, and indeed our productivity at work and our competitiveness in the global market, are ultra-sensitive to the state of our well-being.

Do we deliberately choose to live in “bwar, amizé” mode as if there is no tomorrow? In truth, unless we can claim some ascetic credentials, we cannot escape from identifying with several overlapping communities. We assert ourselves and withdraw ourselves according to our moods and our nature. For example, our identity swings with shifting affinity bias between Indianness, Muslimness, Africanness, Chineseness, Europeanness or cosmopolitanism; femininity namely or transgenderism; Catholicism namely or agnosticism; Mauritian patriotism or citizenship without borders. In short, countless healthy as well as unhealthy permutations are possible.

On the other hand, it is not the pluralism of our multicultural identity that can undermine, say, mutual respect and civic responsibility, but its weaponisation. A lasting identity crisis can indeed be indicative of unbearable suffering.

If we are not invariably cheerful to the Mauritius-building promise, it is because it is, among other things, deeply undermined by the absence of enlightened leadership. In this context, we tend to cling to other often fanciful “forces”, no matter if they are exclusive and harmful to the Other. To vent feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, toxic channels often turn into refuge.

Ultimately, creating a common narrative rests on public policies that strive to integrate all the components of the nation. The brand of Mauritius manufactured by self-serving proponents of the status quo can be redesigned when “I love Lazistis” goes viral. That is to suggest, with a critical mass that cuts across our tribal affiliations against unfairness, contempt and bullshit.

* Published in print edition on 28 May 2021

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