By Nita Chicooree-Mercier
What happened at the Pere Laval opening ceremony last week was most shocking to the silent majority of people who witnessed to their great dismay an unprecedented scene of a head of the Catholic Church delivering a political discourse to blatantly run down the Prime Minister right in his very presence, after accepting the framed death certificate of a 19th century priest in whose memory the ceremony was held. In light of well-orchestrated street protests sponsored behind the scene by divisive forces, the idea of presenting the head of the church with the particular gift, which functionaries at the Registrar Office took care to prepare, was a civilized gesture in a bid to bring appeasement and serenity. The Prime Minister opted for a speech which befitted the occasion and underlined the laudable social role played by the 19th century priest.
The dramatic irony of the whole scene was that the Prime Minister and his associates were totally unsuspicious and had no idea of the slap the PM was going to take full face. What we all witnessed was that on an occasion of a commemoration which pilgrims attend with religious fervour, the Cardinal chose to embark on a diatribe against the authorities – which sounded more like a political discourse rather than a religious one as expected of a prelate. A media outlet, the right arm of the capitalist oligarchy, joyfully posted an online video of the Cardinal’s criticism of the government the day after.
A predominant presence of the flocks in street protests, and mainly the bargaining power of the affluent oligarchy which has maintained a firm grip on the economy since Independence, emboldened the Cardinal to adopt a condescending tone to pontificate to the elected representatives of the people on issues for which he clearly has no solution to offer. It was all a show of how different levers of power are activated to create a maximum nuisance value when the community comes in the spotlight of criticism after disparaging comments on the morality of ethnic groups at the helm of political power posted on social networks. It all boils down to their unlimited right to post year-round ugly comments in their online media outlet and their incapacity to accept criticisms in return. The thick skin, inflated ego and erroneous sense of superiority prompt them to resort to retaliatory action to embarrass the government and the silent majority. The manipulation of their flocks paid off in the 1960s anti-Independence movement, and 1990s anti-government propaganda and is proving to be effective once again.
The cardinal priest’s speech was peppered with repeated references to ‘sufferings’ of the people, a leitmotiv which suits the commemoration of Pere Laval, a priest who was much devoted to the plight of the newly emancipated slaves. The irony of the allusion to Moses, the epic leader who liberated Jews from slavery certainly raised a smile in many households who are well-versed in the history of slavery in Mauritius.
As in most countries of the world going through economic slowdown at varying degrees due to the pandemic, Mauritius is not spared of disruption at economic and social levels, resulting in unemployment and struggles to make ends meet. In rich countries like France, self-employed people and small enterprises are still waiting for more cheques from the government after the three months’ wage rescue scheme. Unemployment is reaching soaring levels much like in England where homelessness sends the most unfortunate to sleep on pavements. An honest look at the complacency in the victimhood status encouraged by the clergy speaks volumes on who complain the most in the media. In actual fact, lots have been done at different levels in education and housing by successive governments over the past two decades to lift all needy people out of poverty. The demographic explosion of families with 4 to 6 children in their midst and the family allowance benefits paid by taxpayers’ work and money are hardly mentioned for the precise reason of an agenda which has been pushed forward for two decades.
We wish to be spared of the lexical jargon of ‘suffering’ hammered year in year out day in day out. We understand that the idea of suffering has permeated religious discourse of priests owing to the relation established between the clergy and poor peasants who paid a tax to the church, and the glorification of poverty. A whole litany developed on poverty which was presented almost as a virtue to comfort them with the idea of the kingdom of heaven open to them. The same phenomenon occurred over here and the spirit of victimhood gets ingrained in the mindset.
Please do not speak in our name since the so-called ‘marche citoyenne’ does not reflect the opinion of the public at large, nor does the ‘voice of the people in the streets’ aired in the media.
* Published in print edition on 18 September 2020