By Prof J. Manrakhan
But the age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists and calculators has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever.
— Edmund Burke (1729-97)
No quite the French Revolution, but momentous enough.
TV and radio broadcasts were eloquent on the riots which began on 6th August 2011 in London and various other English cities for 4 days, till contained by the Police, community reactions, other measures, including rain stopping ‘mayhem-play’. ‘Retail-riot’ costs have been claimed in excess of £200 million, beyond whatever the British government will pay through the long-standing Riot (Damages) Act.
Those events left us saddened and pensive; kith and kin had shared their worries about what appeared to be fast-evaporating parental control in favour of juvenile courts and ‘softie-softie’ social measures, swift fraying of family ties, slippery moral values and rapidly rising materialistic expectations, in addition to the snooking of the authorities and the levelling-down of the rich. Where will it all end? Is this English moral malaise exportable? If so, when will it reach us here? And above all, why?
A quick re-reading of English Saga, 1840-1940, so elegantly composed by Arthur Bryant or English Social History authoritatively crafted by GM Trevelyan will reveal that such violent unrest is likely to be rather spasmodically recurrent.
Dr Sean Carey, blogging on New Stateman (see Mauritius Times, 19 Aug 11, pp 1, 7) thinks of randomness as an ultimate residual factor, in the absence of any other explanatory cause. In long-term research findings for Europe and Latin America, there appears to be a strong statistical correlation between ‘expenditure cuts’ and ‘social unrest’. But the cuts in Britain have not yet bitten deep enough to provide a sufficient cause — leave alone caveats about timing and predictability of social events (not least, why England? and not Scotland or Wales?). ‘Randomness’ must be viewed with caution, especially when rioting mobs have ‘BlackBerry’-steered mobility.
Many a Mauritian family feels that the answer lies in higher moral standards and increased responsibilities for the teaching, profession. Yet many also feel that ‘changing values’ mean, here and elsewhere, values which are simply ‘degraded and degrading’?
No doubt science-and-technology will come to society’s rescue, (The Economist, 13 Aug 11, pp 24-25, 45). Once the community spirit has reasserted itself, society will recast itself, in time, hopefully within a constructive and decently humane framework.
Yet three interrelated points remain crucial.
- If the ‘Gods are misbehaving’ (title of a popular book), and the demi-gods (i.e. banking, financial institutions and the like) can decide, leaving adverse consequences to be borne by the whole of society, what will be the expected behaviour of the ‘hoi – polloi’, i.e. ‘non-élites’ or ‘lepep admirab’?
- Does ‘natural justice’ cover all those called upon to exercise their discretion in performing their duties and responsibilities? Or only some?
- The world is on the brink of a recession largely because Western politicians on both sides of the Atlantic cannot get their act together. The prescription is simple enough: adequately alleviate short-term planned (as proposed) fiscal contractions, and announce credible medium term deficit reductions, within a harmonious global package. The devil, as usual, is in the detail – just who pays (e.g. Germany mostly?) and who benefits? By how much and why? Can Europe oblige and restore its far from extinguished glory?
Mauritian Protected Area Network
Out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety.
— W. Shakespeare (1564-1616)
A five-year, USD 15+ million joint-project was inaugurated at an “inception workshop” by the Minister of Agro-Industry and Food Security at Domaine Les Pailles on 18 August 2011.
The workshop came after two years of preparatory efforts to conserve our globally-significant native forest biodiversity, with the specific objective of increasing the initial protected area from around 3% to 10% of the whole island. At the same time, the management effectiveness of the network would be strengthened. (The regular publication of environmental statistics by the Central Statistical Office should be helpful in that connection).
The five-year Private-Public-Partnership, under the overall umbrella of “Agro-Industry and Food Security” operates through, inter alia, the National Parks and Conservation Service, and the Forestry Service; the United Nations Development Programme, and the Global Environment Facility; as well as the private sector. The basic aims are to:
(a) identify, prioritise and target undesirable gaps in the expanded area;
(b) develop necessary administrative, planning and resources’ frameworks to support the projected expansion on both private and state lands;
(c) cost-effectively mitigate threats to, and pressures on, the unique biodiversity of the expanded area;
(d) better, or more effectively respond to stakeholders’ needs and requirements while appropriately integrating into national socio-economic priorities.
Among other points made at the opening ceremony which also recorded that 2011 is the UN Year of the Forest, were those related to effective teamwork, local and international; the paramount role of the private sector; the continuing role of the State and its main organisations; and the generous assistance from overseas, and in particular, from the United Nations, and its various agencies.
We conclude in recalling a famous Canadian assertion to the effect that Planet Earth “should not carry mere passengers”. Have we been amiss there? Perhaps. We remember that wise statement from Gro Harlem Brundtland — former Prime Minister of Norway and Chairperson of the World Commission on Environment and Development – to the effect that any compromise on scientific facts and evidence will make the task of repairing Nature enormously costly, or even impossible. And we fully endorse the reiterated wish that the Black River Gorges National Park will shortly join the World Heritage List (see State of The Environment in Mauritius, 1991. pp 137-8).
* Published in print edition on 26 August 2011