“Bring Tahrir Square to the US”
Letter to Uncle Sam
Two things caught my attention during the past several days; watching live the House’s proceedings on Capitol Hill as lawmakers debate about policies, cuts, the budget and so on; second, Wisconsin’s street protest as Reps try to cripple unions in their obsession on budget cuts.
I love Wisconsin, Uncle! This town brings wonderful memories to my mind. I remember participating in the celebrations organised to mark Martin Luther King’s birthday anniversary at the town hall. Our hotel was within walking distance. It was winter cold and snow. Had the street protest taken place then and for the same reasons as now, I am sure I would have joined in. And I don’t think you would have resisted this appeal were you there at that time.
The protest in Wisconsin attracted this comment from a lawmaker — “Bring Cairo to Madison”. I would go a step further, Uncle. And I say we better “Bring Tahrir Square to the US”. I will tell you why.
During the live coverage of the House proceedings, I could see and actually feel all the pain in the voices of a few lawmakers who tried hard to press for a more relaxed policy on budget cuts that would avoid increasing the suffering of people whose life is already seriously shaken by an anaemic economy.
Despite having largely contributed to create the Economic Depression through reckless policies where deregulation was the mantra for decades, the Reps still persist in their wrong belief that their careless budget cuts can stop the suffering from rising further. And in Wisconsin, they want to cut unions’ power which they see as a counterweight to their own political power.
And on the road to budget cuts, almost all States are concerned.
The paradox is that while Main Street is still paying a heavy price due to the economic downturn affecting every part of their life – from family to food and housing and health care and a more or less jobless and thin economic growth, Wall Street’s way of life has remained almost unaffected. The wealth owned now by Wall Street can alone remedy the dire quality of life of the average Americans. Uncle, you say it with much entertainment when you rehearse a consolidated version of Reps policies, which bow down to this – you are on your own! In Creole here, folks will call it “débrouille toi toi-même”!
In local Sithanenomics, this comes down to the theory of trickle-down economics wherein governments since year 2000 started to put in money, running into billions of rupees, into the pockets of the super rich through “mari” deals like Illovo, IRS, IPP, MT privatisation, etc., accompanied with other specifically designed fiscal and monetary policies, while rehearsing statistics about growth to the common people, all the while saying to the same people that ‘there is no alternative’.
During the early 80s, Uncle, top experts from the US led by the World Bank insisted the Island engage itself on the road of budget cuts to balance budget and fiscal deficiencies. At a time when precisely our socioeconomic stats were in real bad shape, let alone the quality of life on Main Street here.
You know what, Uncle? The experts were sent to confront our local Rambo. The latter, in his usual and most undiplomatically worded public outcry, charged at those “businessmen” (a diplomatic word for WB experts) who, Rambo argued, wanted us to create “famine” on the Island. Those “businessmen”, Uncle, wanted us to close down schools and get rid of subsidies on everything, including staple food items. This would have increased the cost of our national “dholl puris” and not its size. You have not tried it yet, but it’s delicious. Healthwise, even better than your McDos!
At the end of the day, we did nothing the “businessmen” advised us to do. We were left “on our own”. And we managed to sort out our things. Still, WB today sells Mauritius as an example, claiming a share of credit of the “Mauritian miracle”. The “businessmen” are back here; not as visitors but as “residents”, enjoying everything from office to accommodation, in addition to sea and sun. You should not worry for us, Uncle. The organisers of our home-grown “Alexandra Go Home” campaign are still around.
Uncle, the “Rambo versus businessmen” story sheds light on policies that care for people and those insensitive to people’s lives. Of course, during times of economic stress, sacrifice should be both ways. And cutting the lifeline of the most needy and unfortunate sounds wrong as a matter of policy; but not the “mari” deals. And this is exactly what Reps want to pursue without any regard to consequences.
And this is what WB and IMF experts, sorry “businessmen”, sell as policies across the world wherever they are. And as recently as yesterday, so to say, these “businessmen” were still going aroud saying “we do not impose” anything on anybody; the decision to accept or reject their advice is not theirs. But for those who live in the corridors of power know that their affirmation is a blatant lie.
For all these reasons and many more, I opt for bringing Tahrir Square to the US. It’s high time for Americans to follow the path of the Pharaohs gathered at Tahrir. We are ready to send you via Youtube an original copy of our “Lévé do mo pep” song, with an English translation of the wording to entertain American crowds at street protests like in Wisconsin.
After all the wrong Wall Street did to the US and the world, they now want us to suffer in silence with budget cuts, price hikes in food products and oil thanks to speculative financial dealings on these items.
Bringing Tahrir Square to the US does not mean toppling of government; it’s about getting ready to overthrow Wall Street policies. Wherever they are — in London, Paris or Port Louis.
By the way, Uncle, you may not like the French. Their potato chips might not interest Americans; neither the taste of their wine or cheese. Nor even their democratic way of life, for Americans do not approve of the French culture of daily street protests. Fair enough.
But Tahrir Square is a good example of how to bring about peaceful change. The “change” you so much talked about in 2008; the change you so much believed in; the change America also believed in. Yes, you can!
A word of caution, though. As we have all witnessed, it’s easier to topple governments and governments’ policies. Part of Wall Street’s money serves this purpose through well-paid lobbysists and through lawmakers who owe their public status to unlimited campaign gifts. Or through bureaucrats trained to espouse their ideas.
Indeed, the task of toppling Wall Street’s policies and ideas may prove arduous. You know why, Uncle? Wall Street now owns the media. Everywhere. One day if you drop home, I will take you for a ride along Les Oursins, Brown Sequard and Pope Hennessy Streets in Port Louis. The narrative you will hear is a local and colourful entertainment piece.
* Published in print edition on 25 February 2011
65 years ago Mauritius Times was founded with a resolve to fight for justice and fairness and the advancement of the public good. It has never deviated from this principle no matter how daunting the challenges and how costly the price it has had to pay at different times of our history.
With print journalism struggling to keep afloat due to falling advertising revenues and the wide availability of free sources of information, it is crucially important for the Mauritius Times to survive and prosper. We can only continue doing it with the support of our readers.
The best way you can support our efforts is to take a subscription or by making a recurring donation through a Standing Order to our non-profit Foundation.