Hope – The Only Commodity

Could 2019 promise less crimes, less than 100 deaths on our roads, less drug abuse…? We doubt it. And there would be no World Cup, no Olympics, no European football competitions; it should be a dull year for us Mauritians

By Dr Rajagopal Soondron

Is it not strange that as the year changes we human tacitly anticipate and hope that we’ll be better off in the coming year? As if that artificial meaning we have attributed to time, for convenience’s sake, is really and intimately linked to human progress – it may be just a mindset we have evolved since the beginning of human race. Events and changes are themselves part and parcel of a long process of cause and effect, transcending time since eternity. So the coming year may or may not bring negative or positive results. How best we could adapt to these uncertainties will depend on how sharp we are mentally to deal with our varying fortunes.

Oh, if God were to come down just now and ask us what have we as humans to show for the last century – from 1918 and 2018 – what would we answer? 1918 had played a central role in the history of our world, as it marked the end of the Great War and the pompous celebration of Armistice after the Versailles Treaty, subsequent to the Germanic people’s futile attempt to capture more land and space in Europe for its race. We can’t blame them, for the simple reason that every tribe had tried to dominate others militarily for its own comfort.

After that war the idea of a league of nations germinated in Europe, while the belligerent colonialists and imperialists continued to impose their ideas on other non-European nations. Then came the great economic depression of 1929 in the USA, forcing the poor to demand greater economic freedom and a better welfare state. All of which gradually led to the dismantling of the imperial powers, as the concept of socialism and communism of 19th century burgeoned everywhere round the globe, while the colonialists promoted theirs — capitalism, fascism and democracy. Communism fared well for 70 years in the Soviet Union – and then failed miserably; socialism, where the state is to give better social protection to the masses, became the attraction of the day, but the question was who would foot the bill for such social changes? With time everyone became wiser: the only way to become richer and have material progress is to become a seller in a free marketplace. Soon the concept of the world as a great village market took form.

Concurrently the Europeans, always spearheading experiments in all fields and in multiculturalism, with the hope of being forgiven for their past colonial mentality, discovered to their dismay that the poor people they were allowing into their country were not ready to adapt to their way of life. It’s natural that people should keep migrating – as it has been happening since our ancestors migrated out of Africa some 60,000 years ago. It’s natural that the poor of South America, like those of Africa and the Arab world being in majority, want to move north, where there are less poor people and greater riches.

Meanwhile we had hoped that nations, after moving to the United Nations forum, would go on setting new standards of cooperation; yet Mr Donald Trump, the businessman, becoming more egoist and conservative – as a reaction to socialism, breaks away from climate agreements of Paris, stops bilateral cooperation and tore the agreement with Iran. He goes on a trade war with China; the UK did no better, going for Brexit. All these are intuitively against the trend we were working for – in the name of international understanding, stability, peace and happiness.

Meanwhile there has been an explosion of scientific thinking and technology, spanning through the miseries of the Second World War where, yet again, the past imperial powers vied with each other for supremacy to impose their influence on poorer nations. With the coming of the atomic age, space exploration, the discovery of the DNA and human genome, and the tremendous progress in neuroscience, quantum physics, and the exploration of outer space, along with equally far-reaching progress in electronics, we find ourselves on the verge of a new definition of man, and of his role in the universe.

But sadly, the price to pay is an erosion of human relationships and values, as if our race is heading towards a cruelty reminiscent of the evolution of our own universe itself – which has no pity for the human race when the tectonic plates decide to move, when tsunamis, cyclones, tornadoes, volcanoes strike in our very midst. Just as the rapid expansion of the universe, the collision between black holes or galaxies would give a hoot to our lives, treating us as mere dust. So also our new generation is enacting the same scenario; it would turn a blind eye to human happiness and welfare as it goes electronic and invents Artificial Intelligence.

And the Homo Mauritianus

And if God decides to pay us Mauritians a visit after hearing of a paradise in the Indian Ocean, what would we have to show for our past century? That our island has stopped being a huge sugarcane field and has diverted its economy through tourism, financial services and minor industries – due to the effort of everyone settled here; that we prefer concrete houses to thatched ones; we no longer travel by bullock-cart or horse-drawn carriages; that we have a better educational system, better health services and even free transport for the elderly, we have dismantled our coal-driven railways and are now ready to settle for modern metro express.

God, we could say, we have progressed politically also, introducing universal suffrage; could we do better and introduce some form of proportional representation – to be perceived as fairer to the electorate and political parties? We have encouraged women also to come forward and participate in our social and political life, with the hope that they would be less corrupt than the men. Recently the president challenged the government apparatus, surprising one and all, and causing upheavals at the highest level.

Nor are we Mauritians sheltered from the ravages of modern synthetic drugs; the matter is as thorny as it is in other democracies. Drug commissions had been set up to look into the problem and some of them had unearthed voluminous information concerning the modus operandi of the drug barons, and how even children are being targeted by those heartless rackets.

problems in new garbs

2018 has been a year like the others, with problems dressed in new garbs; as we inevitably move towards the setting up of our Metro Express we discover traffic jams being compounded and the people have to put up with all sorts of inconveniences for long, causing social stress.

We rediscover some of our politicians who had promised transparency in their last electoral manifesto, but somehow or other their near relatives are found to be most competent overnight and so get the best posts; many politicians in government favour plan A – Metro Express project, but are anti-plan A when in the opposition party – or vice versa; who abolish the point penalty for defaulting car drivers, to discover to their dismay an increase in the death toll on our road.

The double standard of our public men is not new; it seems to be an extension of the people’s own character, using language to hide their thoughts; they say they love their neighbours, when in fact they envy them. There is nothing new under the sun.

Could 2019 promise less crimes, less than 100 deaths on our roads, less drug abuse in our society? We doubt it. And there would be no World Cup, no Olympics, no European football competitions; it should be a dull year for us Mauritians – but for the possibility of a general election – all depending on the success story or not of the Metro Express between Rose Hill and Port Louis.

And then God looks meaningfully to the western coast of our paradise. Why the erosion? We murmured about climate change and increase in CO2 level in the atmosphere. And some of us bolder than others would ask Him, why give us a brain to do more harm to Mother Nature, why not make us more perfect? God replies… if you were perfect life would have been very dull and boring for you humans; use your brain… He keeps telling us. But we do ask Him – why send the floods on earth every 12,000 years or so — coinciding with our industrial activities, — forcing climate change and untold miseries? He is non-plussed.

We ask God to give us more wisdom to fare better. No, He says, I have given you a brain to manage – a left half more rational and a right more sentimental. “It is no longer my job to do you favours,” He would reply. “Yet I can only add a new flavour to that brain – Hope”

Happy New Year to us all.

* Published in print edition on 28 December 2018

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