On Monday the 12th of March, our beloved nation celebrated its 50th anniversary of Independence. A proud achievement for all the doubters who had predicted that the country would either linger in poverty or be tarnished by racial infighting. We have come a long way in these 50 years, yet if we are to be completely honest with ourselves, we could say that the real Mauritian Nation is still waiting to be born.
The true Mauritian spirit was at hand around the country on this day with an unprecedented showcasing of our ‘Quadricolore’ by one and all. Irrespective of the social denomination or background, there seemed to be a national consensus that our flag has the power to allow us to rise beyond our differences in order to be part of something better. Albeit symbolic, a parallel can be made between this gesture and the original migration to the island. Our forefathers came to Mauritius in search of a better life. They were not content to remain in their original comfort zones and decided to take the risk and venture into uncharted waters. This trait is now solidly ingrained in our DNA and has contributed to the various ‘miracles’ that we have witnessed over the last 50 years.
While the country has created many Entrepreneurs over the last half century, the renewal of the Leadership class has been a different story. Leading up to Independence, Mauritius created a plethora of Leaders who had a real impact on the island. Citizens of principle, who placed personal interest to the side in order to do what was best for the country. While some of these people are still clinging to power in one way or another – they are nearing their expiry date. The renewal has not happened on grounds of merit, but rather on the basis of bloodlines. A few dynasties have sought to control the political field and have instilled the belief that Leadership is a hereditary trait – and we, as a ‘Lepep Admirab’, have accepted this farce.
As we look towards the next fifty years of our existence – what can we expect for our Nation? Let us not get too sentimental and ply into a Martin Luther King style ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. Instead, let us make sure that we consolidate some of the basics and bring back the fervour and hope that a better Mauritius can be co-created from the DNA that makes up this wonderful island.
We have become a nation that seems to pride itself on being mediocre and accepting half-heartedness in all that we do. To use our colourful local language – ‘Bat Batté’ has become a way of life and this has seeped down into our institutions and general way of operating. The acceptance of ‘Mauritian Time’ as a fact of life further highlights this mindset. Thoroughness and professionalism have to be the order of the day if we are to match our Asian counterparts in the same boxing category. Many of our institutions are quite toothless and lack the independence of action that they should herald.
While Education for all is one of our proud achievements, we have venerated an elitist Laureate System that does not fully educate the human being as a whole, but rather their ability to pass an exam correctly and to sometimes learn their texts by heart. It is this same production line that is manufacturing our younger generation – clearly lacking in many of the critical thinking traits needed to be a seasoned professional in this day and age.
We have made walking on eggshells into an art form. While we are all aware that we live in a multi-cultural nation with all the subtleties that come with accommodating these factors, we should not do this at the expense of progress and the efficiency of our country. The clear absence and respect for meritocracy in both the public and private sectors is a clear recipe for inefficiency and discouragement. Furthermore, once the younger generation lose trust in the system – they tend to lose all enthusiasm that they may have had to fight the system and instead, just go with the flow.
Our overly consumerist culture is making us more individualistic and thus less prone to look at the bigger picture of our nation and to take clear stances on matters that are of utter importance. We seem to have lost our Leadership guile and believe that ‘Someone else is going to do something about it’. This may come from a lack of inspiration coming from our Leadership class. We cannot say with conviction that any of our current leaders could be placed in the ‘Role Model’ category. The last time a leader created a sentiment of national fervour was when Sir Anerood Jugnauth decided that he was not putting up with any of the bullying tactics from the UK and the USA over the Diego Garcia affair and were taking them to the highest International Court of Justice. I think the population is thirsting for more of these courageous gestures.
The prevalence of Absolute Poverty in the Mauritius of today is quite simply unacceptable. Relative Poverty will always be present, but there does not seem to be a sense of urgency or knowledge regarding how to eradicate Absolute Poverty from our society. This despite having more than ample means to make this component a part of history.
Our country has been known for its strong family values system and this has been at the heart of keeping our society together. As we are influenced by both the East and the West in terms of lifestyle, music and fashion, it will be important for us to forge a clearer national identity that takes into consideration the globalisation factor, but does not make us lose our local touch and Mauritian Identity.
Yet although there are many domains where we need to progress, there is something about living in Mauritius that makes one’s heart skip a beat. Maybe it is our colourful dialect and its resounding sense of humour. Or the natural sense of warmth, hospitality and generosity that our people exude. Or maybe it derives from the fact that the peoples of the world have all come to live under one banner peacefully and stand to unite under this rainbow nation.
As each Mauritian proudly displayed their flag for all to see on the 12th of March, behind this gesture was a wish. That of going beyond what we have been able to achieve up until now and tapping into the immensity of potential and possibility that this island holds – Its People. In so doing, becoming an example for the world. Not for purposes of showing off, but instead because it is what we are capable of and what we deserve.