If Divali is about the inner light that transcends all barriers and conditionings and its message is about universal awakening and enlightenment, should we be content to just celebrate for one day and thereafter relapse effortlessly or unconsciously into our old unhealthy and selfish habits for the rest of the year?
Watch out… that’s the constant challenge for all of us! Especially, with so many signs calling us for greater sobriety and sense of duty and responsibility towards each other and Mother Nature.
The plain truth is that no meaningful and durable progress will happen in any field unless we work towards the evolution of our own consciousness to a higher level. Indeed an arduous task… but essential at personal level if we dream of changing society and the world. Otherwise, all will be just soundbites and rhetorics aimed at preaching to others about values and ethics that we have never tested seriously through our own life or professional experiences.
Beyond ideological rhetorics
Human nature is more complex than just a bundle of ideas, ideological rhetorics or technocratic expertise.
Almost all of us know what is good or bad, right or wrong, just or unjust. But the biggest challenge is why despite knowing the difference, we fall into the trap of doing the wrong things or … supporting/aiding & abetting or defending the wrong side? When it’s not simply about being outright opportunistic and thereafter indulge in the game of ‘wise after the event’ pathology!
Let’s remind ourselves of those outpouring of noble thoughts and copy/paste quotes that we kept sharing non-stop at the onset of the COVID 19 and the Lockdown. Where are they now? Look into our daily behaviours, at home, at work, on the roads, especially with what intent and quality of thoughts we exercise any power that is vested upon us to serve and empower others… the meek and the lowly in our midst!
The same desire to share good things with one another resurfaces at the time of important religious festivals. This, in itself, is great when done without hypocrisy and compulsion! We are blessed to have the opportunity to experience these intercommunal/religious sharings so regularly on this little land of ours, in great respect of each other’s specific faith.
Except for self-serving and power-hungry individuals, I am convinced that the vast majority of the citizens of this country, of all faiths and cultures, appreciate and value this richness of our diversity and the fundamentally universal message of light and harmony that all religious festivals carry. Our great ‘Vivre-Ensemble’!
Sadly, this great asset (‘Vivre-Ensemble’) is as strong as the weakest link that constitutes the strongest chain. We should remain constantly vigilant of that vulnerability as more unscrupulous and hegemonistic ideologues and predators roam and manipulate collective consciousness. Nowhere is this threat more omnipresent and forthcoming than from politics, religious fanatics, mercenaries and individuals who are desperate for power to satisfy their greed for wealth and lust for domination. The clientelistic mindset and lobbyist/patronage agendas are rampant in our midst. Among politicians, unionists, institutional leaders and professional fraternities, including mainstream media. There are far too many prompts in our surroundings to make us react or embrace the negative and controversial side of life. No wonder we become so predisposed to manipulation, lies and corruption more than what we value really deep down. The Media and some of those that dominate public opinion have a great share of responsibility in the prevalence of such speculative and cynical polarized narratives in the public sphere. But the real culprit of our state of schizophrenia when it comes to thinking in one way and acting in the opposite direction (against the ethics and values we cherish ) i.e choosing and acting without discernment, are the role models we have all around. Except for delivering endless rehearsed discourses, exemplarity in behaviour and actions are becoming the most scarce resources in our midst.
Yes … it’s the acute DEFICIT of LEADERSHIP with high integrity and strong moral fibre that is the major cause of decay at the level of key institutions of our society.
Hobbs’ political theory
In view of the incessant conflicts and wars that have characterized human history, I do understand the Hobbesian assessment of human nature and Machiavelli’s theory about the art of winning and keeping power. However, I have a personal inclination to favour Rousseau’s outlook about human being and nature. Yes, more and more human beings seem to be getting cruel and selfish. Inspired very often by self-serving and morally bankrupt leaders … antithesis of true role models. Human society and the whole world are in deep crisis and agony. At least if we rely solely on the media narratives! And Hobbs’ political theory and admonitions seem to be proving right as more power-hungry politicians are piggybacking on multidimensional crises and fears to reaffirm their grip on collective psyche by peddling populist narratives and calls for tougher and more authoritarian governments. Yet, through a few examples of populist and authoritarian conservative-style regimes we have in the world, are we seeing politicians in most so-called electoral democracies more committed to serving collective interests and welfare rather than personal and parochial ones? May be Singapore is an exception; otherwise everywhere in liberal democracies with unethical leadership and poor accountability culture, the same perpetual state of conflicts and mistrust between governments and people are the order of the day. Symptomatic of Low-Trust Culture!
From where and how will the real positive change come? Is it a problem of the system or those that make and compose that system and the society we live in? The endless chicken and egg riddle! Unfortunately, in the meantime, things keep falling apart. Democracy and institutions are being less and less trusted, while an elite of unscrupulous rich and powerful seems to be having their field day with the culture of impunity and unaccountability. The vicious circle is aggravating instead of being replaced by a virtuous circle!
Amidst the ubiquitous feeling of corruption and decay in our political and governance culture and how this rotten state of things is condoned under all regimes prior and after independence, I am still amazed by the experiences I draw from my daily encounters with ordinary people. Whenever we have a discussion/conversation about corruption or injustice, almost all the people I encounter, irrespective of their economic, social, communal/religious or political affiliations are unanimous in condemning those scourges. I am convinced that they do not say so out of political correctness or hypocrisy but through genuine attachment to the basic values that bind us as human beings:
Compassion, Love for Truth and Justice, and our Shared Humanity. Is this attachment out of fear of God, morality or law ? That’s another debate; but the fact remains that they are not for a society that openly promotes or institutionalizes abuse of power, cheating, lies, nepotism, corruption and injustice. I am sure this is universal!
Great acts of comradeship
Despite the often depressing picture that prevails when we assess the state of our society from the terrible events and news we witness daily, especially when politics as an important institution of our democracy is failing us so much, I still see so many great positive traits of compassion and love for sharing among the common people in our country. Daily, next to the sordid and cynical narratives (though often true) in the public sphere, I silently witness so many great acts of comradeship, brotherhood and humanity in my own neighbourhood and on the roads everywhere. Simple but genuine display of benevolence towards the needy and most vulnerable. Yes, there is still a great sense of solidarity in this country. Watch how people are so ready to come to the rescue of another when there is the need or call of urgency, like when an old people needing to cross the road, or someone stumbles in public areas or disaster strikes our neighbour. No … this is not a romantic picture I am painting. It’s the true understanding I get by being engaged up close and personal with our ‘l’Ile Maurice profonde’. Not from the comfort of my living room or by being focused just on the overall pollution caused by the vocal but often disproportionately powerful minority in our society!
The room for improvement is the biggest room in the world. The soul of our dear country is ailing but is still alive. Discipline & Exemplarity are the key to reviving the soul of Mauritius. We all have our part to play in this endeavour. Continuously! But foremost comes the quality of Leadership we have and support at the helm of the country and its institutions.
Divali and the story of King Rama are about true enlightened leadership in order to better serve and guide a society.
From my humble understanding, when I read the great messages from all the great prophets and figures of all major religions since time immemorial, they can be summed up in two simple but important commandments of God in order to better honour him and his creation:
> ALWAYS BE GOOD & DO GOOD.
> ALWAYS BE JUST TO OTHERS.
Keep the inner light always shining … beyond one day of festivity!
Have a blessed life !