Today, my heart beats « rouz ble zonn ver ». For the first time after nearly three decades, I am feeling a sense of patriotism to my Motherland. « Peace, justice and liberty » from our national anthem has taken a whole new meaning. More than just words, they now represent perspectives that need to be fought for and upheld. This movement born long before the 11th of July forced me to unlearn the history of our beautiful island and that of our forefathers, and seek the truth to understand why we have reached this point.
Much too young, we are indoctrinated about the Dutch settlers, the French and British occupation, the arrival of slaves and indentured labourers, the Anglo-French war, the independence of Mauritius. We are taught the names of governors from France and Britain portrayed in classes as exemplary leaders. How can we develop a sense of belonging when we are constantly compelled to look up to these rulers considered as powerful? How can we feel deeply for this land we call home when we are always made to feel inferior? Has our nation been built on slavery and blood? Sadly, we are not enlightened about those who have lost their lives, shed their blood, wept unseen tears, begged for mercy, screamed unheard cries for help and fought tirelessly for freedom and justice. We are not educated about the « marronnage », Anjalay Coopen, Ratsitatane, Kaya, Soley Ruz, and so many more. Who were they? They were human beings, they were Mauritians, they were sons and daughters, they were men and women, they were mothers and fathers, they were workers / prisoners / activists / singers and they were those who deserve to be remembered and celebrated. Yes I was born and raised in Mauritius, but lately I am ashamed of not having known its true and untainted history earlier.
Ever since our independence, power has lain in the hands of a few. Politics is repeatedly a matter of family business, money, power and differences in faith to divide and rule. Have any of our country’s leaders ever cared about the fate of its inhabitants? An island where poverty should not even have existed, yet we find striking and increasing gaps between the rich, the middle class and the poor. This inequitable wealth distribution dates back to the time of our independence and after 52 years, not much has changed – the rich has become richer, the middle class is still striving to make ends meet in a world growing more demanding each day, and the poor has become a forgotten part of our society. While the middle class is too caught up in a web of struggles in the pursuit of materialistic goals, the poor have given up their dreams. A human being has three basic needs – food, shelter and clothing. Can any of us truly claim that we are more deserving of these needs than someone else? How can we sleep at night, knowing that our fellow brothers and sisters are hungry and cold? Perhaps, we have kissed our humanity goodbye just because the country’s growth figures and the numbers ‘were’ seemingly good for a time.
In its stead, a vicious cycle has seen light – social segregation, drugs threatening the lives of our children and adults alike, normalised racism, hypocritical claims of feeling proud of a multicultural society, abuse of trust from those elected by us, downplaying the depth of theft committed by our representatives in Parliament, excessive exploitation of loopholes in laws, heartless destruction of flora and fauna, incompetence at all levels, murders, suicides, corruption, false promises and the list is endless. Not only is our hard-earned money stolen without any shame or remorse but it is also taken from us in the form of tax whilst some of those who have enough find ways to evade it. Is it a bleak picture, sad reality or an exaggeration of the truth? Maybe we need to stop looking after our own insignificant selves in this vast Universe and really observe, listen, learn and act selflessly just because we are humans.
Do any of our so-called leaders care that we live on an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean and that we are much more prone to feel the effect of climate change? They have favoured buildings over trees and wetlands. Do they care about the fact that our resources are finite and contemplate the tough future awaiting our children tomorrow? Do they worry that our home is in danger? Our habitation is at risk, our society is sick and suffering, our institutions are failing us, our children are losing their innocence at much younger age. By keeping us uneducated, perhaps they hope to control us. They are not seeing or hearing us, rather discarding us as ‘insignificant’. But they have forgotten that underneath all of our pain, suffering, frustration, bitterness and anger, there is red blood pumping – the same red in our flag which represents the struggle for freedom and independence. It only takes a spark.
It is often said to « lead by example » – we led by example on the 11th of July, 29th of August and again on the 12th of September. We are feeling the need for something different coursing through our veins and echoing in our heads. We are not stooping and will not stoop as low as them. We are not letting and will not let them divide us. To rebuild our nation, we need to understand where we come from. We are educating ourselves and those around us. We are rising and demanding « peace, justice and liberty ». Too much has already been taken from us and we have had enough. We are walking for a better tomorrow for our children and the future generations. We are standing for our beloved country so that we can live in symbiosis with Mother Nature. We are thirsty for changes which will improve our lives. We are demanding concrete actions. Together, we are writing the history of what we hope is the start of a long but constructive journey towards a new Mauritius.
Hope shining brighter in our hearts with each passing day, we are one step closer to truly stand « as one nation, as one people ».