We are living in unprecedented times, not only in terms of the pandemic but also in those of political mediocrity and pettiness. Every time we think we have reached the bottom of the barrel we somehow are presented with something else which shows us that this barrel
of mediocrity is bottomless. While we are quick to lament that we no longer have people of caliber representing us, that the ear-cringing speeches by virtue of misuse of language and lack of substance are light years from the kind that used to grace those chambers, it will be largely dishonest to blame politicians only, for the slump we find ourselves in. As part of the voting population, we also have our share of blame.
Our political landscape is currently made of a seemingly biased Speaker ; people in power who are out of their depths; an opposition trying hard to manage the tide; some who have suddenly found their calling after perpetuating an archaic system for scores of years, and people with the best of progressive intentions who just cannot make their way in this fray of outdated, communal and undistinguished brand of politics.
Our current crop of politicians is based on the simple notion of demand and supply. It is an undeniable fact that for years, the choice of candidates/politicians have been largely made with merit being sacrificed for communal belonging. While this had its raison d’être at a certain point in time, and has increasingly becoming obsolete, it is a practice that is perpetuated largely because of a fear of the unknown on the part of the population and benefit on the part of politicians, for why would one want to change something that is working in one’s favour? Each (people and political parties) blame the other for this status quo: politicians claim that this is a demand of the people while people blame politicians for a lack of will to change this state of things. In view of the past mishaps, scandals and international bad repute, it is no longer acceptable for any of us to maintain this loop of mediocrity, whatever side we find ourselves in.
In the first place, let us remind ourselves that elected representatives are chosen by us, the people. To ensure that we are represented to the highest standard, it is incumbent to have better candidates. On a radio show a couple of weeks ago, Arvin Boolell said that Parliament should not be the place of elites only, a fair enough statement. However, that does not mean that every Tom, Dick and Harry can be chosen to be candidates. We need representatives of a certain standard, and we should be bold enough to demand same. If mainstream political parties want to ensure their survival, it is high time they started investing in their pool of potential candidates well ahead of general elections, and not just dump anyone to satisfy constituencies’ archaic communal or other demands on the eve of elections. They should screen candidates, who would require first and foremost, a genuine love for the country and its advancement, a certain level of knowledge in local history, international relations, political science, debating skills not to mention a mastery of languages, until the use of Kreol becomes a reality in Parliament. If candidates do not possess any of those and yet have that political je ne sais quoi, then leaders should take the time to train them as potential MPs. Save some rare exceptions, communal belonging or offspring of yesteryear politicians do not necessarily make great leaders. It takes knowledge, know-how, training and time.
Secondly, we, the people have got to be more forceful in demands. We should not be fearful to demand accountability, professionalism, rigor, and fairness. For too long, we may have hidden behind the fear of reprisals for speaking out, but this is not how a thriving democracy works. We, the people, are now more and more prone to speak out, if the crowds of protest marches are to be relied upon and we should keep going. We should also not cower when election time comes and give in by voting for whatever dregs are thrown at us. We should be courageous enough to make choices that will move this country forward, together with our own quality of life. We should also raise our own level of undertaking in the public debate. For that, we need to invest in ourselves more. Read, understand, analyse before jumping on any bandwagon of partisanship, take a more measured look, take the time to compose a written criticism, especially on social media, the outlet par excellence. If we start taking this course of action, we would be reckoned with more seriously and not taken for fools. We cannot demand quality without raising our own.
Despite the cosmetic progress in the form of the different construction sites around the island, we, Mauritians, are in fact starving for a substantial shift. For this to take place, we need to start taking responsibility for our actions and our choices, that will determine our future. If we genuinely love our country, wish for it to reclaim its place in international standards and wish for a better future for ourselves and upcoming generations, we need to pull up our collective socks and stop being part of the loop of mediocrity.