Throughout history, Independence has always been a patchy affair. For a start, states as we now know them didn’t exist; there were rather tribal, imperial and other rulers. Only a few centuries ago, much of what is now France was ruled for long periods by kings of Britain. It is even rumoured that there are still those who rue the day perfidious Albion abandoned them. Even many Spaniards may be unaware that, for a brief time in the 14th century, Athens was conquered by the Catalan Company. There’s a thought for Puigdemont.
There were also many groupings centred around the need for protection from common enemies or for trading purposes. In its Golden Age, Athens was certainly an independent city state although supported by alliances, which it controlled as it had superior maritime strength. Now Mauritius has a strengthened naval force, perhaps new opportunities may be opened up.
The country’s great advantage is to have enjoyed fifty years of relative peace with only rare attempts to interfere in its internal affairs, although Zeus alone knows what one of the four superpowers may seek to do during the next five decades. It has a stronger democratic system than many newly independent countries and a private sector that has suffered limited state intervention. There are, however, a few things that need sorting out in order to attain a Certificate of Paradise, according to the current regulations of the Twain Institute.
Plato warned that democracy gives rise to popularism, measures taken to appease this or that group, which can eventually lead to bankruptcy, as is close to happening in much of Southern Europe, or huge debts. That, he suggested, leads to despotism. There’s also been the rise of greed, led by self-serving leaders, their families and friends. No one can pretend the Admirables are any better, contaminated by the poor example from on high and the idea that state largesse is endless. Lurking in Highgate Cemetery is the root of many misconceptions.
Might not Independence Day best be used to think how to avoid further pitfalls and make the next 50 years even more glorious? Not that the most obvious measures are likely to be introduced. What are the chances of all political parties getting together to agree to select candidates based on merit? Strangely, the situation was better 60 years ago than now. Or of sectarian lobbies disbanding themselves? They speak of national unity, but flies on the wall tell a different story when the cameras are turned off and the sniggers commence.
A way forward may be to concentrate on qualities like prudence, wisdom, courage and justice – and a good dose of self-respect – with a new motto: Don’t think what you can screw out of others, think what you can do for them. Little Rodrigues could become a centre for pilot projects as it has already shown Mother Mauritius the way in a reducing the use of plastics, as well as introducing octopus fishing seasons. Together, the islands could aim to become a model for the world in how to reform society and tackle the issues that leave lesser mortals trembling: a slimmed-down public sector (easily achievable if tittle-tattlers, poor performers and communalists are sent to Sotravic for recycling), proper urban planning, protection of the marine and land environment, teachers dedicated to educating everyone including the disadvantaged, and so much else, all much more important than huge wealth. The aim: a country led by inspirational figures, stateswomen – and men – where corruption, avarice and tribalism are consigned to history. Reflecting on how far the country’s come is fine but what better moment can there be for dreams of an even more splendiferous future…