“It's so simple to be wise,” Sam Levenson, an American humourist, once said. “Just think of something stupid to say and then don't say it.” One wishes some of the orators yelling from their colourful podiums last Sunday had followed this advice. The inanities which were blurted out at the willing audiences could have won us an entry into the Guinness Book of Records for futility.
The orators, naturally, did not miss the opportunity of being in front of fired up audiences to whirl insults at their adversaries of the day – yesterday’s allies. And we suddenly discovered that there are problems in this country: poverty, prostitution, drugs, corruption, nepotism… you know, all these scourges which never existed before and the discovery of which hits politicians at election time. Eureka!
We equally found out that there is a simple solution to all these ills: we just elect the people yelling at us from their high positions and that’s it. Pity the rest of the world has not discovered this yet.
Then we found out that on the one hand, the Med Point scandal is the biggest scandal of the century and had a detailed account of how then-President Jugnauth had called Prime Minister Ramgoolam to ask him to put pressure on the Independent Commission Against Corruption and how the latter refused because he respects institutions – and basically everything you didn’t hear before. On the other, we heard all the injustices against the son who signed the cheque in favour of his sister in a case which the father is “preske sir ki li pou dismiss” (almost sure it will be dismissed) – which is why the lawyer has been systematically asking for deferrals…
Then followed the promises of making our lives better. The homeless will be given houses, the old will have a much bigger pension, the workers will get a minimum wage and the poor will be better off. And, since the opposition did not mention the word ‘productivity’ in relation to any of the promises, we are led to understand that we will all be working less and earning more. Another recipe the world might benefit by copying. Those who have been frustrated with the number of speed cameras on our roads and the ensuing reduction in fatal accidents were not left out of the fun as the Penalty Point System seems to be a major part of the manifesto.
As if all this was not enough to keep us happy, our youth were also entitled to a rehash of a great measure which is likely to make a big difference to their lives. No, it’s not a magic recipe to bring down youth unemployment, no! Who cares about that? What is important is to bring down… voting age for the municipal elections to 16! Wow! Our youth will now have the privilege to choose between pensioners and older pensioners in a country where politicians never retire (and – even when they do – they keep being tossed back at us) for local government elections, which have been attracting no more than 40% of eligible voters in the best of circumstances. So, youngsters, do not miss this bonanza!
And the folklore is incomplete without the battle of the crowds, usually indicative of which way the power is. But, since this time we know where the balance of power is, there was no surprise. So, apart from catchy phrases and sound bites, everyone went home no better informed about anything than before they had left. A democratic exercise in futility.