52 years of independence: The great divide

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This is not an Independence Day wish. The ideological void dictating mainstream politics in Mauritius has exacerbated polarisation in the country. There is no consensus over what the values defining the different sides across the political spectrum are but we are convinced they are different. We share the fault for perpetuating that belief.

There are dozens of opinion pieces and editorials every month expressing strong but inconsistent views, admonishing those who don’t swear the same loyalty to the supreme leader that we have chosen to follow blindly. The word “blindly” is not used here for mild exaggeration. It is a tool to provide context to the ubiquitous reality on the island, where identity politics matter more than policy platforms. It does not matter what is being proposed as long as it comes from the preferred political leader.

This attitude to the democratic process facilitates the discourse of the mainstream parties hiding away their clear neoliberal tendencies under the cover of democratic socialism. There are no values shaping our society going forward. We are faced with a political class engaged in a lingering fight for power and a desire to build a flawed Mauritian identity, based on a combination of ethnicity, social class and intellectual dishonesty.

The liberal backlash after the crushing election results in November 2019 was inevitable. It was the end of the dream for many of us wanting to see the country head in a different direction. There seemed to be a general agreement that nothing would be able to fix this. We felt that we reached the point of no return. In spite of the scandals, the outright lies and the persistent nepotism, the electorate opted for the status quo. It opted for chaos.

It takes a special kind of arrogance to stay behind our screens and shout at voters that they were wrong, without acknowledging our own faults. There is no point dissecting how we vote anymore. As we celebrate 52 years of independence from British rule, it is time to see that we were broken from the start. Built on a foundation of racial tensions, political propaganda and social inequality, asking for change would be an understatement. We never had a chance.

The belief that we deserve better than the mainstream political leadership cannot fade away. It will take a structural revolution at the grassroots level to make that a reality. We need political discourse focused on climate action, social justice and gender equality. We need leaders who can bring people together regardless of ethnic belonging and social class. We need people willing to fight against the greed of the corporate and political elite. We need the humility to discuss views that we don’t share without condescension.

How do we bridge the great divide in Mauritius today? Getting off our pedestals and talking to each other might well be the first step. So, here we go. Step one. Let’s talk! This is the end of the dream. This is the start of the resistance. This is not an Independence Day wish but one day, it will be.

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