Blog: Has Opinion become a Crime?
With the PMSD in government and with a pervasive notion of successful partnership with the Labour Party, it is obvious that the political leaders of the Creole community should feel blessed by power and capable of revealing their best once their potential is acknowledged and recognized, their people lionized and respected in elite circles.
In all this debate around the incendiary article of Defi Quotidien on the role of Creoles in Mauritius, there is a generalization that one must avoid. Is the opinion of a politician to be treated in the same spirit as that of a layman, even if he is a senior journalist of a newspaper? Should Naek be treated in the same way as Choonee, Khamajeet or the communication agent of the PMSD? If an opinion leader is one who provokes reactions within the framework of legal provisions, a politician threatens to aggregate policies around an opinion, may build up a vision and work and execute the policies on the grounds that he represents a swathe of the nation according to the confusing criteria of representative democracy. A politician has the practical action-based freedom to translate into action what he says, and he becomes the spokesman of thousands who hide behind the cloak of the silent majority to justify their discourse. He is no initiator of thinking as he comes at the end of a line when all has been thought and debated and rests to be seen in practical form - a law with all the dispositions for enforcement and a battery of penalties in case of violation of the law. An editor or a journalist is an opinion maker. He must be able to monitor and lead thinking in subjectively biased perspectives, at times. Very often, and at the subtlest form of expressions, he moulds minds because the average reader is not privileged enough to think before and after, to understand the multiple ramifications of an event to know what is happening behind the curtain and what is being whispered in corridors of power.
The layman is a consumer of news and views and will repeat with befitting modulations the same facts, fears and speculations to different interlocutors in his daily commerce with mundane life. When people rebel against a politician’s opinion it’s because they fear the power that the State invests the politician with. Every politician runs the risk of dislocating the foundations of well established tradition.
A journalist is no such iconoclast. He may be a rebel against public opinion and become the spearhead of novel thinking. He may even be a carrier of conservative prejudices as long as these are felt by certain sections of the mass. Every journalist must find the roots of his thinking in the different layers of societal deliberations. His role is to inseminate thinking orientations. While a layman has no opinion, his mind becomes an easy receptacle of the beliefs, speculations and elucubrations of the journalist.
That is where the danger lies. Opinions can be more dangerous than actions. Opinions travel and the longer the distance they travel, the greater the distortions they undergo by having journeyed across either elevated minds or perverted minds. The harm can be at the level of thinking alone.
That is why the hue and cry raised by the Creole community and related NGO’s against the ideas of a journalist who chose to paint a partial portrait of the community sounds exaggerated. When a country cannot tolerate ideas, however backward they may be, we verge in the realms of intolerance which bespeaks a new unease at a more felicitous point in the evolution of the community. We are no longer dealing with the Creole who has been traditionally associated with a hedonistic lifestyle, poor educational achievement, houselessness and indolence as far as physical effort is concerned.
The journalist has not taken care to note the number of Creoles who have been saved from poverty and can now afford to run a car because they have won admission into the middle class circle. We cannot but be awake to the number of Creole women entrepreneurs who have become financially independent through the SME promotion activities.
By contrast we should take the number of people of Asian origin who have slid into the ranks of poverty because they have become in the process of living together assimilated with the neighbourhood which has a stronger cultural impact. Today more and more such children are deschooled or out of school. Among the 40 % who fail CPE a vast majority are of Asian origin. In the Civil Service a sizable number of those of Asian origin swear by caste, creed and community to seek promotions. Let us not romanticise the picture. There are fluctuations in the rise and fall of every ethnic group, socio cultural organisations willing or not.
The journalist who is the target of a whole community’s ire is providing us with the perilous zone through which our society is going. The more the PM is trying to promote Mauritianism the deeper is our society sinking into the shifting sands of ethnic intolerance. We are no longer able to make a difference between politicians and intellectuals or opinion builders. Are we not ripe for a deep introspective analysis without elections or the formation of a government in mind? We need to preserve the characteristic mark of our society and that is our peaceful existence.
Different ethnic groups are mutually exclusive whereas the PM is thinking of an all-inclusive society. While we thought that the rainbow nation meant the separate blossoming of different ethnic groups, all communities, leaders are bringing up their respective adherents in parallel nursery beds, unaware of the fact that the feet of the pyramid make no difference between members.
Mauritian society is still in the making; let us not labour under illusions of permanent peace.