A Cultural Revolution
The “Projet de Société” initiative, that had its preamble published in L’Express on May 1st 2018 is an endeavor made by citizens for citizens, a collective project to contribute to and build the Mauritian republic that we all dream of. The kind that we want to leave to our children and future generations. Today’s Mauritian society is afflicted with attitudinal, behavioral, and practical issues. Fundamentally speaking we are living in a crisis of purpose: a crisis revolving around the values we hold dear. All of us are concerned in that crisis. Especially our youth! Let us be the change that we wish to see in the world because change must come from within each of us, so that we may all go forth.
A change in attitude is imperative! Hence this plea for a cultural revolution. First, a cultural revolution means an openness of mind to enrich ourselves in encounters with others and to seize opportunities with the goal of individual and collective fulfillment. It’s about cultivating one’s mind, one’s intelligence, to learn, to enrich one’s knowledge during this cornerstone moment in this major historic transition. We are in what we call an interregnum, a gap. Gramsci wrote: “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born.”
The interregnum is played out between a past unwilling to die, holding onto its certainties, its comforts – oftentimes indolent—, its intellectual inertia, its inability to understand new dynamics and their scope, and that clings to its habits. And the new, vitally important, is searching for itself, trying to find its words, trying and failing in its attempts at self-establishment. Old recipes are not the solution. The background of this transition is the failure of neo-liberalism to bring about a societal project of its own. The discussion now converges on tomorrow’s model of society.
Globalization, digital revolution, and openness
During the last thirty years, Mauritian society withstood strong pressures and has undergone profound transformations and mutations on the socio-economic and ideological fronts. In the decade from 1982 to 1992, the social dynamics of today were already present. The “Révolution conservatrice” that begun in 1983 had a more or less severe impact on the State, social influencers in their respective organizations and institutions, and society at large. An impact they had trouble adapting to. Our society witnessed a transformation of the ideological landscape with the eruption of individualism and egoism, often criticized, that spiraled into a devastating cult of the individual. However, we need to emphasize that a form of individualism, the expression of a need for self-actualization beyond strict limitations, is a positive concept.
Our economy’s resilience in the face of the 2008 financial crisis is a thinly veiled attempt at shrugging the crisis off for another day while operating on a business-as-usual mode – a tactic that will catch up to us soon, if it has not already. Be wary of development that instills a socio-spatial segregation when the future lies in an inclusive society. It will be no easy task to come to an agreement on how we will open ourselves to the world, a necessary task because it paves the way for our fulfillment.
Mauritius has endured, since the 1990s with the arrival of the internet, the impact of new technologies and is currently in the quest to find its place in the digital continent. Defying time and space, modern information technology is the medium of the latest social revolution. This “democratic” space that harbors social networks reveals the thought processes, old and new, that govern the world and its societies, the fabric that holds it together: a fabric made of opportunities, of deviations, and dangers. For example, some studies showcase that 90% of content spread on Facebook is negative, with all the associated effects on people’s psyche as one would expect. A fair few number of ideas and proposals to counter the potential dangers of the internet have been made. The cultural revolution, consequently, must invest in the digital continent.
The societal crisis that we are weathering through is the result of multiple dynamics that have developed over the last quarter of a century: a stalled society; a resignation and abdication of the elite; confusion between electoral and developmental cycles; deficits of the heart, of mind, of logic, of common sense; a worsening neurosis of political thought that is spoon-feeding its own crisis. Among other woes, we find the cult of the individual, the different types of self-withdrawals, the desire to stay cloistered in an airtight intellectual bubble. Our society still suffers of these prison walls, even if they do not seem so. Of course, the pathological aversion to new ideas is ever-present, as is the easy path to demagoguery and simplistic populism. Always lurking, the threat of ethno-populism requires of us to be cautious. The incivility of too many a citizen is, as ever, legendary.
On the other side of the aisle, the protagonists are too often complacent in an “us against them” attitude and rhetoric. The others, the ‘them’ to their ‘us’, are demonized and not afforded any legitimacy—denying social dialogue, the base of the pillar on which a democratic discourse rests upon. We cannot be frugal when it comes to serious discussions on the powers – politic, economic, media, and societal – and their relations to each other.
When we observe and reflect on the current state of the world, we could fall into despair over the current state of society and lose all hope for one’s future, going as far as to think that a cultural revolution is an arduous task, even maybe an impossible one. Then again, there can be no fatality. Let us start with introspection as the first phase of the general reevaluation. Agents of change – patronal associations, labour unions, NGOs – owe it to themselves to search within, to reevaluate where they stand in the world to truly understand the changing world’s new reality, its new aspirations, its new dynamics. Effectively, agents of change have this historic responsibility to adapt to the world as it changes to fulfill their roles. And it must be said that no group can claim to be the only one to care, know or have common sense.
It’s about finding the means, the ways, and the instruments so that each can play their part in the quest for real solutions to real problems. At the heart of this endeavor, beyond the differences and divergences, and the contradictions, there are common values to share – namely a sense of responsibility and intellectual honesty. Our societal challenge is also to part ways with a society that is all flash and no substance, one obsessed with the image. Just as important is the role and responsibility of the media in the midst of a digital mutation that has its own challenges to step up to.
To those who think that the cultural revolution cannot be a peaceful, natural, and even-paced undertaking, and that feathers need to be rustled, we say that it is not by constraint, and even less by violence, of words and action, that we are going to advance. Despite ruptures being necessary for change, this is more about convincing than coercing. Drawing strength from what makes us unique, and our shared history, we can work towards this cultural revolution through dialogue. Real dialogue! What if we started to dream of a sharing society anchored in a strong and solidarity-based economy aiming for development with a human purpose?