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Repons LALIT a editoryal Le Defi par Darmah Naeck

10.08.2012


In Le Defi Quotidien 8 August, editor Darmah Naeck wrote a “Point de vue” that can only be called racist. The article is intentionally insulting, even humiliating. We note that Le Defi Quotidien apologised the next day, saying it was not intentional. So much the better.
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But, the very title is the first indication of a hurtful intention. It reads, “Pourquoi les créoles posent problème.” Who has ever heard of blaming an entire community for, by way of their birth, supposedly posing a problem for “the rest”? What kind of an opinion article is this?
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His first sentence is, “Nos freres créoles, comprenez-nous bien.” The phrase has the air of a threat, and the article does indeed, curiously, address only readers in one community.
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Classifying people like this, whether racially, communally or religiously, as part of a prejudiced generalization, is in itself an act of violence. The hallmark of racism is the kind of stereotyping that we find in this editorial. We must stop writing like this or speaking like this, ourselves, and also remind other people, including editorialists, that making generalizations based on race classification is hurtful.
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The intelligentsia in Mauritius, in particular academia, has got away with this kind of rubbishy classification, generalization and stereotyping for far too long, disguising it as anthropology or sociology. And in recent years the blogs and Facebook-type sites have converted the latent violence inherent in race classification and communal classification into real verbal violence. L’Express Dimanche last Sunday reproduced quotations in an article criticizing this derive. They blocked out the swear-words with ink, but left all the communally abusive terms intact, as though they were any less offensive.
And indeed Darlmah Naeck’s threatening introductory phrase is followed by a grotesque generalization: “Sauf quelques-uns d’entre vous,” he writes paternalistically, “votre communauté, dans un ensemble, n’arrive pas a gravir les échelons sociaux.” The generalization, it should be noted as a political point, is based on the false hypothesis that to “gravir les échelons sociaux” as an individual is morally superior to working towards creating an equal society, or morally superior even to the lesser aim of organizing collectively for the advancement of the oppressed economic classes. Mr. Naeck wants each individual to climb up on the backs of the others, scrambling to the top when, in fact, it would be more noble to work towards collective solutions to the social problem of class inequality. It would be even more ethical to work towards a society which is rid of all its “échelons sociaux” . A society full of “échelons sociaux” makes life a game of ladders, but where the ladders are pure ideology, except in the exceptional times of exodus of some kind – like the exodus of the colonial elite back to Britain, coupled with the communally-provoked panic emigration sponsored by the anti-Independence PMSD – an epoch when there can indeed be rapid upward mobility.
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In case anyone should question Darlmah Naeck’s generalization and say, “But, Mr. X, Ms. Y, and Dr. Z have successfully become lawyers, PS’s, heads of companies, etc,” then, Mr. Naeck bars their way with another insult: “Le peu qui s’en sortent generalement vous lachent et deviennent des faiseurs plus proches des anciens esclavagistes que de vous.” Those who are successful, he says, with another dose of communal generalization, become “arrogants jusqu’a la pathologie.” (We will come back to this in the last paragraph.) Difficult to win against this kind of argument.
The Mr. Naeck’s ignorance of Mauritius knows no bounds. Even within his own pathologically communalist mind-set, Mr. Naeck seems not to know that over the past 150 years, and until today, the upper echelons of the working class (artisans and skilled workers of all kinds) are people who have “sortent” from the class of unskilled labourers and risen up the “échelons sociaux,” and they are from all the so-called communities. The aristocracy of the rural working class, with its highly skilled, relatively well-paid, industrial proletariat in the countryside in 200 sugar factories gradually centralizing to 5, is just not visible to Mr. Naeck. Yet, it is this working class elite that has done so much towards making life in the countryside dignified for everyone. The aristocracy of the working class has recently been decimated by sugar mill centralization and job-destruction, on the one hand, and by the general capitalist process of large enterprises ruining the trade of tailors and seamstresses (with factory made clothes), shoe-makers (with shoe-factory produce), and other small-scale artisans in the same way, on the other hand. It has nothing to do with any generalizations about people’s community.
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And then Mr. Naeck’s communal fantasies take off into other so-called “communities”. Contrasting with the community he is addressing, he says, “Dans d’autres ethnies, c’est le contraire. Les modestes ont un tel lien avec leur élite que lorsqu’une personne qu’ils estiment être des leurs, tout en étant pleinement mauriciens, s’élève ils se sentent fiers même si c’est une inconnue pour eux.” He should speak for himself, and not for the hundreds of thousands of dispossessed who are, right now and in every part of Mauritius, being hurled into the insecurity of temporary work, contract jobs, the down-right nightmare of day-to-day life in these times of the reign of neo-liberal politics. All the “modestes” no doubt have very little time, in the struggle of daily life, for being “fiers” of other unknown people and their so-called “success”.
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But note that this last comparison of Darlmah Naeck’s is a serious non sequitur. He writes that the arrivistes in one particular “community”, once they get to the top of the social ladder just abandon their fellow-community members: “vous lachent et deviennent des faiseurs plus proches des anciens esclavagistes que de vous” , whereas the “modestes” of the other “communities” jubilate for the success of one of “their own”. It is not just rubbish, but a complete non-sequitur, and a very hurtful one, if you take the editorialist literally: he asks you to be “fiers” of the elite when you are “laché” by them!
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And his next paragraph is more non sequiturs. He says that the public sector recruits on the basis of “diplomes” , while the business sector recruits on “performance” . He says that “les créoles ont l’impression d’être discriminés davantage dans la fonction publique que dans le secteur privé.” Well, by his logic (and his generalizations), that means they “perform” well. So, why are “they” supposedly a problem to anyone? Or is it just another non sequitur? Is it just more rubbish?
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But then, the worst of all prejudices, the most hateful of statements comes out: “Soyons francs,” he says, “Le mode de vie de la majorité des créoles est-il compatible avec la percée scolaire, clé principale pour la mobilité sociale? On en doute.” What is this supposed “mode de vie” ? What is this “majorité?” Where does he get this kind of contempt? He even accuses a whole community of people of preferring to be “assistés”.
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And then, Mr. Naeck has a paragraph of venemous writing against the Catholic “religion” , making little distinction between its hierarchy, its doctrines, its members who were slave owners, those who were tortionnaires, those who worked as artisans or clerks, notaries or doctors, calling the whole caboodle “esclavagistes”, who then over time become “descendants des esclavagistes” today. This last phrase is used as a synonym for an entire community, the vast majority of whom own nothing but a 4x4, and sometimes a house to live in. All are treated, by a vague approximation of the colour of their skins, as “esclavagistes” by Darmah Naeck.
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His point about the religion of the colonial powers, Christianity, being hegemonic and thus blinding not only its followers but all of us, to “the other” religions and their realities, would be a more reasonable point, if it were not lost in his pathological racism. He ends up just being insulting when he says that inter-culturalism is “difficile a saisir par la majorite des créoles”.
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As for his accusing Dr. Arnaud Carpooran, president of the “Kreol Speaking Union” of saying “le créole doit s’aider pour son epanoussement en se diversifiant” , this is just totally out of context. Dr. Carpooran was talking quite rightly of the Kreol language now needing to become more diversified. In his 6 August article in Le Defi Quotidien, he said, “[i]l s’agit d’aider la langue a s’épanouir, a se développer et a se diversifier” (Our italics).
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But why would someone as successful and as influential as Darlmah Naeck write this kind of thing? We return to his phrase that those of the Creole community who are successful supposedly become “arrogants jusqu’a la pathologie.” You will note that Darlmah Naeck adds a phrase just after this: “Nous en connaissons un spécialement”. Now this is not at all a clear reference for an ordinary LeDefi reader. And all we know is that very recently he was suddenly sacked from his job. He is suffering what everyone in the working class suffers: the humiliation of being reminded you are in a position where you have to sell your labour power, whether physical or mental, to a buyer who wants it. That is what we in LALIT are fighting against. And in this struggle against the ruling class and its State, there is no communal or race element. It is a struggle to change objective reality, and that is what we intend to change.
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We call on people to realize that when Darlmah Naeck is angry with his ex-employers, no doubt humiliated by them, this is what could be, and should be, the catalyst for a class analysis. Darlmah Naeck, humiliated by the excessive power of the bosses, is, at best, wreaking individual vengeance for what he has suffered upon hundreds of thousands of individuals he does not even know. And this means he has, like Krishnee Bunwaree, who in her fury against an individual insulted a whole community, perhaps in his fury against his bosses insulted a whole community. The difference is that she is young and powerless. An editorialist of Mr. Darlmah Naeck’s standing is, by contrast, experienced and powerful.

LALIT, 10 August, 2012.