At LALIT’s last central committee meeting, we discussed social issues, as well as political. And these are some of the views we discussed.
The new iniquitous Social Register of Mauritius
In social, as in political, issues, this fortnight sees a very stark moment in history: the introduction of the Social Register of Mauritius (SRM). People will have their income “topped up” by Social Security if they are in extreme poverty.
This is part of the “solution” proposed by those who see that there are supposedly a defined number of families that are “living in extreme poverty” and if the State, the private sector and NGOs can just “cure” the ills of these families, then, hey presto! there’ll be no more poverty. They are in denial. Their main denial is that the deny that capitalism goes on and on and on producing poverty. Another serious denial is that it is not the rich that cause the poor, but the poor that are trapped, themselves and by themselves. And yet another key denial, a related one, is that what is relevant, according to them, is not inequality, but just poverty. And then all the effects of these false premises kick in. You have to “target” (note the military image of aiming a weapon at someone) the poor. You have to “accompany them”. You have to patronize them. You have to make them take responsibility. And so on. All the same old 19th Century Poor Law rhetoric.
Anyone, once the applications to be on the Social Register of Mauritius, are now being totted up by social workers, it seems there will be some 18,000 or so families applying. In LALIT, we strongly oppose this paternalistic, invasive, insulting, humiliating social register – it is a sign of the despair of the Political Parties in power of ever creating proper jobs, of ever addressing the causes of poverty. And the social effects of this kind of Register will be hideous: the very poor will have difficulty registering, and then staying registered; the cleverest poor will know how to work the system; those who work for low wages but wages falling just above the cut-off point will feel hard-done-by, perhaps quite rightly; many people have already started looking for the kind of informal job that can pass as lower wages than a formal job so as to keep getting the hand-outs they will get from Social Security; all the hundreds of thousands of people in the informal sector will be very hard to check on; spy networks will become part of everyday life for the poor; there will be a huge division between the working poor and the assisted poor.
And the Register will, and this is a good sign, become the reason for the Government to fall at the next General Election.
The Lovebridge NGO and other such patronizing projects, that will organize for well-off families “to adopt and accompany poor families”, projects subsidised to the hilt by the Government dishing out, for example Rs100 million to Lovebridge, will only add to the unpopularity of this kind of thoroughly discredited 19th Century attitude towards poverty. CSR has come to mean bosses putting money into more-or-less anything they want and having the money tax-deductible. The Finance Minister has begun to tighten up on this scam, where massive family enterprises were and still are subsidising family charities, and employing family members, and defining what is worth subsidising. One of the most ludicrous projects is the Porlwi By Light project whereby during two or three days the capital is attacked by top-down “art” and business experiences – lighting up building, and glorifying colonial history, creating a kind of mindless spectacle that costs a fortune, and leaves people feeling powerless.
And the State continues to refuse to count as unemployed anyone who has works ONE HOUR a WEEK or more. To justify this ridiculous statistic, Statistics Mauritius invokes the ILO, which uses this as a measure as to whether someone is a peasant outside the cash nexus or not and not as a measure of ordinary unemployment. It obviously fails to register the reality that people are living.
Poverty and houses burning down
Poverty has increased so much that over the past months that a number of poor peoples’ houses have burnt down. In many of these tragic incidents the fires have led to the deaths of the people inside.
Incidentally, a number of people have been seriously burnt or burnt to death in fires around religious ceremonies in the past months.
On the education front, mother tongues still oppressed
While the “9-year Schooling Program” is being brought in (there is already 11-year schooling, so it is clearly a misnomer), which means all children will have the same subjects for 9 years, the peoples’ mother tongues continue to be thoroughly oppressed by the State. This means that harm is still being done to all the children of Mauritius, in spite of the findings of the 2009 International Hearing into the Harm Done to Children by the Suppression of the Mother Tongues in Schools.
Ideologically loaded school subjects and profit-making educational institutions
At the same time, there is the gradual introduction of all sorts of ideologically loaded, and educationally null subjects, like Entrepreneurial Skills, and all sorts of subjects related to tourism and to commerce, subjects that have nothing to do with “education” and everything to do with serving the interests of business. The Universities and secondary schools have a new tendency, in general, to serve the interests of business, and also to, themselves, be profit-making. This is a cocktail for non-education. The Public Services International is meanwhile holding a Seminar this coming week on the important issue of “Trade in Services Agreements”, and opposing this kind of conversion of social rights into business opportunities for the capitalist class on an international scale.