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Day 19 – The State and the state and the Quiet at the Centre of the Wheel


Yesterday at around 1:30 pm or so a neighbour rang to say she hears the caravan doing the annual flu vaccines for the over 60s and people with health issues has reached the level of the mosque in Allee Tamarin, the medium-sized street that our little Ragoo Lane comes off of. 

 So, Ram and I don our masks, nip out and along to check for us all. At a parked Ministry of Youth and Sports van, there is a jovial man in a white gown, mask and gloves with a little megaphone in hand, calling out to people that the caravan has arrived. The way long ago people would come out to, say, announce that the circus had arrived in town. Another kind of caravan. A quiet caravan. 

 “Vini, dokter!” the man says to Ram. Two other workers at the side door of the van, also masked and gloved, administer the vaccines into presented shoulders, politely and sweetly, while the driver waits. One woman is before us, then us. We get given our vaccines really calmly, really warmly, no bureaucracy – the staff glance at Ram’s card, not at mine, note our age and surnames – and we ask if the caravan will be coming to where Ragoo Lane joins Allee Tamarin. Yes, they say. Tell them all here we come!

 So, we go back and inform everyone in Ragoo Lane to come on to Allee Tamarin. So, they all mooch along, respecting social distance. One young university student comes to her gate, leaning out, calls out to me, “I’m checking my Mom and Dad are respecting social distancing” – the child becomes the parents. Anyway, my neighbours, all in masks or bandanas, stream out, as if in a calm carnival. Quiet. And then all troop back after a few minutes.

 The state service is impeccable. Usually – other years – we all have to go to the nearest Social Centre. Which is really close enough for us all in Bambous – but this year this rendezvous might cause a little gathering, and that is the last thing anyone wants when we are respecting physical distance from each other, so, instead, the state has gone out in a mini-van caravan and found us where we live.

 At other times, it is only three bits of the state that can find you and find you fast:

 -- Postmen. Which is why they have been of help in paying out pensions to those who do not have bank accounts.

 -- The police, if you have in any way offended any law (Ram and I have a lot of experience in this, over the years, because we have been accused of offending all manner of laws – illegal demonstration, “molesting” [no joke] policemen, insulting ministers at public meetings, and so on – but either never charged, or when charged, never found guilty). Most of the work of calling you to appear in Court used to be done by officers of the Court, but the repressive arm (the police) seems to have taken it over.

 -- The health “trace-and-test” workers in the malaria control branch. They are now the ones that, if we are saved from the worst ravages of this epidemic, will be the ones that did half the prevention work. The whole of the people will have done the other half.

 But, the lockdown shows that the state can be decentralized. The state even succeeds in recognizing, other than momentarily in an electoral campaign, that there are people without Wi-Fi, without bank accounts, without food for more than a couple of days, without computers.

 So, once again we see the State (with a capital S, the police and Special Mobile Force in their repressive roles) and the state (with a small letter, which is the representation, in class society, of the most the working class, in the balance-of-class forces after previous struggles, has been able to gain in terms of rights and services from the capitalist class of investors). We see both.

 And then there is, as well as “the State” and “the state”, also the “Regime”. This Jugnauth regime is one that likes to take the credit for everything. When, as Ram showed in his Le Mauricien article the other day, malaria was controlled, even eradicated, by popular mobilization, the Health Minister, when he takes up the subject, manages not to mention the question of the mobilization of the people at all – which is really what eradicated malaria. He wants it to be only the “regime” that controlled malaria as well as dengue fever and Chikungunya. If the people know their power, this would threaten the political regime. Another example, you have to stay at home, the Regime says, because it says so, and it knows. Your understanding as to why, and your doing the distancing and keeping the lockdown because you decide of your own volition, as the people, to do so, is dangerous to the Regime. 

 The Quiet at the centre of the Wheel

But, the truth is, it is mobilization around people’s instinct for kindness and sharing that is the source, the spring, of change. 

 And here I’d like to include the words of a friend, who gave me permission to use the quote. She is the quiet at the centre of the wheel. Her age, you can work out from the text: 


 “C’était en 2010. Rencontrée dans l'ascenseur, une inconnue... pâle à en mourir. J’offre à sa fille - à partir des seuls traits!!! - un exemplaire de HEALING, tout juste reçu de l’imprimeur. Longtemps après, je l’apprendrai: mère DCD. Sur sa tombe, la lecture d'un passage de ... HEALING!

 “Je ne connaîs toujours pas beaucoup la jeune femme. Et la vois encore moins: partie prendre soin de son père... en ces temps particuliers. Lui fais suivre une info que je crois essentielle. Et la roue tourne...

 “A ma porte, un petit sac me ramène au ‘tough time’ de la seconde guerre mondiale!!! 1939-1945. J'ai alors entre 3 et 9 ans. Benjamine d’une fratrie de dix. Pénurie de riz et de maïs. Ma mère cueille des avocats du jardin. Et me les remet pour les distribuer à divers voisins.

 “Que contient, en ce jour de 2020, le petit sac accroché à ma porte - confinement oblige - Res lacaz? ‘Deux avocats, de la cour de mon père,’ précise le petit mot de la jeune femme.”

 And with that gem, I sign off. For today.

 Lindsey Collen

for LALIT, a personal view.