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Day 43 – An Acapella of the Internationale in Times of the Plague in the Age of Technology


With solo singers world-wide offering acapella renderings to audiences confined to their flats, and with a ravann solo resonating around the village of Bambous, we are reminded of music without technology. Its raw purity. Its beauty in itself. Now LALIT leading member musician Rajni Lallah has yesterday, in times of the plague, presented us with an acapella of the Internationale, the song usually sung by a whole crowd of LALIT members live and direct, as a solo. And having stripped the music down to this solo, to this divine acapella in Kreol, she has presented it to us via technology. So, you can listen to it on our Facebook Page (Lalit Mauritius).

 It is utterly beautiful. In pure audio. Gives you goosebumps.

 And we can listen to it when we want to.

 She has also put pictures behind it. So you can watch an illustrated version of the song. 

 Its lyrics were written during the Commune de Paris (1871) by an activist called Eugene Potier, and the music was composed by Pierre de Geyter. And although the repression, the massacre that ended the Commune, killed all the main protagonists while others were banished to New Caledonia, the spirit of the Commune lives on, 150 years later. You can listen to the song that reminds us of the working class taking power for 100 days, and you can listen to it in many versions. The Internationale in our own mother tongue is now out there for us all to access. In Rajni’s acapella rendering. The internet holding it for us. 

 So, we see the importance of life itself, music itself, and then of technology. Not the other way around.

 Seeing how technology must be secondary to its content reminds us that it also needs to be kept under proper democratic control – in these times of the plague. Because, for example, in these times of the modern plague, “contact-tracing”, the age-old method whereby we divulge our secrets to trusted health workers – so that they get to know and to follow-up on our personal contacts in the interests of the health of all of us – is now being linked, in many countries, by the central Government itself (is there a central data bank link?) to privately owned Apps and data companies. This runs the risk, in turn, of destroying the confidence, the trust, we had in the privacy offered by health workers for a hundred years of contact-tracing. Is the State keeping this private data in some central data-base? Do we even trust the State if it says it is not? And, I for one, especially after reading the book Mindf*ck (sic) by the Cambridge Analytica whistle-blower, Christopher Wylie, do not trust any private data company. Anyone who knows the fate of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, following a data leak, does not trust them either.  

So, we have to study this new development in the use of technology, and just as we managed, collectively to get the central data base destroyed for the ID Cards, we must prevent or destroy any central data on this. We did not, in Mauritius, fare as well in our opposing the huge big branches with crow-cameras sitting on them, all 4,000 of them, filming us “smartly”. We were not, collectively, smart enough, then. But, we must be now.

On a lighter note, the lockdown has produced some quick learning on technology, and a fair amount of hilarity. First example was when Ram recorded his Labour Day message, which was 8 minutes long, and then we spent 4 minutes, all being filmed live, trying to switch off the recording. It is some of the best cinema ever seen, Ram being a good actor. So he theatrically presses the “End live Video” and then, because it was masked by his point-form cribsheet propped up against his screen, he can’t see the supplementary question, “Press, END or CANCEL.” When he eventually tears his cribsheet away, and spots it, he takes a good few ham-acting seconds to decide which to choose. Nothing happens. Maybe he didn’t press hard enough. Recording continues. Then I come leaning into the picture, saying “Try pressing that ‘End live Video’ again. Which Ram does, then we see the choice, then when we choose END, it asks “Are you sure?” and we finally press YES. All recorded live! We should not have deleted it. A sharp learning curve, anyway. (We all know about flattening the curve – this was a rising learning curve!)

Second example was when another friend was discovering how to use an App for teaching students and got a bit trigger happy. She decided to set up a “group”, as in an SMS group i.e. a list of people to send the same message to, so that she could forward information to a heteroclite group of her contacts. So, in it she put work colleagues, LALIT members, journalists, old school friends, neighbours. A hodge- podge. And in the App she uses, what a group is, is different. They are all included willynilly into a closed group. Some were furious, so she tries to just inform everyone of the mistake and close it down. But others are thrilled to be in the group. So, given that she was still then at the beginning of a lockdown, she gives people the choice, as best she can. It was a large group, though, so it took the best of two days. Soon some of those who were thrilled started circulating the worst of on-line rumours, and she ended up having to manage all this. Another sharp learning curve.

Third example, I am also in a group on one of these apps. Soon I found I sometimes didn’t get messages. Jokingly I accused everyone of excluding me from the group. They all laughed and took no notice. But I couldn’t send messages either. So this went on for a while. I had endless advice from “experts” like Kisna and Rada, to no avail. And was often heard accusing, “Nobody told me that!” and so on. Anyway, yesterday, having tried everything, including wiping out all content data from the App, and a good deal from every other storage space, to no avail, what did I do? The usual. I turned my cellphone right off. I had taken the precaution of finding my pin number that I had secreted in a place that I could not remember where it was, but finally found. When I switched my phone back on, it literally rocked in my handed, vibrating away for hundreds of incoming messages, photos – including of the brave dog Larrki, films, links, jokes. Another sharp learning curve.

This, even as the Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth announced yesterday that the lockdown, due to end Monday 4 May, will continue until 1 June, and for all schools, creches, universities, etc until 1 August. Even though there have been no new cases for nearly a week, and even though there are now only seven active positive cases left. It is correct to be cautious with this very infectious epidemic.

However .... However, there will be some lifting from 15 May on the conditions of having a permit to go out, WAPs (Work Access Permits). These are a kind of “pass” not unlike in the days of indenture, in that you are not allowed to go anywhere at all, but only to your workplace and back, to the supermarket and back. WAPs will allegedly be given within 24 hours, and will not need weeks of applications like those of the past 40-odd days. These will be for construction firms and workers, for factories and their workers. All workers in food production and fishing are eligible, as are self-employed workers like electricians and plumbers and hairdressers. Civil servants will be re-integrated into work over three weeks, in three phases. Supermarkets will continue on a one-third by first letter of alphabet basis, but now open until 8 at night instead of 5 pm – for all workers to get a chance to shop on their two days a week. Masks will be compulsory. Physical distancing will be obligatory.  

What will remain out of the question are: markets, bazaars, cinemas, theatres, beaches, and sports activities and so on. 


Lindsey Collen

for LALIT, a personal view