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Day 57 – Of Arguments and Fruit


Hearing Vice Prime Minister Collendavelloo last night in the National Assembly supporting the draconian punishments for puny offences in the Quarantine Bill, now Quarantine Act, made me think to ask Jean Yves, who is writing up the series “Latelye Argiman”, to identify the particular two fallacies the Minister was guilty of.

First, when Opposition MPs had said that Rs500,000 fines were draconian, he replied, as his essential argument, that the Rs 1,000 in the 1954 law they were replacing was a puny fine. The point is: Rs500,000 is too much. Not that Rs 1,000 is too little. Maybe his argument does not even rise to being a fallacy but is just junk-status talk.

Second, when Opposition MPs said the Rs 500,000 were draconian for someone who ventured out during a lockdown when the first letter of his surname meant it was not “his” day to go out, that to suffer both arrest and the risk of a Rs500,000 fine or five years in prison were draconian, he replied with a long and tragic story about someone who, by hiding the truth about his health situation, had caused the death of both a doctor and a 20-year old girl who went to the same supermarket he had gone to. Indeed some of the offences listed – like not reporting a case during an epidemic or beating up a doctor at a quarantine centre – are potentially serious offences for Magistrates to weigh up, others like going out to buy oil to cook with or to visit your old aunt are certainly not. The point here is that the Bill lumps together one or two serious offences with minor ones, and gives the same draconian maximum punishments, leaving it in the hands of Magistrates to decide. And, meanwhile, these punishments give policemen a massive hold over ordinary citizens going about their daily lives.

But, one advantage that the pro-capitalist politicians like Collendavelloo and all the MPs have in Mauritius is that they can get away with this kind of junk-status talk more easily because they are speaking in two languages which are not their mother-tongue, to those present in the Assembly Chamber whose mother tongue it isn’t either, while we on TV listen to a whole lot of chatter that is not in our mother tongue either. It is totally mad, for a start. What fallacy is that? Maybe Jean Yves can help. That you are not speaking English so that some unilingual American or Brit can understand, nor French because it’s the only language in common. That would be both polite and logical, and sincere. No, you are speaking English and French because they are not the home language of anyone present – those talking and listening – or anyone else in the world who is interested. And you can sure notice it – by the content, the grammar, the pronunciation and specially the scanning or “tune” of the speakers. They would not speak this way to anyone who both wanted to understand them and could.

So, the lockdown had us locked down watching our MPs and maybe with a bit of hard work, we can get them to speak in the language we all use all the time, for a start, and then they will have to speak more logically, once they know everyone is actually listening to the content of what they are saying and they will have to stop using junk-status arguments.

A neighbour, noticing our avocado tree didn’t have any avocados left, gave us two gorgeous avocados from her tree. Here is what a friend said on this blog last time I mentioned avocados: “If your trees are still producing avocados, try them mashed up with garlic vinaigrette on slices of that crispy toast! I've been living on it for weeks.” Yes, it’s delicious that way. At lunch yesterday, we mashed up a few slices with Ram’s home-made mayonnaise (with the egg yolks that then left egg whites for meringues) and a bit of extra salt and pepper on crispy toast. In the evening as a guacamole, with tomato, onions, olive oil and lemon juice, to go with our fish, rason on rice, and boem beans. The joys of the small things in life have been special under lockdown.


Lindsey Collen

for LALIT, a personal view.