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2nd Lockdown – Day 33 – Gadarene Swine or Lemmings Myth or What?

11.04.2021

Mauritius is one of the countries that contained the Covid epidemic most successfully for the entire first wave. Whether you like the Jugnauth Government or, like us, do not, it is a fact. And while other countries head for their fourth wave, Mauritius is only now in a second wave. While French colony Reunion, with all the resources of the powerful “metropol” has 2/3 the population of Mauritius, it has 10 times the number of Covid deaths. Mauritius is up there with Australia, New Zealand, China and South Korea. Why? We have discussed the main reason before: people in Mauritius have a culture of understanding public health. We know our own behavior got rid of malaria, for example. We also know that we have a single, free, health care system that anyone can use, even without a cent in our pockets.


But, now, in the second wave, Mauritius is not doing well at all. Why? 


Despite all the difficulties, despite the pressure from the private sector to “open the borders”, and despite its refusal to invest in alternatives to tourism, we all got through the first wave. But, we did so well then for another reason: we had a “threesome” of scientists that guided us through the first wave. There were three doctors, who we trusted and co-operated with. This trust was what was important for our collective actions to work. The three doctors were Dr. Gujadhur, Dr. Musango and Dr. Gaud. Between the first wave and now, various forms of misguided protests have successfully well-nigh knocked out all three. Jugnauth’s Government does not manage to support them. 


First, a great palaver was raised in the middle classes because Dr. Gujadhur called people who flagrantly ignored preventive health measures necessary to contain the first wave “kokovid” (empty skulls, with a clever pun on Covid). From then on, he was lynched on social media and even in the press and on radio. He has since been side-lined completely from the National Committee on a technicality of his retirement. How can the middle classes have become so terribly thin-skinned all of a sudden? If you are endangering everyone by flaunting public health measures, being called a “kokovid” is a proportionate comment, surely? But, people band together and headlong attack the Doctor. Now, Health Minister Jagutpal openly insults Dr. Gujadhur in reply to reasonable criticisms.


Second, Dr. Musango made an appropriate, if technically undiplomatic, remark in public. He said Jugnauth should not mind opposition people criticizing him for not stepping up and taking the vaccine first, because if he had, he would be criticized for that, too – a true statement, if ever there was one. A whole series of people then band together in the press and on-line to try to hound him out. Paul Bérenger, not even Leader of the Opposition, is these days so “susceptible” that he went to the lengths of calling on the WHO to remove Dr. Musango altogether for interfering in local politics, and replace him. Dr. Musango was forced to apologize, which he did. So, the second Doctor has been somewhat side-lined, though he is still on the National Committee.


Third, Dr. Gaud, the only voice of reason we hear (even if in French without translation) criticized those medical staff who do not follow public health guidelines like wearing masks properly. Then, even in the face of Covid infection now spreading to dialysis patients, of whom a number have died, and Radiotherapy patients – the Government Medical and Dental Association gets Dr. Gaud served with a mise-en-demeure for making “unfounded allegations” against them. Now doctors are so sensitive to criticism, even when a few staff endanger patients’ lives during a mortal epidemic – that a public health doctor cannot criticize what she saw with her own eyes, without them banding together to attack her. She had already been lynched on social media – mainly in openly xenophobic and misogynist ways. Now, she has, in turn, disappeared from the public view.


Do these three examples not signal a kind of “will” to collective self-destruction?


Let us look at three expressions that have been around for a long time, signifying their helpfulness.


When a whole herd moves so fast, and so close together, that if the first one sees danger in the form of a cliff, it can’t stop or turn around, and then gets pushed headlong over the edge into the sea, and then all the rest, not being able to see ahead or stop in time, all follow over the cliff into the sea, in the same way. So, we get the expression “behaving like the Gadarene swine”. It comes from a Bible story told in most detail in Mark, meaning the story is at least some 2,000 years old.


Similarly, but not identically, there are the “Panurge sheep”. Panurge, was a character in a François Rabelais story written 500 years ago, and became title of a George Brassens song. So cross was Panurge about the price of a sheep he was buying while he was on board a ship at sea that he threw it overboard. This action provoked the whole herd, one by one, to jump after it, all going overboard into the sea. The expression means following someone blindly like sheep, but not necessarily headlong, not necessarily latet-bese, fonse, but just everyone following what may well be an unintended error.


Again similarly, there was the myth of the “lemmings”, little mammals living in Norway, who were thought (wrongly) to run in herds and jump over the edge of cliffs in mass auto-destruction. The myth was popularized by a 1958 Disney film White Wilderness. The expression “behaving like lemmings” remains 60 years later. It means a crowd heading towards self-destruction or mass suicide.


So?


So, in Mauritius, we need to work on a program about what to replace the Jugnauth government with. There is no short cut. We can’t just follow in herds any “leader” who gets pumped up by who-knows-what, whether it’s ex-MSM agent Bruneau Laurette, The Avengers looking for legal work during an epidemic (Rama Valayden let the cat out of the bag a second time on Friday when on air he inviting opticians and dentists, who have not been granted WAPs, to set up their own “Avengers” groups) or any other irrational hounding out of public health professionals during an epidemic. Attacking Drs Gujadhur, Musango and Gaud mirrors the way Trump supporters in the USA attacked Drs. Fauci and Birx. 


Back to Mauritius, we need to remember that we must not band together in ways that bring something worse than the Jugnauth government. The only way we can assure that change is for the better, is if it is based on rational program, a shared understanding, of how we want to change society, itself.  


The dangers, however, of heading to our own destruction are not only here in Mauritius. Humanity as a whole, too, risks acting like the Gadarene swine, the Panurge sheep and lemmings.


First, there are nuclear weapons enough to destroy humanity, all stocked. And if stocked, presumably can be used. The following nine countries have them: 


USA    (1,750 deployed out of 6,000 or so bombs) 


Russia  (1,572 out of 6,000 or so)


UK      (120 out of 200)


France (280 out of 290)


China  (Deployed unknown out of 300)


India   (Deployed unknown out of 150)


Pakistan (Deployed unknown out of 160)


Israel     (Secret, the USA, in particular, pretends it does not know Israel has nuclear weapons)


North Korea (0 out of 30). 


And we, the world’s people, cannot yet force them to dismantle this arsenal, any bit of which can destroy us all. The States with bombs just want nobody else to have them – “non-proliferation”. Luckily, not everyone acts like the herds. People group around programs to close military bases, to stop the arms industry, to end war, and the International Coalition to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, of which speaker at LALIT’s International Action Conference on Diego Garcia Wilbert van der Zeijden was a leading member, fought for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (2017). It is now signed by 86 countries and ratified by 54 of them, and it became effective on 22 January 2021. The Treaty is not signed by the nine states with nuclear bombs. What may surprise readers is that Mauritius has not yet ratified, or even signed, the treaty. Mauritius must sign it at once. This would be a further incentive to get the US military base on Diego Garcia closed down.


Second, the capitalist system allows the pillage, the ransacking, the pollution of the planet, threatening species collapse and climate disorder, amongst other dangerous apocalypses.


All this to say that the times are not easy. We have a Government we want to remove. But we must always remember that the Weimar Government in Germany was worth removing, too – but certainly not worth replacing by Nazi rule. That was the worst-case scenario. But, it highlights the importance of a program, and not just following blindly any call to desann dan lari. The question is: To replace the MSM with what?


Lindsey Collen