Dear Shakespeare: Live – before it’s too late

My dear Billy, One of the greatest preoccupations of modern society is whether people work in order to live, or do they live in order to work. Indeed, if it is true that there are too many people in this country who live without working, there are far too many who work without living. Work is the refuge of those who have nothing to do, said Oscar Wilde, while Joseph Addison found some people “so primitive they did not know how to get money except by working for it.” I don’t know how primitive modern man is, my dear Bill, or whether he really has nothing better to do; but he wastes so much time working that he hardly has any time to live. He is engaged in a perpetual rat-race that ends only on the day he retires from this life or from work, whichever happens first. But in any case, or in both cases, he is no longer a human being. He has become a squeezed orange from which all the juice has been extracted to sustain other people. You see, the trouble with the rat-race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat. “ Île Maurice, île durable,” or Mauritius, the ever-abiding island is a recently-coined mantra with which the population is being brainwashed. To achieve this millennium goal, our leaders are clamouring from housetops and elsewhere that the country has to be awake, alive and kicking 24 hours/365 days. That’s the new work culture that is in the process of being thrust down the gullets of the docile denizens of this little paradise beyond the seas. How much paradise will be left at the end of the day is another matter. Don’t bother about that, my dear Billy. But you must surely have noted how people create hell for themselves and their dear ones in the attempt and process of attaining heaven. They dedicate themselves so much to their work that they become completely impervious to the demands and supplications of their families. Their work has precedence over all other domestic and social commitments and concerns. With apologies to you, my dear Billy, these people need to be told that “The money that men make sometimes lives after them, but is never interred with their bones, nor is it carried to the other world.” Cyber parents of the cyber-world have absolutely no time to spend with their children. For them time is indeed money, and money is so much more valuable than their own children. They are in fact so busy making money for their children that they have neither the time nor the inclination to talk to these very children. In lieu of affection, all that the children get is mere wealth. They never take the family out on a holiday. They never visit relatives together. They never go to a concert. They keep postponing. “Next year when I get my promotion, I’ll earn more money. Then I can take a holiday,” they promise, and fool themselves and their families. But come next year, and the promotion does not. Or if it does, it comes with a lot more responsibilities attached to it, making further claims on the poor guy’s time. The children again find themselves relegated backstage. And in less than no time, they have grown up and are children no more. Childhood has just slipped off their hands. They have enjoyed the absence of their parents more than their presence. They have spent more time with the horde of maids, baby-sitters, the TV and the computer than with mum and dad. Moreover, increased income always leads to increased spending, so that the additional revenue always finds its way to all kinds of hire-purchase shops and hypermarkets. The future of the cash is planned before it even has a chance of coming in. Even those with the biggest incomes complain that their monthly earnings are insufficient. Most of the worries today revolve around money. A new promotion means a new, bigger car that drinks like a sot; a new house by the sea-side; new furniture; a state-of-art plasma thing, and the whole rot. Where the old things were still perfectly serviceable and were fulfilling the family’s needs satisfactorily so far, the new status requires a new set of items for a redesigned lifestyle. This proves that a person’s worries emanate not from an insuffiency of money, but from not knowing how to spend what one has in a sensible way. Wrongly planned spending, wastefulness, extravagance: these are the fiends that cause all the misery. Very often several loans must be contracted in order to acquire the new things. So what? Why worry? You still have a lifetime to pay back these loans, don’t you? And so, back to work. Work like a donkey, eat like a buffalo, lead a dog’s life, and die like a stray, forsaken mule. Is that the life you have chosen for yourself? Come on! Slow down. Life’s meant to be lived. Live it to the brim. Take time to live. Leave and live! Don’t live to work. There’s an old Creole saying that warns you that you can never finish work, but work certainly can finish you. The choice is yours, my dear Billy. Or is it?
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  • Festival International Kreole 2019