Immediate Past President of MACOSS, social activist and social observer, Geerish Bucktowonsing analyses the current evolution of the Mauritian society. In the interview below, he clearly balances the positive and negative facets of Mauritian community. He believes that Mauritius is at the quest for equilibrium.
How do you see the social evolution of the Mauritian community?
When it comes to the evolution from the events we read in the press, such as cases of thefts, accidents or parliamentary debates or even drug mafia in a global world, irrespective of politics, when you see Mauritius from another perspective, you will see we are at the quest for equilibrium. The values have changed. There is a norm for more instant gain, instant joy or instant success. These kinds of norms are taking more grounds. It is a culture of me, myself and I.
However, on the other side, generosity is still prevalent in the Mauritian DNA. Luckily, the human warmth is still present. In a recent survey, it was found that more than 50% of the Mauritian population is happy in Mauritius. There is an optimistic environment prevailing also. There is need for equilibrium.
The country has been witnessing atrocious crimes and violence almost every day. Do you observe degradation in the behaviour of our fellow citizens?
It looks everyone wants their biggest share of enjoyment. If we see the causes of crimes and violence in Mauritius, we will see that most of them are crimes of passion, domestic violence or drugs related. It seems that everyone is in a rat race to be in a position in society. For people, it seems like to be successful I need this and that. They will use whatever means to get it. There is indeed a difference in the thinking compared to past generations. For instance, in the late 1960s, the generation was more traditional, those in late 1970s were the baby boomers who believe in freedom, Generation X and Generation Y are very much apart. Generation Y live differently. We should not forget that we live in a digital society now where the pace of life has changed. We need to be quick and more performing. Our needs have changed.
Moreover, today more focus is put on productivity. This has put more stress and frustration within families. This has created two types of categories of people: those who have succeeded and those have not.
Do you think that westenisation of our society is a major cause for degradation of our values?
We live in a global world today. We can no longer talk about east or west. The west has been adopting the eastern cultures as well, for example yoga is being practised in America and major cities in other west countries are becoming vegetarians. However, we can say that the way we are managing our economy has remained the same: the market system. It is all about demand and supply. The focus is more on generating profits from all spheres even in the education field.
Do you agree that the role of the family is sidelined by the materialistic culture?
There are slight changes in the family values but in Mauritius, the family still has its values. These values are reflected through various festivities like New Year, Eid or Divali. There is an attachment for our culture and tradition. However, there are cases of negligence and abuse against our elderly. This is again explained by the change in our living style. In a family where husband and wife work, it becomes difficult to look after the elders and hence they are put in homes. It is also true that from the extended family, we have moved to nuclear families but still the values are present and we must not let them erode. Furthermore, the world is becoming materialistic. Movies we watch reflect the materialistic society we live in.
How far has the presence of technology within the household overshadowed human relations?
It is true that nowadays, we do not see youth clubs or notice people interacting under shops. We see five to six people sitting in the same room each with their own phone and not talking to each other. Everyone is connected to their phone. Human warmth and caring for each other has decreased. The way of communication also has changed. The quality of our language has altered. This has distanced people. The elders of the family should always preach or be strict on having breakfast or dinner at home with family. This will bring interaction among the family members.
Nevertheless, if technology is used appropriately, it can be the best tool. Technology has also brought parents and children together. There is complicity among them. They are always connected through technology. For example, family have created watsapp groups to remain connected and share memories.
What is the impact of technology and emergence of social networks on the young generations?
Access to information has its own drawbacks and this is why focus should be on training of our young people. If our schools want to produce students only with certificates, this is what we will be getting at the end of the day. We need a system where our students are imbibed with values to face adversities in the future. If school inculcates our students with important skills, we will get it back. If they are taught at least one sport or any other skills, allowing them to be well trained, they will be the ultimate winner. One of the most serious issues is that someone has idle time but does not have anything to do and hence he will be tempted to do anything. It is important to train this new generation to transform the world.
We should not forget that this generation has to face the issue of climate change. Some islands are disappearing. We are in a global village. So why not use social network in its best possible way and develop it in this way?
Drugs are a scourge destroying the Mauritian youth. Who are those responsible for the downfall?
There has been great evolution from weeds to synthetic drugs. I am very alarmed at the sight of marketing of synthetic drugs being done in a very professional way, attacking different areas and going towards young people. In a country where our main resource is our people, drugs are becoming a matter of huge concern. Many people are being tempted by drug traffickers. As a social activist, I must say that rehabilitation is good but we have to be very strict of how drugs are entering our country. Our security must be reinforced. We need to control our access points. There should be no politics about it. Anyone from any community can fall into this trap. It is a matter of concern for each and every Mauritian. Awareness in school about drugs, alcohol, HIV, AIDS and sex education must continue in whatever reforms we are bringing.
Do you believe that we can become a drug-free country one day?
It all depends. No country has become a 100% drug-free country. Singapore has introduced severe laws and the level of drug penetration has decreased. There is need for no-nonsense attitude. There should be political commitment and professionalism of the police. Our awareness campaigns by NGO should continue.
Do you think that the different authorities, the cultural and religious organisations, the civil society have failed in their tasks?
Our organisation may have their weaknesses but they play a crucial role in our society. All of our NGOs are active despite having limited resources and budgets. It is the duty of the government to work for the betterment of society. The organisations are supporting agents and complementing the government. There is no legislation for the NGOs. It would be advantageous for them to a set of laws so that in future they perform better.
The number of accidents in Mauritius has reached an alarming rate since the beginning of this year. What do you think is the solution?
As the past president of MACOSS, we have been doing campaigns against road accidents. Firstly, one major cause is the alcohol while driving and second is black spots. We have also observed that serious accidents are occurring at night mostly. Another common practice observed is couple taking their toddlers on motorcycles without helmets. People need to take conscious of their actions.
Our system must be reviewed. Most importantly, drinking while driving must be urgently addressed. Another striking point is that once an expert told me that in other countries, they never heard of fatal accidents happening because of brake failure or other technical issues, something which is common in Mauritius. We should review our specifications, maintenance of vehicles, spare parts used and renewal of servicing.
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