What Mauritians Can Teach Us

Marceline has a large, but very old stone in her kitchen. It’s from her grandmother, who got it from her mother – so it has been passed down through many generations. With this stone and its accompanying stone roller she can quickly grind spices, grains, even make tomato sauce as you can see in the picture. What you can’t see is that this stone is right next to the microwave! It’s an interesting accommodation of old and new.

Mauritians know well the strategy of accommodation. With four main population groups – none more than 50% of the population – they have learned to accommodate each other in order to exist peacefully on their small island.

How do they do this you might ask? To begin with, many Mauritians speak most of the languages of each of these four ethnic groups (Hindi with Tamil, Creole, French and English). Our hosts spoke all four languages at home and we observed this was true of neighbors, teachers, store employees, bus drivers and others. To know the language of another is to have some understanding of their worldview and perspective. It takes effort to learn another’s language which says that they are important and worth understanding. But learning four languages? This is normal for many Mauritians and says something about the importance of being able to understand and engage with those from different cultural backgrounds.

Their governmental system also works to accommodate. When candidates are voted into office – if one minority group has no candidates who gain enough votes for office a designated number of “best losers” from that group are automatically given seats. In this way each group is assured of representation in their parliament. It was also interesting to watch on TV as legislators in the parliament spoke English if they wanted to be efficient and concise. They switched to French if they were making and emotional or impassioned plea, but then used Creole to be emphatic. Everyone understood.

Mauritius is geographically about the size of Hennepin County with about the same population – yet Mauritius provides free health care and education for all of its citizens – something we have yet to accomplish in the U.S. Mauritius insists on accommodating each and every citizen with the basic human rights of health care and education.

Even navigating narrow neighborhood streets, Mauritians rarely use their horns, except with a light tap on the horn to say “I’m right behind you.” Drivers allow other drivers the right of way. Accommodation.

Where we stayed, in the area of Rose Hill, we noticed something wonderful – within our immediate neighborhood we heard the large bells from St. Anne’s Church on the corner, the ringing of many small bells from the Hindu Temple on the next street and the call to prayer from the Mosque down the way. In Rose Hill, people of different cultural backgrounds share the same neighborhood, they don’t live in separate neighborhoods or enclaves. While they speak their own languages and maintain their own cultural and religious traditions, at the same time they also share a neighborhood together and know each other as neighbors and friends.

Relationships are not perfect. Racism and discrimination exist, but Mauritians have learned to embrace diversity in ways that the rest of the world has yet to learn.

Below is a picture of our friend Chris. He is a dedicated science teacher, an inventor, great cook and a musician. He and his family extended wonderful hospitality to us throughout our trip – welcoming visitors who were different and embracing diversity. Yet one more way accommodating.

Going forward, it is not enough to simply tolerate differences or to merely coexist. Our survival as a species and as a planet depends upon our ability to embrace and seek out diversity. Mauritians offer this critical skill to the world.

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“What American Dream?”

Appropriate reminder for the Fourth of July –

From “What American Dream?: One in Four People Now Live in High Poverty Neighborhoods” on recent Census Bureau data:

The Bureau found that in the decade between 1990 and 2000, the percentage of people living in these concentrated low-income communities dropped from 20.0 percent to 18.1 percent. However, in comparison, from 2000 to 2010, that percentage grew from a whopping 18.1 percent to 25.7 percent. And, “while the overall population grew by 10 percent over the decade, the number of people living in poverty areas grew by about 56 percent.” In raw numbers, more than 77 million people lived in these poor neighborhoods in 2010.

and this:
Whether it’s the toll that having an under educated, unskilled population takes on the economy when youths aren’t able to be hired for jobs, or the inability of a family to afford nutritious food, which results in obesity and disease and boosts healthcare costs, we all feel it. No matter where we live, one way or another we’re all impacted by what happens to folks who grow up in an impoverished neighborhood. (bold added)

Roxanne here: We can no longer afford the high cost of poverty we create by diverting money from the public purse to corporate welfare.

How does your state create poverty? Here’s an example of how we create poverty “Minnesota-style.” Read this Bloomberg article on the death of shopping malls (“Goodbye, Malls of America“):

. . . Minnesota’s legislature approved $250 million in tax benefits to help pay for a doubling in size of the country’s second-biggest mall, Mall of america. The money came from a fund set up to reduce economic disparities between rich and poor areas.” (bold added)

This money was designated for helping Minnesota’s poor communities. Now it’s going to corporate welfare queens. Inequality doesn’t just “happen.” We create poverty. People don’t just happen to be poor. People are made poor – by the collective action or inaction of all of us.

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Voter ID = Racism

We call it “voter ID” – but we should really call it by its true name – voter racism.

What does systemic racism look like? Continue reading to find out.

Overt legal efforts to limit voting are underway by the Republican party along with a denial of the higher than whites black turnout voting rate –

Summary: The Republican Party is thus more officially racist than it was in Nixon’s day. Back then, at least they had Jackie Robinson and Sammy Davis Jr. And at least, back then, the Republican Party did these things in code, and not via the law. It was not so brazen as to think it could on the one hand be waging efforts in half the states to keep black people from voting and on the other be improving its “outreach.” The black vote will dip a bit when Obama retires, but as long as Republicans insist on these tactics, they will be doing more than they know to keep turnout high and keep hope alive.

Reality: state tracking demonstrates that voter fraud is so small as to be almost statistically invisible. However, requiring photo ID eliminates the possibility to vote for most of the weakest among us; the working poor, indigent, homeless. Not surprisingly these groups are primarily people of color – those made poor by racist policies just like this.

Click all the voter suppression efforts currently on offer across the country to see just how bigots work to incorporate racism systemically into our legal system.

You can’t be neutral. Either those of us who are over privileged work to make voting a possibility for everyone or, by our inaction, we actively demonstrate that we believe in oligarchy – government by elites, the over privileged few.

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Apple Dodges U.S. Taxes

AppleLogoWhy are we short of revenue to balance the national budget? Why can’t we collect enough in revenue to improve our schools, public transportation or health insurance? Because corporations like Apple dodge paying their fair share of U.S. income taxes (estimated in the Financial Times at $9 billion just for Apple alone). You and I pay our fair share – and it’s collected directly from our paychecks, right up front. Why not for Apple? Apple benefits from our national infrastructure including things like education, transportation, security, communications networks and more.

Instead Apple issues bonds thereby keeping billions off-shore where it won’t be taxed. In this way Apple externalizes the real cost of running their business onto individual taxpayers and communities – keeping bigger bonuses for Apple executives and bigger dividends for stock holders.

Tax evasion corporate-style.

All too often we worry about welfare programs for those made poor (of which the entire  program for low income individuals is relatively small) but prefer to remain oblivious to undeserved MASSIVE CORPORATE WELFARE worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

As consumers, we are morally culpable if we choose to do nothing. One can not be neutral. Either we demand that Apple, and all corporations, pay their fair share of taxes for the privilege of using our infrastructure and resources or, in doing nothing, we actively demonstrate our belief that corporate shareholders and executives deserve to take steal wealth from us, our families and communities.

Read the entire Associated Press article here.

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