Existentialism Blues

What is my purpose in life, and what am I doing here exactly? Jean Paul Sartre, pioneer of existentialism, which I happened to have studied at school, believed in the power of the human being to be and do exactly what he wanted to do, and overcome obstacles by the sheer potential of willpower. According to him, human beings were “condemned to be free”. One of his famous quotes Jamais nous n’avons ete plus libres que sous l’occupation allemande (We have never been freer than under Nazi occupation) is one of my favourites. From my understanding, he means that it is only in the face of adversity that the human being can truly exercise his freedom of will to overcome this adversity, experience the true potential of his choice to act on them, and achieve whatever he sets out to do. This is why I think some people get such a high from activism. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela were all pioneers of existentialism, they believed in something and set out to achieve their ideals. This is what I think epitomises Sartre’s quote.

So, what is my purpose in life, and what am I doing here exactly, and what for? Is it worth it? In earlier times, your craft was determined by birth: if you were royal born, you were born to rule, if you were born a forger’s son, you were born to forge. Then came education, which gradually opened access of practically all crafts to everybody. So how do you choose? Very few of us were born with natural talent, even fewer had the chance to have that talent manifest itself in an obvious way. For example, I am currently listening to Birdy on repeat. That 15 year old something girl was born to sing. Like was Adele. Shakira was born to dance. JK Rowling was born to create an imaginary world. Luc Besson and Spielberg were born to make movies. Steve Jobs was born to create sleek gadgets. I don’t know these people personally obviously, but it seems to me that they knew their calling, sensed it maybe, at an earlier stage, and just sort of followed their instincts. Fate? Luck? Existential freedom? Maybe all three.

So, what about the rest of us normal people? Maybe we love doing something but do not have enough faith in our abilities. Maybe we like the comfort of a secure and more conformist office job. Maybe we are just interested in too many things. Maybe there is no money in what we love doing or maybe we just need money to subsist in this complicated material world. Maybe we just need to strike the balance between making our parents happy, being accepted by society and respected by our peers and buy that shiny car that we always wanted. While at the same time trying our best to keep our sanity at work. And then for most of us we get married and have kids and now it’s just a question of working to pay bills and loans.

Jean Paul Sartre would never have accepted these pathetic excuses. I guess it’s a good thing that he is dead and buried then. He never married, had a funny left eye, and never looked happy, but still, was one of the greatest philosophers of his time. Indeed, what could be more inspiring and hopeful than the possibility of the infinite power of the human mind?…

Miss Mauritius 2012

First of all, I am not a fan of beauty pageants. What is the point of having a definition of beauty and awarding a crown to it? Model competitions make more sense, at least, the point of these is selling clothes. Miss Mauritius is a big joke, but year after year, I myself have to admit that I can sense some improvement, in the organization of the event at least. They made the different competitions paid events, where people who want to attend can buy tickets, so the funding part is more or less taken care of. The judges are the sponsors, yes people who run businesses and have decided to invest in marketing ARE capable judges of beauty, no question asked! At least, the organizers invested in giving the girls some communication classes this year. It was most necessary after last year’s fiasco where a contestant did not have a single idea as to how to respond to the question “What is an independent woman in your opinion?” Seriously, she just laughed nervously and could not think of a single thing to say! I was so embarrassed for her. Granted, she was a young 17 something girl whose only exposure to life was surely Disney Channel and MTV, but still! So, this year, from the presentations, the girls seemed focused and ambitious people, who could talk. Talking is an important part in being the ambassador of a country in an international competition. This is the weakness of the Mauritian education system, there are very few outlets to develop this skill, not to mention the fact that most of us being trio-lingual (French, English, Creole, maybe even Hindi for some), it is a challenge to speak and write well in at least one of French and English. So my machiavelic mind was eagerly anticipating the Questions and Answers round, which would surely determine who the crown would go to. There were 6 contestants and 6 questions. I have to say, the girls were much more prepared for this than in the previous years’ pageants. They were more at ease, and addressed the crowd calmly before actually answering the questions. Yes granted, it is a daunting task to strut around in a wedding gown, with a whole nation’s attention on your next wrong move, but hey, isn’t that what the competition is about? Beauty with a purpose, may I remind you! Miss No. 1 replied acceptably, her question was on the evolution of the role of women in society. She took her time and gave a decent answer. The rest panicked and most of them did not even give a direct answer to their question. The two crowned Miss Universe Mauritius and Miss World Mauritius gave deplorable answers to their questions, the sponsor-judges must have reason to believe that they can do better at the actual competition at representing Mauritius (let us hope so at least!). Miss No. 1 looked surprised when she was awarded only Runner up No. 1. It was actual proof that the whole competition is not only based on the Questions and Answers part, but on continuous assessment throughout.

Oh well, at least we were extremely well entertained by the Club Med entertainment team, complete with carnival style samba dancers, singers, and even a beautiful trapeze type act.

So what happens to the girls who did not win? At least they would have spent a month all expenses paid at Sofitel and hopefully they would have grown from the experience! And what about those who did win? Let us hope that they would use their crowning moment for some purpose bigger than the enlargement of their own ego! And lastly, let us hope that next year the beauty will be more purposeful!