The Malta Independent 9 December 2018, Sunday

Deeply or widely

Alfred Sant Monday, 6 August 2018, 08:00 Last update: about 5 months ago

Public and private investment projects are being undertaken across a really wide front. Those which are most salient and have most impact, not always in a positive way, happen to be in the construction sector. But those who follow developments, know that much more is going on – which gives scope for great satisfaction.

However, the overall situation still needs to be assessed critically. Doing so would not be an exercise in splitting hairs. Such a critical asessment is not being carried out effectively, not least because the Nationalist Opposition seems to have sunk into a coma.

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The strategic opportunity for public investment today is to improve the national infrastructure for the benefit of future generations. This can be done through a choice between three options: we could renew what is already there; we could widen and extend its remit; or we could go for a radical restructuring according to a planconceived and agreed by all concerned (if this can ever happen in this country).

The first option is the easiest and in general is being carried out well.The second can turn out very useful results and serious efforts are in hand to implement it.

The third option is the most difficult and the most essential. We still have not faced up to it.

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Politics without scandals

In past weeks, the French government was fighting back against a scandal that erupted when the newspaper Le Monderevealed how Alexandre Benalla, a person of deep trust in President Macron’s security service, had taken it upon himself to go and trash demonstratrors out on the streets of Paris for a May Day demonstration.

It emerged that when they got to know what had happened, the authorities at the Elysee palace had simply doled out a symbolic reprimand to Benalla. Le Monde’s story caused a storm and separate investigations were launched by the French Parliament and the Senate. President Macron himself came under fire: for days on end he kept quiet and made no comment while critics raged.

A question arises almost spontaneously: Is politics possible without scandal? – without mistakes being committed that then need to be hidden or covered?

Or is it of the essence that all human activity to run public affairs – those matters which are of concern to the whole community – must become polluted with sins, mistakes and abuses?

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The spokeshave

In the collection of poems that Louis Briffa has published under the spokeshave masthead, he stays well aligned with the direction set by his predecessors Philip Sciberras, Daniel Massa and Achille Mizzi. His command of language is admirable even if at times it edges towards some obscurity. The Graeco-Roman references he deploys to sustain his imagery maintain a distance from the contemporary reader, even when they focus on concrete interactions like sex acts or environmental laments. The same effect of distance results from the references all through the collection to “the poet” as if this construct is not the same “I” who is versifying for us.

There is a difference, which for me is total, between the style of the first poem in the collection (called “Vitruvian Man”) and the rest (title excepted): this is very interesting. On its own, the idiom that is used (relying on English loan words or making explicit use of the English language)  as well as the incidents and imagery that in “Vitruvian Man” are presented with a definitive realism,contrast deeply with what one discovers in the other poems.

Could it be that Briffa will soon be branching out in a different direction from the one followed by Sciberras, Massa and Mizzi? It’s not easy to decide. The varied and dense poems tagged with the spokeshave label are not dated.

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