The Malta Independent 15 November 2018, Thursday

Where there’s life, there’s hope

Mark A. Sammut Sunday, 9 September 2018, 09:48 Last update: about 3 months ago

I could write about the implications of the resignation this week of a French Minister because she is being investigated on a tax-related matter, but I am beginning to feel it’s quite useless. We are not a nation of idiots, and we know that secret companies in secret jurisdictions are wrong, and why. Yet nothing happens. So let’s talk about other matters, shall we?

 

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9/10

The day after tomorrow is 9/11, September 11. On that day, in 2001, suicide terrorists belonging to al-Qaeda hijacked and crashed two planes into the World Trade Center in New York City and another one into the Pentagon Building in Virginia, changing the course of history as a result. (A fourth hijack was thwarted by the passengers.)

I still remember my father calling me from the other room to watch the tragedy aired live on TV. We were all shocked that day. Not because of the suicides, but because of the homicides, which devastated thousands of families who lost their loved ones, for no valid reason except the perpetrators’ ideology and the element of stupidity in international politics.

Tomorrow is 9/10, September 10, World Suicide Prevention Day. In Malta, we have a crisis team called Crisis Resolution Malta, devoted to help people vulnerable to suicide and their loved ones. It offers free-of-charge consultations on their 24/7 help-line 9933 9966.

There are about 20-40 suicides every year in Malta. But consider that for every successful suicide, there are 20 attempted ones. This means that every year, between 400 and 800 people in Malta try to take their own lives because of one or more of many reasons. But they are not the only ones to suffer. According to the WHO, for every suicide or attempted suicide, six loved ones are affected: they are at risk of suicide, mental illness, marginalisation, unemployment, and so on. This increases the number of people affected by suicide by a factor of six. I believe that Crisis Resolution Malta is not just a team of professionals living out their vocation. I believe that they are carrying out a mission.

There are many causes for suicide, some of them genetic, others psychological, cultural, and environmental. From what I have read, it seems that social isolation is one of the deadliest situations an individual can find himself or herself in. Practitioners recommend reaching out to people who might feel isolated... a little gesture can save a life.

To spread this message, an initiative is being promoted worldwide: light a candle near a window on September 10 at 8pm. The idea is to reach out to those who are vulnerable to suicide, and to their families and friends.

What strikes me most about this issue is that despite all the factoids and myths peddled by the Neoliberals, real Science demonstrates that conservative-communitarian values are what individuals really need. Individuals do not need the myth of complete autonomy, which is the myth promoted by Neoliberalism in order to create a new labour force ready to accommodate the needs of the capitalist elite. What individuals need is a community, represented first by the family, then by the State and by faith in a Higher Entity.

It strikes me, for instance, that the cure for alcoholism and sex addiction includes the belief, and having faith, in God.

 

Priceless interview

The television interview with Police Sergeant Carabott – the police officer who found the abandoned baby earlier this week – was priceless. The sheer joy emanating from the man’s face when he narrated his role in saving a newborn from God knows what fate, was palpable and contagious. He must have felt that he was really living up to the Police Corps motto, Domine dirige nos (God guides us).

The interview indirectly drove home two significant points.

One, that much of the feminist, leftist-liberal rhetoric on patriarchy and similar myths is essentially hate speech.

Two, that even abandonment (as bad as it is) is preferable to abortion. Despite the mother’s situation, that baby has been given the chance to live. As the late Stephen Hawking once said, “However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. Where there’s life, there’s hope.”

 

The Children Act

This British movie, based on a novel by Ian McEwan, was premiered last year, but I only watched it this week. It opens with a fictionalised version of the real conjoined Siamese twins case of many years ago which had involved a Maltese family, to introduce us to the moral dilemmas Judge Fiona Maye (played by Emma Thompson, whose face has been described by The Spectator as “a face that can say more about intelligence than any words could”) has to face on an almost daily basis. It then moves on to introduce the real legal problem at the heart of the drama: a Jehovah’s Witnesses 17-year-old boy, named Adam, needs a blood transfusion but his parents won’t consent due to their religious belief. The boy could not have had any other name, since “Adam” derives from the Semitic word related to “blood” – consider the Maltese demm – apart from “earth” and “red”.

It’s an intelligent movie even though the drama unfolds in a strange fashion. In an unprecedented move, and despite knowing full well what the law lays down, the Judge visits the minor in hospital to listen to what he has to say. She ends up being drawn to the boy by his love of poetry and his inquisitive mind.

But Judge Maye’s personal life is in turmoil. Her childless marriage is on the brink of breaking down, and her husband, a philosophy lecturer, announces he intends having an affair with a colleague.

I won’t spoil the movie – I’ll just say that the Judge saves the boy’s life, though something still happens to him which will somehow reunite her with her husband.

In reality, the plot is the film’s secondary motive. It’s actually a didactic movie: it wants to teach a number of (controversial) things to the audience, among which that, for a brief moment in history (as the Judge’s husband tells his students) when the gods had died and before Christ was born, Man lived freely without God, and produced Epicurean philosophy. In other words, if above us there’s no heaven, only sky, and there’s no hell below us, if there’s no religion too, then people would live for today and (possibly) in peace. Then again, it also wants to teach that ambition for career women who sacrifice their motherhood carries a hefty price tag.

For me it was like a throwback to my student days and Professor Giuseppe Mifsud Bonnici’s lectures, which he called “Philosophy of Law” but which I would now call “Legal Theory”. The movie brims with questions (and politically correct answers) on the relationship between religion, morality, and law. I think it is a must-see for lawyers... but also for sociologists and others who deal with social and moral issues, and pundits. The last category, though, particularly some of those from the Media Today stable, should watch it only to try to fathom how shallow their thinking usually is.

 

My Personal Library (21)

When I was a child – possibly 10 or 11 years old – my father read to me, giving me the impression that we were reading it together, The Importance of Being Earnest. I don’t know if I really understood all the wit, but I do remember that it was a sunny afternoon full of laughter. But my father also read GK Chesterton’s The Donkey to me, and if my memories are like books on shelves in a library, then the memory of listening to that poem stands next to the memory of listening to The Importance of Being Earnest, on the same shelf.

A few years later, I won a prize from the British Council, a handsome edition of Oscar Wilde’s Complete Works. I devoured it, and then his biography – a short study on his fatal legal tribulations and his lawyer Edward Clarke and the lawyer who destroyed him, Edward Carson.

Wilde’s brilliant career as author and socialite was killed by a suit he brought against the father of his (male) lover for calling him “somdomite” (sic). Wilde was later found guilty of sodomy and jailed for two years. Upon release, he left Britain and lived in exile in Paris where he still shined as a socialite, though his light had by now become somewhat different. He died three years later, in 1900, having converted to Catholicism a short while before.

As my father grew older, he grew less interested in Wilde and more interested in Chesterton. Chesterton wrote an insightful essay on Wilde’s “very powerful and very desolate philosophy” labelling it the “carpe diem religion”.

Now that all these years have passed, I look back and I no longer think that the lawyer Carson destroyed Wilde. I think Wilde destroyed himself by committing moral suicide. Today I re-read Wilde’s brilliant and sophisticated farces with Chesterton eyes, and, whereas an obligatory smile dutifully takes its place on my lips, I perceive profound sadness in Wilde’s wit.

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