The Malta Independent 18 January 2019, Friday

Trailblazers

Charles Flores Tuesday, 18 December 2018, 08:33 Last update: about 2 months ago

I cannot explain how Jesus is said to have walked on water and I do not know how Donald Trump became President of the United States, but my current conundrum concerns the way this small, once conservative island state has, over the past five years, truly become a nation of trailblazers. It must be a generational thing.

While it does, in a way, take many of us back to the Sixties when a new generation of trailblazers was surfacing in all fields of human activity, from music, literature and the arts to technology, liberal views and cultural attitudes, this one, however, offers much wider global dimensions. Malta’s unique spearhead in the fields of blockchain technology, artificial intelligence, and, in a more practical, more comprehensible sense for the poor layman such as me, the granting of rights to minorities with particular reference to LGBTIQ rights.

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One only has to bear in mind that this exciting new period, at least for those who dare look ahead rather than just cling to the status quo, really started when the presiding force behind this 21st century powerhouse of trailblazers, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, was still in Opposition. The divorce issue of 2012 had catapulted a happily regrowing liberal movement to the front seat of power, remarkably shared by elements from both sides of the House of Representatives, to eventually achieve the clear-cut results that are now part of modern Maltese history.

Contrast Malta’s and the Benelux countries’ positivism during the recent meeting of EU social affairs ministers to the sickening attitude of Hungary and Poland. Malta and the Benelux countries had insisted on the inclusion of LGBTIQ people being among those who deserve the EU’s special attention when it comes to creating an “inclusive, safe and non-discriminatory online space” for gender equity in the digital era but the objecting representatives actually torpedoed a joint statement on the issue.

In the end, the Austrian presidency of the meeting adopted the text with the reference to LGBTIQ included, but it was sheepishly classified under “presidential conclusions” in the impossible hope of bridging the great divide between Warsaw and Budapest and the rest of the EU where questions of fundamental values are concerned. Both regressive countries are, after all, facing disciplinary proceedings for violating EU democratic norms on which the much-vaunted Portuguese ventriloquist, Ana Gomez who we now know revels in the company of the unlikeliest of friends, hardly ever seems tempted to shout insults at them.

Trailblazing of course has its own dangers. Change is always a risky business and only the highly skilful and the better prepared can handle it and carry it with much success. In our case, as a nation that used to pine for a new wave of change after the lethargic, imploding days of the Gonzi administration that had completely lost its plot by 2013, we have already been through an ocean of innovation and creativity and the prospects for more are evident. There is dynamism in the Joseph Muscat administration that highlights this process of change, with the Maltese today justifiably continuing to feature as trailblazers in various sectors, not least the economy and sundry services in ever-changing fields such as the digital revolution, health, aviation and, as the very basis of human existence – social justice.

As a string of consecutive elections have shown in recent years, it is much easier for the modern Maltese citizen to identify with this generation of trailblazers, warts and all, rather than with the old vision of a hapless, sedentary nation out of touch with realities, and slowly sinking into its own little piece of quicksand as it asked the mirror on the wall who’s the fairest of them all...

 

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Animals: Taking political correctness too far

 

It is a joy to watch the growing number of people who not only love animals but also do something about their suffering inside laboratories, in the food and clothing industries, as well as the entertainment sector. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is the largest animal rights organisation in the world and has been doing some sterling work by way of public education, cruelty investigations, research, animal rescue, legislation, special events, celebrity involvement and protest campaigns.

However, many have now chosen to take political correctness too far with a social media post in which it suggested that people, animal lovers in particular, stop using phrases like “kill two birds with one stone” and replacing them with kinder, gentler alternatives like “feed two birds with one scone.” Language, particularly the vernacular, is not that easy to manipulate.

As we can see at present, the daily linguistic massacre of Maltese in the media and on the street goes on. Languages can be made to bend and squeeze into uncomfortable shapes and sizes, but it is a natural process rather than a mandatory one that helps create the desired change in the phrases and expressions we use randomly when with family and friends, allies and foes. To stick to the Maltese Language situation, there are two camps – one insists on a puritan approach, dictating how and what people should say words; the other takes the very liberal view of letting people decide how to do all that, and it is amazing how ingenious people can be when they work their tongue. The colourful list of Maltese swearwords vouches for that.

Playing language police is never a good idea and political correctness can lead to all that, alas. The examples are numerous and do not just refer to animals. The word nigger, for example, has been the source of so much discussion over the decades, but only education can and will eventually see that it is finally forgotten and left unused in an obsolete dictionary.

Another example in our own national language is some people’s insistence that one should not refer to the Kordin prisons as “il-ħabs” but rather as the much more polite “faċilità korrettiva”. But honestly, I still have to hear one single person using the latter version in everyday discourse, though it has more or less entrenched itself in most of our enlightened media. The Maltese Language is, in fact, the perfect model of how people build languages over the centuries and not by just withstanding the worst of grammar and political correctness.

The moral of the story? Let the animals roam freely in our everyday conversation – just do not let the suffering go on.

 

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