The Malta Independent 22 July 2019, Monday

TMID Editorial: Good Neighbourhood Dinner - Combating a ‘culture of insults’

Saturday, 15 June 2019, 11:30 Last update: about 2 months ago

We are all human - that was the highlight of the message given by Archbishop Charles Scicluna during a dinner organised earlier this week by the Maltese Curia for which people with different backgrounds, religions and race were invited.

It was a noble gesture by the Maltese Church, one that is greatly needed in a world that boasts of globalisation and yet finds little time for the individual. As the Pope said a few days ago, “the more we use social media, the less social we are becoming”.

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The Good Neighbourhood Dinner, as the event was called, will hopefully not be a one-off activity but a regular occurrence.

In the eyes of many, when the word diversity is mentioned it would be interpreted to mean just referring to differences of skin colour. The arrival of migrants on boats over the last two decades or so has somewhat given an erroneous and limited definition of the word.

But diversity should not just mean whites or blacks. It means much more. Thankfully, here in Malta we have come to accept different sexualities more than we used to just a decade ago, but there are certainly other areas of diversity which keep us apart.

Politics, for example, is unfortunately a means of great division. And we know so much about this in our country. We’ve had politicians which have sowed division; there have also been times when the Church itself was accused of interfering too much and causing rifts.

More recently, we have experienced this social media growth which, yes, did bring long-lost friends back in contact and forged new friendships, but has also established another platform where people cause harm to each other, with words, sometimes irreversibly so. Bloggers sprouted from every corner too and, although there are many with good intentions, others have provoked conflict.

To quote the pope again, "nowadays it is fashionable to hurl adjectives and, sadly, even insults" in what's tantamount to "a culture of insults." Whereas, in the past, people used to “insult” each other within four walls or in a bar, at times leading to a scuffle with the matter ending soon afterwards, today these offences are exposed on a much wider stage and last longer, even because others intervene from all corners of the world.

People find it comfortable to attack others via computer or mobile phone. Hate speech has been on the rise ever since social media saw the light of day and, although some have been punished for their actions, too many others have been let off. It is hard, if not impossible, for the authorities to prosecute all offenders.

But each and every one of us should be more careful, and think twice before rushing to upload a post which is offensive. Whether it has to do with politics, religion, sports, village feasts and other subjects that could create division, remember that there are times when it’s better to keep your thoughts to yourself than to incite others.

 

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