The Malta Independent 18 July 2024, Thursday
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Enough with the hair-shirts and self-flagellation

Daphne Caruana Galizia Thursday, 20 June 2013, 08:30 Last update: about 11 years ago

The Nationalist Party is not going to get anywhere fast if it carries on parading about in a hair-shirt and ankle-chains, whipping itself and chanting ‘mea culpa, mea maxima culpa’.

At the risk of repeating myself yet again, losers don’t spend their days analysing why they lost. Instead they concentrate on working out why the others won. The two are not the same.

Joseph Muscat did not spend any time at all shredding himself publicly in angst over why Labour lost so many elections in a row. Rather the opposite: he got stuck right in there telling Laburisti what a lot they have to be proud of, which they really don’t. Why do you think they made so much fuss about Mintoff’s government having decriminalised sodomy in 1974? It’s because there was nothing else to boast about, and mountains of cause for shame. But there was no apology, was there? Instead, we got told to move on, stop living in the past, and not be ‘negative’.

Those were 16 years of plunder, deprivation, virtual imprisonment in our island gulag, Soviet politics and corruption that ruined the country and the prospects of a generation and more – and I haven’t even begun on Alfred Sant in government or what the Labour Party was like in Opposition. But what did Joseph Muscat do? He brought back the very same people who did all that, bar Sant, glorified the arch perpetrator Mintoff until even those who should know better ended up believing that he was somehow good for Malta, and then rechristened the Years of Hell as The Golden Years. And he organised a sanitised exhibition to celebrate the very period for which he should have apologised, rewriting the entire narrative of Labour history, which also meant rewriting Malta’s.

Meanwhile, the Nationalist Party took Malta from the cross between Libya and Albania that it was in 1987 to an uber-materialistic EU member state where people have more money than sense and complain about the slightest thing because they have forgotten what real hardship is. And it apologises. Apologise for what, exactly? For ensuring that we don’t have to leave the country to find out what normality is? For taking us into the European Union against Muscat’s best efforts to keep us out? For changing life, work and education in Malta beyond all recognition?

Imagine what the Labour Party, which has made a five-year meal out of the decriminalisation of anal sex 40 years ago, would have done with that. Instead, the PN grovel. And they sit there and take it when Muscat sneers that they’re being negative and haven’t “learnt their lesson”.  Normality has been turned on its head: the ones who really should be grovelling are instead basking in glory and instructing the ones who should be thanked that they should instead apologise and learn their lesson.

This is sheer, utter madness. By grovelling and apologising, the Nationalist Party are playing right into Muscat’s hands by picking up the threads of his very narrative: Labour = good; PN = bad; Labour has nothing to apologise for and lots to be proud of (the decriminalisation of sodomy; Mintoff); the Nationalists are scum and at last they’ve admitted it because just look at them grovel.

Simon Busuttil said a few days ago at a party event that “36,000 people can’t be wrong”. Of course they can. A hundred thousand people can be wrong; a hundred million can be wrong. Rightness and wrongness do not derive from popularity of belief or opinion. To correlate whether people are right or wrong to how many people did or think the same way is a logical fallacy. Some of them already know they were wrong. They are able to see it, some even to admit it.

It is self-defeating of the Nationalist Party to suggest in any way that the people who switched from voting for the PN to voting for Labour were in any way right to do so. This is the equivalent of a manufacturer telling the press that its clients couldn’t have been wrong to take their business elsewhere, given that so many of them did so. You might think a lot about that and discuss it in private, in the boardroom, but never say it in public.

Also, it is ever so slightly insulting to those who, like me, did not switch from the Nationalist Party to the Labour Party, not because we are ‘diehard’ but because our critical faculties are in order and we were not carried away by the euphoria that happens sometimes in different societies, causing them to go ‘mad’ for a limited time, until the bubble bursts and reality sets in (the historic Tulip Fever being a case in point).

If those who switched couldn’t have been wrong, then that must make the 130,000 of us who did not switch the ones who are wrong. And that’s not a great message of thanks to those who gave the party their vote because they could see for a fact that it was and still is by far the better option.

Since the departure of Eddie Fenech Adami, the Nationalist Party has consummately failed to understand that it is in human nature to admire certainty and self-assurance in leaders. Not arrogance, not by any means, but certainty, which is different. Being ‘humble’, a word which so many Maltese people use mistakenly when what they mean is ‘humility’, gets you nothing but a good kicking. This lesson should have been learned the hard way, through the way certain PN backbenchers behaved with contempt, causing contempt to grow among the electorate.

In fact, the one significant thing the Nationalist Party has to be ashamed of is putting its trust in scabrous individuals like John Dalli, Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, Franco Debono and Jesmond Mugliett (and a few others who shall go unmentioned).

The Labour Party, with its long and shameful history, struts about with pride, and the Nationalist Party hangs itself in shame and expects us to admire it for doing so. Joseph Muscat even refuses to admit error, still less apologise for, campaigning for five years to keep us out of the European Union. Imagine what our lives would be like today had he succeeded. But he’s not sorry. And beyond that, he’s understood that the nature of things in Malta has it that the more you crawl, grovel and apologise, the more people will despise you. But if you brazen it out, they’ll play your tune and behave as though you did nothing wrong. Look at John Dalli.

The Nationalist Party has it, but it doesn’t flaunt it. The Labour Party doesn’t have it, but it flaunts it all the same. It’s about time the Nationalist Party began flaunting its wares and doing a spot of really vulgar boasting. This is Malta. That’s what people understand: boasting and showing off. And Maltese society is highly susceptible to the creation of myths.

If the Labour Party can rebrand the Years of Hell 1971 to 1987 as The Golden Years and brainwash even the people who lived and suffered through them, what can the Nationalist Party do with its unbelievable transformation of Malta after those corrupt and violent maniacs were kicked out in May 1987?

It’s about time they began pointing out to people that all that didn’t just happen. They did it.

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