The Malta Independent 18 February 2020, Tuesday

How Joseph rules Malta

Mark A. Sammut Monday, 11 February 2019, 11:43 Last update: about 2 years ago

In 1960, Dom Mintoff published a short pamphlet called How Britain Rules Malta. It is the inspiration for the title of today’s article.

A couple of years ago, I visited Belarus, the only European nation-state which does not form part of the Council of Europe. I sat down in a café in downtown Minsk and somehow ended up discussing politics with a chap. He assured me that they are a democratic country and, needless to say, I was immensely intrigued by this bold statement.


“Of course!” he lectured me. “If our government raises the price of something, people will take to the streets and angrily air their views. Our President will duly take note and he will hurry to organise a mass meeting to reassure the people that they have been heard and that they are right. How on earth did the price rise when he never gave the order? The Minister surely misunderstood, and he, the President, will right this obvious wrong. Everything will be back to normal. Now isn't that democracy?”

I smiled. But then last Sunday, I listened to the Prime Minister’s sermon and I heard him talk about the thoughts that cross his mind while he is being driven round the streets of Malta.

Joseph Muscat told his congregation that sometimes he is appalled to see high-rise buildings in streets otherwise characterised by two-storey buildings.

He seemed to indicate that he will look into it, that he will right this obvious wrong.

Then I remembered my Belarus friend’s description of politics in his country. Even they think they live in a functioning democracy. Even they think that it is a functioning democracy when the country’s top man personally needs to see things going astray to then personally take an interest to set matters right. They cannot conceive of a self-regulating system that is governed by laws not by men.

Belgium survived for 589 days without an elected government in 2010-11, that is, five hundred and eighty-nine days. But then, perhaps, Belgium is not a personal “democratic” fief.


The women behind the man?

I have been recently thinking on whom the ideologues of this government are. You know, Eddie Fenech Adami had Peter Serracino Inglott and others; we also know about Lawrence Gonzi and Alfred Sant. It was always the case that we knew who more or less advised the incumbent at Castille on “ideology”. But – and I do stand to be corrected – it seems to me that we are not similarly aware of who advises the current incumbent.

In normal democracies, the identity of the intellectuals close to the top people is known to the public and is thus open to fair and legitimate scrutiny.

For instance, when the French newspaper Le Figaro interviewed philosopher Diego Fusaro last summer, it introduced him as an ideological adviser to Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi di Maio and Matteo Salvini (“home qui murmured à l'oreille de Di Maio et Salvini“). But what about Malta?

Consider when the Prime Minister infamously changed his mind on gay adoption. If I have to be frank, I do not believe his story. It was obvious from day one that once he had legislated gay marriage, he had no choice but to legislate gay adoption – otherwise there would have been a glaring case of discrimination. But do you remember his narrative? Since he had publicly expressed his opposition to gay adoption prior to the elections and then had to make a U-turn to honour what were probably pre-electoral pledges made to a particular lobby, he justified his volte-face by claiming that he had read one book and changed his mind!

One book?!

How is that for a serious approach to ideological matters? One book and down the hole we fall...? What was it, a momentary lapse of reason? How can such important decisions be taken on the strength of one book? What book was it, anyway?

Joseph Muscat has been governing this country for almost six years, and we (or at least I) do not know for sure who his ideologues are. If you know, please write their names in the comments section in the online version of this article.


Salvu Balzan, Lovin Malta e la bella compagnia

There are two types of journalists in Malta. Serious journalists and the others.

Just consider Salvu Balzan and the Lovin Malta crowd.

Salvu Balzan, author of the second worst book of the decade (I shall be writing about the worst book of the decade in the near future), this week devoted an obnoxious video blog to Franco Debono.

Now, let me be frank. I have no intention of breaking a lance in defence of Dr Debono – I would be insulting him, as he is capable of defending himself and surely does not need me or anyone else for that purpose. But I do want to underline my utter disgust at Mr Balzan’s kitchen sink sikoloġija. (Yes, according to Mr Balzan, who is as knowledgeable as the next turnip, the “p” is silent in Maltese!) So is Mr Balzan now a homespun sikologu? I used to think of Media Today journalism as yellow, or even gutter, journalism. Now I have to rethink that assessment. They are worse.

Then there is the Lovin Malta crowd, and their recent faux pas in the Adrian Delia 500-euro-note shenanigan. They had to admit that they did not have any proof for their mud slinging. Now they have started a pro-abortion campaign. My question is: what is abortion to them? Why do they advocate the introduction of the abominable practice of mothers killing their offspring in the womb? Or perhaps I should recalibrate and ask: Who is paying them for this campaign? They should come clean.


The Sea in Ħaz-Żebbuġ

My father did not always give me a present on my birthday. On one birthday when he did, it consisted of two books by C.G. Jung. One of them was Jung's autobiography, in which he narrated how he had felt the inevitability of the First World War from the aggressive nature of the dreams of the people who consulted him. As many readers know, Jung is the one who “discovered” the “collective unconscious”.

Why am I mentioning Jung, and out of the blue to boot?

Because this week, another Żebbuġi notary posted a message on a Ħaz-Żebbuġ Facebook page sharing a recurring childhood dream of hers. She used to dream that that part of Ħaz-Żebbuġ known as Ħal Muxi (the part facing Rabat) had a seashore. This dream intrigued me, because I know somebody else who used to have a recurring childhood dream about a seaport, but in Wied Qirda, one of Ħaz-Żebbuġ's seven valleys. I think that the Wied Qirda version is more credible because it faces Ħal Qormi and lies only some 5 km from Grand Harbour.

A few years ago, I met a man of Żebbuġi origins who had submitted a thesis to the University of Malta claiming that in the past Malta was criss-crossed by navigable waterways. He based his extraordinary claim on a couple of old maps he had uncovered during his research. As far as I know, the University did not accept this thesis.

However, it would be interesting to know if other Żebbuġin share this dream. Who knows what might be stored in our "collective unconscious"? What do professional psychologists (in English the “p” is silent) think of Jung and his ideas?


My "Personal" Library (39)

A fortnight ago I cheated by quoting a movie when this part is devoted to books.

I am writing this piece in my father's study and today I will cheat again. I refer to a publication I found in my father's, not in my own, private collection of books. While rummaging through his library, I chanced on the very first issue of an AŻAD publication, Perspektiv, published in October 1977.

There is a beautiful article by the late Dr Joseph (Peppinu) Cassar (who passed away in 2017), called “The Catholic Left in Malta”. This four-page article (pages 22-26) is a little gem. Let me quote one snippet:

“Many of those who still organise crusades against Communism are not aware how disgusting is a system which considers profit as the essential factor of progress, competition as the supreme law in the economic sphere, private ownership of the means of production as an absolute right without corresponding limits and social obligations. Yet all this is what is meant by Capitalism... The Christian has the duty to work for peace and for the destruction of barriers which keep the human race apart. Instead of spending billions of dollars to build their armouries to be able to destroy each other, nations should work hand in hand to destroy the misery which afflicts a large part of the world. This is not utopian fantasy. It is an ideal for which every Christian must strive... against hunger, injustice and oppression. Solidarity and fraternity should be the ideals to go by.”

Last Sunday, while Joseph Muscat was delivering his sermon about the urban planning madness that has seized this nation and its leaders, and about his theory that we need foreign workers to sustain our present pension system, Nationalist Leader Adrian Delia was delivering a powerful speech in the AŻAD headquarters in Valletta. He spoke about many subjects, but I particularly liked that he reiterated his party's commitment to defend unborn life.

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