The Malta Independent 20 August 2019, Tuesday

Baby boomers beware

Charles Flores Sunday, 21 April 2019, 10:20 Last update: about 5 months ago

So Pope Benedict XVI, who was the first Pope to resign in 600 years and who recently celebrated his 92nd birthday, has blamed the Catholic clerical abuse scandals on the 1960s sexual revolution – a not-so-new direct hit on the baby-boomers of the world who, it has long been acknowledged, completely changed society during the 1960s and 1970s.

Those years witnessed a remarkable change in the cultural consciousness of people the whole world over, forever changing the way they lived and viewed their lives. As with most change, it was the young – men and women who were born after the human tragedy of WWII – who led the way, dreaming of a world of love, peace and brotherhood. Yet, ironically, it is this generation that mostly gets censured by some, usually old enough to be their fathers and mothers. President Emeritus Eddie Fenech Adami, for example, had also once pinned all Malta’s problems during his Premiership to the “libertarian” days of the Sixties.

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Benedict’s indictment, however, is harder to swallow. It is hardly surprising that there have been theologians who quickly came out to criticise his analysis of the causes of clerical paedophilia. Take Vatican expert Joshua McElwee, who rightly pointed out it does not address “structural issues that abetted abuse cover-up, or Benedict’s own contested 24-year role as head of the Church’s powerful doctrinal office.”

Most of the priests at the time, even if they happened to be baby boomers themselves, distinctly avoided being a part of the Sixties/Seventies social revolution, more so here in Malta where they were still lovingly imposing mortal sin on people who voted Labour and even loudly, albeit absurdly, objecting to Polytechnic students staging a lip-synched version of the Jesus Christ Superstar rock opera which, in fairness, today and for most of this Holy Week can be freely heard on the radio waves. I pride myself in having had the album retrieved from a dark, forgotten corner of the Radio Malta record archives to have it aired, incredibly for the first time, in the mid-80s!

Baby-boomers as a generation have been both lucky and unlucky. Lucky in having been able to change and create things: important things such as civil liberties, religious freedom, anti-war movements, fashion, music and literature among so many others, to frenzied opposition from parents, teachers, minders, mentors and authorities. Unlucky because, somehow, they are always being made the scapegoats for the ills and misfortunes of the world, even in this 21st Century when most of them are now baby-sitting septuagenarians struggling with dentures and aching bones.

There was generational elation when Bill Clinton was the first baby-boomer to become President of the United States. Those young men and women who had been hippies, had been to the first mass open-air concerts as represented forever by Woodstock, had taken part in protests against the Vietnam War and had called for – and eventually got – the introduction of most civil liberties, were finally getting into positions of power and being able to put deeds where there had only been words. It was a pity that Monica Lewinsky had to appear on the scene and, in a lower position, wistfully come up with a completely different deed, but Clinton is still considered to have been one of the best American presidents ever, if you can forget his war-mongering.

But to get back to the Vatican, compare Benedict’s almost pathetic attempt at whitewashing the Roman Catholic Church’s misjudgements with regard to the sexual abuse of children by priests of all ecclesiastical grades, with Pope Francis and his more explicit condemnation and, in recent years, a stronger way of dealing with priestly abuses and their cover-ups. You can get the same contrast by comparing, for example, what Benedict has said about homosexuality – “an intrinsic moral evil” and “an objective disorder” – to Francis standing out, in the eyes of most Catholic boomers, with the words: “Who am I to judge?”

Baby-boomers, however, cannot rest on their flower-power laurels. The backlash continues. Even the Maltese archbishop, a younger baby-boomer himself, has now come out warning that, according to Christian teaching, it is not permissible for the ashes of Catholic people to be disposed of in the air, on land or at sea, and neither can they be retained in a memento, a piece of jewellery or other item. A sort of Easter message to baby-boomers on the long-overdue introduction of cremation, saying: So you think you liberated yourselves? Sorry, you have to stay crammed in a vase.

Who still insists that love is really all you need?

 

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No-Brainer

Some people continue to feel confounded by the spread of racism in football and elsewhere, something we would be stupid to assume does not occur among us. They ask: why now, at a time when equality – irrespective of race, skin colour, gender, disability and sexual orientation – has become more or less a norm in the civilised world?

You only have to watch what has been happening in the political world to trace the root of all this evil. Far-right parties and politicians, most of them appealing to millennials who have hardly read a single history book, are riding a huge wave of support across Europe.We have to thank the early-21st century austerity-minded conservative and centrist governments for their  limp-wristed approach to such  issues as massive immigration and fraudulent bankers and financiers who brought the working class to its knees.

It is cemented in history that misery and frustration often lead to political extremism which is then reflected wherever the masses gather, football stadia in particular. The last time the spectre of racism in sports raised its head was way back in the 1980 when English clubs in particular had to contend with violence and obsessive racism on an everyday basis. The democratic world has since turned full circle and we are back to asking ourselves why and how it has happened. The very presence of politicians such as  Matteo Salvini in Italy, Marine Le Pen in France, Victor Orban in Hungary and other preachers of hate indicates how populism is, sadly, growing on both the left and the right (where it has much more momentum). Outgoing European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, in his final State of the Union speech, referred to it as “unhealthy nationalism”.

In our case we have had to assist to two horrible events – the abhorrent murder of an immigrant and a television interview during which the ageing face of Maltese fascism was downright insulting to the rest of the population with his potpourie of racist ideas and other far-right recipes. To our privilege, his is a lonely, desperate voice in Maltese politics, but those very views find a much stronger, menacing voice all over the European continent and beyond.

 

 

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