The Malta Independent 16 October 2019, Wednesday

I didn’t start the fire

Charles Flores Sunday, 11 August 2019, 10:46 Last update: about 3 months ago

Trust me to trudge into it without really knowing. Honestly, as that great 1989 Billy Joel song intimates, I didn’t start the fire. Only last week I was fancifully showing my distaste for the current tattoo fad in a short, summery piece on how this tribalistic habit has taken over our young men and women. I even went as far as blaming poor old David Beckham for it (deserves it for always scoring against my favourite English team).

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I innocently brought up the factor of good or bad taste of this perturbing fixation with curated noses and ears, navels and lips as well as the really garish tattoos embellishing practically every part of the body, hidden or not. A generational hiccup, I guess.

Then what happens? Out comes the sensationalist story of the Prime Minister’s mini-tattoo with an otherwise wholly justified word some people managed to get a glimpse of during a televised interview. Now, I need to admit our Prime Minister is relatively young and who says he cannot be “with it” as we poor souls wanted to be way back in our youth during the Sixties and Seventies when that expression was raging? Does it mean I have to disavow all that I hurled at this tattooed generation just a couple of weeks back?

I don’t think anyone would want me to do that, not least the Prime Minister himself, given I dare say we share pretty much the same liberal views. But I doubt he was ever warned, as we baby-boomers were, about the “men with tattoos on their arms” when the Mediterranean Fleet sailed into Grand Harbour.

What I did not bargain for with my premonition was the incredibly silly controversy that has followed the revelation of Joseph Muscat’s mini-tattoo when he is certainly not the only politician of his age, anywhere in the world, to have done it. Even worse, out came the usual, over-inflated charlatans on their disjointed caravans to take him to task over his choice of word, as if they have some sort of monopoly on people’s vocabulary. Send in the grammarians this time.

The whole media/social media circus occurred on the very day the latest Eurobarometer revealed no less than 85 per cent of the Maltese consider the country’s economic situation as good, actually the fourth highest among the European citizens interviewed. Tattooed or not, 86% of Maltese also said that their family’s financial situation is good, while only nine per cent, probably bits and pieces from the lost souls of the “Barra Brigade”, said it is bad.

While the Maltese have been hotly and intellectually debating the merits or otherwise of the curious matter of tattoos, the Eurobarometer survey was also telling us that, for a chunky 46 per cent and a hefty 43 per cent of Maltese, migration and housing respectively are their major source of problems.

At the same time, official NSO figures were published that showed, for those who enjoy comparing statistics, how since the change of government in 2013, there has been a remarkable 60 per cent drop in the number of persons who are dependent on social assistance.

Erm, makes more sense to get hot round the collar over these issues, says the firestarter, for another song (Prodigy, 1996).

 

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World gone bonkers

There really has never been a period in the world’s history when different generations of people didn’t think the whole planet was going crazy. The conclusion today, however, is it’s not just a perception, provoked by the odd war here and there or the umpteenth famine always in the same Third World countries, but a sad reality.

Two murderous shootings within hours of each other in the United States have left people speechless. Donald Trump’s reaction to them left them even more dumbstruck. In the UK, a six-year-old French boy was thrown from the tenth-floor viewing platform of the Tate Modern gallery by a 17-year-old. Luckily the boy is no longer in critical condition. In Germany, a 40-year-old Eritrean man killed an eight-year-old boy by pushing him in front of an oncoming train at Frankfurt’s main train station. The man also pushed the boy’s mother but she survived.

Back in the UK, a mother was found guilty last week of murdering her two young daughters because “they got in the way” of her sex life. And for more nauseating fodder, a former BBC newsreader Michael Buerk came out declaring that obese people should be allowed to die early in order to save the National Health Service money. Writing in “Radio Times” magazine, the disgusting Buerk went as far as to state that those who are obese may be making a “selfless sacrifice” to stop the country being overpopulated if they die a decade earlier than the rest of the population. Now isn’t that nice?

Let’s not run with the imagination we’re somehow immune to all this sickening social drift. Our everyday news has taken a similar trait, with Court stories especially indicating the bonkers bug is biting here too. And don’t forget the fascist priest singing praises to the racists among us.

 

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Maltese language loses a stalwart

The sad passing away of Pawlu Mizzi, one of Malta’s leading publishers and the first to harness the sumptuous produce of our writers and poets and putting it on the market as decent, modern publications, was indeed the loss of a stalwart of the Maltese Language.

I have vivid memories of both his gentle nature and business acumen by turning the true Maltese Language book into a feasible project much imitated since. On one occasion I was working on a Maltese translation of my friend Frederic Mullally’s fast-paced 70s novel “The Malta Conspiracy”, only to realise the issue of copyright conditions was too much of a burden to impose on Pawlu’s then fledgling publishing house. The author, however, came to the rescue when he intervened with his publisher to agree to a token payment of a mere 25 Maltese liri. Sadly, Mullally, a former political editor of the Daily Mirror, had to leave the Island urgently following sudden family circumstances, and the whole project was shelved where it has remained since.

Pawlu Mizzi, though, typically never forgot it and he smilingly brought it up every time our paths crossed on the Maltese literary scene. His word was his bond.

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