The Malta Independent 18 February 2020, Tuesday


Alfred Sant MEP Thursday, 22 August 2019, 07:56 Last update: about 7 months ago

Up to now in Europe, the fear of populism has been defined by the feeling that populists hijacked the grievances and frustrations of citizens to create a movement that could reach all corners. Their stand has been the defence at all costs of the people’s “interests” against forces that wanted to dilute them in other, wider concerns, where they would end up weakened and betrayed.


A problem of populism however has been that of its very nature, it must necessarily remain constricted within national frontiers. So long as these are wide enough, like in the US, perhaps such a disadvantage is not too burdensome.

Yet as Matteo Salvini discovered prior to the last European elections, it is a complicated task for populists to build a continental alliance. Even if the intention is to create an effective union among European populist forces, no populist can abandon the imperative of the nationalist priority.

Moreover, when it comes to voting in European fora, abstention becomes rife within the populist electorate. This is what happened last May.



A friend of mine (a highly experienced teacher who will soon retire) said: There is much talk going on about school syllabi! But what should be really discussed is the cultural capital that we endow our students with.

He said: Consider for instance Maltese history. Does it make sense that our students get to know about it at secondary school so they will understand how our society of today, which is theirs, got to be what it is? It does. But you’ll find that most of them leave school either in total ignorance about the subject or with vastly confused ideas regarding what happened in Malta, not just in the period of the Arabs or the British, but even during the last fifty years!

I simply listened. Except for a few history addicts, the Maltese believe that the story of their own country had best be left for history addicts to enjoy. 


Bells of St Helen's

This year at the festa of St Helen in B’Kara, which has for a long while become one of the major events in the festa calendar, I noticed a feature that in past years did not strike me so much: the ringing of bells. Previously, I used to listen to them without really noticing what was going on, merely as a background to the movement of crowds in the streets and squares of the village.

The bells still supply this background.

Yet if one pays attention to how they’re being played, there come moments when one realizes they are putting on their own separate concert.

This is what happened say during the hour to seven in the evening on the feast day. To become aware of the concert going on, one needed to listen from far off, not from under the church steeples, and not from within the din of a crowd.

It was a beautiful and quite complex performance, so that I was astonished this was the first time I noticed what was being done. One could not help being reminded of the traditional English song about the bells of St Clement’s. 

Perhaps this is a redundant suggestion... but it would be a good idea for Maltese church bells to be given a greater “voice”, while... and this goes without saying... preventing them from crashing the hearing of those who happen to live close by.



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