The Malta Independent 24 February 2020, Monday

TMIS Editorial: Deaf ears and a culture of indifference

Sunday, 8 September 2019, 11:20 Last update: about 7 months ago

We have either become a pathetic nation or a completely apathetic nation. What was billed as the demonstration of the year yesterday hardly produced the numbers one would have expected given the hype, the promotion and the media coverage it had in its lead-up.

The headcount of yesterday’s ‘Enough is Enough’ protest fell rather short of projections.  Organisers claim there were thousands, others say hundreds and our own headcount placed the number at around a thousand.

This, of course, is no indictment on the protesters who were good enough to have showed up, or causes behind the protest. The organisers should in fact be applauded for their efforts to mobilise Maltese society. 

What it is, rather, an indictment on society, its armchair critics and its fair-weather environmentalists - it was a bit hot yesterday after all.

Any protest of the sort is bound to be something of a flash in the pan but the problem is when the heat fades from that flash away altogether, we are left with nothing but the vestige of an action, the kind of thing that the powers-that-be can very easily ignore and afford to wait out.  Here seems to be precious little follow-up in the wake of such events, the pressure subsides and it is all nicely swept under a rug at Castille.

People take to the streets of Valletta on a Saturday to demand change, to scream ‘enough is enough’. But it really is not enough when all the government needs to do is let the crowds disperse so it can return to the business as usual of running roughshod over the environment and the concerns raised by these rightfully concerned citizens..

Or else people tie themselves to some trees for a couple of hours on a Sunday and expect the government to reverse its grandiose road plans. Think again.

We don’t mean to belittle these efforts, far from it. We want to encourage them. But the fact of the matter is that if this is the most that we have to offer, it sure won’t be enough to force the government into any grand rethink or soul-searching exercise.

All it has to do is merely sit back, batten down the hatches for a while and wait for the storm to blow over as it does time and time again. It promises to quench people's thirst for a better lifestyle and, in return, most will accept anything that is thrown at them.

It is a tried and tested technique that has served the government on good stead well time and time again.

To effect real change, we need more than weekend warriors. And even more than that, to effect any real change, their pleas need to reach the right ears. And judging by past experience, we would say none of those ears are in Malta.

Do we not see that the only voices the government listens to are those from beyond our shores, because they know the repercussions on that stage are potentially disastrous and are not at all as manageable as the Maltese electorate is every five years or so?

And that is why the government is at least pretending to go through the motions and make some cosmetic moves about the sorry state of our rule of law and justice system? That is because people in Brussels and at the Council of Europe are demanding it, and certainly not because of any Maltese protests.

But as for us here in Malta, our protesters’ voices can be conveniently ignored ad infinitum because the government sees them not as a threat, but merely as votes to be manipulated in one way or another every time an election rolls around.

Take the recent example of Hong Kong as a case in point.  They protested for weeks on end until they finally got what they wanted, a retraction of the China extradition bill.  But had it not been retracted, rest assured they would still be out there demanding their democratic rights.

It is difficult to imagine large swathes of Maltese society leaving their creature comforts for too long at a stretch and with such consistency, but that is going to be exactly what it takes of any change at all is to be made.

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