The Malta Independent 3 June 2020, Wednesday

Quoting Roger Waters

Mark A. Sammut Sunday, 15 September 2019, 10:00 Last update: about 10 months ago

My mother - referring to nobody in particular and to everybody in general - loves repeating that "the child is the father of the man", and I think she is right. They spoil you as a child, you're spoilt for life.

A spoilt boy usually grows into an irresponsible man, who misquotes Roger Waters, "I was a child then, now I'm only a man"...

He, the Invincible, is irresponsible. Irresponsible for having seduced a foreign real estate developer with promises of swathes of virgin land and undefiled sea views made in a conversation that lasted five minutes - and now even his Fedelissimo is criticising the utter disrespect the developer (like some of his Maltese colleagues, mind you) has for our historical heritage. Irresponsible for allowing the few to grab the cash with both hands and make a stash, while the many can only look on. Irresponsible for deluding the LGBTI community while now the children they are raising are being made to feel different by their schoolmates, as flagged by a President Emerita. I call it "delusion" on purpose, because children will always point out that the emperor is wearing no clothes.


Irresponsible for not resigning. For proclaiming to the four corners of the world, upon embarking on the journey, that he would spend one term opposing and two terms governing, so that he would only amuse himself playing games only for a while. And now that speculation on his departure date is rife, he won't care about the implications of staying on, as practically a lame duck, while governance runs amok. 

But - to quote Roger Waters again, correctly this time - "Why prolong the agony? All men must die"...

I'm not advocating a palace coup - but certain people within his Party should take action for the sake of the nation. Just tell him, politely and nicely, or even a tad emphatically if need be, to leave, and let his Successor take his place to impose some order on this country that, truth be told, though never quite orderly, has now descended into unprecedented depths of chaos.

This irresponsibility of his is pernicious. It is rare that we immediately face the consequences of myopic, irresponsible strategies. Indeed, the evil that men do lives after them; when a politician's political life is over, the good is oft interred with his bones. And someone else has to clean up the mess. But, whether we face the consequences immediately or over time, face them we must.

It is true that the Successor of the Invincible will have to contend with a legacy difficult to match in terms of political largesse. Many items on the to-do list of so-called "civil rights" have been ticked off, and the cornucopia is now practically empty. (Which is why HD's services are no longer required.) The last two taboos will stand for the moment, as it is clear that the vast majority of the Maltese oppose abortion and euthanasia, even though they accepted to tolerate other "civil rights". After all, many people harmlessly pass their time in the grassland away, only dimly aware of a certain unease in the air. So the Successor will not enjoy the privilege of portraying him/herself as a generous liberator.

But then the Successor will have also to face the consequences and implications of the sudden population boom. There are no guarantees that the political conditions which have allowed the current economic rhythm will last ­- if they do change, the population might shrink, making much of the current infrastructural investment redundant. On the other hand, if the population reaches a plateau or growth continues (at whichever rate), the Successor will have to face the implications and consequences of this and will have to find a solution to the accompanying distribution of wealth problems. These are issues that will have to be addressed by the successor in what remains of this legislature and, also, the successor in the next.

Which is why the Invincible should accept the destiny he freely willed for himself and allow his immediate successor to start taking stock of the situation without further ado, and rein in the wraiths of good governance haunting the country and spreading chaos, bringing pots of gold to the few who are out to get rich quick and frightening the many who want to safeguard the environment, the population's health, and (some of them) simply to achieve basic goals, such as making ends meet every month.

Indeed, "Why prolong the agony? All men must die" ... The Invincible is approaching his political demise. Why prolong the agony? For the sake of the nation, this Invincible must leave. He must stop taking public decisions to further personal interests.


No longer timid

Some time ago, I had written that at the moment the country has a timid Opposition. Now I think it is no longer the case. A few days ago, the PN leader delivered an inspired speech at the PN Mellieħa Club in which he underlined the need to plan a sustainable economy.

It was a relief, to say the least, to hear the word "sustainability" uttered by a politician. It shows responsibility. The country has fallen victim to the here-and-now politics of the current Administration and sustainability has been relegated to the dustbin of "useless ideas". What a disgrace.

In reality, what is useless is the short-termism explored in its multifarious ramifications and with a vengeance by the current Administration. In its quest to secure popular support (which, like a tide, ebbs and flows), it has indulged in irresponsible decisions. The Invincible could write a book, The Art of Irresponsible Politics: How to Sacrifice Good Governance at the Altar of Electoral Victory. Ruling like there's no tomorrow is key; but then also intuiting the right moment to bow out and leave the mess for someone else to clean up.

Sustainability - the word used by the PN leader - is the keyword if we want long-term economic well-being. Short-termism is the recipe for long-term disaster.


Sokkors fil-Pront Foundation

I have known psychiatrist Mark Xuereb for many, many years, since he was a University student. But it was still a (pleasant) surprise for me when he invited me to join the Committee of the nascent Fondazzjoni Sokkors fil-Pront. I was humbled by the trust shown me, but also grateful for the possibility given me to help others.

Tuesday 10th marked the International Day for the Prevention of Suicide, and the Fondazzjoni Sokkors fil-Pront was launched precisely on that day. The Foundation aims to help people who have contemplated the final cut, but luckily did not have the nerve to make it, and to help others whose family members and/or other loved ones either attempted to commit suicide, or, unfortunately, succeeded.

Let us not fool ourselves. Suicidal thoughts occur to more people than we care to admit. It is a veritable problem that afflicts the rich as well as the poor - there's no discrimination.

Suicide is a tragedy not only for the person involved, but also for the persons around him/her. People who experience the suicide of a loved one are subject to serious psychological risks, including not just the risk inherent in the trauma but also the risk of losing one's work or dropping out of the educational system because of the great psychological shock experienced. To my mind, there is a real need for such a voluntary organisation to reach out and help.

The Foundation needs volunteers. These will be trained, according to Befrienders Worldwide protocols; this English charity has also trained Samaritans UK, the Fondazzjoni's sister organisation. Anybody interested can get in touch, on 9933 9966.

I will be involved in the Committee of the Foundation. Previously, for ten years, I was involved in the Committee of another foundation, a Malta-based Italian Foundation that carried out research and studies on degenerative diseases. It organised conferences in Italy and Spain, and commissioned research at Italian Universities; we had even signed a research protocol with the University of Malta. I hope I'll be able to put my Italian experience to good use at Fondazzjoni Sokkors fil-Pront.

The work is plenty, the workers few, but the optimism high.


Caroline Muscat

In the meantime, I want publicly to congratulate journalist Caroline Muscat for winning the prestigious Press Freedom Award. Ms Muscat is known for her investigative journalism and also for having been in Somebody's crosshairs. She works for another news outlet, not this one, but I think that while I sometimes criticise certain other, shoddy news outlets (for their lack of editorial ethics), I must also applaud yet other, serious news outlets for their editorial courage. In this case, there is also a lot of personal courage involved. Bravissima Ms Muscat - keep it up!


My Personal Library (66)

When in 1967, the psychoanalyst and musicologist Hans Keller interviewed "The Pink Floyd" (they later dropped the "The") for the BBC, he was not much impressed. He considered their music loud and repetitive, "a little bit a regression to childhood", even though he added, "but, after all, why not?". In his opinion, "They have an audience, and people who have an audience should be heard".

That was in 1967. Two years later, Pink Floyd had consolidated their position as a popular cultural phenomenon. When the BBC broadcast the landing on the Moon, Pink Floyd supplied the musical background. Later on, Pink Floyd - or should I say, Roger Waters, their main lyric-writer - dared proffer something a little bit "deeper" to the public... albums such as The Dark Side of the Moon, The Wall and The Final Cut contain a "philosophical" element. Many years ago, I used to host a radio show with Ray Azzopardi (our current ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg) and we once dedicated a programme to Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon. I translated the lyrics to Maltese and then Ray and I commented on their meaning and relevance to the problems of everyday life. It was an unforgettable experience, and we received fantastic feedback from listeners.

Now, there's a current in the American publishing industry that tries to capitalise on popular culture. There's a book on The Sopranos and philosophy, and another on Doctor House and philosophy, say. So you will not be surprised to learn that there's a book on Pink Floyd and philosophy called, as you might have already guessed, Pink Floyd and Philosophy: Careful with that Axiom, Eugene! published in 2007.

A number of professors of philosophy teamed up to discuss philosophical themes in Pink Floyd songs. There are essays with titles such as, "Dragged Down by the Stone: Pink Floyd, Alienation, and the Pressures of Life" and "Theodor Adorno, Pink Floyd, and the Dialectics of Alienation". This does not mean that Roger Waters, or any other member of Pink Floyd for that matter, is a "philosopher" in any sense of the word. What it does mean, however, is that artists - irrespective of the idiom they express themselves in - experience the same phenomena that give rise to philosophical speculation and analysis. Hans Keller was right when he said that if somebody has an audience, then s/he deserves to be heard. Keller was referring to the bi-directional communication flow between the artist/philosopher/public thinker/politician and the public.

Thus, if Roger Waters experienced alienation or other modern-day pressures of life, he expressed them in his own way, in words meant to be sung, like Church hymns. As a hymn is not a theological treatise, even though it conveys a message about Man's relationship with God, so a good popular music song is not a philosophical treatise, even though it conveys a message about the problems that philosophy and "serious" thinking too treat (albeit according to a methodology and within certain parameters and a certain system).

The reason is quite self-evident. All said and done, everything under the sun is in tune. You might add, even tongue-in-cheek, "But the sun is eclipsed by the moon"... and we could go on talking about it all night long.

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