The Malta Independent 14 November 2019, Thursday

In the real world

Noel Grima Sunday, 20 October 2019, 08:35 Last update: about 25 days ago

When it was announced, last week, that the Xarabank discussion would be not on Daphne Caruana Galizia – on account of the approaching of the second anniversary of her murder – but on a priest, Fr David Muscat, many must have thought that this was a diversionary tactic to take people’s minds off Daphne’s murder and all that it implies. Instead, the programme turned out to be a vintage Xarabank, and the priest a very controversial person who was vociferously attacked and praised in somewhat unequal measure.

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The programme raised a number of issues which I am not going to deal with here, such as whether it is seemly for a priest to tackle such issues, or whether or not he should have attended Norman Lowell’s birthday party.

The core issue of the programme was immigration, the migrants and Malta’s security. The priest’s attitude to these issues was markedly different from that taken by the Pope but this did not seem to unduly bother those, presumably Maltese Catholics, who sided with the priest.

The priest’s words, as much as I could see, did not differ that much from what Matteo Salvini says, or Viktor Orban. These see migrants as a threat, while the Pope sees them as an opportunity. The migrants are a threat to Malta’s security and maybe also a threat to Malta’s lifestock (such as it is in this rather mongrel country).

But what the priest managed to say, in between Peppi’s interjections, was drowned by the vociferous audience and then completely smothered by the myriad comments on various streams of Facebook and other social media.

As far as I could see, or at least when I last saw them, these comments were not monitored and there you have what many Maltese say when they feel they can really express themselves in full freedom.

I don’t really know what goes on in other countries at the same level, but I do know that, judging by these comments we have a problem – a big problem.

It might actually be counterproductive to monitor and smother the discussion, raw as it is. Our people need to express themselves in relative freedom and not in an atmosphere where political correctness inhibits what they really feel.

We have swept this discussion under the carpet too many times, or keep talking about it in a circular manner. At the same time, we have left our doors wide open for far too long, as a result of which our towns and villages have changed beyond recognition. Many now feel that the situation is beyond control and there is nothing that can be done.

It is this feeling of helplessness, I feel, that is pushing people to take extreme positions. The political parties do not help, because they are not giving a lead to people in distress.

Meanwhile, as the second and third waves of migrants spill over from the open centres and find jobs in our economy, find houses in our streets and even open their own shops on our main streets, the Maltese – especially the elderly – grow daily more alarmed. Nobody offers them a solution so they become more and more attracted to extreme positions such as were heard on Xarabank.

And for all the fancy talk about economic growth and L-ahjar zmien, the reality as seen on our streets is anything but that – the quality of life is deteriorating.

Every day we hear of foreigners arraigned in court (not that the Maltese hang back, of course) and while many of the foreigners and the migrants are law-abiding, there is a criminal fringe that has coalesced with the Malta-bred one.

I don’t know if you have noticed, but I see that many people are reinforcing their windows with steel bars, especially at lower levels.

And then for all the xenophobic talk one hears, no action is taken – until one day a leader in the mold of Salvini or Orban appears and people flock to him. The fact that an unknown priest could, in such a short time, become so popular (or controversial) shows there that is a gap in public opinion that needs to be filled.

 

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