The Malta Independent 7 July 2020, Tuesday

Like a fly in the jungle

Mark A. Sammut Sunday, 20 October 2019, 10:50 Last update: about 10 months ago

In international law there is a fiction: all States are equal in the international system. The reality is that it is just that: fiction. Some States are stronger, others are weaker and power is reflected in how they treat, and are treated by, other States. In the world of realpolitik, power (be it military or economic, or both) sets the rules of the game.

When we look at our own little State, we immediately realise that we are as powerful as a fly in the jungle, while other States are lions, elephants, gorillas...


We exist as an independent state only because we are tolerated by the system, not because we can really stand on our own two feet. It also means that our Prime Minister understands international politics as much as that fly in the jungle. He seems to think that gambling in international politics is for everybody, and that an understanding of the link between cause and effect is a bonus. So now he is gambling with the country’s reputation.

But his gambling is very much like the fly’s. The fly is not attracted to pollen, or to fruits, or to blood, or to decaying food, like most other insects. No, the fly is attracted to other stuff. And it’s in that such other stuff that the Invincible’s gambling will ultimately get us. In deep “such other stuff”. And when that such other stuff will start hitting the fan, I don’t know how we’re going to get out of it untainted and not smelling foul.

A source from the banking sector told another newspaper last week that “some banks do not want to touch high-risk sectors such as gaming, medical marijuana and cryptocurrencies. We are ringing all the alarm bells on this front.”

This is the equivalent of “such other stuff”. And just like the fly is attracted to it, so is The Invincible.

So we are as powerful as a fly in the jungle, and like flies we fly around...


Pro-Life Budget?

Let us not be fooled by the apparently pro-life initiative found in the Budget of this year.

Let’s be frank. If taken by itself, it’s a very good initiative. But in the wider context of the ongoing debate, in which a vociferous minority is clamouring for the legalisation of abortion, it is highly suspicious. That this minority can clamour with such intensity is indicative of official support from behind the scenes.

So to grasp the meaning of the new benefit of €300 to parents for every newborn or adoption to help out with the costs, one has to keep in mind the context. It’s a bit like that famous kiss used to betray somebody who was supposedly a friend... a kiss, a universally-recognised symbol of friendship and love, was used for the vilest gesture of all: betrayal.

The context depends very much on what is being increasingly perceived as the real ideology driving this government: neoliberalism. Government believes in laissez-faire, allowing (almost) everyone to do whatever they think best, and then, somewhere along the line, a hidden hand will fix any problems that may have arisen. Like the equality of States in the international system, this too is fiction. Because chaos cannot breed order. The natural way with things is the exact opposite: order descends into chaos. For order to come out of chaos, you need a lot of hard work and discipline, and to keep away from the path of least resistance.

With this ideology of laissez-faire as backdrop, we can properly understand what this seemingly pro-life measure really means. In the wider context of symbolic discourse, this government is implying that whatever you choose, the State will let you do (laisser faire) and will support you. If you want to have a child, the State will give you €300. If you start the process to have a child but then change your mind... the implication seems to be that a day will come, perhaps in the not-too-distant future, when the State will help you with that too.

So the €300 benefit is not a pro-life measure. It is a deviously pro-choice preparatory measure, paving the way for things yet to come.

Our struggle against the devaluation of life does not stem solely from religious or abstract thinking. It is deeply rooted in practical considerations, as the devaluation of life brings widespread cynicism in its wake. Considering an unborn child as a mere “bunch of cells” or an old person as a “useless human wreck well past its use-by-date” is not just an aberration against morality and religion. It can impact you and your life, and leave you without cover under the bombardment of other people’s selfishness. That bunch of cells could be your son/daughter whom your wife/partner goes to eliminate behind your back. That useless old wreck could be you, in your old age.


My Personal Library (71)

Sena Missjoni fl-Albanija (1997) and its sequel Lura fl-Albanija 1998-2001: Nissoktaw il-mixja ’l quddiem (2002) are two touching memoirs by the late Ġwann Frendo, O.P. (1938-2003), who devoted his life to showering brotherly love on people he didn’t know. It is such a strange ideal to pursue, probably has always been, but I would say particularly in these times of “self-realisation” and consumerism.

These books describe the Maltese Catholic mission in post-Communist Albania, and are characterised by paradox – a “naive” man seeks to attain utopian objectives but is also wise to the ways of the world (he speaks of Albanian politicians who “tħammġu bil-korruzzjoni u l-flus”). For the tepid believer or the non-believer, they are precious snapshots of the society of this obscure country. For the believer, they are testament to the fact that we can all live an ideal.

I know another Dominican who has accumulated a wealth of knowledge on Albania. I hope he will one day produce a book to convey it, like his predecessor Ġwann Frendo O.P. did.

  • don't miss