The Malta Independent 7 July 2020, Tuesday

Orbot il-Ħmara, Ġuż!

Mark A. Sammut Sunday, 10 November 2019, 10:36 Last update: about 9 months ago

... fejn jgħidlek sidha – a slight variant on a Maltese proverb that could be translated as “Tie the jenny where her owner tells you”. (In reality, the proverb refers to the “donkey” not the “jenny”.) The jenny in our case is the Republic of Malta, that belongs to the People, not to the Administration.

The sovereignty of this country belongs to the People. The People does need a leader, but the leader of a country is not the equivalent of the owner of a company.


Joseph Muscat took over the Labour Party and transformed it from a workers’ movement into a Liberal Movement, without really explaining what his plans were. Now, having taken over the country, Dr Muscat wants to conform it to his ideas, by reforming the Constitution. He would be justified in imposing his Revolution had he explained his ideas in a book published in advance, so as to allow to People to acquaint itself with, and digest them.

Instead, like a Fairy Godmother of the French literary genre préciosité, Dr Muscat promised certain Cinderella lobbies that he would grant their wishes; in return these Cinderella lobbies have guaranteed his success at the polls, enabling him to bypass the normal process followed in mature democracies, whereby a Revolution is preceded by a detailed manifesto that enables the (thinking part of the) People to understand and actively (and knowingly) support the project being proposed.

But while promising an earthquake, Dr Muscat never quite considered it necessary to inform the electorate in advance what it would consist of. Indeed one of his ministers even flaunted her satisfaction at how cunning they all were at hoodwinking the electorate. She stopped short of calling voters ħmir.

(For those interested in learning Maltese, ħmar is donkey, ħmara jenny, ħmir the plural.)

Dr Muscat’s bypassing the political ritual that is customary in developed democracies has no precedent in Maltese politics. Dom Mintoff wrote short political treatises, e.g. How Britain Rules Malta and Malta Betrayed: Truncheons and Tyrants; the Nationalists published Perspektiv; Alfred Sant penned Malta’s European Challenge and Is-Soċjaliżmu fi Żminijietna. They all aimed to allow voters to weigh their respective visions.

This is normal practice in developed democracies. In Italy: Dr Muscat’s (former?) best buddy Matteo Renzi published Un’altra strada. Idee per l’Italia di domani and Avanti. Perché l’Italia non si ferma; his nemeses, Matteo Salvini: Io sono Matteo Salvini. Intervista allo specchio and Secondo Matteo. Follia e coraggio per cambiare il paese, and Giorgia Meloni: Noi crediamo. Viaggio nella meglio gioventù d'Italia. In Britain, Dr Muscat’s one-time hero: Cameron on Cameron: Conversations with Dylan Jones  (self-evidently) by David Cameron and Dylan Jones. In France: Révolution: Réconcilier la France by Emmanuel Macron, the man with whom Dr Muscat has shared an advisor... and so on and so forth. In the Real Europe – not the Europe of Muscatian Propaganda – politicians (even if sometimes only formally) respect the electorate, and allow the electorate to make informed decisions.

It is only Malta’s Joseph Muscat who is planning a Revolution without having told the People in advance what his vision is about, in writing. He only caused to be published a photo album full of propaganda, a few weeks before a snap election, without any real attempt to explain his vision in words. He has treated the People as if we were a pace of ħmir.

He wants to reform the Constitution, but we don’t really know what his ideas for reform consist of. It’s all shrouded in Muscatian mystery. On top of that, the reform will be in the hands of a President of Malta who is an excellent doctor but, I am reliably informed in writing by people who are very close to His Excellency, is quite unsure about his knowledge on human rights, an integral part of any modern Constitution. This is worrying.

The ħmara belongs to the People; Dr Muscat should tie her were the jenny’s owner – the People – tells him. But there’s a slight possibility that Dr Muscat got mixed up by Biblical symbolism, according to which riding a donkey represents an act of kingship. Let’s not be fooled, however, as the world is wonderful: when the king rides the donkey, it is also the best time of the donkey’s life because it is ridden by the king – as Chesterton reminds us in his famous poem:

Fools! For I also had my hour;

   One far fierce hour and sweet:

There was a shout about my ears,

   And palms before my feet.


So perhaps Dr Muscat thinks that the jenny is the People, and he is riding her and then tying her where he thinks best. Jorbot il-ħmara fejn jgħidlu moħħu, waqt li lilna joħroġna ta’ ħmir.


Said of Boris, applies to Somebody as well?

The Guardian, the British newspaper, this week published a satirical piece that a friend alerted me to. It says this about Boris: “But with Johnson, we are in an ethical wild west. He doesn’t really believe in anything except himself. He is the career sociopath for whom other people are mere satellites orbiting a never satisfied ego.” Don’t you know Somebody else who fits this description?


Portelli and Callus

Nationalist MPs Marthese Portelli and Ryan Callus have done the right and courageous thing to stand up for their principles and stand down from the Planning Authority Board and the Lands Authority Board respectively. This way they will not be accomplices to the onslaught.

The PN is also right not to appoint a replacement on the Planning Authority Board. It is a bold statement of principle, and, to my mind, reflects the prevailing mood among the People. The PN and PN MPs Portelli and Callus are occupying the moral high ground.

The PN is right to argue that the Planning Authority has become an entity which does not respect the people and that it has been taken over by forces and people who completely ignore the common good. Indeed this could really be a systematic institutional breakdown.

MP Portelli has argued that “ultimately one could have the best good governance procedures in the world, and the best laws in place, but if there are forces and people who completely ignore the common good ... and have no idea what they say, have no moral conscience, aren’t of good character and easily succumb to pressure, then it is useless having the  good governance procedures and laws. So ultimately it boils down to the people themselves.”

To my mind, this is a very strong message. The implications are clear, and the questions it raises necessitate immediate answers. Labour’s answer has been rhetorical, lacking any semblance of substance: “The Nationalist Party is playing a dangerous political game that is aimed at undermining the country's institutions.” The very important questions raised by the Opposition were sidelined and rhetoric offered as a reaction. The country does not need (more) rhetoric. The country needs political answers that really answer the criticism.

MP Callus, who resigned from the Lands Authority Board, has raised equally important, and alarming, concerns to explain his resignation: “unprecedented interference by the government in the board’s functions and that of the authority”. Again these are decidedly strong words and, were Malta a mature democracy, would obviously raise many alarms bells and cause the country’s institutions and NGOs to react with equal strength.

The PN added that “the government shifted the taking of decisions from being under the board’s responsibility and gave them to Land Authority chairman James Piscopo”. Mr Piscopo is very close to the Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri, said the PN.

Urban planning has always been a headache in this country. Solutions were attempted but were not always successful. Does that mean that we should be complacent and accept abuse as we accept the flu? Not at all! The time has come for change.


Stop Dummitt, dammit!

The Italian newspaper Il Giornale has reported this week that the Canadian academic Christopher Dummitt, Associate Professor at Trent University, Peterborough, who based his entire career on gender studies, has admitted that he had made it all up! He not only admitted that much of gender stuff is pure ideology, but he also owned up to having falsified the conclusions of his research.

Dummitt is an authority on the subject. His book, The Manly Modern: Masculinity in the Postwar Years (2007) has been defined as the “first major book on the history of masculinity in Canada”. It argued that “gender” was a social and cultural construct, forming part of a vision in which sex is not determined, and biology is subject to human action, consonant with post-modern, social constructionist ideas.

And now, Dummitt, the renowned gender ideologue and teacher, offers his mea culpa, in an essay entitled “Confessions of a Social Constructionist” published in Quillette last September.

He candidly writes that “now my big idea is everywhere. It shows up especially in the talking points about trans rights, and policy regarding trans athletes in sports. It is being written into laws that essentially threaten repercussions for anyone who suggests that sex might be a biological reality. Such a statement, for many activists, is tantamount to hate speech. If you take the position ... that gender is at least partly based on sex, and that there really are two sexes (male and female), as biologists have known since the dawn of their science, uber-progressives will claim you are denying a trans person’s identity, which is to say, wishing ontological harm upon another human being.”

He further argues that the radical progressives are “wrong”.

He admits, hand on heart, that “I was wrong. Or, to be a bit more accurate, I got things partly right. But then, for the rest, I basically just made it up. In my defence, I wasn’t alone. Everyone was (and is) making it up. That’s how the gender-studies field works.”

(You can find the confession here:

So much for Fairy Godmother Muscat and his Cinderella lobbies.


My Personal Library (74)

I think it was thirty years ago that I read this for the very first time. I translated it (and other works by the same author) to Maltese and wanted to publish it, but those were different times, and publishers were afraid of “Oscar Wilde”. I appreciated and still appreciate Wilde not as the icon of whatever, but for his wit. My father had read to me a couple of Wilde’s farces in my pre-teens, and we had laughed a lot together. Today, I see (once again) that laughter and tears are interchangeable.

Anyway, Chesterton’s take on the donkey and the king reminded me of this poem in prose, from Wilde’s Essays and Lectures:

When Narcissus died the pool of his pleasure changed from a cup of sweet waters into a cup of salt tears, and the Oreads came weeping through the woodland that they might sing to the pool and give it comfort.

And when they saw that the pool had changed from a cup of sweet waters into a cup of salt tears, they loosened the green tresses of their hair and cried to the pool and said, “We do not wonder that you should mourn in this manner for Narcissus, so beautiful was he.”

“But was Narcissus beautiful?” said the pool.

“Who should know that better than you?” answered the Oreads. “Us did he ever pass by, but you he sought for, and would lie on your banks and look down at you, and in the mirror of your waters he would mirror his own beauty.”

And the pool answered, “But I loved Narcissus because, as he lay on my banks and looked down at me, in the mirror of his eyes I saw ever my own beauty mirrored.”

The precise psychological dynamic expressed in the closing lines is echoed in that scene in one of García Márquez’s novels when Oscar Wilde meets the pornographer Frank Miller under a lamp-post one foggy London night.

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