The Malta Independent 17 February 2020, Monday

Establishment zeal

Charles Flores Sunday, 26 January 2020, 10:30 Last update: about 23 days ago

Left-of-centre-inclined people instinctively feel uncomfortable when the Establishment shows as much zeal as it has over what the new Prime Minister has already done and achieved in his first two whirlwind weeks at the helm. They get this apprehensive feeling, not always justified, when they see representatives of the so-called ‘ruling class’ spreading incense around their chosen leaders.

Joseph Muscat, undoubtedly the most successful leader in Maltese political history, unnerved many people when he first came out with his pro-business stance for the Labour Party in 2008, especially after no fewer than 25 years of Establishment rule, camouflaged – as always – in Nationalist Party hues. Although he quickly described the stance as much-needed ballast, equalising it to Labour’s historically uncompromising dedication to social justice, job creation and economic growth, his premature waning into the political background can actually be attributable to those who had long become a substantial part of the commercial facet of the Establishment.

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Robert Abela is out-playing the same game, or should one say the establishment is out-playing the same game, making sure that the new Prime Minister’s honeymoon days are adorned with praise and encouragement before the fangs come out. He is certainly no push-over and is fully aware of what he is up against. Good decisions are what make good leaders and Robert Abela has shown he is not shy when it comes to taking unpopular decisions, as long as it is part of a process of change, of stabilising the waters and gradually inscribing his own vision and style into the Maltese political landscape, rugged and dishevelled as it may seem at this moment in time.

So I am sure he has received with much realism the wave of unsuppressed zeal from those who think they exclusively stoke the nation’s engines. He is, of course, convinced of the need for all sectors of Maltese society to participate in the current success of the nation, just as he is no less committed to retaining what has always been Labour’s priority – the working class as equal participants and not as cannon fodder in a time of economic boom.

While ideology is not – and never will – dead, it has often had to take a back seat while nations chose to regroup, retry and restart in a world caught in a quicksand of its own making. Fortunately, Malta got fished out of it in 2013 when everything had seemed doomed and the Establishment’s traditional political partner had been found wanting after more than two decades of neglect, corruption, economic stagnation and spiralling unemployment.

In what is now an almost incredible juxtaposition, the nation’s happily reversed fortunes are what Prime Minister Robert Abela will no doubt be seeking to not only protect, but also improve upon. Does he need the Establishment? Of course. Can you build a house without foundations? No. But at the end of the day it is the house that offers shelter, hope and opportunities to those who provide the brawn for those foundations and for the new house to be really sound, secure and welcoming. 

A tall order for any new leader, but what we have seen thus far from our Prime Minister is hugely encouraging. The balancing act came out pretty clear, provoking a mixture of emotions even at Party level where, while the inevitable reshuffle was carried out with surgical precision, there was also some blood to be let. It is keeping up this masterful display of leadership and keeping at bay all the wolves in sheep’s clothing that will eventually mark Robert Abela’s tenure.

When the Establishment rushes out to you with kisses, beware. Happily, however, when the kissable is fully conscious of the way it works, he knows it is all a game of political chess: your move, their move. It’s a great game, but there can only be one winner. Robert Abela did it with his first attempt at the Party leadership contest against a strong and high-profile contender. He can do it at Castille as well.

                                     

Heady stuff

I tend to agree with the many commentators expressing their distaste for the changes that are being made to everyday things in life strictly on the basis of new medical and psychological research which is then either disproved or shown to have been excessive when presented to a confused public. This also includes obsessive political correctness, such as making one feel guilty at having expressed the simple, time-honoured word ‘mankind’ when it is now expected to always be ‘humankind’.

Not that I don’t appreciate the intended message, but one’s terminology is a cumulative process which starts at infancy. Perception deceives. I am a feminist but against dictated quotas. I certainly am not racist, but I don’t mind the odd Irish, Italian, Black and Jewish joke that is nothing more than that. I am not anti-semitic, but I don’t think being against certain current Israeli policies makes me one. On a newspaper visit to a large German industry way back in the1970s, when being left-wing was pretty fashionable, I had this company director taking me out to lunch and telling me he was surprised I was “one of them” as I was too smartly dressed. It reminds you a bit of Simon Busuttil’s more recent quip about Deborah Schembri having a Nationalist face, I guess.

Now even our favourite sport of football is being shoved into a corner where it can easily fall into decay. No, it’s not the issue of VAR which, I insist, is already softly killing the world’s most popular game. We now learn that Scottish children could be banned from heading the ball following the declaration of a Glasgow Brain Injury Research Group that professional footballers are three-and-a-half times more likely to develop neurological diseases than members of the general public.

Heading the ball is an ironic but special feature of the game.

As children we used to spend hours playing “headed football” as our village street was just too small to permit playing the normal game and when we did, neighbours had to angrily replace broken window panes. We didn’t quite turn out to be professional footballers, but we’d headed the ball enough and still remained more or less sane. Are the football authorities around the world going to follow the Scottish example? It would be nothing more than denying healthy children another pleasure, even if they don’t do it in a cul-de-sac neighbourhood anymore, but on synthetic-turf pitches.

Children falling from trees and rubble walls, wrestling and playing ball games used to be a ubiquitous part of their natural development, certainly a way to avoid creating 10-year-old computer zombies and smartphone couch potatoes.

In the meantime, boxing, kick-boxing and some martial arts – all of them played with the purpose of one human being hurting another – continue to be considered as sports. Funny, no?

 

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