The Malta Independent 16 July 2020, Thursday

Bobby Star

Mark A. Sammut Sunday, 24 May 2020, 10:36 Last update: about 3 months ago

I don’t know whether I’ve told you already, but there’s this guy called Ġanni, and Ġanni keeps going every single day up to the soldier outside Castille asking to see Prime Minister Muscat.

The soldier’s every time telling him, “Listen, my friend, Muscat’s no longer Prime Minister!” But Ġanni keeps going, day in day out, asking to see Prime Minister Muscat. Finally, the soldier gets tired of the pestering and snaps at Ġanni. “Listen Ġann,” he scolds him (by now he’s learnt the guy’s name). “Haven’t I already told you a million times that Muscat’s no longer Prime Minister?” “Yeah I know,” replies Ġanni. “But it gives me such pleasure to hear it each time!” And the soldier lifts his gaze toward the skies to ask for the divine gift of patience.


Some readers have approached and asked me, Why do you keep writing about Muscat? Hasn’t he been consigned to the dustbin of history? Shouldn’t you focus on Bobby Star, the new Prime Minister? And the first part of my answer is that we’re not so sure that Muscat and his Evita-like wife Michelle have actually become history. They seem to be active behind the scenes, pulling a few strings here and there.

And second, Bobby Star’s so dull, so uninspiring and, most importantly, so much like a glorified mayor that all I could do is repeat that he’s a glorified mayor. I think there are two ways of commenting politics. One is to follow a politician’s every step and criticise his actions (what I call the “trees” approach); the other is to understand and criticise a politician’s programme (what I call the “woods” approach). I think it’s clear I prefer the “woods” approach. That’s the sort of criticism I levelled at Muscat and his nutty ideological experiment with neoliberalism. I won’t feign any modesty here: it seems I was the first to write about Muscat’s neoliberal ideas.

But Bobby Star lacks a programme, a vision even. What does Bobby stand for? “Continuity,” as Neville Gafà famously said? To my mind, Bobby’s but a glorified mayor. As a matter of fact, he’s the ideal leader of a colony. What a disgrace. All Prime Ministers have had a vision so far (whether you agree with that vision or not is a different story, and not quite the point). But Bobby Star’s the first Prime Minister without a vision, a politician without character, almost without a political face. Indeed, Bobby Star’s an anonymous politician.

Or else he’s coy and he hasn’t as yet brought forward his real political self for the electorate to assess. Perhaps he’s still living in his father’s shadow, unable to define himself as a politician. Perhaps he’s torn between two forces, his father on one side and Muscat on the other. Whatever it is, Bobby Star gives me the impression he’s a character in search of a script while the play rolls on.

Messrs. Universe

Yep. We’ve got a (former) bodybuilder for Prime Minister and a (current?) bodybuilder aspiring to the office of Police Commissioner. Seems like a remake of Conan the Barbarian.

The vast majority of those who applied for the post are valid people. Then there’s Sandro Camilleri, who shows off a picture of a narcissistic buffoon on Facebook and tells us it’s him. You know, the one with the raised eyebrow and the flexed biceps. To develop the 1980s-movie simile, it’s like a mix between Conan the Barbarian and Police Academy (all of them). How can criminals be afraid of such a cop? How can the public take somebody like that seriously?

Mr Camilleri probably thinks it’s a macho photo. But the result’s the opposite: it’s a dandy’s photo. If the result was unintended, as it’s reasonable to presume, then it serves to show the depth of Mr Camilleri’s intellectual abilities. Getting the diploma of legal procurator isn’t enough; it only demonstrates you’re good at learning by rote. It’s your decisions that reflect your true intelligence, because they reflect your ability to understand situations and circumstances and behave accordingly. Deciding to pose for a photo in which you emphasise your biceps by flexing them while raising your eyebrow betrays a teenage mentality.

But let’s hope for the best. The Police Corps needs a mature wo/man at the helm, with a sense of discipline, innate integrity, and the willpower to do what is necessary to clean the mess Muscat left behind him.

The President’s Man

Now why doesn’t President George Vella want to publish Joseph Muscat’s resignation letter?, you might be asking yourself.

I’m beginning to think that really Dr Vella is not fit for purpose. I already have it in writing from one of his aides that the President isn’t knowledgeable enough in human rights. (I kid you not.) Now we see the President taking stance that can only be called partisan.

Perhaps Dr Vella should call it a day, allowing someone more suitable to take his place.

The Ambassadors

Henry James’ dark-humour 1903 novel The Ambassadors is essentially about sophistication (or the lack of it). Which is exactly the problem two of our former ambassadors faced: lack of sophistication. Non-resident ambassador to Finland, Michael Zammit Tabona, put his foot in it and had to resign. More about this later. For the moment, if Mr Zammit Tabona’s silly comment was deemed offensive to Germany, how do we think the Germans consider the George Cross on our national flag?

Joseph Cuschieri, the man who sacrificed his seat to Joseph Muscat (his parliamentary one!), has resigned (or was removed) because – if you decipher the statement issued by the Foreign Office – he doesn’t master the Italian language and the migration situation requires more than streetwise innocence. In an intelligently diplomatic statement, the Foreign Office said that there’s more to the role of ambassador than being a creditor to Muscat and a fan of Juventus FC. They said you have to be sophisticated to be an ambassador.

About time. 

The Corona War

Let’s be very frank about the corona virus pandemic. As French President Macron put it, “This is war!” There are no two ways about it. It is war.

The belligerents are Public Health and the Economy.

And the big moral question is: what does the Common Good dictate? That we give precedence to public health or to the economy?

Let’s be even more clear. The modern economy is based on industrialisation, which essentially is based on pollution (physical and “spiritual”). Factories pollute. Products manufactured in factories pollute. The entire system emphasises individual choice and the freedom to acquire and consume. The economic system pollutes the physical and the “spiritual” environment. And it has been doing so for the past two centuries at least. The ongoing war between economy and health has been going on unabated, and the winner has so far been the economy.

We know that lung cancer owes much to pollution. Like many other diseases. And yet, nothing’s done to curb pollution. Instead, more money is pumped into research to find a “cure” to the diseases caused by pollution. The economy feeds on the malaise of which it is the primary cause.

This logic will not be overcome by the pandemic. The war will go on. And the economy will be the favoured side, probably the victor. The only difference between this type of war and the other type, is that there won’t be damage to property, no bombings, no shelling, no explosions. But lives will be lost.

Because it is a war.

Children of Men

I can’t understand the fixation certain journalists have on promoting the idea that you have the right to kill your own children!

The idea of “terminating a pregnancy” is essentially the idea of destroying “unintended” life. If you do not intend to have a child, you kill it, without incurring punishment.

One question these journalists seem unable to answer is this: is a child her mother’s property? Aren’t we beyond that stage when we considered children as their parents’ property?

Be mindful. Some newspapers are asking for donations. Do not donate to newspapers that you suspect are promoting the abortion agenda.

My Personal Library (94)

Former Ambassador Michael Zammit Tabona’s faux pas is an indictment of the silly idea entertained by certain politicians that anyone can be appointed as ambassador.

(Certain politicians seem to forget that there are university courses in diplomacy and diplomatic studies...)

But it is also an indictment of the silly idea that Hitler’s plan was original and unique. Over the centuries, most continental European powers have had ambitions of aggrandizement: Germany was neither the first nor the only one. Furthermore, there’s a reason why Hitler’s project was called the Third Reich. You don’t need to know history for this; just switch on your brains. Third implies that there were (at least) two precedents, the First and the Second. “Reich” is not a made-up world, even though Allied propaganda probably used it as a word that should send shivers down your spine. “Reich” is a German word that means “realm”. As a matter of fact, France is called Frankreich in German (the “Realm of the Franks”), and Austria Österreich (the “Eastern Realm”).

Germany’s expansionist ambitions have deep historical roots. But we have to be careful. The idea of “nation” – a compact body of people(s) that have blood and soil in common – is a relatively young notion. Peoples did not always think of themselves as “nations”; there were times in the past when peoples thought of themselves as “peoples” or “tribes”. So we have to be careful in our assessment of the past. There are so many fantasies about the past peddled as if they were “the truth” that we should really make the effort mentally to resist them.

But to go back to German ambitions. In his 1997 book The Tainted Source: undemocratic origins of the European idea, British Eurosceptic author John Laughland argues that the intellectual origins of the European project have similarities with Fascist ideas, notably geopolitics, and Nazi economic policies. For example, German industrialists held a conference on a “European economic community” in 1942. Laughland links Schuman, Monnet, Spaak, and Delors to Fascist organisations, but makes clear that he does not suggest that the European idea was inspired by Fascist ideology. He finds further historical antecedents in the German customs union and subsequent unification of Germany in the 19th century, and as far back as the Holy Roman Empire.

The point is that we still haven’t properly come to terms with our collective past. The emotional baggage is still too present, and Hollywood movies that constantly demonise the Germans contribute to the psychological barriers. (One should always ask, who’s to gain?) Only through a proper understanding of the past can we model a future on present needs. 


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