The Malta Independent 14 July 2020, Tuesday

Just gimme some truth

Charles Flores Sunday, 28 June 2020, 10:27 Last update: about 16 days ago

One of the least acknowledged protest songs of all time is certainly John Lennon’s Gimme some truth. Included in his incredible 1971 album Imagine, the song contains various political references to issues of the time it was written, particularly the Vietnam War that haunted a whole generation of young men and women across the world.

More significant in it, however, is Lennon’s frustration with deceptive politicians (short-haired yellow-bellied sons of Tricky Dicky) and with hypocrisy and chauvinism (tight-lipped condescending mommy’s little chauvinists) – all of which fascinatingly encapsule the current situation here with the goings-on regarding the issue of corruption and/or alleged corruption with its mixed grill of investigations, inquiries, accusations and denials.

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Trying to sift through the maelstrom of media bullshit to catch the light at the end of the tunnel has become an almost everyday chore to people who are after only one thing, and one thing alone – the truth. You can’t blame anyone for feeling there are so many legalistic arrows flying across in opposite directions and one is bound to get confused. The demand for a clearer picture comes from the vast majority of decent people on these Islands and not from the five-score crowd of flag-waving individuals with their all-too-familiar faces, people who’d instantly rush to confession at seven different churches with seven different confessors were you to utter the much-maligned, simple word ħaqq in their presence, but smilingly carry libellous placards and chant unproven denunciations.

Free to protest? Certainly, and I would join them temporarily were someone to deny them that right. But hey, if you’re calling for the truth make sure you yourself are blaring it out. The search for truth requires more than just a nice, funny evening of back-slapping and chummy-chummy encounters of the first kind. It is the average citizen’s genuine wish to see the justice system dealing with this hypocritical situation by, as Aneurin Bevan once spiked Winston Churchill, “welcoming the opportunity of pricking the bloated bladder of lies with the poniard of truth”. But then, in pretty much the spirit of our own conundrum today, Churchill had quickly retorted: “I should think it hardly possible to state the opposite of the truth with more precision.”

Giving hell to the other side of the battle does not always mean imparting the truth and it applies to both sides of a given confrontation. Bear with me the ultimate quote and I will spare you the misery of more listed quotes for the rest of today’s piece. Post-war US President Harry S. Truman, his own administration the target of corruption claims in the 1950s, once told a magazine reporter: “I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it’s hell.”

One thing is sure – truth is a rare and precious commodity. Most people’s principal concern is that the search for it has had to include, in figurative language, keeping the whole nation hostage. Fortunately, the vast majority prefer to stay in and keep calm, willingly giving their views on the whole matter of life and well-being via the serious survey and, ultimately, the ballot box.

There was a time in the 1970s and 1980s when actions bred instant reactions, creating a worse scenario on the streets. While it is true that if the business community in Valletta were to hold a counter protest, not over justice, but merely to express frustration at the obvious threat to their livelihoods from persistent “public” displays of rancour, they would be more in number, a hue and cry for massive counter demonstrations would only instil instability and create a greater ambience of hostility. Perhaps it is what some have been hoping for all along? Having just come out of the Coronavirus nightmare, the businessmen of Valletta would find themselves in a much bigger mess.

One should expect more of this assembling of common hatreds and common prejudices, both social and political, as the country slowly approaches a general election. No one should begrudge this polite cluster’s need for out-of-character, monkey displays, things they and their families probably thought unbecoming when they were kids watching other, much bigger sectors of the population doing them over bread-and-butter issues. At the time they probably murmured to each other in their comfy, 18th century drawing rooms: “Let them eat cake.” Oh, no, not another quote.

 

French fries

It had to be a form of Turkish delight to fry French President Emmanuel Macron recently over the current state of Libya, a nation destroyed, taken out of its lush, State-supported, authoritarian system into its present-day inferno – a civil war that is having its direct repercussions on the rest of Europe where the whole interference with Libyan affairs actually started.

You see, Macron had earlier come out claiming that Turkey is “dangerously shattering peace in Libya”, only for Ankara to insist it is France “pulling the war-torn country into further chaos”.

Again, here we have a battle for the truth. The Turks accused Paris of supporting illegitimate structures for years on Libyan soil and sustaining General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army after “the damage that France has inflicted on this country in line with its selfish interests and collaborators’ goals” against the internationally-recognised Government of National Accord. Macron’s anti-Ankara tirade followed in the wake of massive gains made by the Tripoli-based GNA.

As if this exchange of niceties wasn’t enough historical karma for NATO, which had spearheaded then French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s ruinous attack on Libya in 2011, France and Turkey also almost came to blows recently when a French Navy ship tried to preclude a vessel, guarded by two Turkish frigates, from continuing on its voyage, citing suspicions of smuggling arms into Libya. Coming from France, the accusation could hardly have been richer.

 

Vicky held on

It was inevitable for the issue of statue and monument removal, destruction and revaluation (as per present-day social and political thinking) in the US, the UK, France and other old imperial playgrounds to reach us. A spate of social and traditional media controversies occurred in recent days over some of our own controversial tribute structures, the hottest figure in question being the statue of Queen Victoria at the very heart of Republic Square in Valletta. Hugely ironic and ripe for reviewing.

My own contention is that it should in no way be damaged or destroyed, but moving it – in as dignified a manner as possible – to another part of the Capital, like many other monuments have been previously moved in the past, would help create space for a new Republican monument and so bring to an end the misnomer.

As an aside, though, few seem to know or remember the Victoria statue was once the victim of an attempt to have it dislodged. It was at the height of anti-British demonstrations in Valletta over the military base rent issue in the early 1970s. As a young reporter, I watched as an isolated group of protesters tied ropes around the statue and then had the other ends tied to the back of an old jeep. The driver maniacally did his best to exploit the vehicle’s engine pulling power, to no avail. The wheels screamed and the tyres reeked before it gave up its soul, but good old Vicky held on.

 

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