The Malta Independent 6 August 2020, Thursday

A politics built on personalism

Michael Asciak Wednesday, 8 July 2020, 08:14 Last update: about 29 days ago

When the Partit Nazzjonalista (PN) adjourned and ratified its statute last week, it did so in a very democratic environment at all the stages of the process.

There was a free debate and discussion at all levels thanks to the Leader of the Party Adrian Delia and all the party administration and members but also thanks to the political vision and perseverance of Louis Galea, who worked very hard to expose and convince people in favour of the necessary changes and who strove to integrate all the suggestions put forward.

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The discussion was held at all party levels but especially at the levels of the parliamentary group, the party executive and finally the general council which approved the final text. The final result means the party will be more efficient, efficacious and integrative of today’s realities and also able to work at all levels of society.

What is very interesting is that at the very beginning the party laid out the set of values and principles with which it wants to carry out its policies and politics. What are these values and what inspires them? The PN belongs to a European family of political parties called the EPP, the European Peoples’ Party which constitutes the largest grouping in the European Parliament.

The PN is neither a party of the left nor the right. It is rather a party of the central spectrum with supporters coming both from the centre-left and centreright spectrum of political activism and thought. The PN is not a party that pays attention to the rampant individualism and xenophobia of the parties on the right in the vein of Boris Johnson or Donald Trump, neither does it believe in the collectivist theories of the parties of the left.

So what, in a nutshell, does the PN believe in? Its approach is a communitarian one, with attention to individual rights and a commitment to the truth! It is best described in the continental philosophy called personalism.

Personalism is a philosophy that pays attention to universal objective truths but also looks at the personal subjective existentialist issues of every individual human being without throwing out the transcendental connection based on Christian principles. It is not a confessional party but is inspired by Christian values. The persons who best represent this approach in philosophy which is perhaps best referred to as a Christian existentialism are amongst others, non-other than Emmanuel Mounier who particularly focused on the communitarian nature of man in solving individual and social problems. Mounier believed that individualism was counter to the real solidarity needed in solving the problems of man.

He was aware that man had a social nature and dimension and that the political philosophies of rampant individualist capitalism, or collective socialism could not solve man’s problems but rather an approach was necessary that respected man’s individual freedoms but showed solidarity with the others in a community and also the environment around us. Gabriel Marcel continued on this line of thought by emphasising the existential problems of single individuals in a complex society, where we all look at issues from our own individual problems without denying the help of the transcendent and transcendent revealed principles.

One does one’s best in life in dealing with ones’ existential problems but one also relies on God for individual help and inspiration. One can say that Marcel took off from where Soren Kierkegaard left off. Another prominent member of this group of philosophers is Karol Wojtyla who was a Polish philosopher in his own right before he was called to higher office. Wojtyla understood that whereas the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas was essential in determining the truth and certain norms in society through natural law, alone this was too rigid in the application of the solution of the day to day existential problems of certain individuals.

Individuals were complex and often needed the approach of a more subjective outlook to solve their personal issues. Wojtyla had studied the philosophies of Edmund Husserl and Max Scheler which were phenomenological in nature. These philosophies look at the perspective of exterior phenomena in the world, like natural law does, but also consider the internal consciousness or forum that composes an individual’s cognitive and conscious make-up. His approach was to consider and superimpose these subjective issues onto and without rejecting Thomism and its valid objective conclusions. A famous book he wrote is called “The Acting Person” and we can find this approach echoed in the distinction between moral object and moral act in the Cathechism of the Catholic Church, which he himself published as Pope. Solutions need to be looked and tailor made for individuals and their particular set of problems.

An interesting article in the new PN statute is that there has to be respect shown for the right to life from the very beginning and till the very end of a human being’s life. This is a remarkable and brave statement for a political party in the present day and in the light of existential difficulties for human beings. The PN does not agree with the destruction of human life but does see the need to help people solve their individual problems. Support for single pregnant women or not so single ones, and the setting up of social care services and especially palliative care services so lacking in our country, without the need to end people’s lives violently.

So all in all, this was a very good project well thought out and formidably executed. There is the need now to put it into practice. There was once a woman called Theresa who was very boisterous and energetic. She decided to become a nun and reform the Carmelite order with a new statute. She suffered greatly for this initiative and she and some of her helpers were also imprisoned or had their movement restricted by civil and church authorities.

Nonetheless she persevered, worked hard and eventually succeeded at great personal sacrifice. One night, the long-tailed one tempted her. He told her whether she realised that after all this suffering and hard work, she might die only to discover that there was no eternal price to be had after all and that she should enjoy her present life more by giving up her struggles! To which she casually replied after some thought, that had she to listen to him and live a life of individual hedonism and give up struggling with her troubles, she would be very disappointed to find out in the end, that there was in fact an eternal life after all and that she had now missed out on it! She could focus sharply on the final aim and target.

I worked with Eddie Fenech Adami as International Secretary of the PN and was also an MP for several years. I remember him saying that one can have the best principles in the world but unless one is in government, one cannot put these principles into practice. What the PN needs to do now more than ever, with this rampant corruption all around us, is focus. Focus on the final target. The PN is the only party that can realistically offer an alternative to the present PL in government. In the Maltese political system, one needs 50% plus one of the voting intentions of all voters to govern with a parliamentary majority. (In the British system 33% of the vote is enough to form a majority government). Labour party supporters tend to be more tenacious in their support of their party for very particular reasons. If we are to overturn this very corrupt government with blood-stains on its hand, we need to focus sharply. Politics, like football, is a team game.

There is no place for individual bravado and external sniping. We either pull one rope together or the enterprise fails. With a new statute now, it is up to all of us to make this work, to pull the same rope together, to cut careless talk and finally kick this government out. A general election is less than two years away, maybe sooner and it is incumbent on all of us to act in the interest of the common good first and foremost! Otherwise ‘me hearties’, it’s another five years of Labour with all that goes with it!

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