The Malta Independent 4 December 2020, Friday

Peppi, worth his weight in gold

Andrew Azzopardi Wednesday, 18 November 2020, 07:30 Last update: about 16 days ago

Peppi was wronged.

I have been meaning to find the right opportunity to write a piece on Peppi after the distressing behavior of PBS when they decided to ditch Xarbank in the absurd and guarded way they did, with no explanation forthcoming which is anywhere close to judicious and which stinks of pseudo-partisan politics from a 100-miles away. 

But then again, it is the station’s call.  I would imagine that the new Board of Directors (because this decision is not of their own making) will now have to carry on their shoulders the weight of the loss of revenue from advertising and hypothetically a drop in audience ratings because someone, somewhere wanted to get rid of this man. 

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What a whammy.   

This is a decision that will come to haunt PBS.  The causticness is that from where I stand, we are left with mediocre programmes that should not only have been stopped, but never existed, especially when it comes to current affairs. 

PBS, do the honorable thing and reverse your decision! 

The quality of Xarabank in terms of production was second to none. You had Mark Laurence Zammit bringing in the much-needed freshness with his inimitable style and first flush of enthusiasm, as well as a creative team of producers.  The way it was produced, the space it gave to people to speak their mind (which is nowhere to be seen now), the novelty of the topics, his style (yes, I must admit I like his simple popular flair with his undone hair, his fading jeans and his unbranded top) which is unique.  And yes, let it go with his weight. It is his business how he looks.  Jesus, is it that difficult to accept people as they are? The bullying, victimization and singling out he has to endure is unbelievable.

Let’s remove Peppi from the formula for a moment. But does anyone know what this character assassination and this trolling does to his amiable wife, smart son and the rest of the family? Where is the decorous behaviour? The irony of it all is that I have very rarely seen a family unit so welded. Oh, and probably, these are the same people who claim to be kristjani ferventi.  What bollocks. The Christian in all of this is Peppi – truly a man for others. 

Nevertheless, I so admire this man because notwithstanding the injustices, the ill-treatment and the bludgeoning he never attacks the person, not once.

Peppi the journalist

Now the opportunity has fallen into my lap to share some thoughts after last Saturday, during the gracious event organized by the Istitut tal-Gurnalizmu Maltin, that rightly so awarded Peppi with the Gold Award, the highest honor that can be bestowed to a journalist in Malta.

I have known this man forever, since my adolescence when I was part of the tan-numri. I looked up to him and the other leaders in awe. However, it is only in these last couple of years that I have really grown to understand him and what he stands for. His golly has captured me. When I got to know him really well it felt strange. It was like a sense of liberation that I can now think outside the box, I can speak from my heart because what really matters is saying it how it is with no strings or obligations attached – he helped me become free.  I am so indebted towards this gentleman who is leaving an indelible mark on me, our communities and social welfare because what I believe characterizes him strongly is that he stands for social justice and fairness.

Peppi the socialist

I have never seen someone walk the talk the way he did.  He is one of the few real socialists we are blessed with, who is not interested in raking in wealth but is humbly trying his best to make the world a better place for others, even if he has to pay the price. 

Peppi is really and truly close to the core of humanity. He is constantly on the alert, ready to connect with anyone who in his eyes might be in pain. He will call and support and provide all the comfort. 

He is passionate and has not lost any of that gloss. He is lucid and up-to-date with all that is happening and his analytical mind, if anything, has continued to mellow. He spends his ‘free time’ on week-ends visiting people in prison and trying to maneuver around a system which disembowels anyone who does not fit into the cast our choosy society drafts.  He is the voice of those ‘we’ despise; prisoners, migrants, ex-criminals, people with mental health problems, drug addicts, those living at the margin of poverty, the rejected and the stigmatized. For example, last Saturday during my radio show on 103 Malta’s Heart he was adamant to stand up for Liam Debono, knowing well-enough this will not make him the pin-up boy of too many.

His tenacity is godly when it comes to people who are suffering. He has literally given up his life, his passions, his interests to share the journey with those in pain. Every telethon he does, much as I might disagree with the model, generates money that go to a cause – and he gets nothing from it. 

These campaigns don’t only sap his energy because of the time he puts into them, but because every time he links up with people in pain, it becomes his pain – this might not be mentally healthy but it is certainly a gift.

Peppi the politician

What is fascinating is that he is able to make thoughtful calls and he consistently defends his argument. He is the best ‘politician’, outside politics, I know. He has the qualities that make him a model legislator with his informed ideas, sturdy argumentation and is also well coupled to the base. He shows us that being a politician is not about fancy ties and elaborated arguments but about essence. He argues after he does two things; he converges research to people’s narratives – the real blend of what politics is about – and after that he is ready to call out the vetoes without fear or trepidation.

Peppi the observer

He is unwavering and solid when it comes to principles and we know that because he has paid the price. His belief and love for humanity is as profound as they get. He inhabits at a different level than most. He can sense the pain of prisoners, their families and the victims. He is able to hear the high pitch sobs of those who are drowning in their addictions. He speaks on behalf of the unborn as if they are speaking themselves. The greatest thing about him is that he manages to find the energy to support droves of people and the cost of his wellbeing. 

Peppi the artist

He is a fantastic communicator. 

I admire this man. He has thought me all I know when it comes to the way we need to communicate. He has repeatedly reminded me to democratize knowledge and give it back to the people. He is complex but manages to ground his thoughts. He is an excellent lyric writer, great poet, well-established script writer and as creative as they come. I don’t know of anyone who knows television, drama and the art of communication the way he does. I would have him as my coach anytime!

Peppi is the man I want to be

When I ‘grow up’, not in terms of age, cause I’m pretty much there, but in distinction, I want to be like this unassuming person I got to know so closely over the years. 

I want to be, like him, persistent and consistent that notwithstanding that he speaks about issues that nobody is interested in changing, he keeps at it. 

I want to able to love and to forgive, to support prisoners and work with criminals and their victims, to treasure migrants as if they were my own brothers and sisters - like him.

I want to be able to be fair and just and open and inclusive - like him. 

I want to have the gift to feel and to sense the pain of the community - like him. 

I want to be a leftist of the true nature. I want to be able to use the gifts and qualities and privileges I have for the good of the community - like him.

I want to be a man for all seasons - like him.

Our communities owe him. I for one am indebted big time. If there is anyone I would want to call my brother, who is not my blood, it would be him. In the meantime, I augur that he keeps strong as we are still in need of him.

Thanks Pep – you are truly worth your weight in gold!

Prof. Andrew Azzopardi Dean, Faculty for Social Wellbeing, University of Malta

Broadcaster - Ghandi xi Nghid 

T: @Azzopardi70

 

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