The Malta Independent 21 January 2021, Thursday

TMID Editorial: Oliver Friggieri - The humble giant

Tuesday, 24 November 2020, 07:55 Last update: about 3 months ago

Some people believe they’re giants, and think that they are making a difference. Their eagerness to be in the limelight supersedes their capability to be relevant and, in their effort to appear important, they render themselves insignificant. The more they speak or do, the more they are treated with disdain. But they continue to believe we cannot live without their daily contribution and, in the age of social media, their hourly outburst to remind us they are still alive.


They seem not to know that the earth revolves around that yellow ball in the sky. They have the temerity to use the word “humble” in their own regard, when they are the perfect example of what humility should NOT be. If one is really humble, one does not need to say it. His or her words or actions should be enough without there being a need for them to be described as humble. They will probably not even realise that these two paragraphs are about them.

Oliver Friggieri was not one of them. He was the complete opposite. His greatness was in his humility to understand that the more one tried to be imposing, the less successful the endeavour will be. He was the perfect embodiment of that Albert Einstein phrase: “The more I learn, the more I realise how much I do not know.”

Because one does not need to shout to be heard, sometimes a whisper is more effective. And it was through those whispers, the choice of words, the thought behind the expression, that Friggieri came to be revered in his lifetime, a reverence that will probably double or more now that he has passed away.

We are not living in the age of poetry. We are inundated with words, but very few of them carry meaning. We are bombarded with stupidities, irrelevancies and utterances that do not change our lives and, if they do, it is for the worse.

This is why what Oliver Friggieri said or wrote carries even more meaning. Because not one word of his was inapt, not even one sentence could be discarded as being not useful to society in general, the Maltese society he loved and promoted.

His profound dedication to all that was Maltese, in particular our dear language, will never be forgotten. His struggles for the Maltese language, culture and identity to be maintained and sustained were often not endorsed. But he was not discouraged. He knew that what he was fighting for was a necessary battle, one that is not easy to win because it is never-ending. And that is why it is worth fighting for – if we give up, if we allow ourselves to be taken over by other forces, Malta and all that is Maltese will be swallowed up in no time.

Friggieri understood that, and wanted the rest of us to understand too.

Without Friggieri, Malta is poorer. But we are lucky because his words are written in stone, and they will always be there for us to turn to. If we did not listen to them during his life-time, we should do so now.


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