The Malta Independent 22 June 2021, Tuesday

TMIS Editorial - State of the nation: A time to reflect and act

Sunday, 6 June 2021, 10:00 Last update: about 17 days ago

The survey carried out as part of the State of the Nation conference has painted a very clear picture of Maltese society, although most of the findings came as no surprise. We knew about them all along, but now they have been confirmed in black on white.

As usual, the majority of the Maltese expressed they were fairly happy with their lives, and most stated that they believe in God, although religion is not a big part of their lives.

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Unsurprisingly, many Maltese said they are unhappy with multiculturalism.

Another finding that was not surprising at all in the survey carried out by statistician Vince Marmara was the general population’s reluctance to switch political allegiance. It has always been clear that the Maltese do not change sides easily, and many people vote according to their family’s traditions, come what may.

We have seen this happening in recent years, when the Labour Party was re-elected to government despite the countless corruption scandals.

But just because this trend is normal does not make it right.

We are once again in an election year, and the scandals have not gone away. To the contrary, 2020 and 2021 have so far been riddled with political controversy, scandal, and shocking revelations.

Our preoccupation with the Covid pandemic and eagerness to return to a ‘normal’ life should not overshadow the country’s political situation, but the findings of the survey would indicate that this will likely be the case.

Over three quarters of respondents said that politics are important or very important in their lives. That much is good, because politics does affect every aspect of our daily lives. Politics affects each and every one of us, and so does corruption and bad governance.

But, on the other hand, only 17% of respondents said they had sometimes voted for different political parties in the past. And only a quarter of people consider voting for a different party in the future. This means that many people will still back their political party no matter what happens, irrespective of the wrongdoing that can be done.

While that number is enough to sway an election one way or the other – as famously happened in 2013 – it is not a sign of a mature population that votes according to real preference, and according to the reality in the country.

It is not a sign of an open-minded electorate that is ready to punish an erring administration and banish it back to the opposition benches.

It is positive to note, at least, that youngsters are more willing to vote for another party. This raises some hope that future generations will not be so blindly attached to one party – that the tribalism that has gripped this country for so many decades could be on the decline.

But there are those who are doing their utmost to see this tribalism remain.

When closing the conference on Friday afternoon, President George Vella expressed concern on the growing use of social media, particularly since it can lead to miscommunication and negative impacts on our values and behaviour.

He turned to Prime Minister Robert Abela and Opposition Leader Bernard Grech and called on both parties to be respectful in their use of social media, both toward each other, as well as toward other parliamentary members.

This was not the first time that President Vella appealed for respect in political discourse.

It was very disappointing to see that, at the same time the President was making this impassioned appeal, a major Labour Party exponent – Jason Micallef – was branding people as traitors on social media, just because they are standing up to be counted and speaking out against the destruction of our environment.

The Valletta Cultural Agency chairman singled out activist Claire Bonello, who was recently featured in an international documentary about over-development in Malta.

Incidentally, President Vella had just spoken out against the degradation of the natural environment in Malta and Gozo, saying that there is too much on-going construction.

Yet Micallef branded Bonello as “an enemy of Malta” for saying the exact same thing, albeit in a different forum.

Micallef is still a somewhat influential figure, and he knows it. He is one of the people who are contributing to Malta’s tribalism, who politicise everything under the sun, and who promote the ‘us and them’ mentality.

Never mind the fact that, as the chairperson of a national (and purely cultural) authority he should be more considered in his words and steer away from political controversy.

The fact that people who try to make their voice heard for the benefit of us all are branded as ‘traitors’ and ‘enemies’ shows that the country still has so much growing up to do.

The State of the Nation survey showed that we Maltese are very much stuck to the ways of the past and are highly resistant to change.

The evidence is clear. We must now reflect, and act.

 

 

 

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