The Malta Independent 17 May 2022, Tuesday

Gozo extremes

Alfred Sant MEP Monday, 24 January 2022, 08:00 Last update: about 5 months ago

Over the years it became very clear that two models were competing with each other about how Gozo’s development strategy should be conducted.

One focussed on the need to preserve as much as possible Gozo’s environment and character in line with how they came down to us from the past. The other insisted that Gozo and its inhabitants should not be prevented from accessing economic and social progress: all efforts that would modernise the economy to create wealth there should be unleashed.

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Always -- yesterday as much as today -- there would be agreement that neither of these two extremes made sense. Gozo as a crib would not be viable. Gozo as a jungle would destroy the island’s identity. Still, despite such a general agreement, the jungle option has won the game.

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ON BECOMING TOO BIG

The major internet companies... the so called GAFA: Google, Amazon, Facebook (now Meta), Apple... dominate their markets on a global basis. They have an incredibly strong impact on economies, political affairs, culture, information. Their power is almost limitless.

It is a power which allows easily for abuses that then help to increase the GAFA’s outreach. As of now, in the public interest, efforts are still being made to regulate the activities of the companies. A problem is that they effectively exercise a power greater that that of the governments which seek to make them subject to regulation. As well, the technologies deployed on the internet are improving so fast that the laws cannot keep up with them.

This is coming to mean that regulations providing for the scrutiny of the GAFA cannot cover all the companies are doing or about to do.

Applying regulations to them in a satisfactory manner is indeed hardly possible. Perhaps the time has come for governments to agree that instead of just making them subject to regulation, the best way forward would be to break the GAFA up into smaller entities. In that manner at least, regulation could be better positioned to do its work meaningfully and there would be greater competition all round. That is what was done in the US at the beginning of the twentieth century when the oil industry ended up in the control of the Standard Oil monopoly.

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WHY LITERATURE?

Many consider literature -- all branches of art in fact -- as a pastime, suitable for dilettantes to occupy themselves with. One can hardly blame them for doing so since in Malta’s minute context, the margins within which literature is written and read do give that impression.

However literature as a writing and reading endeavour is a special experience that leads one to reflect with a sense of mystery and wonder about human existence, as it is being  and could be lived.

I went back to such reflections recently while reading Martin Walser’s short novel “A Runaway Horse”, about two men who were at school together and meet again years later. The subtle but deep tensions that build up between them open up a “new” understanding about the meaning of friendship and the kind of memories it leaves behind.

                       

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