The Malta Independent 2 December 2023, Saturday
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Rich Men North of Valletta

Sunday, 10 September 2023, 07:38 Last update: about 4 months ago

Juanita Galea

Oliver Anthony, a factory worker from Farmville Virginia was frustrated. Around him he saw hard working normal — average at best, people who no matter how hard they strived in life, they simply could not get ahead. Despite their efforts, financially they were never close to being comfortable. Anthony went from posting his own original songs to his humble audience of under 500 a month, to taking over the music charts internationally.


Over the last couple of weeks, Rich Men North of Richmond became the most listened to song, spreading like wildfire. The message it championed is simple; the plight of the working class is shared by many, but the elite do not care. Whilst Anthony wrote this from an American perspective, this sentiment is shared worldwide—as seen by the rising popularity of the song, the lyrics becoming cemented as an intimate reflection of our innermost thoughts, fears and anger.

Young men are putting themselves

Six feet in the ground

'Cause all this damn country does

Is keep on kicking them down

This alone enough is reason to cause alarm. We are living in a suicide epidemic, which has only gotten worse since the lockdowns. Cutting people’s channels of in-person communication and then not providing the necessary support mechanisms is undoubtedly aiding to statistical increase.

Nearly 800,000 people die by suicide in the world each year, which is roughly one death every 40 seconds. According to the WHO, 77% of global suicides occur in low and middle-income countries. In Malta, there is an average of two suicide deaths per month, according to statistics released in 2022 by the Commissioner for the Rights of Persons with Mental Disorders. The statistics also showed that the age of suicide victims ranged from below 16 years to over 95 years, with the most prevalent age bracket being between 40 and 50 years. The disparity between the two genders is very visible when it comes to suicide—with 83% of the victims being male.


Why does the song hit so close to home?

As a 20-something year old living in modern day Malta—i.e. cosmopolitan hell, this song rings true like a national anthem of a generation scorned. The Malta we grew up in was one which deserved the title “the Mediterranean dream”. A relatively young nation brought up on a set of values and morals, with a love of justice adorning all levels of policy. A Malta which could be presented as a model for a political system which not only uplifted the average citizen, but actually put him first.

This contemporary Malta which can be summed up as one giant lie of a postcard using palm trees to hide the 7 cranes you would see from virtually any viewpoint on the island. It is a Malta were the quality of life of the average Maltese person has drastically gone down—both in terms of standards, but also government priorities. If you come to visit Malta and feel as though you are suffocating (albeit most of it can be blamed on the excessive pollution), what you are feeling is that heavy-oppressive culture of indifference. Indifference to what happens to our generation, whether we sink or survive.

This indifference can be felt in virtually every sector, the excessive increase in population on the island, the poor infrastructural planning and the (seemingly) sheer lack of interest of policy makers to do anything has created ripple effects in every sector. You have to get to work but do not yet afford to buy a car? Why the answer is obvious, make use of public transport, after all we should be prompting greener uses of transport, you selfish bigot.

And as God told Moses to liberate his people from the oppressive bonds of the Egyptians and to set forth in the desert seeking the Promised Land, you at the early hours of the morning pack up you bag and walk towards your closest bus stop, part the sea of diversity in an attempt to get on the vehicle taking you to the promised land which is your measly 9-5 job were you pray that enough scraps fall of the table of the higher-ups that day so that you can take them back home and keep them safe, in the hopes that one day you can afford to give a pound of flesh to a bank until your ripe age of 64, were you will retire should you have such a privilege of being given that luxury. Transport is one such sector effected by poor planning and overpopulation. Health and education are amongst other examples, which merit their own analysis.   

Oliver Anthony’s lyrical genius is a simple lamentation of the average working class person. In its humility and reflection of what our contemporary experience has become, it transforms into a masterpiece. “And they don’t think you know, but I know that you do”. Think, reflect and weep.

Think, reflect and weep. And then once you’ve wept once more at the state you find yourself in, replace that sorrow with understanding. Look at your representatives and connect the dots. It is the lack of political planning that has forced your hand to sign off your generation and the next in a contract through which you and they are made the perpetual victim—in which you not only lose your autonomy, but your soul. Those who claim they are there to represent you are not doing you justice. You deserve to be led by people who want to serve the polis, and not control it.

Whilst you struggle to make ends meet, struggle to enjoy some moments of pleasure in this busy life, struggle to even dream about a future you feel was robbed from you, they sit comfortably in their green chairs and make decisions in your name which only benefit them.


Juanita Galea is a 22-year-old diplomacy graduate, interested in intercultural politics and the Mediterranean

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