The Malta Independent 27 May 2024, Monday
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Alfred Sant MEP Monday, 22 April 2024, 08:00 Last update: about 2 months ago

Are the Maltese a people of conformists? That was the rather strange question that a friend whom I had not seen for many years during most of which he had been away, asked me. Before he left he did not enjoy the reputation of having been a revolutionary. Later there came no news of his having been involved in radical right or left wing activism.

I asked him what exactly was on his mind. One could imagine that like most people when they come back from a long stay abroad, he would need some time to readjust to our lifestyle.


He said: I cannot comprehend how things get done here. I guess I used to know but that was long ago and I must have forgotten. Actually wherever I go and no matter whom I’m with, people speak up about the need for existing rules and regulations to be properly enforced. It seems like there’s a general agreement about this. Yet then nobody seems to observe them (these rules and regulations) and it’s just obvious that they are not being enforced.

I asked: But what this have to do with conformism? I even mentioned Moravia’s splendid novel “The Conformist” to demonstrate how he was confusing issues.

That left him totally unmoved. The true conformists, he claimed, agree with what they’re agreeing to because they know they need not worry about it, for it won’t come into force. 



A history of Malta under British rule that covers comprehensively the development of Maltese society when the island was just a link in the imperial chain that the UK had drawn around the world, is still lacking. Sometimes one is tempted to conclude that since the book by A V Laferla “British Malta” was published, there have been few synthetic and sustained acounts of the subject. But to be honest and not really cruel, it is necessary to point out that Laferla does not give the whole story.

Perhaps that would then lead to the claim that the same can be said about the centuries during which Malta was ruled by the Order of St John. Too often, the history of these islands was made to revolve around the list of the personalities who ruled it and what they stood for. 



What characteristics enable a small country to be classified as small? I had to ask myself this question recently when reading a book about small countries and the success they could achieve.

For instance, about Malta or Cyprus there can be little doubt about whether they should be considered small or not, both by way of the territory they cover as well as in terms of population. Actually, both qualify as “micro” states. But then in population terms or area, do countries like Ireland or Switzerland fit in as “small”?

Our mindset is locked into the idea that world events are dominated by the large or very large countries. How true is this? If countries like Ireland etc. are to be considered as small, would this not mean that small countries probably constitute the majority of UN member states. Is this majority delivering diplomatic leverage? Can it be made to so deliver? If yes, how?


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