The Malta Independent 23 June 2024, Sunday
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Of bread, circuses and islands of love

Julie Zahra Sunday, 26 May 2024, 08:42 Last update: about 29 days ago

It is said that when things started to get a bit uneasy for Roman Emperors, they would promptly organise a tournament of gladiatorial games in the Colosseum – a spectacle that apparently used to go down a treat with the old folk of Rome. The lavish distribution of loaves of bread among those present would never go amiss, completing the eternal expression panem et circenses.

Wearing our sophisticated 21st Century glasses, we tend to look down on the simple folk of Rome, and how easily they would be coerced into distraction. But should we?


Malta is currently in the middle of an election campaign, getting ready to elect its six representatives to the European Parliament for the next five years, and local councillors for the same term. We are also in the middle of one of the most serious political crises of our modern history, whereby a former Prime Minister is about to be dragged to court (kicking and screaming), to face a host of serious charges, which are public knowledge by now.

Yet, I fear that for some reason, the country is more interested in the latest exploits of Kyannah, Kyonne, and Kyra! Fair enough, it is far more pleasing to watch a group of stunning human specimen in their prime, spending their days in bathing suits, knocking back the bubbly, rather than a bunch of middle-aged men in suits shouting at each other.

I don’t think it is a coincidence. As legitimate the timing may be, I feel that whenever the country goes through some moment that requires a deeper introspection, something extraordinarily entertaining is quickly unleashed. We all remember how the Valletta 2018 European Capital of Culture was turned into a year-long sham of a party, designed to get people’s minds off the serious issues the country was going through at the time. That was one excellent opportunity we wasted!

I am certainly not saying that people do not see through the ruse. However, it is a fact, that within the media bombardment, it is easy to miss the wider picture all together, through no fault of anyone. We consume news differently today, when compared to how we did ten years ago. We rely on timelines which are curated by algorithms that have little to no interest in the greater good, but merely keeping us glued to our screens.

So, it is easy to miss out the debate all together. On the other hand, a government with a lot to hide and, to keep away from a discerning electorate, finds it equally easy to game the system. I wouldn’t blame anyone who would see it as a concerted attack, to keep voters desensitised from the real issues at hand, eroding from the democratic fabric of the country.

As politicians, we are duty bound to move away from the rhetoric and translate our politics into the issues that affect the electorate. We must reach out to those who feel detached – perhaps due to under-representation, and to those who lost all interest. It is heartbreaking to read that a shocking percentage of our youths have lost all hope in ever seeing a better Malta, and have their suitcases already packed for the first opportunity out of the country.

Politics isn’t an old man’s game, and I should know a thing or two about that! It is the only tool we have, to create a better future for our children. As a mother of a six-year-old girl, I feel that there is more we can do. We must tackle the issues our country is facing head on, provide courageous solutions that take all our communities on board, and concretely build a better future.

Sure, it will be very hard to compete with Kyannah, Kyonne, and Kyra, but I feel that we can do more!


Julie Zahra is the Opposition’s Shadow Minister for Cultural Heritage, Arts, and Culture

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