I never thought the day would dawn when I’d actually sympathise with Tonio Borg.
Tonio who? Oh, yes, I almost forgot. He’s been rather quiet of late, hasn’t he? In fact, close an eye at certain rumblings over the past two weeks, and you’d be forgiven for assuming that Tonio never quite made it from the eighth district last March... still less that he currently occupies the post of Deputy Prime Minister.
So in case you have subliminally blotted out this unpleasant reality from your consciousness, allow me to remind you who would take over the entire country if (Yahweh forbid) something happened to ‘le Gonz’:
• He who believes that “life is sacred”, and must therefore be protected at its earliest inception (but not, it seems, at any other point... least of all while in police custody);
• He who encounters manifest difficulties distinguishing “Church” from “State”... despite being a total nonentity in the former, and the second most powerful person in the latter;
• He who presided over the gradual erosion of Malta’s international image as a hospitable, welcoming country, by promulgating a nauseating arbitrary detention policy which has brought us nothing but bad press (except maybe the whole-hearted support of those who would have voted for the National Socialist Party of Germany in 1933);
• And above all, he who has repeatedly (and unwittingly) pissed off all his own party’s half-decent supporters, by constantly pointing out to them what should really be obvious to everyone by now... i.e, that their beloved Partito Nazzjonalista, born of the ashes of the Malta fascist movement, is not, has never been and never will be the “liberal party” some of its supporters so dearly wish it were.
Yep, that’s the one: St Tonio of the Unborn.
But judging by recent developments, it seems that some of those who regularly vote PN are... how can I put this? Kind of ignorant about the same political organisation they have religiously supported all these years.
Some of them are even under the impression that the PN exists merely as a political extension of their own private fantasies and fetishes; and that if they themselves swing away from Christian Democracy and towards Democratic Liberalism, then the entire party should drop everything, including its own statute, and come rushing to do their bidding like a dutiful little lap-dog. And then, no sooner does the same PN gently remind them where they can all go and stuff their liberal tendencies, what happens? Why, they turn on the selfsame people they themselves have helped to instate as our rulers, and savage them mercilessly for the grave crime of being consistent and true to their own political beliefs for decades.
Poor Tonio. Small wonder he would come out of semi-retirement to set the record straight once and for all. And what he said this week – which I can assure you is no different from what the rest of the PN has been saying for years – can be summarised as follows:
> Look: if you’re liberal, you can’t be a Nationalist.
> If you believe that marriage is a contract like any other – and therefore ought to have a built-in escape clause like any other – then your place is not within the PN.
> If you think that homosexual partnerships ought to be given the same legal status as heterosexual partnerships, then the PN is very clearly not the party for you.
> If you openly doubt the self-evident truth of the claim “There is but one God, and he happens to be a card-carrying member of the European People’s Party”... well, then you really shouldn’t vote for any PN candidate in the forthcoming MEP elections.
And there was something else. What was it again? Ah yes...
> If you believe that a woman should have even the tiniest of says in a decision affecting her own destiny in life – and that her opinion in such matters by definition outweigh all considerations for the newly-formed human being inside her own uterus, at least for as long as it doesn’t develop a consciousness of its own – then don’t even think about getting messed up with a party that clearly views the same situation from the clean opposite angle.
There: it’s really not all that difficult to understand, now is it? And besides: it’s not as though he’s never made this point before. Back in March 2007, I attended the PN general conference at the Naxxar Trade Fair grounds (no, I had nothing particularly better to do that month) and... well, what do you know? Tonio’s entire speech could be summarised as follows:
“Guys: how many times do I have to say this? We’re not a liberal party. We’re a Christian Democratic party. In other words, we don’t like faggots; we don’t like greens; we couldn’t care less about the environment, unless it helps us win elections... heck, we don’t even agree with human rights, if it means that our police can’t frame whoever they please like for whatever crime needs ‘solving’ at any given moment. But having said that: we like our foetuses. Oh yes. And we like blastocysts, too (so long as they’re not used to discover cures for debilitating diseases... in which case, the blastocyst must be preserved at all costs, while the fully-fledged human being can die in agony at his or her leisure)... and while I’m at it: did I ever tell you I personally think Joseph Ratzinger is the absolute dog’s bollocks...?”
And so on and so forth and so fifth.
So make no mistake: the Nationalist Party is an arch-conservative party which has absolutely no room in its ranks – none at all – for liberal democrats. Why is this so difficult for some people to accept?
Ah: the penny drops. You see, the real reason so many people are uncomfortable with the idea that they are voting for the wrong party has a good deal more to do with themselves than it ever had with the Nationalists. It illustrates, for instance, how party allegiance has little or nothing to do with personal political convictions – if it did, the “liberals” would hardly vote for a party which has Tonio Borg as its second-in-command – but is instead a reflection of an tribal, “us-against-them” which presumably dates back to when Malta was a Caliphate.
What these people are expressing – at a time when elections are conveniently far away – is the inevitable frustration of being coerced to prop up a party one secretly loathes with a passion, for fear of losing one’s own influence should another party come into power instead.
Viewed from this perspective, it is hardly surprising that the people who gnash their teeth the loudest are also the ones who owe the most to the Nationalist Party, Tonio Borg and all. The upshot of all this? Simple. Far from being cowed or dismayed by all this hostility and criticism, Tonio Borg is actually laughing all the way to the polling booth. He knows he can rely even on even his sternest detractors to do his party’s dirty work when the time comes; and likewise, he also knows that – no matter how seriously he pisses these people off, nor how publicly he rubs their noses in their grand delusions of “Nationalist liberalism” – come election time these same people will be falling over themselves in their desperation to beg, bully, brainwash and browbeat all Malta’s liberals, so that the PN will once again win when wining really matters... and that his own, stuffy, Jurassic arch-conservatism will be enshrined as the dominant political force of the country... forever.
The only way is up...
Just to end this article on a less Apocalyptic note: I see in today’s news that a Maltese man has been arrested and charged in court with selling fake Viagra.
Well, what can I say? Nice to see our police are going after a hardened criminal for a change...