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Looking back it strikes you hard that we have lost so very much. Today, the new firebrands that get assimilated by the political parties have little or no ideological formation

saviour_balzan
Saviour Balzan
27 March 2017, 7:55am
Saint Paul spent most of his adult life persecuting and killing Christians only to turn to Christianity and become a missionary
Saint Paul spent most of his adult life persecuting and killing Christians only to turn to Christianity and become a missionary
That iconic song by Pink Floyd says it all. It was a breath of fresh air during the frustrations of growing up in 1980 to listen to The Wall live album. It was an unforgettable musical experience to listen to inside my bedroom – no air conditioning, no mobile phones, just a BBC radio for the news instead of the box that came in black and white visuals with TVM and three Italian Rai channels. The newspapers were too boring to read and the politics of Dom Mintoff was so stifling that listening to music was one very good way to forget.

I remember slightly sliding the galvanised window with the flakes of white paint falling off for some breeze of fresh air and listening to that music from the chunky turntable. Outside it must have been 33ºC and the idea of basking on the beach was not my kind of thing. It was the summer of 1980 and I was thorn over whom to vote for in the next election. I was just 17 and starting to embrace the ideas that never quite fitted with the norm.

Then it was all about ideology and thankfully at that age, it was not all about money.

While other youngsters were making a quick buck by travelling abroad or disappearing on an oil rig, or working their butts off, my sights were on other matters that were peripheral for most. It was an exciting time, understanding how inward-looking we all were and wondering if it would ever change. We were backwards, but not deprived, and as things stood there was also something to look forward to.

Looking back it strikes you hard that we have lost so very much. We have learnt so much and still remain so self-centred.

Today, the new firebrands that get assimilated by the political parties have little or no ideological formation. No real principles. They are together because they dislike the other guys on the other side.

I can understand that. But it is sad.

The new economic growth that we see today is great, it leaves many dividends, but this country has seen this frenzy before. It is not a bad thing to have a good economy, but not at the expense of everything else. 

As things stand, there is not a real concern about the other issues, the land, the culture, the principles, the no go zones. Most people are happy to get on with their lives and will not complain unless they experience some deprivation or suffer some direct injustice.

And there is a dearth of charismatic leaders who can embrace the concerns and translate them into a language that will fire the people to come together. Someone to ensure that something that is seemingly impossible to grasp and understand appears palatable and real.

***

That is something that was best illustrated in Joseph Muscat’s speech to his janissaries. Last Saturday he pulled out a parable out of his hat. He asked his faithful audience in the Orpheum theatre in Gzira why the Church had decided to combine the feast of St Peter and St Paul in June.

He went on to explain that these were two saints who had a lot to answer for. St Peter was the disciple who denied Christ and then went to be the leader of the Christian faith. And then there was Saint Paul, who spent most of his adult life persecuting and killing Christians only to turn to Christianity and become a missionary. That, he said, was the reason they had dedicated a day for the two saints: to send the message home that the Church was open to everyone even those who had worked against the Church.

Standing there facing him were Manuel Mallia, a former well known Nationalist lawyer now a Labour minister, the former PN mayor Ian Castaldi Paris who is now a potential PL candidate, and Frank Zammit, a former PN mayor who is now a PL councillor for Marsa. The message was clear: the Labour party needed more of these individuals if it wanted to win, and win big.

He said one needed to be positive and insisted that this was the only way forward. The speech was a well-dressed delivery of the PL’s achievements. It was aimed at raising morale and underlining that another five years in government was within their grasp.

And it could very well be, and the reason for this is because Muscat has today moved away from being a ‘leftist’ to being a centre-right, liberal politician, someone who does envisage taxing the rich to redistribute but encourages business at all costs and finds himself uncomfortable on moralistic issues and the environment.

He has left his opposition portraying themselves as more left to Labour, and that does not quite fall within the culture and psyche of what a Nationalist is supposed to be there for.

He is aided by the fact that PN leader Simon Busuttil is always caught in a reactive mode, is uncomfortable talking of the Labourite as a potential brother in arms and is far less impressive when it comes to communication. 

In Muscat’s hour-long speech, there was no talk of conflict of interest, of corruption or good governance, no reference to any form of mea culpa. He did not reopen wounds. It was all about winning another victory.

Which is very possible, because the Opposition are still a shadow of their past and do not really offer the vastly populist electorate with a vision or a blueprint that fits their present palate.

Worse still, the two smallish parties, the PD and the Greens, lack the kinetic energy to rally support. I get the impression that everyone wants to just get on with their life. And that is good news for Muscat, but bad news for a dynamic democracy that needs change to more forward.

***

I cannot understand why the vast majority of PN politicians are being given the advice to simply sound livid and annoyed. This tactic is simply backfiring. The idea of engaging with another adversary and shout him down, or simply call him names is not on.

I guess it is best exemplified by the crazy outbursts of Beppe Fenech Adami, if you wasted your time to see his latest eruption in Parliament. I am starting to wonder whether he is realising that he is only preaching to the converted and that he is way out of line. Perhaps it is the reason why someone craftily opted to remind his audience about the lesson one should learn from the feast of St Peter and St Paul. 

saviour_balzan
Saviour Balzan is the founder and co-owner of MaltaToday. He has reported on Maltese poli...
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