Dinosaurs, pigs and other animals

Despite popular perception, not all conservatives are fundamentalists, while I strongly feel that some people of the liberal and green strains are.

Adrian Vassallo, a Labour MP who has become notorious for his brand of conservatism, recently defended his patch by declaring that if he was a dinosaur - as some liberals were saying - then liberals were pigs.

The logic of this syllogism escapes me. Perhaps what the otherwise sleepy MP simply meant was that he was good at stupid name-calling as the guy next door. Delving into the biological characteristics of dinosaurs and pigs, I am sure, would not help anyone to understand the logic any better. And, anyway, calling people pigs is as old as the hills: in the 1960s jargon of my youth 'pigs' was the word used when referring to the police. But then, I have also been called a dinosaur; not because of any old-fashioned ideas I might embrace but simply because I am over 65!

The liberal versus conservative tug-of-war recently came to the fore because of the discussion of the law on IVF (which does not mention IVF) in the House of Representatives as well as because Tonio Borg, nominated for the post of EU Commissioner in place of John Dalli, was greeted  with a barrage of criticism from the liberals and green groupings in the European Parliaments who had been told that he is a hard-line conservative. The attacks came before the attackers had actually met Tonio Borg and were based on what he was reported to have said.

Personally, I did not like it at all when Tonio made a snide remark at the 'liberal elite' with whom Democratic Christians necessarily disagreed. But he is entitled to that opinion. Tonio is mature enough to agree to disagree and continue on battling with life. I was therefore not surprised that he weathered the grilling by MEPs in an admirable fashion, putting paid to that liberal/green prejudice that seems to imply that conservatives are 'ex ufficio' stupid.

Despite popular perception, not all conservatives are fundamentalists, while I strongly feel that some people of the liberal and green strains are. Having an opinion that many might feel is passe' and adhering strictly to a moral code does not make one a fundamentalist. It is insisting - at all costs - on imposing one's values on others that is the hallmark of fundamentalism. Seen from this viewpoint, green activists using violence on other people's property are as fundamentalist in their approach to life as Muslim Talibans shooting schoolgirls who want to go to school.

The point on whether Tonio Borg is suitable to be an EU Commissioner is not whether his moral code, and hence his position on abortion and gay marriage, rub liberals the wrong way but whether he would be prone to abuse his position as EU Commissioner by imposing his personal values on European citizens. Tonio has every right to hold on to his values but no right to impose them on others.

This is a fine and subtle, but very important, point. It is not surprising that green fundamentalists miss it completely because, as fundamentalists themselves, they think it is only natural for people to impose their moral values on others. This is why I do not agree with those who insist that the right for abortion and for gay marriages are European values. There may be a hundred reasons that justify abortion and gay marriages but elevating their status to an expression of some sacred set of values brings us back to square one: this is as fundamentalist a stance as insisting they should not be allowed on religious grounds.

All this, of course, revolves round the separation of State and religion - an authentic European value that must be really upheld. The State (and the EU as an association of states) goes by its criminal code and its code of ethics and not by some set of religious moral guidelines or some set of 'values' concocted to suit some political ideology.

In a recent televised discussion on the right for freedom of expression, I held that this right gives everyone the right to lie, so long as no one is sued for libel. A reverend gentleman who was on the panel insisted that lying is morally wrong and hence no one can have a right to be morally wrong. This is the same reasoning of the Talibans who shoot schoolgirls, except that what they deem to be immoral by their 'values' is anathema to us.

Let me say, for example, that a Minister claims that fifty thousand new jobs were created under his watch during the last five years. This would be a blatant lie, of course. Whether people believe it or not is irrelevant. Judging by religious values, it could be immoral and paving his way to eternal damnation; but the basic human right for freedom of expression  gives him the right to say it.

Unfortunately, during the debate I used another example, referring to an absurd claim that nobody believes. But the basic argument is the same: every individual has a right to lie so long as no other individual is injured.

I was not surprised that the reverend gentleman found it difficult to understand, or rather to accept, this argument. This is a good example of a situation where the State's respect for human rights and the Church's moral values are at odds with each other. Insisting that the State's criminal and ethical codes should necessarily overlap with the Church's moral code is the hallmark of fundamentalism, because it leads to the State's power being used to impose the moral teachings of religion. 

So there. Having expressed my opinion on the eternal conservative-liberal clash, am I to be judged a dinosaur, a pig or a chimeric concoction of both?

I am just a human being and silly 'terms of endearment' have no place in public perception and politics if the respect for the dignity of the human being is to be upheld.

Now that's another European value, which is so often ignored by those who claim to be defenders of European values when they give offensive labels to people with whom they disagree.

More in Blogs
avatar
Luke Camilleri
And Chamaleons that change their colour depending on changes in habitat ..... especially when they migrate! We have our very own Toniosaurus Camaleontus Rex that not only changes colour ( even wear a red tie during his grilling ) but changes principles as well!
avatar
No! I would say that labels you as a level headed, intelligent human being that has gone through all that life has to offer, and now feels that he may freely express his deeply felt opinion. That adds you to an ever growing list of "thinking animals".