‘Why vote for others to be cheated? Vote for us instead!’

Elsewhere, both the Socialists and Liberals are equally keen to appease Far-Right sympathisers in other, arguably less ‘contentious’ ways: for instance, by supporting calls – again, coming mainly from farmers – to reintroduce hunting licences, for protected predators such as wolves and bears

At this distance in time, I can’t remember if the original version was inspired by an actual shop-sign, hanging outside an actual shop somewhere… or whether it was just a random witticism, included in the ‘Armada Book of Jokes and Riddles’ (which was more or less my Bible, as a child).

Either way, I’m sure you’ve all heard it before: ‘Why go somewhere else to be cheated? Come here first!’

But I’m also fairly certain that – like me – you might find it a good deal less hilarious, today, than all those years ago. Because let’s face it, folks:  it’s not exactly much of a ‘joke’ anymore, is it? Oh, no! It is, in fact, more like a very real question, that I end up genuinely asking myself around three or four times a week.

Only in my case, it goes something like: ‘Why go to THAT particular supermarket, to buy products that used to cost a mere fraction of the current price, just a few short months ago… when I can freely choose to pay the exact same over-inflated sum, for (more or less) the exact same products, at pretty much any other supermarket I please?’

And OK: there may well be a few valid reasons, on which to base your choice. One shop might simply be ‘within easier walking distance than another’ (even if – at the rate the PA is currently dishing out commercial permits – those distances might one day have to be measured in ‘inches’, rather than ‘feet’)…

Or it could even boil down to purely personal reasons, which have nothing to do with shopping at all.  In my case, for instance, the choice is dictated purely by the quality of the shopkeeper’s Spotify play-list: permanently on loop in the background, while I pace up and down the aisles (trying to remember what the heck I had even come there to buy, in the first place...)

One thing, however, is certain. Whatever your choice, you will still end up paying grotesquely over-inflated prices, for all the stuff you used to purchase for a good deal less, before.

Yes, that’s right: even if you went all those miles out of your way, in search of the ‘biggest international supermarket-chains’, offering the ‘lowest possible prices on the market’. For whatever you might have saved on your shopping bill, will be more-than amply compensated for by (among other things) the increased expenditure on petrol; the loss of your precious time; and quite possibly, also the rapid deterioration of your mental health, as 25% of your entire life is spent in endless traffic.

Make no mistake, then. That old witticism, from the ‘Armada Book of Jokes and Riddles’, seems to have outgrown its earlier ‘joke’ phase; and has now matured into a fairly accurate description of, not just the current Maltese economic situation, in general… but also, the contemporary European/Western economic model, as a whole.

In other words: as consumers living in a ‘free-market economy’, we enjoy the full ‘freedom’ to choose exactly whom to be ‘shafted by’, for ourselves: in any circumstance, and without any interference whatsoever.

And there is no shortage of choice, by the way: in fact, hardly a week goes by without the announcement of a whole new ‘Mega-Intergalactic Supermarket Chain, soon to be opening in Malta for the first time…’ (for the sole purpose, naturally, of ‘shafting its customers’, in exactly the same way as all the others…)

If I’m not mistaken, the Italians even have an idiomatic expression of their own, to describe this sort of thing. They call it ‘L-imbarrazzo della scelta’: literally, the ‘embarrassment of choice…’

Ah, but how much more ‘embarrassing’ (not to mention ‘unamusing’) the same ‘choice’ starts to appear… when you apply it to European/Western POLITICS, instead of ‘economy’?

Right: let’s just take a step back here, and admire the view from across the Malta-Sicily channel. Even if you’re not the type to follow international politics, every day… you will surely have had it drummed into you, by now, that this year promises to deliver quite a number of potentially ‘game-changing’ scenarios, on the global political stage.

Among these are (in order of priority, for Europe): The American Presidential Election, in November; The European Parliamentary elections, in June; national elections in four EU states (Belgium, Portugal, Austria, Finland); and of course, the various (unpredictable) developments of all the WARS [!] the EU now finds itself involved in… from Ukraine, to Israel, to Yemen (and who knows? Maybe even Iran, by the end of the year).

Meanwhile, it just so happens that ALL those scenarios seem to have a certain, shall we say, ‘ ingredient’ in common. In one way or another, they are all somehow linked up with the (very real) prospect of a ‘radical resurgence radical Far Right ideology, sweeping right across Europe.’

Or at least: that’s the impression I’m getting, right now, from the unmistakable note of panic, that has crept into certain European headlines – and, it must be said, ‘political parties’ - of late. Here are a few samples:

‘The far right may surge in upcoming EU elections’ (AP)

‘The far right is moving into Europe's mainstream’ (The Financial Times)

‘Far-right rise could make Europe ungovernable’ (Reuters)

‘Trump told EU that if Europe is attacked, US will never come to help’ (Every single newspaper, across the entire world…)

Naturally, I won’t bother explaining the various ramifications of all that, for the future ‘peace and stability’ of the European continent. But let’s just say, for now, that all Europe’s ‘mainstream parties’ are – if you’ll excuse the expression – ‘shitting bricks’, at the prospect that even one of those eventualities might actually materialise in the near future.

Hence, a whole new round of (even more ‘panicky’) headlines, to inform us of the mad scramble that is now taking place, within Europe’s ‘mainstream’ political circuit.

In brief, it seems that all Europe’s supposedly ‘mainstream’ parties – the Conservatives, the Socialists, the Liberals (though to be fair: not the Greens, as far as I can see) – are positively falling over themselves, in their sheer desperation to somehow stem this ‘wholesale haemorrhage, to the Right’.

In France, for instance, Macron has just announced a whole raft of new policy measures - the least of which could easily have been lifted from the ‘Gow-Beck-To-Yor-Kantry!’ manifesto - prompting headlines such as: “Macron’s plan to move right: School uniforms, national service and more babies…”

Even more alarmingly, however: in its haste to appease as many right-wing, populist concerns as possible, the entire European People’s Party - which, as NET News never omits to mention, is the ‘largest single political bloc, in the European Parliament’ (for now, anyway) – is even proposing that the European Union simply ditches its entire environmental agenda, altogether! (and even the EU’s supposedly ‘common’ Asylum and Immigration Pact, no less!)

Presumably under pressure from the German Democratic Party – currently facing a veritable ‘peasant’s revolt’, as German farmers swing towards the Far Right in droves – the EPP is now proposing (inter alia) to: “massively bulk up the EU’s external guard force, and drop plans to phase out the combustion engine across the bloc by 2035”; and also ‘to tighten border control’, in exactly the same way as any hard-boiled neo-Nazi would expect.

As Politico put it this week: “With its heavy emphasis on migration control and call to “preserve our Christian values,” the manifesto reflects the growing strength of right-wing parties across the bloc. […] In addition to tripling the number of EU border guards, from 10,000 to 30,000, the EPP also wants to process more asylum applications outside the EU, and to strike more deals with non-EU countries to KEEP MIGRANTS AT BAY.” [My emphasis].

And that’s not all, of course. Elsewhere, both the Socialists and Liberals are equally keen to appease Far-Right sympathisers in other, arguably less ‘contentious’ ways: for instance, by supporting calls – again, coming mainly from farmers – to reintroduce hunting licences, for protected predators such as wolves and bears.

But surely, by now you can see where all this is headed for yourselves. It seems that – in their panicked efforts to somehow ‘stem’, or ‘prevent’, a wholesale resurgence of the Far Right, sweeping across the European continent next June… Europe’s mainstream parties have (almost) all chosen to do, precisely the one thing that will only ever make that prediction come TRUE.

One by one, they are all lurching towards the Far Right themselves, at record-breaking speeds… and in the same breath, they are all also insisting that the only way to keep the Far Right out of the European mainstream, in the forthcoming EP elections, is - yup, you guessed it! - to just ‘vote for them, instead’…

… even if, by June, there will be no difference left whatsoever, between ‘Far Right’ and ‘Mainstream’, to even choose between anymore.

But hey! Let’s not end this article on such a glum note, shall we? Because don’t forget, folks…  we are all still perfectly ‘free’, to make those entirely pointless choices for ourselves. And what, at the end of the day, could possibly be more than valuable than…

[Cue to Mel Gibson struggling to cry out, while being brutally disembowelled on the Big Screen]