Hong Kong Phooey

Busuttil is in no position to complain, seeing as how his own precious Nationalist Party – the only real guarantor of democracy, if its leader is to be believed – had done exactly the same thing on several occasions when it was in power.

Both Jackie Chan and Simon Busuttil seem groomed to give the impression of eternal boyhood; both have that same ardent stare of childlike sincerity... and clearly share a hairstylist
Both Jackie Chan and Simon Busuttil seem groomed to give the impression of eternal boyhood; both have that same ardent stare of childlike sincerity... and clearly share a hairstylist
Both Jackie Chan and Simon Busuttil seem groomed to give the impression of eternal boyhood; both have that same ardent stare of childlike sincerity... and clearly share a hairstylist
Both Jackie Chan and Simon Busuttil seem groomed to give the impression of eternal boyhood; both have that same ardent stare of childlike sincerity... and clearly share a hairstylist

I’ve often wondered who Simon Busuttil reminds me of. You know how it is with certain people. Something in their expression, their demeanour or mannerisms, will ring a certain little bell somewhere in your subconscious… though you can’t put your finger on exactly what or why.

So it is with the leader of the Opposition: that mild-mannered and rather smallish figure of a man, who now faces a seemingly impossible challenge against spectacularly unlikely odds.

Now where, oh where have I seen this sort of thing before…?

Then it hit me – quite literally like a karate chop to the solar plexus. Jackie Chan! It’s the exact plot of a Jackie Chan movie. The little hero, convinced of the inherent justice of his own cause, who stands all alone against the big bad establishment: fighting (and fighting, and fighting, and fighting) for liberty, in a world where our most basic rights are constantly under threat by corrupt governments and organised networks of power-hungry criminals. (At least, in his own imagination… for Jackie Chan movies are actually fictional, in case you never noticed.)

And they resemble each other physically, too. Both Jackie and Simon seem groomed to give the impression of eternal boyhood; both have that same ardent stare of childlike sincerity about them... not to mention the fact that both evidently use the same hairstylist, and probably also the same brand of toothpaste.

There are, however, a couple of differences. For one thing, the action sequences in the ongoing Kung Fu comedy that is the Nationalist Party are far more convincing than any Jackie Chan flick. Just look at this video [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Oi58KP0cvc], in which former PN president Victor Scerri can be seen deftly flooring a football player using the classic ‘Kaiko-Ken Zuki’ flat-arm punch technique… something he can only have learnt from the School of ‘Hokuto Shinken’, or from Miyagi in ‘The Karate Kid’.

I am told it is a sneak preview of the latest martial arts movie currently being filmed on location in Herbert Ganado Street, Pieta’. It’s called ‘The Hong Kong Connection’, and from the little I’ve seen it promises to be a smash hit.

Another difference concerns prowess in martial arts. Jackie Chan is a reasonably good Kung-Fu fighter, on this I think we can all agree. But he is simply no match for our Simon… who, like everyone else brought up on ‘Ken Il Guerriero’ in the 1980s, learnt his combat techniques from the little-known school of ‘Yugotu Bikiden Mi’.

This makes Simon Busuttil a black-belt in the unique martial arts discipline known as ‘Bull-shido’: in fact he is even credited with inventing a whole new version of the classic karate ‘palm strike’ technique. It’s called the ‘face-palm strike’, and it’s unique to the world of martial arts in that victims actually inflict the strike upon themselves. (Note: it is unique also because the ‘victims’ are actually supporters of Busuttil’s own party. His antagonists will usually be cheering when it happens…)

We were all treated to a spectacular example in recent days. You may have been wondering what that loud, clap-like sound we all heard last Sunday was: the one that was reported in all localities of Malta and Gozo, and which many thought was another thunderstorm approaching in the distance. Well, they weren’t far wrong. It was actually the impact shudder of around 100,000 simultaneous face-palm strikes across the entire island, after Simon Busuttil compared Malta’s democratic deficit scenario to that of Hong Kong.

Actually, wait: he said that the Maltese scenario was WORSE than Hong Kong. These were his exact words to the PN general council: “There are huge protests involving young people in Hong Kong, because the government of China wants to choose the candidates for the elections there. Very good. So our situation is WORSE than that of China: because not only does he [Joseph Muscat] want to choose the candidates… he wants to cancel the elections altogether!”

Cue to massive applause among the PN delegates, which just goes to show how they are all merely extras in this martial arts movie in the making.

Meanwhile, a second (arguably louder) collective face-palm strike was heard the following day, when Busuttil was given a chance to clarify that stunning comment in an interview with Norman Vella… but instead stuck to his katanas: “When one understands that in both cases, the government is removing people’s right to vote, of course I can compare the situation to that of Hong Kong.”

Got that? OF COURSE he can compare Malta to Hong Kong. How can anyone not see the resemblance? Just look out of your window: armies of peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators, threatened with violence by criminal mobs backed by police in full riot gear, everywhere you goddamn look. In fact I’m too frightened to even leave my apartment, lest I get caught in the crossfire between tens of thousands of protesters and a combination of Special Assignment Group and the Sicilian mafia…

Oh, and speaking of all these endless pro-democracy demonstrations we have had to put up with of late: can you guys keep it down, please? I can barely hear myself think with all these chants of “Liberty!”, “We shall overcome”, and “You can take our land, but you can’t take our freedom!”, etc.

Now where was I? Oh yes. The Hong Kong connection. It already has all the makings of a cult Kung Fu movie classic – impossible exaggerations that defy reality, etc – but what makes it an almost instant blockbuster is not the action, but the script. It is written to the same tried-and-tested formula that we can all rattle off by heart, and which many of us were hoping that the PN would change if it ever wanted to one day be taken seriously again.

The formula works like this: take a quick look at what is happening in the wider world; and if there’s anything nasty, dirty, dangerous and reprehensible with which the local situation can be compared… well, milk it for all it’s worth, and to hell with such considerations as plausibility or verisimilitude. After all, if Jackie Chan can make raucously successful B-movies featuring impossibly absurd and outrageously unrealistic scenarios… what’s to stop our Bull-shido black-belt from doing the same?

There is, of course, a small snag. People who go to the cinema to watch a Jackie Chan movie know full well what to expect. They actually want (and pay good money) to be treated to a spectacle of laughably exaggerated nonsense, because it’s all so very entertaining.

Simon Busuttil’s repeated face-palm strikes are of course equally laughable; in fact they have kept me enormously entertained for the past three days. But not everyone watching is necessarily amused. And with good reason: it is actually the last thing most sensible Nationalists would want to hear, from the leader of an Opposition party that has already shot its credibility to atoms over the years… with the result that it trails the party in government by an unprecedented margin of votes.

For one thing, Busuttil contradicts himself almost immediately with his next sentence. Having stated that government plans to ‘cancel the local council elections altogether’, he promptly qualifies that these elections will actually be postponed for five years. Admittedly it is not a terribly good example of democracy in action… as I have had occasion to point out in other articles… but to liken that scenario to a cancellation of democratic elections by the world’s notoriously despotic regime is stretching things just slightly too far.

For another: Busuttil is in no position to complain, seeing as how his own precious Nationalist Party – the only real guarantor of democracy, if its leader is to be believed – had done exactly the same thing on several occasions when it was in power. I don’t recall Busuttil comparing Malta to any dictatorial state when the PN successfully cancelled the 2004 local council elections in Zejtun and Marsa, thus depriving their inhabitants of the right to vote for five years. Nor were any such comparisons made when the PN government insisted on governing until the end of its term in 2013, even though it lost its parliamentary majority in 2011.

Another problem with Busuttil’s increasingly ludicrous public statements is that they reveal the sheer extent of the fantasy world he has built around himself – and by extension, around his party. Just like a good old Jackie Chan movie, the world (as seen through PN lenses) is neatly divided into ‘us’ and ‘them’. The ‘good guys’ versus the ‘baddies’. The ‘hamalli’ versus the ‘puliti’. The ‘natural party of government’ versus a bunch of crooks and thugs comparable to the Hong Kong triads and the Chinese military police.

It works with action B-movies, I am the first to admit… but it doesn’t and can’t work with the more discerning of today’s voters. And it is precisely this category that Busuttil should be trying to appeal to, if he really intends to ‘rebuild trust’ with former PN supporters who just can’t take that party seriously any more.

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