The politics of anti-politics

Rather than putting our heads together for the benefit of the country, it seems that we are more intent to play to the crowds

During the last two to three months, politics in Malta has taken a serious downward trend, a “continuation of war” by other means. Rather than putting our heads together for the benefit of the country, it seems that we are more intent to play to the crowds, especially on Parliament television. We have resorted to shouting, creating as much havoc as possible to try and impress audiences. In the process, we have forgotten the policies, the reform and governance in general and as politicians, we are generating a general dislike towards politics and politicians in general.

Winston Churchill has been quoted saying that “In war, you can only be killed once, but in politics, many times”. In recent debates and speeches we have gone from criticism to overkill. Rather than provide the people with an opportunity to participate in a civil discussion, we are trying hard to distance ourselves from the reality of politics in favour of partisan politics. If we lose all sight of reason in our discussion we are also losing the respect of the people.

During my parliamentary career, I have witnessed the major political parties shift from one end to another. Our social and economic policies are pretty similar, but the way to go about it and how we make it happen is different. But now we risk creating a new divide, between governance and extremism, which could lead to a new force in our political field – that of anti-politics.

“The mainstream parties are finished! They won’t survive for long,” announced Beppe Grillo, in typical style, on his Cinque Stelle online television channel some time ago. The Movement bearing the same name of his TV channel is a clear example of what could lead to the decline of formal political parties.

The former Italian comedian resorted to a fascinating and powerful mix of anti-establishment rhetoric, new technology and old-fashioned rallies and local action. “Head on the internet, and feet on the ground” was one of Grillo’s major slogans.

Supporters of the Cinque Stelle Movement are neither right nor left. They are all, however, angry about the state of democracy in Italy and Europe, and now do we risk having something similar in our islands, even though perhaps not in the short term?

Shouting, name-calling and mud-slinging are not the ingredients for political maturity. Politicians are elected to work for the people and not to create an anti-establishment movement that can only serve to undermine society by simply denouncing the world as it is, without having the culture and energy to make the world, if not a better place, at least less terrible.

Evarist Bartolo is Minister of Education and Employment