Traffic jams, Francis and a tongue-tied EU

Public trust has hit rock bottom, falling 17 places over last year's. Malta ranks at 74, down from 57. Surprised? I'm not

Pope Francis has revealed that he sought the help of a psychoanalyst for six months when he was the leader of the Jesuit order in Argentina during the country’s military dictatorship
Pope Francis has revealed that he sought the help of a psychoanalyst for six months when he was the leader of the Jesuit order in Argentina during the country’s military dictatorship

The latest World Economic Forum competitiveness index stated the obvious – public trust in politicians has hit rock bottom, falling 17 places, over last year’s. Malta ranks at 74, down from 57. Surprised? I’m not. You can feel it. 

Political fatigue has set in. People have had enough of political bickering, political rhetoric, and unfulfilled promises. They have given up on the country’s institutions, meant to protect citizen rights and hold politicians and people in power to account, but doing the exact opposite. Favouritism in decisions taken by government officials too has fallen 10 places, from 79 to 89 according to the World Economic Forum competitive index. Corruption is the order of the day. 

Despite promises that a roadmap is in place to address Malta’s mammoth traffic problems, people spend an eternity driving to work and back. Only this week, following an early morning downpour, Malta came to a standstill. Same thing happened on Thursday. Social media is littered with people venting their frustration at having to spend two hours, and more, stuck in traffic to reach their destination which, in normal circumstances, shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes, at most. It’s been a long time coming. Lack of planning over the years, and the ridiculous number of cars on our roads gave us today’s traffic crisis, for a crisis it is. 

However, Labour was elected on the back of a promise of having a road map, a readymade solution to Malta’s traffic problems. Five years later, it’s screamingly obvious that it was taking us all for a ride. And then we wonder why people are losing trust in politicians. It’s a mess, really. 

“Oh Jeremy Corbyn”

A few months ago, he was considered to be the most unelectable political leader in Britain. Today, Jeremy Corbyn is a clear favourite to become 10 Downing Street’s next tenant. To the chants of “Oh Jeremy Corbyn” at Labour’s annual conference in Brighton last month, the Labour leader declared that Labour was ready for government and urged British Prime Minister Theresa May to call another snap election. Whether Ms May obliges is anybody’s guess, although she most likely won’t. Having limped her way to an election victory earlier this year, May’s and the Conservative party’s popularity ratings are at an all time low. When she called a snap election it was with the understanding that she would secure support for her Brexit terms – but the outcome was a political disaster off the Richter scale. 

Merkel’s fourth term

There are two ways how to analyse the outcome of the German elections. One is that Chancellor Angela Merkel did what many political leaders fail to do: pull off a fourth one. To her credit, and to her credit only, Ms Merkel secured a fourth term in office and this despite her controversial handling of matters – notably the refugee crisis which bruised her party and her popularity. The other is that despite securing a fourth term in office, Merkel’s popularity has taken a dive with the Far Right party making significant inroads, raising alarm bells in Germany and beyond.

What is certain is that this is Merkel’s last term in office, for it is highly unlikely that she’ll stand for re-election in four years’ time. Considered to be Europe’s most influential political leader, and that is no exaggeration for she most certainly is, Merkel will probably step down half way through her four year term, securing a top position within the EU’s internal structures whilst paving the way for her successor. The outcome of the German elections also meant that the Social Democrats, led by Martin Schultz, will this time refuse to enter into coalition with Merkel’s CDU. It is a reasonable decision if the SPD intends to make itself electable again, but especially because this decision limits the far-right party from claiming to be Germany’s main opposition party. 

The crafts village revisited

Plans have been rolled out and promises made for a revamp of the Ta’ Qali crafts village, but there was never real commitment by successive administrations – Nationalist and Labour – to go ahead and build a decent crafts village. Now, the government has announced that works have started to turn the village into a “modern outfit”. One hopes that this time round, the government is serious and delivers on its promises. Maltese artisans deserve a decent crafts village.

A tongue-tied EU

The Spanish government’s violent effort to suppress the illegal Catalan independence vote on Sunday backfired. Suppressing referendums and election processes always does. Madrid’s fascist reaction to the illegal referendum was met with a striking, 24 hours of silence from senior EU leaders, and then Brussels came out defending the Spanish government and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Not a word of advice for how to defuse the tension from Brussels, save for the standard – ‘do-as-I say-or-you’re-in-trouble’ warning to officials in Catalonia that they would find themselves expelled from the EU if they seceded from Spain. Brussels’s tongue-tied approach risks being accused of hypocrisy given the EU’s willingness in recent years to criticize eastern European countries over their internal disputes and their handling of civil unrest. 

Francis’s Jewish therapist

People spend an eternity driving to work and back

Pope Francis has revealed that he sought the help of a psychoanalyst for six months when he was the leader of the Jesuit order in Argentina during the country’s military dictatorship. Francis’s psychoanalyst was a Jewish woman who has since passed away. At the time of his therapy he was 42 and Father Jorge Bergoglio, as he then was known, as head of the Jesuit order in Argentina, found himself in the middle of a struggle between a military junta and the left. That struggle is estimated to have left 30,000 people dead and thousands of others tortured. The Jesuits were prominent in their resistance to the junta.

It must have been a challenging time for Bergoglio, who sought the help of a psychoanalyst to help him through his emotional distress. The news of Pope Francis’s visits to the Jewish therapist is a shock to traditionalists for two reasons: the analyst was Jewish and a woman. Neither would have been conceivable before the Vatican Council of the 1960s, but, as The Guardian Weekly correspondent Andrew Brown said, “They show the distance the pope, and most of his church, have travelled since then.

Frank Psaila presents Iswed fuq l-Abjad on Net TV

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