Very schmaltzy but true...

Real stories which normal folk experience and face each day are being swept under the carpet just because most of the time we are setting the wrong agenda

Most people cannot even understand that thousands are not living like the rest
Most people cannot even understand that thousands are not living like the rest

The other day I visited an old friend.

I had been saying I would do so for the last year and that I would find the time to do it. His health had deteriorated and as usually happens in such cases I found the common excuses related to too much work and family commitments and so many other reasons – not to visit.

Finally, when I did get down to visiting, I faced an aged friend, the same one I had known to be an exceptionally active person with a desire for life and work.

‘Work’ not in the sense of earning money and making a profit but as a volunteer with an NGO, writing and researching, without ever waiting to be thanked or praised.

There are not many of these individuals around today. Those that work in the traditional NGOs are usually those who have been through some distressing personal experience and have this amazing hang-up about something or someone.

However, I am referring to another kind of NGO, without any political inclinations. The NGO that works without the pomp and self-conceit of many of those individuals, who create small waves and deliver in a visible way without much self-congratulatory noise.

I should be thankful that before I entered politics and journalism, I did my fair share in a non-governmental organisation. It wasn’t the kind which encouraged you to go down to the street and protest, at least not in the early stages. It was more about clearing a shoreline from the debris, planting trees or building cobbled walls. It was about taking children out to appreciate what nature has to offer and it involved the feeling that you were giving something back to society.

Today the idea of being a volunteer may sound like an abomination. Most young people are coached in the cult of making money and having a good life – full stop. Of travelling the world and having a smashing time.

The notion that life is not all about ourselves does not seem to click and I guess it has to do with our upbringing and education. I believe the nerdish term would be ‘values’.

The stalwart Eddie Fenech Adami would always talk about values but then he dumped the whole free market economy on Maltese society. And we embraced it in no uncertain terms. I guess I am saying all this because I feel a certain frustration with the kind of journalism we follow. Let me be clear: if someone is expecting us as journalists to be unique vendors of the good news, then one should look elsewhere.

Neither should we stop querying why due diligence failed to pick the Vitals scandal, or why the AUM was a great disappointment and perhaps why Adrian Delia’s income does not quite match up with his expenses spree.

We have an obligation to follow these stories. Vitals was a wrong decision that should have been scrapped as soon as credentials of the people behind the project started to surface: I am referring to Ram Tumuluri and Mark Pawley. In another country this would be front-page stuff and even in Malta if it were not for the fact that Delia is still on holiday and not in a position to respond while running an Opposition like a fourth division football team.

But the fact remains that real stories which normal folk experience and face each day are being swept under the carpet just because most of the time we are setting the wrong agenda, thinking that the world is dominated by our obsessions with politics.

Well yes, all our political parties are dominated by neoliberal economics, but in reality, is this the main problem? And yes, most people are raging hypocrites. But so what? This should not stop us from going out there and talking of the real hidden stories.

We need to start talking of the real Malta behind this imaginary veil. The loneliness of people who are sick and ageing. Of the new plague of dependence on drugs and the wider use of cocaine in all strata of society. Of the spectre of single mothers, of severe housing problems, of the lack of opportunities for deprived families. And of the reality of usury or about those elderly who slowly waste away in old people’s homes as their children live off their monthly pensions and savings.

More significantly perhaps we should speak of the right to live in dignity, in a pleasant environment and of the right to recreate oneself in a pristine surrounding.

It sounds very schmaltzy, but it is all about the real thing. The things that matter.

Most people cannot even understand that thousands are not living like the rest. They live in homes which are sub-standard, in dark surroundings and void of natural light, and more importantly have little to go by, and depend on some divine intervention to get them out of their rut.

It may not be the most exciting story-line but surely beyond the repetitive soundtrack by the name of the offshore accounts of Panama, we should really start getting real.

We should start moving away from the social media bubble, the echo chamber, the political beauty contests and ask ourselves if we are really living in the real world.

Or whether we are simply serving to foment the obsessions of those who use the media for their own purposes. ­

***

Which brings me to one very important “level playing field” principle: the issue of vacant dwellings.

So it seems to be OK if a family or some individuals hang on to private property and decide to do absolutely nothing about it. In most countries, those who decide to do nothing with property, face a hoarding tax. In a situation where the price of property is reaching skyhigh prices, it follows that releasing vacant properties in the market could help to stabilise the prices by increasing supply.

Obviously, such a step is simply not in Joseph Muscat’s DNA, who is against taxing anything. Really and truly, it is not a tax but a tariff, and why should he really care or worry? If he really means what he says, he will not be staying on after all.

In the meantime, can we at least start talking of how to incentivise property owners to release their vacant properties?

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