Shocked, are we? Too bad...

The same people who demand ‘justice’ are perfectly content to cling to almost any hypothesis simply because it conforms to their own suspicions

So it seems I ‘shocked’ quite a few people by pointing out – in my last article, published last Wednesday – how ‘six months’ is a tad too short to expect such a convoluted murder investigation to reach closure.

Ah, well. I suppose it’s partly my fault for occasionally forgetting that this column is also read by an entire generation brought up on TV shows like ‘CSI’... where every crime is always solved with laser precision, to everyone’s satisfaction, and beyond any reasonable doubt... at the simple click of a mouse.

But as some of those same people so often like to point out... I don’t belong to that generation myself. No, indeed. Middle-aged fogeys like me are the product of 1970s Malta – a very different country, I can assure you – and this might help explain why... erm... yes, actually; I do see the relevance in comparisons to past political crimes. I see it very clearly indeed.

To the ‘point-and-click’ generation, those murders I alluded to last Wednesday – Karin Grech and Raymond Caruana specifically, but there were others – may seem like shadowy occurrences from a distant, murky and completely forgotten past. To me, however, they represent the key to actually understanding what is happening today. Those two crimes shaped my entire childhood and adolescence: to this day, I still remember that feeling of profound shock and disquietude when I realised that so many Nationalists (the ‘good guys’, as I was brought up to believe) simply couldn’t bring themselves to appreciate the full horror of Karin Grech’s murder... because she was from ‘the other side’.

It’s a harsh lesson to have to learn at roughly seven years of age: but I understood back then what some people are only just beginning to wrap their heads around 40 years later... that ‘this is not a normal country’. Even with no real knowledge of the political context, I could perceive that it is hardly ‘normal’ to try to justify – or minimise – the murder of a 15-year-old girl on the basis of logic like: ‘it might strengthen Labour’s hand’. Even today, I feel a touch of the same sickly queasiness at the mere memory of those arguments.

The same sensation was greatly reinforced some 10 years later, when Raymond Caruana’s murder elicited the exact same reaction from people of completely different social and political backgrounds.  It may shock some of my readers even further to know that – today, more than 30 years later – there are still tens of thousands of people in this country who are firmly convinced that Raymond Caruana was actually killed by agents-provocateurs from within the PN itself. With my own ears I have heard that argument put forward – time and again – and it doesn’t ‘shock’, so much as sadden me. Not necessarily because it is ‘beyond belief’: I don’t happen to believe it myself, but I am not naive enough to discount similar possibilities in comparable scenarios.

No, what saddens me is that this conspiracy theory is not even rooted in any reasonable suspicion, arising from anomalies within the event itself. It is merely dictated by a logic that should be terribly familiar to all those ‘shocked’ readers of mine: ‘It suits my political cause to believe it... therefore, it is true.’

But then, there are some things that shock even battle-hardened fatalists like me. One of them is that the ‘logic’ I alluded to above – flawed and frightening though it may be – was nonetheless based on political differences that were, in themselves, very real. The Nationalists generally absolved themselves of guilt for Karin Grech’s murder, not necessarily because they were nasty, evil people... but because they were motivated by a very urgent (and trust me, it felt very urgent at the time), overriding political goal. It is no coincidence that The Times building was torched two years later (another traumatic 1970s experience) and the law-courts, Archbishop’s Curia, etc., ransacked and pillaged over the next few years. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, ‘Nationalist’ and ‘Labour’ meant two totally different – and, more to the point, utterly irreconcilable – things. Sadly, and with utterly tragic consequences for innocent people at the time... they were not differences that could be bridged by dialogue.

I need hardly add that Labour felt the same way at the time... which explains why so many shrugged off the fact that people were getting gunned down just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. There was a feeling of ‘force majeur’ that compelled people on both sides to think the unthinkable – and defend the utterly indefensible – in the name of a higher objective.

Today? The sensation feels uncannily similar... only without any ‘higher objective’ to justify the continued distortions of reality. The stark truth of the matter is that there hasn’t been any discernible ideological difference between the two parties since – at the very latest – 2004: which is when the last major plank of this country’s ‘irreconcilable differences’ came tumbling down at long last.

To put that into some form of context: people fighting the political wars of the 1970s and 1980s knew perfectly well what they were fighting for. What is today’s ‘shocked’ generation fighting for, exactly? What, in fact, do they even want?

The answer you normally get when you ask is ‘justice’... yet, applied to Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder, the same people who demand ‘justice’ are perfectly content to cling to almost any hypothesis (sometimes, to one or more conflicting ones at the same time) simply because it conforms to their own suspicions. One second they will tell you – with utmost authority – that the murder was commissioned directly by Joseph Muscat, to stop the victim from making further damning revelations about his government or himself... next, they will point fingers at Chris Cardona, quoting articles by the Daphne Project which claim he was seen talking to the murderer some weeks after the crime.

Those two scenarios imply vastly different motives – one highly political, the other highly personal – yet they also converge on the same party, which means (according to the same inescapable syllogism) that they can be used interchangeably, in the same breath, to secure roughly the same outcome.

All these people want are a few political scalps to affix to their own battlements. They’re certainly not suggesting anything else, are they?

And of course, it is no comfort whatsoever to see the same departure from reason prevail on the other side, too. It’s very easy to argue that ‘Adrian Delia must have done it, because that’s who Daphne was attacking at the time.’ That sort of reasoning can only ever resonate with people who strongly desire that to be the true scenario. The reality, however, is that scenarios do not become ‘true’ through the force of sheer volition alone. ‘Truth’, in something as technical as a murder investigation, requires the presence of this poorly-understood phenomenon called ‘PROOF’ (look it up: I assure you, the word exists).

But it seems I ‘shock’ people whenever I say this, so let’s go back to the part about how people prefer basing their own opinions on their own wishful thinking. What do they actually want, anyway? This one’s easy: that their own party emerges the ultimate victor in the ongoing war of total annihilation. What else? Isn’t that what the word ‘justice’ means in the first place?

Applied to all those people I shocked so much, it translates into the instant collapse of Joseph Muscat’s government. And OK, fine, so be it... let it come tumbling down, by all means. Lock them all up, and throw away the key. But... what happens then?

This, on the other hand, is a question that nobody ever seems capable of answering at all. Once again, I more or less understand. What answer can there even be, anyway? We re-elect the same political party that is directly responsible for almost all the institutional deficits we all now (but only now) complain about? Sorry, but that would a lousy answer even if the PN were still led by the man you all supported at the last election. Just imagine how much less convincing it sounds today, when the PN led by someone with just as many skeletons in his closet (of the same kind, too) as Joseph Muscat’s Labour.

And yet, sift through their (endless) online posts and tweets, and what actually emerges? Some kind of masterplan to deliver the country from the grip of two farcically identical (and equally unscrupulous) political parties? Some form of coherent political platform that can actually lead to meaningful change?

Nothing of the kind. All these people want are a few political scalps to affix to their own battlements. They’re certainly not suggesting anything else, are they?

Well, maybe some people are. The only serious attempt at an answer I’ve seen to date – not specifically directed at any question asked by me, but an answer nonetheless – came from Lovin’ Malta’s Christian Peregin, who called for an internal purge by the Labour Party to ‘clean its act up’. It was a valiant and admirable effort, no doubt... but it still doesn’t address the core issue, does it? Labour cleaning up its act (even if done to everyone’s satisfaction, which is in any case impossible) will still consign this country to the mercy of one political party, and one party alone... while the supposed ‘democratic alternative’ continues to fester in a quagmire of unelectable hypocrisy.

Much more seriously, the ingrained system of nepotism and patronage that underpins both rotten parties will still be there, extending its unwholesome tentacles throughout the entire country. And it will still conduct the newly cleaned-up Labour Party along exactly the same trajectory that got it so dirty in the first place.

Personally, I much preferred Peregin’s earlier suggestion, of a totally new political force based on a totally new political platform. But... that was just an April Fool’s joke, wasn’t it? When it comes to serious matters, we still all look up to the ‘real’ parties, and expect them to do all the hard work for us... don’t we?

Now, I suppose you’ll all be expecting a better answer to come from shocking little me. Fine, I don’t mind repeating myself (I’ve only been making the same argument for 25 years, you know...)

It is the system that needs to be cleaned up, not the parties... the parties only need to be thrown out with the rest of the garbage. To this end, the cleaning-up process would have to envisage an entirely new electoral law, designed with the specific intention of forever banishing this ghastly bipartisan stranglehold that has poisoned all our minds for so long, for so little gain, and for.. oh, so much loss.

There: my own masterplan to end this nightmare once and for all. How shocking is that, huh?

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