Is it cos they isn’t black?

Which streets did she walk through, I wonder? And who the hell did she talk to? It certainly couldn’t have been anyone who happens to share her prejudice against ‘clandestini’ – i.e., the overwhelming majority of the Maltese population

Lega leader Matteo Salvini (right) with Cascina mayor Susanna Ceccardi
Lega leader Matteo Salvini (right) with Cascina mayor Susanna Ceccardi

I’ve often heard it said that extreme political opinions tend to affect people in various unpleasant ways. Let’s face it: extremists on both sides of the left-right spectrum have a tendency to be stubborn, aggressive, intolerant, and – to use the strictly scientific term – a bunch of annoying assholes, when all is said and done.

But that political extremism also affects one’s eyesight? The ability to actually see what’s right there, under your nose? That is news to me. Not particularly surprising news... but news all the same.

And it seems to have been news to all Malta’s media, too. Virtually every newspaper, website and personal blog carried an item this week under variations of the following headline: “‘You don’t see a single migrant in Malta’ – far-right Italian mayor.” And just to make that claim more extraordinary still, Susanna Ceccardi (mayor for the Lega) said those words while standing outside the Auberge de Castille in Valletta... after claiming to have ‘walked around the island’s streets’ and ‘spoken to various people’.

Which streets did she walk through, I wonder? And who the hell did she talk to? It certainly couldn’t have been anyone who happens to share her prejudice against ‘clandestini’ – i.e., the overwhelming majority of the Maltese population. Speak to any of those, and you’ll come away with the impression that ‘clandestini’ were continuously oozing into their homes through the ventilation shafts, or found hiding in the vegetable drawer every time they open the fridge. In their case, this curious eyesight effect seems to work clean opposite way: they see ‘migrants’ everywhere they look... whether or not there are any to be seen.

Ah, but perhaps if they went to Italy and stood outside Palazzo Chigi in Rome, they’d be affected the same way, too. Perhaps it’s a unique medical condition that makes you only see ‘clandestini’ in your own backyard, but not in anyone else’s.

Either way, however, it is still evidently a pathology: a classic case of only ever seeing what you want to see, and disregarding all the rest... which, funnily enough, was always the hallmark of extremist thinking anyway.

But I am more interested in the streets Ceccardi claims to have walked through. What makes me curious is that I was in Valletta just the other day – walked right past the same spot, too – and my experience was... well, just a little different.

Among the things I discovered were around two (if not three) dozen Sicilian restaurants and eateries, all within a 200-metre radius of Castille Square. Had Ceccardi stopped at any of them for an espresso (or to chat to the staff, or both)  she would surely have noticed that all the proprietors and/or head-waiters are themselves Sicilian migrants, as are around 80 to 90% of the waiting staff... with the rest generally made up of migrants from Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Uzbekistan, and all the Balkan states.

(Note: those are just the visible migrants. I don’t blame Ceccardi for not seeing any of the 100% Asian or African dishwashers or cleaning staff, because those are usually all hidden away in the cellar).

The one thing Ceccardi would certainly not have seen (still less spoken to) is a Maltese waiter serving tables, or making a lungo macchiato behind the bar. Not because of any eyesight deficiency, either; but for the simple reason that that category of worker is now extinct (or at least, on the verge of extinction). Their jobs have been ‘stolen’ by an ‘invasion’ of migrants from Sicily, who – just like the Africans who seem to bother Ceccardi so much – came here for something that our country can provide, but which theirs can’t.

In the case of those fleeing their homes in sub-Saharan Africa, it might be peace, stability and safety from persecution. For those fleeing the economic depression currently afflicting Italy – where youth unemployment stands at around 50% – it is only one thing: work.

Naturally, I hasten to add that this does not bother me one bit. Unlike Ceccardi, I would be the last to begrudge all those poor starving Italians from any crumb that falls from Malta’s table. If there is more work in Malta than there are workers to fill all the positions... heck, why not import a few from Sicily, to add to the ones we already get from Eritrea or Chad? And besides, it is not as though these economic refugees don’t contribute to society while they’re here. They pay their NI like everyone else; which also means they’ll pretty soon be funding my pension. But much more importantly, Italian restaurateurs have finally taught us Maltese how to make a proper ‘Spaghetti Vongole’... and, more crucially still, that a real ‘Carbonara’ does not contain any bloody mushrooms!

Damn, I’ve meaning to say that for ages. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not prejudiced, or anything. I don’t mind that the yolk is never separated from the egg-white, or that ‘perzut tal-ghadma’ is used instead of ‘guanciale’. But call me intolerant all you like: if Ceccardi can draw a line at Africans invading her country, I’ll draw my line at bloody mushrooms invading my Carbonara (even if I have to build a wall around my dinner plate, and get the mushrooms to pay for it themselves...)

The one thing Ceccardi would certainly not have seen is a Maltese waiter serving tables or making a lungo macchiato behind the bar for the simple reason that their jobs have been ‘stolen’ by an ‘invasion’ of migrants from Sicily

But where was I? Oh yes, all these ‘profughi’ that Ceccardu came here specifically to see... yet somehow managed to walk past literally hundreds of examples, without even spotting a single one. Or wait, maybe she did see them... but just didn’t register that all those Sicilians/Eastern Europeans she walked past are all technically ‘migrants’, too: just like the ones from Niger, Mali, Somalia and the Ivory Coast.

Hate to ask such a hackneyed question, but... is it cos they isn’t black, by any chance? Does Ceccardi, like all political extremists, limit her objections only to the categories of people she doesn’t happen to like very much... while exempting her own compatriots, and all other suitably ‘white’ categories, from all her hate and opprobrium?

Well, I thought I’d ask (instead of just stating it like the fact it so clearly is) to be polite. Meanwhile, there is something else in Ceccardi’s video-blog that makes me wonder if she might really have an eyesight problem after all. She says she didn’t see any ‘clandestini’ outside Castille, the seat of Malta’s government (which, until Malta gets round to electing an African migrant as Prime Minister, was never going to be likely anyway) but could it possibly be that she didn’t see the effects of migration either?

Some of them are visible right there, in her own video-blog. Look at Castille Square again. How many garbage bags do you see cluttering up the place? Not a single one. Well, who do you think picked them all up when Ceccardi wasn’t looking? (I’ll give you a hint: it wasn’t the ghost of La Valette...)

No, it was ‘clandestini’ wot done it, I tell you. Happened to me just the other day: why, no sooner did I take my garbage out at the stroke of 8.30am, when a truckload of African migrants suddenly appeared out of nowhere... and stole it from right under my nose! And all the other garbage bags from everybody else’s doorstep, too. Like it was the most normal thing in the world...

Not that I’m complaining, or anything. For one thing, I was kind of hoping to get rid of it anyway, so those pesky ‘thieves’ actually did me a favour. But for another: I mean, what would this country be like, anyway, without an army of third-country nationals to get themselves employed in things like refuse collection? Why, it would be no better than Naples at the height of the refuse collectors’ ‘sciopero’ a couple of years ago. Piles of stinking garbage, rotting in the sun everywhere you looked (and smelt)...

Another thing Ceccardi can’t have seen was any fresh fruit or vegetables on sale at markets and green-grocers. OK, maybe Valletta isn’t the best place to look. To fully appreciate this particular benefit of immigration, you have to go way out into the country: places like Burmarrad or Pwales valley, where all those cauliflowers and peaches are actually grown and picked. Who do you think is doing all the picking (if not most of the growing, too)? Last time I passed through those areas, one in three of the field-hands were very visibly migrants from Africa. Now, it’s probably one in two.

Take those workers away, and what would even be left of Malta’s agricultural sector? Or wineries, for that matter? Not too long ago, I interviewed Marsovin’s CEO, who quite bluntly declared that both Marsovin and Delicata would have had to close down years ago, if it wasn’t for a steady influx of workers we otherwise call ‘migrants’.

Yet Susanna Ceccardi wouldn’t be able to see that, even while sipping a local wine that was made with grapes picked and pressed by farmers from Equatorial Africa; served to her by a Croatian waitress, in a restaurant owned and operated by Sicilians, which was built and/or renovated by Syrian, Bulgarian, Angolan or South Sudanese construction workers... from a glass that will eventually be scrubbed clean by the Bangladeshi hidden in the cellar.

No, I reckon it must be her eyesight after all. Probably needs bifocals, poor thing. I’d be happy to recommend my own ophthalmologist, of course – down here in multi-cultural Gzira, in a clinic surrounded by foreign iGaming office blocks, and dozens of international eateries to which all their Swedish, Norwegian, Spanish, Portuguese and French employees flock for their lunch break every day – but I feel I have to warn her in advance: he’s a migrant from Serbia...

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