Now for the 2019 revolution

'The Gozo tunnel represents what is fundamentally wrong with our politicians' 

I sat down to one of many dinner parties this season where, as is customary, the conversation always seems to get entangled with some bitter political debate.I wanted to be on my best behaviour so I spent the first hour playing with my dessert spoon and tending to my wine glass.

Attempting to disconnect myself from the ongoing arguments was of no use. I visited the toilet even though I had no need, flushed for the sake of flushing, washed my hands, and returned to the table hoping the discussion was dying a natural death. So it was back to the dessert spoon to decipher the miniscule engraving at the back… in the background I heard the same words: Malta, corrupt, mafia, bombs, golden passports… I wanted to remind some people at the table that one of the lawyers present with us was an IIP agent. But I did not. Then the conversation turned to construction and how we had fucked up Malta.

I looked across the table and looked into the eyes of the person who was talking. I just could not believe my ears: the same person was involved in at least four construction projects that would disfigure the towns and villages he so affectionately referred to as being “fucked”.
I was slowly floating away when suddenly I heard my name. “Saviour, so who do you think killed her?” I looked back and thought whether I should simply shut up, but I said that I did not know, and indeed, I could not know.

What followed was a scene out of Agatha Christie’s Poirot, as the suggestions of who had ordered the assassination came thick and fast. First it was the Azerbaijanis, then Chris Cardona, the Prime Minister, Adrian Delia and finally the police commissioner himself.
The last thing I wanted to do was to get involved in a discussion that went nowhere and reconfirmed people’s deeply ingrained prejudices and ruin the evening. “Do you think it is…”

I stopped the lady in the middle of her sentence (I’m good at that…): “I’m sorry but I do not want to talk about this. I do not think anyone at this table will change the way we think and the more we talk about it the worse it will get. I am sick and tired of listening to the same opinionated talk.”

Done. The evening had been screwed.

“Okay then,” someone said trying to diffuse the situation. “When do you think this economic boom will end?”

“I do not know, and I even if I did, you would say it is not the case.”
Someone quipped: “Well I think there will be a crisis next year with half of Valletta’s boutique hotels closing down, and so will its restaurants.”

I said nothing, but took my wine glass to take a walk out into the courtyard. I had had enough of the same subject and I was sure that no attempt at intelligent talk would change the way I thought or others think. That may be sad, but also true. Few people seem to be willing to sit down, put aside their hang-ups and admit to what is black or white. The few that are, I cherish not only as friends but as challenging dinner companions – friends who are well-read, have a solid appreciation of history, are compassionate and not tribal, can appreciate the small things in life.

I tried to think what was truly an important occasion for me in 2018. And I could only reminisce certain personal moments. There was nothing spectacular in the realm of news-making that hit me in such a way that I could say hand on heart, yes this is one event that will remain etched in my memory.

There was perhaps the Egrant inquiry conclusions, but even that was a contentious matter. For those who refuse to accept the truth of  the matter are yet more proof of how sad the whole situation is and how divisive we all are.

I still think there are no great shifts in Maltese society, and it has been a very good year for many people but many mystified at how good it is for them and think that it is now time to start moaning about the unsustainability of it all.

But there are pockets of other people who know that we need to start talking of quality matters. Not only money-related issues. Because they are normal people who do not have access to this economic boom that dominates the other half of any dinner table talk.

We need to raise the value of talking about what matters. We need to literally defend the landscape of this country and its heritage, challenge the bad decisions, shake the system up and imbue a sense of pride for our country in our young children, whose free time seems to be spent in urban malls rather than in open countryside. Because we have nothing else to offer. We need to build on our success to make this a better country to live in. But not by building high-rise and converting public land to real estate and thinking that only cement is beautiful, as was done in Smart City and now in St George’s Bay.

We need to have values, not the ones based on consumerism, but ones that make us a proud people with a modern outlook and one that thinks of future generations. We need to religiously object to an enterprise that symbolizes this kind of politics that values hyper-consumerism at the cost of having a decent quality of life.

If you ask me, the central issue that should dominate this debate is the Gozo tunnel. It represents what is fundamentally wrong with our politicians. Their idea of progress is stripping out chunks of Malta and Gozo for more development so that it can justify land reclamation.

And like the gilets jaunes, there will be no political master to direct the anger, because none of the local political parties or politicians have the balls to speak out against Malta’s most expensive and foolish project ever for fear of losing a vote.

A happy new year to all!