Just pave Malta into one large tunnel-road to Sicily, already...

The Skinny | No 80 – The Unbearable Lightness of Ian Borg

Transport Minister Ian Borg (right) with  roads agency CEO Frederick Azzopardi waxing lyrical about concrete
Transport Minister Ian Borg (right) with roads agency CEO Frederick Azzopardi waxing lyrical about concrete

What are we skinning? The unbearable lightness of Ian Borg.

Why are we skinning it? Because the Transport Minister is once again in the public spotlight - despite the incredibly fierce competition he’s been facing over the past week or so - for an approach to public building and spending that is aggressive and cavalier in equal measure.

But what does ‘unbearable lightness’ even mean? Why do you insist on using fancy words when talking about distinctly mediocre people? The Unbearable Lightness of Being is a philosophical novel by Czech author Milan Kundera whose central thesis proposes that the passage of time, gradually and inevitably, renders even the most earth-shattering historical moments and episodes inconsequential, as we get buried by more and more developments and simply forget the impact of what was once so crucial.

How does this apply to Ian Borg, though? I propose that Borg’s bullish handling of capital projects and roads is geared towards accelerating this process. In fact, the more time goes by, the more convinced I become about this being his main mission in life.

Why do you say that? Destroying Malta’s urban and natural landscape will ensure that less people remember what the country used to look and feel like in both the distant and more recent past.

But there will still be photos and stuff. Sepia-toned nostalgia only instills the notion that the past is past, and that there’s no recovering it. When you physically alter a place, you eradicate all of its locus of memory.

Do you think Borg is really that thoroughly devious? No, but he’s only one of many. These destructive habits have been inculcated over generations upon generations - Borg is just the latest vessel to embody them.

Graffitti are resisting his latest attempt at bulldozing. As are residents, yes. But the need for this constant resistance only points to just how ingrained the problematic aspects of Ian Borg and his ilk are.

But wouldn’t it be unfair to say that Borg is ignorant of the plight of Dingli residents, when it comes to the controversial road-extension exercise in question? Being a resident of Dingli should not give a minister carte blanche on how to alter the village as he sees fit. Dingli is not his Play-Doh. He did however say that he knows a lot of the concerned residents ‘by name and surname’. And if you don’t see that as a problem, I don’t know what to tell you…

Please tell me. Okay. A front-bench minister saying that he knows his constituents on a first-name basis and that he makes key decisions on the basis of that intimate closeness.

Sounds like it could get sticky, yeah. It is up to us to decide how much of it is quaint, and how much of it is deeply, institutionally problematic.

Do say: “While one should always apply a degree of pragmatism when it comes to capital projects that could encroach on natural and historically-sensitive land, it is clear that Ian Borg and Infrastructure Malta’s bulldozing approach is ruffling the wrong feathers in a fairly consistent fashion, and that it is redolent of a culturally and environmentally antiquated approach to governance which is suffering under the gaze of a more informed swathe of the general public.”

Don’t say: “Just pave Malta into one large tunnel-road to Sicily, already.”