Banning DJs is just another case of technocratic, on-paper logic gone haywire

The Skinny | No 88 – No Island For Summer Events

What are we skinning? The local health authorities’ decision to definitively ban all ‘mass events’ until September as a preventative measure against the further spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Why are we skinning it? Because it stands as a clear illustration of both the limits of technocratic rule and the wider lack of appreciation towards the cultural sector that it implies.

You’re gonna have to unpack that. Sure. I mean that a blanket ban on outdoor ‘mass events’ that includes even controlled cultural activities betrays a lack of knowledge and sensitivity on the part of the authorities.

But their job is to ensure the physical safety of the citizenry at large first and foremost - they cannot possibly be tasked with looking into the minute details of each and every cultural sector. That would be true if this had zero consequence on both the freedom to self-expression and the economic exigencies of the artists in question – wasn’t ‘lives AND livelihoods’ always the supposed catchphrase of Malta’s COVID-19 strategy?

We’re so close to the end though, couldn’t the cultural players hold out for just a *little* bit longer? The situation is this – tourism is set to restart in quasi-full swing as early as three weeks’ time, while culture and entertainment is arbitrarily curbed at all ends.

You can’t just blame ‘pesky foreigners’ whenever it’s convenient, though. No, but for a country which (rightly) boasts about its high vaccination rate and latterly low viral load, draconian measures do not seem to be an appropriate response. And there’s another related issue here…

Which is? The implication that all such events operate in exactly the same way. Malta is not just host to festas and large-scale club parties in summer, it also features theatrical and literary events, and everything in between. The decision to ban DJs of every kind from any kind of event or venue – even when customers are seated at a restaurant – is another case in point of an aggressive application of technocratic, on-paper logic gone haywire.

But again, a viral pandemic makes no distinction between events, so why should we? The fact is that we have, and we were right to in many ways, for the sake of our sanity and economic survival. Assuming that all outdoor events will be markers of capricious and irresponsible activity while we roll out the red carpet to tourists will sting plenty of people to the quick.

It’s certainly stung Valletta Cultural Agency head honcho Jason Micallef. Yes, and he appears to have vandalised Valletta with dubious plant-box installations in pre-emptive retaliation.

Perhaps Jason Micallef vs Charmaine Gauci is all the cultural entertainment we need this summer? Heat over the popcorn you would have munched at the aborted summer cinema of films you could have watched at home anyway, and enjoy the ride.

Do say: “Caution is crucial in the midst of a murderous pandemic, but an over-generalized approach towards cultural activities only breeds further economic harm and resentment, particularly when tourism and its ancillary operations have been given a much-freer hand to operate within certain parameters.”

Don’t say: “Caution also means not pissing off Jason Micallef too much: if the measures stay in place for much longer, there’s a serious chance of him filling up every single Valletta street with cat-litter plant boxes.”