They will never take our fetishistic desire to scream ‘Prosit Ministru’!

No. 111 – Spendin’ Most of Our Lives, Livin’ in a Rentseeker’s Paradise

What are we skinning? A Rentseeker’s Paradise by Mark Camilleri.

Why are we skinning it? Because the publication of this shambolic but searing expose of Malta’s political class and its inherent power structures is causing quite the ruckus.

Yes I know that. I’ve had the misfortune of reading it. Misfortune? I quite liked it, actually.

Good for you. I found it to be a narcissistic bout of self-aggrandising logorrhea built on half-truths and unprocessed resentments. To each their own, indeed! For me it read like a breath of fresh air: a cathartic release of tensions following years of political upheaval and the ever-shrinking window afforded to our quality of life.

But if none of his claims are substantiated, what is even the book’s value in the first place? You’re missing the point.

How? Weren’t the supposedly earth-shattering revelations the book’s main selling point. Listen, this is a self-published volume released in and about the tiny island of Malta, with zero commercial or political backing – in fact, it pushes back rather aggressively on the latter. Man’s gotta hustle, and I respect me some hustle.

Okay, but you’ve yet to speak to my original bemusement about your claim. Right, so. Whether Camilleri’s ‘revelations’ can be backed up black-on-white or not is a secondary concern for me. As an experience, the book pokes at taboos that we normally whisper about among friends and family, or post uselessly about on social media. Laying them out in the open like that changes the game substantially.

Fine, but anybody could do that. But they didn’t, did they?

What about all those cringey forays into Camilleri’s ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll’-laden younger days? Yeah I mean… it is what it is. Embellished or not, he lifts the lid on a certain aspect of Maltese hedonism that we oddly don’t hear about all that often. But I do think that – beyond the self-aggrandisement you rightly mention – these ‘forays’ do serve a purpose, and are more than just navel-gazing digressions…

Do elaborate… Camilleri is not painting himself as any kind of saint. By tarnishing his own reputation somewhat, he spares himself any accusations of sanctimoniousness.

Well that’s hard to disagree with. I mean yes, the bragging over his sexual prowess is cringey in one way – but it’s the polar opposite of the kind of cringe elicited by Repubblika or Occupy Justice…

Still, I doubt I’ll be recommending the book to my friends. You do you, man. Freedom of expression is at the root of both the book, and arguably Camilleri’s wider contribution towards Maltese culture in general.

Do say: “Camilleri’s style may be questionable, and the book should be processed with a substantial pinch of salt throughout. But love it or hate it, it remains a fierce beacon of independent thought in a country often stifled into either submission or quietism by the nature of the socio-political networks that clutch Malta in its stranglehold.”

Don’t say: “They may take our land, but they will never take our fetishistic desire to scream ‘Prosit Ministru’!”