At Parties and in Our Piazzas

By Marisa Micallef
Malta Independent
November 13, 2006

If I had two pick on two incredibly distasteful manifestations of the two supposed bulwarks of Maltese life religion and politics in recent weeks, it could be most clearly seen in the group who rose in defence of a man/priest allegedly involved in sexual abuse, and the hounding of certain businessmen outside the Labour Party headquarters.

In the first case, we all should know that an organisation that bans sex, that makes groups of people congregate only with their own sex, that makes these people responsible for our most precious charges, our children, is bound to produce a fair share of abusers among the many angels. It does. Sexual abuse is committed by priests ("mhux ovvja" as most of us would say), and in some of the Church's institutions it is rampant.

There are many people I know who attended certain schools in Malta and who speak of fondling and the like from certain Church members, their teachers, mentors and supposed protectors. But going public and accusing anyone years later is as impossible to countenance as women who are raped in Malta speaking out in public or in our courts. After all, if you expose it you then get raped by the media, so people absorb these experiences, sometimes speak to their nearest and dearest about it, but generally remain scarred all their lives.

The two events, the defence of the accused priest and the attacks on Labour-leaning businessmen, have a lot in common in that both showed our, as well as our media's, propensity to destroy our unwillingness to think, our willingness to be duped and the unholy mess our morals and mentality are in, and presumably will be in for a long time.

No wonder our schooling system is based almost exclusively on learning, sorry I mean learning to repeat mounds of never to be used again information. The powers that be desperately want a generation unable to think, smart because they are just glued to their computers, and so easily moulded.

It's weird isn't it, this new kind of cleverness we rate, cleverness with computers? A congregation of IT people being labelled as smart. What does that say about the rest of us who may not be as into IT? Are we less smart?

It seems incredibly non-smart that there was more public opinion defending the priest who has been accused than there were letters condemning this alleged action.

But then this is Malta, a country of tribes, and if your tribe is red, blue, religious or whatever, you defend it, in your media at least, even against the indefensible. People actually seem to believe that if any member of the Church is accused of anything this is just part of a conspiracy against the Church.

Similarly while the Labour media has for years been hounding PN leaders if they are seen talking to or even smiling with any businessmen, now it is pay-back time and the turn of the PN media to get their own back and hound Labour for taking some businessmen on a business trip. We hear "skandlu" everywhere, but I do think we are a bit beyond this now. Or rather, all it does is confirm the inevitable.

People, or an increasing number of them, will not vote by red or by blue or because they see things in black and white. Nothing is black and white anymore, anyway. At the end of the day, some a tiny minority will not vote from utter disgust. But the majority will vote for those who are simply less likely to disrupt their lives anymore. It's almost as if we want a breed of silent politicians. It's almost as if we want all the political media to shut up.

We know everyone is compromised in some way. We know people put their family and friends and their pockets before any cause. Reds and blues now talk to each other and have contacts that seemed impossible 20 years ago.

It was just a tiny but amusing example to read I.M. Beck in The Times last Saturday defending Patrick Dalli (one of the Labour-leaning businessmen currently "starring" on NET News) because he knows him and he paints with his wife. Now there is no doubt about I.M. Beck's blueness, but today a blue opinion-writer will defend a red businessman in a way that I think is entirely commendable.

We should put our friends and mates before politics. We should respect each other irrespective of politics. We should leave our real disdain for those who really abuse, whether it is children or power or whatever, and leave colour-coded defamations of character back in the realms of our recent history.

Today, if people have some sort of a social contact, and they like you, that is it. It thankfully transcends colour. To me that is progress. Despite the political propaganda blaring out, people are just getting on with it, taking the bits of politics and religion that suit them and their principles, and pretty much disregarding the rest. Letter pages are filled with those whose views are more extreme but the conversation around most dinner party tables, or on the Church parvis, are far more enlightening and honest than those we get from the media. Perhaps that is where our reporters should be, to get the pulse of the nation: in our coffee shops, in our bars, on peoples' comfy sofas, at parties or lounging around in the village square.

That is where the truth about our lives and ourselves has come out, the truth about what really grabs us. Sadly the media, and its headlines, is not reflecting this at all.


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