By a regular contributor to this site:
Four weeks have dragged by…. A tortuous, arduous month since Daphne’s assassination rocked Malta, Europe, and the furthest corners of the globe. I keep pondering why this had to happen, searching for solace, but instead I find myself even more enraged, ravaged, empty. A sea of convoluted thoughts leads me to some reflections in a quest for a modicum of sanity and comfort.
Where to begin? Daphne and Malta I guess. I have always considered Daphne a modern-day patriot, not of the superficial, ‘Viva Malta u l-Maltin’, chest-pounding ilk mind you, but a real defender of the much-vaunted yet so poorly served national interest. In the past month, we have gained some insight into the more private corners of her life by those who knew her well; indeed this sense of patriotism emerges at every turn, underpinned by the quest for the truth, by a sense of propriety as opposed to anything goes, by an utter revulsion of hypocrisy and corruption.
Not for the sake of it, not for her sake, but for Malta’s sake. Now we know that spirit is endemic to her family which continues to stand up for the principles it resolutely believes in, even through the most terrible and devastating moments. That she had to die a martyr is the culmination of Daphne’s love for her country. But here in this abnormal, surreal place, the so-called State dilly-dallies on whether such an abominable act is deserving of a national day of mourning, and prefers to honour a shady Saudi prince or a flabby former trade union chief hell-bent on keeping ‘whorish’ women warm. What the hell are we?
And away from this rock of ours?
Little did we realise, much less appreciate, just how far-flung Daphne’s formidable reputation had become. There she was in our midst, churning out one snapshot after another of what modern-day Malta had come to, shedding light wherever pitch darkness reigns. And while us natives, still deeply entrenched in our decades-old insularity under the guise of newly discovered ‘liberalism’, made her life impossible, wallowed in our shallowness and materialism, mulled and squabbled over her earth-shattering revelations and speculated as to whether her real intention was to keep the Nationalist Party in her pocket as the Labour Party and the Opposition leader would have us believe, she earned the plaudits of reputed observers overseas for her one-woman achievements in a hostile and dangerous environment.
Her assassination produced an outpouring of international grief, tribute and condemnation which literally swamped us. I cannot recall any other occasion when such overwhelming overseas admiration was directed at one of our own. For once, the European institutions were shocked out of their torpor, forced to acknowledge that the smallest member state might actually be displaying symptoms of chronic illness. Still they hesitate, and again it has been left to the European Parliament to sound the alarm bells, the Commission comatose though recently displaying encouraging signs of reveille.
Pause for thought at the comportment of our leaders. Joseph Muscat’s strong condemnation and vow to leave no stone unturned in pursuing the assassin/s met with circumspection, while his attempt on CNN to portray himself as some kind of victim brought derision, jarring with the statesmanship the situation called for. He has since been in a tizzy and somehow seems even more bewildered than the day the Panama Papers story erupted.
The agenda has slipped uncomfortably from his clasp even as his cronies make strenuous attempts at damage limitation, tu quoque retorts, and business as usual. We have seen the Leader of the Opposition, his credibility all but annihilated by Daphne’s revelations, scurrying to drop his libel cases as if there were no tomorrow, to change the script from ‘biċċa blogger’ to a pathetic portrayal of Daphne as the best journalist Malta ever had, only to swing back to proclaim he too was a victim of character assassination. As for the President, the well-deserved rebuff by the family said it all so eloquently, so it is best left at that.
Which leaves the Archbishop, a man Daphne clearly admired and liked during her lifetime for his intelligence, spine and wit. He emerged as the only dignitary in the country to display leadership, with the wherewithal to handle the situation admirably and serenely, to reflect the sentiment of those who have had enough, to exude genuine compassion and a calming influence. The only one with nous and gravitas. Short in physical stature but a tower of human and moral strength! Undeterred by efforts to mock him and shut him up, the Archbishop proved he is not for turning, a man who like Daphne, says it exactly how it is without fear or favour. It was as if Daphne wanted to ensure, even when departed, that only he would emerge with kudos, and that the rest are shown up for what they truly are – hypocrites all!
And what of Daphne’s Running Commentary? Is it any coincidence that her words of wisdom in the thousands of posts crafted over the years have already become a reference point for many, her work immortalised by the decision to keep the website alive? I know I’m not alone in finding myself type into the “search” field, in a bid to recall what Daphne had to say on this and the other. Her opinions and investigative work, especially on people in public life, will live on forever. This is her legacy to those of us who crave the truth. But what of the derogatory remarks by those at the receiving end of her pointed tongue? Don’t they look even more ridiculous now?
Who would bother recalling the ‘biċċa blogger’, ‘hate blogger’ ‘queen of bile’ or ‘Saħħara tal-Bidnija’ denigrations if not to condemn the repulsive, sick mouths they were uttered from. These mouths have since had to swallow their own venom, while Daphne’s assessment of them is cast in stone, irrevocable, gaining ever more credence with the passage of time.
And now what? A sense of helplessness still dampens our spirits, we remain all the poorer. The unparalleled flow of information Daphne flooded us with on all matters imaginable has been stemmed. I sometimes expect to wake up one day, to log in and find out that Daphne has given us one final post, her blunt assessment of how we have handled things in the wake of her brutal murder, and what we should do to carry the torch forward.
Alas that will not happen. But if one were to hazard some guesses, in the midst of all our failings, she would have been heartened by the emergence of the Civil Society Network, as a force of well-intentioned individuals who are not afraid to stand up for what they believe in, to call a spade by its name, and to fly in the face of the amorality that is overpowering us. She would have commended Manuel for his assiduous efforts to fill her investigative void, possibly linking up with a piece or two he has written since. She would have wished the brave independent journalists who have launched The Shift well and probably stated “not a moment too soon!”
Above all, she would have egged on the women of #occupyjustice who looked the Prime Minister in the eye and gave him more than a piece of their mind. She would have urged them to fight the misogyny that prevails within our sick society. As for the rest of us….. well, it is up to each one to assess our contribution in plugging the gap, to measure ourselves against Daphne’s high standards and reach our own conclusions as to whether we have lived up to expectations or not.
I believe nothing would please her more….