A small group of like-minded people met today in front of the improvised memorial for Daphne Caruana Galizia on the third month since she was assassinated.
I said a few words:
We often remind our politicians of their duties, particularly when they neglect them. But if we stop thinking of our own duties, our democracy will collapse. It is already very fragile. There is no democracy without protest. If we are silent in the face of injustice, we help injustice grow. We suffer from the iniquities of the powerful and the greedy. But we help them if we do not speak up.
It is hard to feel hopeful during these long, cold nights. Being right is clearly not enough to win an argument. Logic and reason are inadequate. And in the face of such prejudice and hate, compassion feels weak and fruitless.
But it’s not worth doing unless it’s hard.
Everyone wants longevity. But we must fight to live a life worth living. No one should have to die for the right to speak. When we die we speak no more. But silence for fear of death is no life either.
We all want prosperity and wealth. But we need fairness and justice. There is no wealth that can pay for freedom. And there is no freedom without justice.
There is no justice where the law applies to the powerless and exempts the powerful. There is no law where crime is unpunished and victims unprotected. There is no fairness where those who insist for what is right are exiled, ostracised or even killed.
We lay these flowers today to honour the memory of Daphne Caruana Galizia. We seek to sooth our shame and our grief with symbols of gratitude and honour to someone we let slip from our reach.
If that was all we were doing this would be nothing but a prolonged funeral and we would deserve the mockery and the derision of those who see this memorial as weeds grown on their plastic landscape.
We lay these flowers today at the feet of a hoped for victory after the long and dreadful siege we are trapped in. This is not just memory and honour. This is our arsenal of protest. This is how we fight back.
This is how we tell the few who risk everything for the truth that we have their back.
To the whistle-blowers; to the policemen who lost their job and the ones who still have it and mean to seek the truth; to the lawyers and judges and prosecutors whose wide-eyed dreams of justice from their youth are undiminished; to the journalists who do not flinch as the powerful do their worst to stop them; to the politicians and the civil servants who have no interest but that of the common good; to the teachers who would rather teach tomorrow’s citizens the difference between right and wrong than make millions brokering real estate; to the activists who fight alone to protect land and landscape for generations still unborn.
We lay these flowers today to defy those who would sweep this memorial away because the people’s memory eats at the clay feet of the powerful who would rather we forgot.
The dazzling lights and colours of a European Capital of Culture cannot blind us. What use are music, painting and theatre if they do not lay their fingers on the raw depths of our feelings? What use is a culture which is untruthful, even to itself?
Tyrannies can draw up the most spectacular demonstrations of colour; they can mobilise rivers of smiling and waving people.
But only democracies can allow the minority to step back from the collective frenzy and dance to a different tune. Only democracies allow the few the right to protest even in disagreement with the many.
We warn you then. This memorial is now the bastion of our cause. Your threats to wash it away; to ‘clean it up’ as you call it, will be defied. Knock down this bastion and we will be here to build it again. Not because we enjoy it. But because we know that the road to justice is arduous and the destination is on the other side of a hill where the peak is darkened by the night and hidden in the clouds.
But climb it we will.
And even as you smile in the confidence that no one can ever unseat you, we happy few will stay here and wait you out. Because as sure and definitive is the death you meted on one of us, so sure and definitive it is that the day will come when you pay for your crimes.
We have little more than flowers and candles to fight you with; little more than words and song; little more than anger and pride.
But here is the European Capital of Culture. A culture rooted in virtue, in reason, in compassion; a culture that desires justice and fairness; a culture that either lives in freedom, or, if it is denied, lives in yearning for it.
We know just where we want to get to. And here is where we must stay in order to get there.
This is our duty, for Daphne, for Malta.