My son has a habit of asking me difficult questions just before bedtime. I know he’s stalling but he’s really good at it so his questions are never small or dull: Why is a clear sky blue? Why does fog float? Or one of my favourites, if I only ate roses, would my poo smell nice? The topics vary but they are always interesting enough that I find them impossible to ignore – and so, he is often late to bed.
A while ago, he asked ‘what is time and can we stop it?’ I’ll spare you the blow by blow account of the discussion that followed but I can tell you that it was a very late night and as we steered carefully through the basics and on to the more theoretical and philosophical, we happened upon a Sanskit word, “kaal”. Kaal means a number of things including change, time and death and we had a go at exploring the relationship between them. And I have been thinking about this ever since.
With the passage of time comes change, whether we want it or not, whether we will it or not, as surely as day becomes night. The question is, will we, as individuals or as part of a group, choose to be the agents of the change we want to see or will we permit ourselves to become mere witnesses to change we do not want, until we find ourselves living in some future we do not approve of, in a landscape we do not recognise and cannot love?
Because here’s the thing: The real legacy we will leave our children will not be the few euros we manage to scrape together during the course of our lifetime, the real legacy will be:
the air that they breathe;
the earth that feeds them;
the beauty that will inspire them;
the freedom to be the masters of their own destiny;
the ability to think clearly and act deliberately;
the opportunity to speak their mind and the will to speak it;
the chance to shape careers based on their skills and interests and not on who they know, or who they pay, or some misplaced loyalty or worse, sense of servitude to powerful people in politics and business who treat this country like their personal fiefdom to be manipulated, plundered and looted for their self-serving and greedy gain.
My only master is my conscience and on the 16th October 2017, I knew that life in this country would never be the same again. There was a time before and now would come the ‘after’. The criminals that killed Daphne Caruana Galizia did so because they expected to get away with it; because the system in this country is broken and they knew it. Well, I refuse to subscribe to the convenient pretence that there is nothing we can do about it.
Change: societal, cultural, political, far reaching and meaningful change requires a critical mass of people who are prepared to actively participate in the shaping of their own future, that of their children and this country, in whatever capacity they can muster. Simply agreeing is not enough. We must ‘do’. Because if not us, then who? And if not now, then when? I realise that we are in the minority but the good news is, that doesn’t matter because we do not seek power, we seek change. And a minority can reshape a society’s thought patterns and behaviour with a recent study suggesting that as little as 3.5% of a population is needed to kickstart significant change. 3.5% of committed thought and action for a drop to become a river to become an ocean. And apparently, it’s not down to massive funding either (although of course, that would be lovely), no, the only resource we actually need is tenacity; sheer bloody-mindedness. Well, bloody-minded I can do and I’m okay with failure as well, in fact, I’m pretty comfortable with it. Better to try and fail than fail by not trying. Isn’t that what we all teach our kids?
Ultimately, real, profound regret is born of the things we did not do, not of those we did. Malta may prove to be a tougher audience than some but with a bit of luck and a fair wind, it’s worth a punt, isn’t it?
We all fear social, economic and even physical reprisal given how the powerful collectively and collusively respond to criticism – and there can be no clearer illustration of this than the brutal assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia – but as much as I fear all of these things, I fear much more that one day my son will pose another question: what did you do about it? And when he does, because he will, I am determined that my answer will not be ‘nothing’.