A parable that speaks volumes on the people of Malta’s individual and collective human and political behaviour; it metaphorically landscapes our islands’ fragile destinies across all sectors of society and the polity. All this will be further compounded by socio-economic problems unless we all, as an equal yet heterogeneous people, resign ourselves to begin “living in truth”.
This truth is lived through a glass darkly until we finally discover who we are.
The problems of a country are the responsibility of the party in government, the parties in opposition and political society. It is the story of free individuals with their distinct personalities that should constitute a ‘people’s democracy’ rather than a ‘mass democracy’. It is the story of presumed free people who need not only collaborate towards a better Malta, but who need to live the task of overwhelming all evil at all levels, at all strata of the body politic stirred by the principles of liberation, of hope, of peace. It is the story of a once fledging nation state that is now on the brink of an unconditional surrender.
The title is a novel by Maurizio De Giovanni launched August 6th. It revolves on the experiences of three characters living through a chaotic contagious disease.
A medical professional exhausted by long hours nursing patients infected by a devastating malady and living in hopelessness. A famous, rich lawyer who lives in luxury and enjoys the evenings “modiva”. His long weeks of seclusion at his residence expanded his secretly kept realisation of a sense of isolation. A young foreign woman, a housemaid with a family; she was sacked from her precarious job. Her unemployed husband has now resorted to drinking and abusing a teenage daughter.
One night the lawyer looking in boredom at an empty city, decides to organise a big party, an orgy, throwing all his and others’ previous sacrifice out of the window. This brings these three characters together. The rich melancholic inebriated lawyer, the medical doctor looking after the infected and the young woman who needs to clean the place. They all end up infected by a malady that knows no protocols, elusive; a virus that cannot be controlled.
There are perceived extended elective affinities between this story and the contagious malady afflicting our islands.
First, a party in government, inebriated with power that practices the extremisms of liberal thought to which, irrespective of one’s own thinking and aspirations, one could need to conform in order to survive. As history teaches: it is one other form of totalitarianism.
Conformism in its various moulds took over. Even in times of post-totalitarianism people forgot “living in truth”. The protests of ’68 instilled a sense of awareness among peoples. Foucault’s concern is that the individual had become carefully fabricated in the social order according to a whole technique of forces and bodies.
The government’s professed “neo-liberal” thought reincarnates the old classical liberal ‘horizontal’ and ‘vertical’ strategies; unlike the concept of partial neo-liberalism said to have been practiced by Thatcher, Merkel. This government opted to empower the moneyed in consonance with an individual’s right to property and neutralising the masses through disguised social liberalism. A strategy affording the government to determine priorities also due to its “contractual” co-optations with an elite that at all costs would demand its pound of flesh.
Malta’s economic fragile syndromes have now been evident for quite some time and additionally were blemished by day to day evidenced acts of transgression, corruption and impunity. If we discuss press freedom, we cannot but mention violence. In normal times this form of self-inflicted premeditated fragility would have led to annihilation. It is a dysfunctional functional democracy that is apparently not sufficient to ignite a people’s latent energy to re-embrace the rights of a popular autonomy.
Recovering from such a malady that has contaminated a considerable mass would certainly end up with victims.
Second, a political society made up of opposition parties, constituted bodies and social influencers like associations, professionals, unions, academics, artists, journalists, NGOs – the “in-between figures” whose remit is to explore solutions in a caring approach that would provide a reengineering of our social order through exerting pressure on government to amend its failed strategies and more importantly to exert pressure towards the re-institution of distributive justice.
One cannot conclude that the Partit Nazzjonalista, celebrating its chaotic and still uncertain 140th centenary, has become irrelevant. But without need for detail, it has failed miserably to deliver on all fronts.
Faced with challenges of a then strong social order that has the imprint of government, instead of encouraging resistance nurturing opposition among the people, it chose to engage in playing chess games internally rather than in an open arena. It is shameful even if prospects of some light at the end of tunnel are in the offing.
Civil society could be said to have exerted change, acted in a restrained manner and got partial perceived important results.
It is not the engineering of the perfect vaccine that would solve the country’s disease. It is the overarching discerning and judicious evaluation of the state of affairs on the island and the resolve by individuals as a whole to identify a pragmatic mediatory political programme. These are circumstances that Malta had lived before in the ’80s when members of political society opposing the party in government had joined forces and got results. Unfortunately, we now experience a situation when the individual or the group that “is carefully fabricated in the social order according to a whole technique of forces and bodies” persists in indecisiveness as to whether to cross the Rubicon.
And finally, there is a people witnessing in silence on the verge of despair, and experiencing through conformism the good, the bad and the ugly of those to whom it delegated a restrained authority to govern and to oppose. Through years, people experienced a sense of withdrawal, an awareness of resignation to a form of conformism and a perceived realisation that people where not “living in truth”.
Today’s long-time coming malady bears the imprint of human behaviour. Malta’s past constitutional democracy enabled its people to distance itself from extremist notions of socialism, liberalism and confrontational regimes. The institution of social market economy, complemented by the concepts of subsidiarity, solidarity and distributive justice amongst all equals, was a dialogue with faith that sought in a pragmatic way a middle path that accommodated a heterogeneous society. In recent years this present public authority veering towards an autocracy shifted emphasis from the democratic notion of “personalism” to “individualism”. The mechanisms of ‘popular autonomy’ and ‘restrained democracies’ have become congested and it is a revival of the one option “living in truth” that could provide any answers.
The concert of fragile destinies.