Living in the land of louts
Our Peppi Azzopardi has ever so many strings to his bow. He is the trash TV show presenter par excellence, delivering the local version of Jerry Springfield (yes, there has been the programme about the Libyan uprising and 9/11, but a couple of swallows don’t make a summer and deep social commentary Xarabank ain’t).
Azzopardi is also a sometime media coach, advising weepy potential rebel MPs on “how to tell the truth” (as if one would need any advice about that). And now we find out that Azzopardi is also a lawyer-manque and an amateur psychologist to boot. We learn about Azzopardi’s diverse talents following the now infamous fracas at Marsaxlokk.
After hogging the beach with a variety of tents and caravans, the louts camping illegally took umbrage at a peaceful protest –organised by Marsaxlokk residents. The protesters had every right to protest against the squatters taking over public land, not letting them squeeze through to the sea and perhaps laying down the foundations of another Armier-like shanty town.
The residents evidently had had it up to the gills with all the competent authorities fobbing them off. The police, Mepa and the local council had been shunting them off on each other, showing as much verve as a sleeping tortoise in the enforcement of laws.
However, the beach bullies didn’t take too kindly to the residents’ protest. In full view of the media cameras, a group of campers thumped resident Chris Haber viciously. When they were taken to court in their shorts and T-shirt combo, they treated the whole event very much as they would if they had gone on a xalata.
They admitted to swearing in public and breaching the peace and were fined a paltry €60 each. As for the charge of slightly injuring Chris Haber? When asked by the aggressors’ defence lawyer if he forgave them for their violence, Haber did. What would you do, in the face of impotent authorities and a group of thugs who knew exactly where you lived and where your boat could be found?
Naturally, there was a great public outcry because of the €60 fine and the two-fingered salute the thugs had given to all law-abiding citizens. You don’t have to form part of the ‘flog them and hang them’ brigade to be disappointed with the way things had panned out.
But Azzopardi – ever the champion of the underdog (even if it’s more of a case of vicious pitbull) – looked deep into the heart of the matter and found a lynch mob. Only the lynch mob did not consist of the men who attacked Haber but of the people who expressed their disappointment at the slap on the wrist they had received.
According to Azzopardi, Haber’s aggressors were simply people harbouring a deep rage caused by the society we live in, which rage had to be addressed. Azzopardi thought their exposure on the media and on the net was a terrible thing. He compared it to massacring somebody. (Never mind the fact that the bullies were fully aware they were being filmed while pounding away at their victim).
Now this is not exactly a very innovative defence. When a person accused of a crime has been abused or had an extremely bad rap in life, defence counsel will often bring up these circumstances when pleading for leniency for their client.
However, there’s only so far you can take this form of defence. If we’re going down the Peppi path of blaming people’s misdeeds on society, then we could end up exonerating mass murderers like Hitler and Stalin for their crimes – they both had unhappy childhoods and low social status when young.
Doing away with the notion of personal responsibility completely would also mean that we can do away with the whole justice system. Perhaps we could substitute it with a special Xarabank edition where aggressors and pummelled victims are filmed embracing and all go home with a free gift courtesy of the Xarabank sponsors (and increased ratings, of course).
What I find profoundly depressing about the Marsaxlokk affair is that law-abiding, peaceful citizens have been totally let down by ineffectual authorities.
The local councils faffing on about by-laws, the police who are more intent on swooping down on skinny dippers and the laughably silent Mepa – all are responsible for allowing the situation come to a head. Then when people who are breaching the law erupt in violence which is caught on film, we get leading lights like Azzopardi blathering on about the angst caused by society – the same angst which makes them take over whole tracts of public land, use the sea as their cesspit and law-abiding citizens as their punching bag.
Instead of recognising the fact that the state has a responsibility to provide systems of support for victims of various kinds of abuse and illegalities, Azzopardi is lambasting us for not being concerned about the “terrible rage” felt by the perpetrators. Can it get worse than this?