We are all Christopher Habers
By now the photograph on the front page of The Times that shocked so many people will probably be a niggling distant memory. The shock was misinterpreted as being caused by the paltriness of the fine meted out to these fine gents who would have been described by my grandmother in no uncertain terms as descendants of Jupiter, which is the height of sarcasm in case any of you didn’t notice.
When faced with a tribe of defiant ill-clad men sitting on the steps of the law courts beaming because Christopher Haber, who had been beaten up, “forgave” them because, obviously, the last thing he wanted was further trouble, one should not have expected the fine to be worse than it was.
It is within the limits laid down in the rule book. However, were I the presiding magistrate, I would perhaps have given these toe- and nose-picking, tongue-flashing scions of the Maltese noblesse a tongue lashing of the most memorable kind.
Instead, post-judgment, we, the honest, taxpaying, decent citizens in Malta are faced with this sort of arrogant defiance; defiance to decency, defiance to the law, which, in my book, is an intolerable situation.
The uproar was immediate and very flammable and hit The Times online and the social media like a plague of locusts.
Maybe it’s the heat. This year has been extremely and protractedly hot. Those who have an AC and who work in an AC, are mostly immune from the blasts of molten smelly air for most of the day and are unhappy enough when leaving their fresh havens to get to another one.
Imagine those people who depend solely on the slight sea breezes that waft into Marsaxlokk harbour to cool them down in their tents, which, apparently, year after year, obliterate the bay at this time of the year without a so much by your leave.
This is happening everywhere and in all spheres.
People are driving badly and uncouthly. There is no courtesy on the road or anywhere else unless its part and parcel of the service like in the big companies and institutions.
Even on Facebook I noticed a decrease in the level of politeness and lo and behold, even here we have started, as in an old Malta Times expression, hurling invective at one another like the clash of the Titans.
It is indeed difficult to know what to do when faced with a situation like this. That people are extremely upset is a fact. They feel vulnerable and unprotected just like poor Mr Haber who had to willy-nilly turn the other cheek, not from any Christian sentiment mind you, but because he values his bacon and his family’s and knows full well that, should he opt for any heroics, nobody is going to stick up for him or defend him because in Malta we are used to keeping our heads below the parapet. That is why the tailors’ dummies like those charged are so cocksure of themselves and couldn’t give a flying whatsit about the law.
What did emerge from the incident was that this was no isolated case and Malta and his wife got to know about the infamous incident because the same intrepid photographer was there, twice over, at the right time and in the right place to capture it and its aftermath in flagrante.
Yes, I do feel that in many instances the haste to improve social justice and enfranchise the people has had the effect of throwing out the baby with the bathwater as, despite the dramatic increase in academic education, this has not produced commensurate “educated” people in the Maltese sense, in other words; polite and well-spoken individuals with whom it is a pleasure to meet.
At this juncture, people wondered whether any of those people or institutions whom and which we look up to – the government, Parliament, the law courts, the political parties, or even the Church – would make some official statement. That is impossible.
The government is powerless as it constitutionally cannot interfere with the workings of the law courts as that would jeopardise the latter’s independence. The same goes for Parliament.
The law courts, as epitomised by the Chief Justice, are not in the habit of explaining anything despite the rubbish we are fed on programmes like Judge Deed; it’s all balderdash apparently.
The Church is far too busy to set an example as to how one is to behave as it’s got enough on its plate with morning band marches getting totally out of hand and resembling the bacchanalias of Sodom and Gomorrah, all this to celebrate what is ostensibly a religious and devotional celebration with fireworks and bands.
Adding to its moral dilemma about IVF and other issues, being kind and polite and, above all, considerate, to one’s neighbour is hardly part of the equation.
As for the political parties, even discussing them in this context is silly. That leaves the police, which have declared that they would appeal but on what grounds if poor Mr Haber does not press charges?
The upshot is that, despite the nationwide outcry last week that justice has gone to the dogs, there is little anyone can do to remedy the situation. The politicos have to epater le canaille because their vote is as valid as any University professor’s or business entrepreneur’s and far more easily bought or sold.
Thus, true democracy is already being mocked and I wonder whether you have debated, deep in your heart as, God forbid, anyone had to hear you, whether universal suffrage was a good idea after all.