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Dancing with wolves

Earlier this month, a couple of days after the formal start of the electoral campaign, I happened to be walking past our television set and was sincerely disturbed. What I saw and heard reminded me of scenes – the animated cartoon sort rather than the more realistic nature documentaries – where a pack of snarling wolves surrounds the quarry. In turn, they savagely, ruthlessly, bite and claw the quarry in a bid to tire it out before finishing it off. In an effort to paralyse it with fear, they howl and bare their fangs.

Fanaticism is also the dark heart of Maltese politics
- Mario Vella

The tactic is clear. If it is unable to focus on each assailant at once, the target is forced to face all the wolves at once. Unable to concentrate, the ability of the attacked to counterattack and to resist wears down fast.

The point is to confuse, to leave breathless and to tire out and then, finally, to break down. The intention is to cause the hunted one – for, meanwhile, the target should have become a helpless victim – to surrender to the hunters, to plead for mercy or, even better, to plead for the coup de grace, the mercy blow to speed up the inevitable end.

Or so the hunters wish. For the hunters’ aim is more easily reached if the target accepts as inevitable a script that decrees as an iron law of history – or, better, a law of nature – that these attackers are destined always to be the smartest and, therefore, the winners.

I am referring to Bondìplus of January 8 where Lou Bondì and Minister Tonio Fenech ‘surround’ and attempt to verbally and psychologically close in on Konrad Mizzi on the subject of the Labour Party’s energy proposals. Mizzi, however, may be young but a helpless fool he is not. He will learn to dance with wolves. But this is not my point today. What I would like readers to focus on today are the wolves themselves.

Well, the wolves were certainly also thinking of their fans in the stands. The more extreme fans screaming from the stands, the ultras, expect their representatives on the screen to give no quarter. Reason is for cissies. No wonder that fanaticism has been referred to as ‘the dark heart’ of Italian football. Fanaticism is also the dark heart of Maltese politics.

It is not difficult to find out what if the ultras were indeed excited by the demeanour of the attackers on Bondìplus. Have a look at the usual blogs of the first week of the campaign. Consider the language, the words and expressions used, the overall tone. They practically salivated with pleasure.

They spoke with relish about how Fenech “tore that… Konrad Mizzi’s arguments to total shreds”. They were thrilled about how he “lay into” him. They delightfully admitted to “enjoying the process of tearing apart” Mizzi’s position. They were relieved that Fenech finally “sports fangs and claws”.

Fans love wolves, don’t they?

Not all Nationalists enjoyed the show. You need not believe me (the fans among you will almost certainly say that I am making the following up) but quite a number of Nationalist friends made no secret of the fact that they were neither impressed nor amused by the macho display of fangs and claws, by the clawing and snarling and howling.

In fact, even one of the hardest of PN-supporting bloggers made it a point to remark that the minister “needs to calm down a bit”. The almost verging on the hysterical does not quite go well with the thinking electorate today and even Fenech should appreciate that. But, then, when the core voters in one’s constituency count more in the present circumstances than the PN’s total number of first count votes, one tends to discount thinking voters.

And now Lou. I have known him for many years and have had some very enjoyable conversations with him. I recall, for example, with the greatest pleasure dining with him and the late Peter Serracino Inglott not very long before Fr Peter passed away. We both intended this meal between three old friends who could agree to disagree, to become a regular convivial event but, evidently, history was not on our side.

I mention this, not without some emotion, to emphasise the fact that although Lou Bondì and I are politically on ‘the other side’ of each other, I have great respect for him and I dare say this is mutual.

I cannot say I know Fenech. I am not even sure we ever actually met. My feeling, however, is that he would have felt out of place at the above mentioned dinner. Not simply because he is probably uninterested in discussing the sort of problems that interested Bondì, Fr Peter and the undersigned. But mainly because the ‘open’ attitude required for that sort of discussion is probably alien to his culture. I stand to be corrected, of course.

Which brings me to my conclusion. While I was not at all surprised at Fenech’s performance – and, therefore, not at all concerned by it – I am troubled at Lou’s own role in that (well, not quite) debate. Although the snapping, accelerating, interrogation mode is his brand approach, on this occasion – practised in tandem with Fenech – it was, I feel, well below him.

A matter of circumstances?

Mario Vella blogs at http://watersbroken.wordpress.com .

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