The ‘us’ and ‘them’ syndrome
An overextended electoral campaign has left many in the political field (and especially out of it) mentally and physically exhausted. I was caught in it too. Less time to write and run my usual routine, more time for political activities, meetings, seminars and, of course, home visits on my electoral district.
So I must confess that I missed my daily appointments with the keyboard, writing articles (with the exception of posting quick notes onto my Facebook wall). In fact, this article has been pending in my saved drafts file for quite a while. Every now and then I would peek into it but could not finish it. Well, at last, I did finish it and I feel that it wraps up much of what I have written throughout the past five years.
Behind the story of ‘us’ and ‘them’, there is a history of violence, piracy, slavery, the influence of the clergy and the classes, and, of course, colonialism. Today, these terms might have morphed into a sort of a more sophisticated language but, nonetheless, are still very much alive in their meaning.
The more we try to ignore the real factors that divided our nation, the longer it will take us to heal the wounds and bring it all back together.
Malta’s history is what it is: a small island that happened to be strategically positioned right in the centre of the Mediterranean Sea, between Europe in the north and Africa in the south. It lies between two opposing religious forces that were caught in a holy struggle for centuries… and perhaps still are, although in a more diplomatic manner. Just because our geographical position forced us to endure a series of invasions by foreign warlords and colonial powers together with their abrasiveness and humiliation. Ultimately, they always sought their own interest, never ours.
The price the Maltese people had to pay was extremely high. The result: a wound as deep as history itself.
The fact that we had been ill-treated for so many centuries filled us with anger, anxiety and, perhaps, also gave us the power of retaliation, the will to fight back, even if that meant placing ourselves in the line of fire.
However, it also robbed us of one very important ingredient: security, a complex factor of inferiority that became ingrained in our psyche, deriving from the fact that our oppressors knew we were the helpless sons and daughters of a tiny Mediterranean island.
It was really the concept of us (on the receiving end) against them (on the delivery side), which occurred for many centuries, that transformed us into an insular population.
By the time trade unions and political parties appeared on the scene, the wound had grown into something nasty. We were ready for action, baying for blood and revenge against all those opposing us or trying to fiddle with our freedoms. We took it against the French and the British but, afterwards, instead of uniting, we fought among our own selves and prevented the wound from healing.
If you ask me, I say it was a pity that it had boiled down to this but history is a teacher as much as it is a thief. We robbed ourselves of our true identity and found solace in two fake ones. In Malta, we stopped being Maltese. We became the Labourites and the Nationalists.
To make matters worse we also managed to drag our inflated pride and short temper into the equation. Unfortunately, that is not an ideal recipe for success. Pride needs to be neutralised by altruism and short temper needs to be surrounded by an ambient of calm.
The result today is clear: a country bursting with disorder.
A patriotic sentiment is only shown during some Eurovision festival or, to some degree, when some Maltese national sport team plays against another nation. Between us Maltese, the colour purple is still dominant. A fusion of blues and reds, which kept our nation divided and still deter us from achieving certain standards of excellence. This mentality of divisive politics made sure that half of our potential was unused.
Unity is something we should and must aspire to if we ever want to attain the best results for our country, our children and their children. The future is within reach. Let’s make it a success by working together towards one goal.
The Labour Party’s message is clear. Malta for all, not just for some selected few. With that type of mind frame, everyone would benefit and everyone would have a role to play, a role to be responsible and accountable for.
The efforts of the Labour Party to unite a nation are surely a start in the right direction. However, to end the story of ‘us’ and ‘them’, a real holistic effort is needed: in our case, the will of the Maltese people to become one united nation.
Robert Henry Bugeja is a Labour electoral candidate.