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Putting Pinocchio to shame

The story of Pinocchio is well known. It brings back childhood memories. Pinocchio is best known for his short nose that becomes longer when he lies.

Many suffer from Pinocchio’s lying traits. Some go to the extent of becoming compulsive liars.  Others feel awkward with the truth and happily go roaming around parading with a ‘long nose’, metaphorically speaking.

Unfortunately, some politicians fit this description perfectly. Their long noses put Pinocchio to shame.

Our political history has ample examples where ‘truth’ and ‘politics’ were not singing from the same hymn book. There were many instances where truth was considered a footnote. Although Politics with a big P is meant to be all about the advancement of the common good, politics with a small P is more concerned with power trips, narcissism, nepotism, corruption, self-gratifications and self-advancement.

To the politician who craves power and glory, truth can be a hindrance, an annoyance and a trivial issue in his political path.

Some cannot be bothered with the truth and go bragging unashamedly about it. I am not referring to one’s private affairs, as long they are not illegal or in conflict with public governance.

My reference here is to political discourses and policies. It is not the first time that truth has been sacrificed, altered and manipulated so as to be acceptable to Joe Public.  Unfortunately, the average Joe is too gullible and preoccupied with life to discern between what is truth and what is gloss.

In their ardour to seize the seat of power, some politicians end up distorting the truth by promising heaven on earth. Through engineered spin and gloss, lies and half-truths are marketed as doable realities, plausible deadlines and concrete roadmaps. Political discourses become shallow and devoid of any logical truth.

Profound political insights are then transformed into an emotional performance in which politicians become jesters massaging public opinion. Ironically, misconceptions and prejudices become mainstream politics, while evidence and logic become trivial.   This is what populism is based on.

Populism might bring in votes but it will not sustain good governance for long

How many promises are solemnly pledged before elections only to be ditched the day after the votes are cast? It is quite insulting to citizens’ intelligence that after casting their preference based on such promises, they discover that they have been conned.

Populism might bring in votes, but it will not sustain good governance for long. Recently, the Oxford Dictionary editors chose ‘post-truth’ as the word of the year. They defined the new expression as “a time in which truth becomes irrelevant”. The day after the victorious take it all, the true colours emerge.

Recent political events, both on the international as well as national turfs, confirm this worrying political trend.

During the Brexit referen-dum, Nigel Farage campaigned hard and aimed at popular resentments. The Out campaign solemnly pledged that the £350 million contributions that Britain gives to the EU would be channelled instead to the NHS.

The day after the vote, Nigel Farage disowned the pledge.

During the recent US presidential elections, Donald Trump solemnly vowed that if elected, he would definitely repeal Obamacare. The day after meeting President Obama, Trump said he will not repeal it after all.

Coming over to our own turf, Joseph Muscat and his Labour movement were ushered into power on the basis of a well-marketed campaign. Muscat went out of his way to personally promise meritocracy, transparency, good governance, zero tolerance for corruption, accountability and also a fully operational power station in just two years. Almost four years down the line, these promises have not yet been honoured.

In all three examples, Pinocchio’s traits are all over the place.

This is a damning situation, further reinforcing the established perception that politicians are downright liars. It is turning away honest citizens, in particular our young generation, who are weary, disengaged and disappointed with the current political class.

The Nationalist Party is not immune to this situation. Sadly, it had its own share of responsibility too. Maybe it is for this reason that leader Simon Busuttil is walking away from the shadows of the past by publishing a series of policy documents with concrete proposals.

The message is clear: what you see is what you get. Citizens know exactly where they stand with the current PN lineup. The latest document is another proactive approach to politics: 51 proposals are being addressed to small- and medium-sized enterprises.

It would be unjust to label the party as a negative party when it adopts this proactive approach.

All these policy documents are not hollow promises or a vote-catching exercise. They are concrete initiatives, so much so that the Labour government is finding some of them handy to introduce.

Honest citizens are weary of empty promises, failed road maps, engineered politics and ‘politicians’ being economical with the truth. Citizens from all political shades request that their elected representatives deliver what was promised to them.

Honest citizens demand that our current and future politicians stop putting Pinocchio to shame.

Albert Buttigieg is a Nationalist Party candidate on the ninth and 10th districts and deputy mayor of St Julian’s.

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