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We are not the centre of the world

Perhaps there’s nothing better than the sound of silence to make us understand the magnitude of life and the minisculity of our existence.

Perhaps there’s nothing better than the sound of silence to make us understand the magnitude of life and the minisculity of our existence.

This is our main disadvantage: we think that Malta is the centre of the world. The problem is accentuated by the fact that in the Mediterranean map, we are more or less, quite central.

I want politicians to use their precious time to talk about things that really matter: what we can do to cultivate a sense of empathy in this country, how we can curb racism…
- Kristina Chetcuti

Moreover, as early as our kindergarten years we are told stories of how saints, knights, Phoenicians, cavemen, Romans, friends and other countrymen, dropped by for a spot of rest, simply because our islands were conveniently located as a pit-stop in their voyages.

Against this background we grow up to be very introspective. Now, some of us, somehow manage to grow out of it, others don’t really. And the problem here lies in the fact that the majority of those who don’t snap out of it go on to become – ta da – politicians: who in turn spend their entire lives promulgating the myth that we are indeed the centre of the world, because by proxy that would mean that they are the centre of the world.

And so it is that we are trapped in a vicious circle.

Last weekend was the epitome of all this. We had flash news after flash news, and ongoing 24/7 coverage of the local council elections. Whenever I switched on the telly, there was always someone with permanent frown (or a pathetic smirk) giving us detailed analysis of the manner the people in the micro-village of San Lawrenz voted.

Such was the intensity of the coverage and the pleas after (“We’re going to be doomed”, “We need to get back to the people’s kitchens”) that we’d be forgiven for thinking that Barack Obama himself was following the results closely.

The thing is that I don’t want strangers in my kitchen to talk about the proposal of another sleeping policeman, to fit snugly between the other two at each end of the street.

I want politicians to use their precious time (be it on television or while helping us dry the dishes) to talk about things that really matter: what we can do to cultivate a sense of empathy in this country, how we can curb racism, how to be more aware that we are but a fragment of the world and how really we should be more humble.

Rather than the data and percentages of petty elections, I would rather have heard one of the speakers question the repercussions of the acquittal of the former bouncer accused of causing the death of Suleiman Abubakar, a forced migrant from Sudan. Or at least remark on the disrespect shown towards the deceased victim in online comments.

Or perhaps they could have talked about the atrocities taking place in Syria – the carpet bombing, the despair, the death knoll rising every minute, the children orphaned or killed without mercy.

But they didn’t and they don’t. Instead they are happier to keep on blow the bubble that encases us and cuts us off from reality, turning us into selfish, spoilt brats: We go out in hundreds to protest against Acta because we fear that – boo hoo – we won’t be able to download movies for free any more.

But when this time last year there was a protest against Gaddafi’s barbarous brutalities in Libya, Maltese people barely totted up to a score. Unless it hits our little tiny world, then we don’t budge.

There is something intrinsically wrong with our perspective. And it’s high time we addressed it. The sea makes it easy for us to forget that we are not alone. But on any clear day we can easily see that the Sicilian shoreline is not that far off, in reality. Also we may float about in the middle of the Mediterranean sea, but in actual fact, the African country of Ghana is geographically the closest to the centre of the world.

Net and One news may lead us to believe that news is all about what’s happening on the rock and skimp over items happening ‘barra minn xtutna’, but that’s a fake reality. And just as fake is our belief that at election time the whole world stops breathing. If that were the case, we’re lucky that we’re not the lungs of the world, as it would long be dead.

Perhaps our politicians should stay inside this weekend, to re-group. I suggest they log online and google 4 33, a musical composition by the American composer John Cage.

The score instructs the performers not to play their instruments during the entire duration of the piece. So it’s basically four minutes 33 seconds of silence or, to be more precise, of the sounds of the environment that the listeners hear while it is ‘performed’.

There’s nothing better than the sound of silence to make us understand the magnitude of life and the minisculity of our existence.

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