Fit end to hypocritical year

It has been a bad year. We have witnessed killings, robberies, fights, parliamentary upheavals, anointments, the resignation of a Maltese European Commissioner, rabid political fear mongering and, to date, accusations against two judges which immediately triggered stupid political reactions in the social media.

The outright venom will be left to the social media. It has already started
- Lino Spiteri

And the year has not ended yet. Much could happen in the hours in between writing this and its publication.

One thing that has come clear through the entire earthquake is that, in Malta, there is not much belief in the presumption of innocence, before one is proved guilty. People rush to judgment at the first whisper, and confirm it beyond doubt in media reports.

That is not surprising seeing that the political leaders chose to pronounce themselves in finality terms right from the very beginning without letting justice take its course. All this provides more than enough grist to the speculation mill over the fortnight when politics will, on the surface, be taking a rest.

That fortnight will itself be a maximum exercise in hypocrisy. The year has been thick with personal attacks and innuendo. These have travelled along the rumour mill more so than on the established media.

They did not always work, as shown by the way Simon Busuttil overcame the offensive in his contest for the deputy leadership of the Nationalist Party.

Behind the scenes the parties will be working pell mell, fashioning and sharpening political weapons to fire at their opponents. If we think we’ve seen typical dirt from the smelly political garbage machine, we had better remember how the singer Al Johnson used to ends his shows – “You ain’t seen nothing yet”.

The party headquarters will be teeming with people who will not have Christmas and the new year festivities on their mind, but the battles ahead. The candidates themselves will wear the falsest smiles ever fashioned by a buffoon masks maker.

The outright venom will be left to the social media. It has already started. And once the peace fortnight is over, the grim war masters will grin mirthlessly and say, did it ever stop? In fact, it will be worse than the open campaign itself because it will be hidden behind a veneer of respectability.

Meanwhile, the political parties will also use the period to conduct more fundraising schemes, to which the grassroots will contribute enthusiastically and openly. The bid donors will not be among them. They slip stuffed envelopes surreptitiously, over a sip of water, or coffee and pastizzi.

The Prime Minister, in fact, brought humour to the near-start of the supposedly politically silent period. He queried where the Labour Party was getting the money it is using for its billboard campaign. I have no personal idea, but I am not aware that Labour billboards far outstrip those of the Nationalist Party. So far they are better, yes, but not so numerous as to drown out the Nationalist campaign which, mysteriously wastes money to promote its internal media.

As for funding, the Nationalists have long been reputed to be well set to tap rich sources and the pockets of business people who, in the open, at least, stay away from politics. If the silent period is not to be simply a period loaded with hypocrisy the political leaders should take the opportunity to give crash courses to the faithful.

Not of the type already pioneered by Simon Busuttil, who showed not a little naivety in openly telling housewives to risk quarrels at the grocer’s.

Rabid political supporters of the both big political parties should be told that, really, this is one tribe, with the same DNA.

The ‘other side’ are our brothers and sisters. Hit one and you have hit a member of the family. That does not mean to say that there has to be unanimity of opinion. God forbid that we should all have the same political leanings. That would give short shrift to democracy.

Democracy is about the clash and contrast of ideas, but in a civil manner. We can still have a conversation which divides along party lines. But the tone and conclusion should remain civil.

Unfortunately too many politicians and broadcasters, who should be chairing discussions, not taking part in the debate, give the electorate bad examples weekly in week out – one can almost say day in, day out. But if we really intend to have a civilised general election, a fortnight put to good internal use would help.

We are all entitled to our views. But we are not entitled to believe that they are the sacred truth.

It is bad enough that we quickly translate into kangaroo courts to pronounce instant judgment at all levels of society.

When we come to pronounce judgment on our own future in the way we vote, we should at least respect ourselves and not do so blindly.

Each vote is part of the whole that makes for the basis of the consequences of the next five years.

That’s how much it counts.


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