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When two tribes go to war

Reading the online comments boards in reaction to the pro-environment protest I don’t know whether to laugh or cry in despair.

“I hope Muscat ignores these time wasters,” wrote one. “The PN organised coaches from all localities,” claimed another. Another uploaded a picture of a Labour mass meeting with the caption: “This is a massive crowd”.

Marsascala mayor Mario Calleja went one step further. In reaction to Front Harsien ODZ's protest, he urged residents to gather at Żonqor point on Sunday to show support for the proposal to build a university on outside development zone land.

Let’s forget for a moment the fact that if any European mayor had to campaign to cement one of his locality’s few remaining open spaces he would be lynched in the village square.

But the fact that Calleja felt the need to rally support for a project simply because it is promoted by his beloved party is almost pitiful.

It’s symptomatic of the tribal mentality that our politicians have imbued us with. We still attribute partisan motives to any movement which dares question government policy. In this case, the protesters were merely expressing their concern that the government is intent on cementing Malta for profit. They were calling for a stop to develop areas designates as outside development zones. Is that wrong?

More than 3,000 people of all ages gathered in Valletta not because they’re affiliated to the Nationalist Party or Alternattiva. On the contrary, I know many of those present dared to show up because the activity was not sponsored by any political party. Contrary to her mayor, Marsascala's Labour deputy mayor Desiree Attard was there because she cares about her locality. 

Three thousand people might not be a significant number to those who attend political mass meetings, but it is the biggest pro-environment gathering I’ve seen in this country. And we all know where today’s big movements started from.

But sadly we remain an island dictated by petty partisan politics. Archbishop Charles Scicluna is being called a rabid Nationalist simply because he said priests were free to take part in yesterday's protest (his critics conveniently ignoring what Pope Francis said about the environment just a few days ago.)

It happened in the past and it will keep happening because too many of us look up to politicians as our only means of inspiration. It’s symptomatic of the clientelism that political parties propagate because it serves their purpose. Sadly, it ultimately shows what we lack in education and respect is compensated through fear.

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