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The vain and the infantile

Let’s be very clear. Minister Konrad Mizzi continues to betray a sense of vanity when across the Labour, Nationalist and independent camps there remains a wide consensus that he should go.

At the same time the Nationalist opposition is not gaining any brownie points by their infantile approach in the European Parliament where it has developed a habit of trying to settle domestic scores.

If our two big parties think they are being smart in acting this way, they are grossly mistaken. Whichever way one looks at this charade, Malta’s image is belittled.

As a former colony, Malta’s foreign policy is rather delicate, to say the least. Each and everyone of us, remains, by and large, subject to what one could liken to a post-colonial hangover. Many may well be in denial, but specialists in social scientific fields ranging from anthropology to postcolonial and cultural studies, would only take a minute in recognising this state in the way we do politics, both domestically and more so internationally.

Postcolonial hangovers are manifested in extremes, such as vanity and childishness. Vanity comes from a false sense of superiority and arrogance. Infantilism is a manifestation of unnecessary feelings of belittlement.

Politically, this is often seen in how the vain often mimic a sense of grandeur, which reminds one of Empire. This would in turn degenerate into a sense by which everything that one does begs recognition from what appears to be reminiscent of the same Empire.

A quick example of such a postcolonial manifestation is football. Visitors who are unfamiliar with Malta’s history would be excused to think that Malta was invaded by Italian and English football fans during international tournaments like the World or European cups.

It is convenient to forget that Malta’s population is indeed dense but not exactly small. To Luxemburg’s population of 500 thousand, Malta has just over 400 thousand. Indeed, unlike Luxembourg we’ve got less land, but the last time I looked, democracies are not measured by land, but by people.

Granted, this is put in another perspective by the fact that a city like Coventry houses as much people as Malta and Gozo. Yet Coventry sends far less MEPs to the EP than Malta. Then again Scotland’s six million population yields the same number of MEPs as Malta.

We are witnessing a battleground fought between Nationalist and Labour diehards who regard each other as traitors

From whichever angle one looks at it, Malta has a great responsibility as a member of the EU and its MPs and MEPs alike owe our country far more than a causal form of representation, domestically and internationally. After all, in our moments of Imperial illusion, we often give the impression we are running the whole Continent. So why should we make excuses when for some unknown reason, we yield to our partisan instincts and behave like kids scuffling in a school yard?

I totally agree with Dr Alfred Sant when he argues that apart from the Panama Papers, the Opposition seems to have nothing else to play with. Sant is right, just as he was right when he said openly that Konrad Mizzi should have resigned. As a politician of considerable experience Sant then knew that Konrad’s vanity would not bode well for both his party and his country.

"As a politician of considerable experience Sant then knew that Konrad’s vanity would not bode well for both his party and his country.""As a politician of considerable experience Sant then knew that Konrad’s vanity would not bode well for both his party and his country."

 

Yet this also gives Sant the authority to criticise the Opposition which, when it came to Leo Brincat’s candidacy to the Court of Auditors, decided to openly support a vote against him, breaking the tradition of consensus over which both the PN and PL have hitherto agreed.

Dr Simon Busuttil argues that this is not about Minister Brincat but about Prime Minister Muscat. Even if that may well be the case in Busuttil’s mind, the resulting effect was a vote against Malta’s candidate. Given the domestic context of an ineffective opposition led by Busuttil, his argument is childish. Politically he is losing authority, not to mention his failure to capitalise on a government which, notwithstanding its successes, has scored several own goals.

Ironically, notwithstanding good people and far wiser politicians than him on his benches, Busuttil is making himself look even weaker when he resorts to fight the political contest abroad. This is no sign of “leadership” but of opportunism. This also betrays the reality of an ineffective opposition which only manages to emulate what in effect is the real opposition that is forthcoming from members of civil society and NGOs who are now regularly standing up to the government.

Back in Europe we are looking at a situation where an Opposition seeks to “report” its government to the European Parliament, as if the EU is a colonial power. More than a leader, Busuttil is showing himself to be a follower to those who seem to think that we are still living in colonial times when it was permissible to report your opposing side to the Crown.

In another sign of postcolonial servility, we are witnessing a battleground fought between Nationalist and Labour diehards who regard each other as “traitors”. If this wasn’t so serious to the image of Malta, I would dare to dismiss it as a farcical situation.

Yet far from a farce this is a true tragedy. As we stand, Malta is in a “lose-lose” situation. We have a vain minister enjoying inordinate privilege while making it difficult for his hardworking honest colleagues who are unfairly blamed for being loyal to their Party and government.

Then we have a desperate and ineffective Opposition which is often mistaken for a bunch of spoiled brats, notwithstanding the fact that amongst them there are good and sensible people who seem to have lost their role and voice in the mayhem.

 

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