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Institutionalised quietism

Often, Malta reminds me of DeChirico’s work, and Maltese tribalism recalls those two solitary figures in his metaphysical paintings about which Italo Calvino wrote his essay Travels in DeChirico’s Cities.

Calvino tries to imagine what these two characters are saying. He imagines that they have to engage in a discussion on the existence of the city itself, while reassuring each other that the city exists given that they are in it. Evidently this reassurance takes them nowhere. So their dialogue ends likewise: “We speak, but what are we talking about?” 

Now that Tagħna Lkoll often feels like Tagħhom biss, those who feel left behind want to get back on the saddle because, frankly, they want to shout again, Tagħna biss.

To the effect that somehow, “There will always be two parties that will never let go of their comfortable hegemony over Maltese politics” seems to have become a common understanding, which means nothing as much as stating that: “They are as bad as each other, so we should hope for the best.” 

What about a counter argument, which on the ground simply reflects what happens once the elections are near?

“Ultimately I cannot trust one side and I’d rather stick to what I know”. This has variations such as: “We believed him then, but now it is evident that he fooled us all. I am going back to my ‘home’ party”. Or: “Let’s not forget that while he is now saying that he will have a clean government, corruption was not exactly born a few years ago, so better stick to the one I know.” 

If some think that quietists—i.e. those who withdraw from politics and do nothing—are simply dodging the issue, they might need to think twice about who is actually being a quietist in Maltese politics. 

There are some who seriously think we have an alternative in what used to be the old regime for whom we should always remain thankful, just like the Italians stuck to the Democrazia Cristiana for decades. There are some who are convinced that Eddie’s party has miraculously revived itself and is telling us again: “I was always there for you, being always on the right side of history, and being, of course, Malta’s natural party.” 

But if you were so good then, why did people vote you out? We are told that it is a matter of confidence and trust. If we are finding ourselves trusting one side after we tried the other which let us down, then there is something seriously wrong if we simply shift back to those we have rejected only a few years ago. 

The flip side is equally pathetic. Does it mean that Labour, somehow have the next election guaranteed? On what grounds? Because it claims to have gained the neoliberal ground, by sustaining and even embellishing the house that Eddie built? If that’s the case, then maybe the nationalists are right to claim to be the eternal party — just as Andreotti and his ilk used to think. 

If you look across the benches and fail to be inspired (unless, of course, you are “one of us … or them”, in which case you wouldn't be that fussy), then there must be something seriously wrong with the entire political establishment. 

In this exasperation one begins to understand why some vote irrationally in countries where it is easier to get the confidence of a crowd whose common ground is anger.

More than Trump’s lot or the Brexit issue (which has been cooking for decades), we could take the Grillini as a closer example to Malta, where the people got tired of much of the same muchness.

 

More than Trump’s lot or the Brexit issue (which has been cooking for decades), we could take the Grillini as a closer example to Malta, where the people got tired of much of the same muchness.

Grillo’s people literally told the established parties to “F off”. Those in the know would remember that the Cinque Stelle Movement, came out of those large “Vaffa” events, whose evangelical fervor remind me of Billy Graham. 

While I hope that the choice of exasperation would not be Malta’s choice, I do suspect that this is not happening because the actual quietists are our own politicians. If you think of it, Grillo’s people do not like to be attributed to anti-poilitics because they are now in there and want to become credible.

The best way to do anti-politics is to deny it and become a politician. What we thought would be an answer three or four or five years ago, is now not the case anymore. That’s how voters think. But what choice do voters have now?

Some are telling them that you don’t need anti-politics to vent your anger because you have a political system that absorbs both. Our political system is designed to kill any agonism, and therefore any possibility of a third party. It has a mechanism where even workers’ unions have become so domesticated that they operate like corporations.

Want to vent? Then join the Opposition which a few years ago was the lackluster regime you voted out. There is no real reason except to vote the current Prime Minister out. We are told that he is, after all, the fount of all that is wrong in this country. No wonder the counter-narrative comes as easy and remains as pathetic. Undoubtedly, Simon Busuttil has become Joseph Muscat’s best ally.

Both parties love denouncing institutionalised corruption. But what about an institutionalised form of quietism, where things change only to remain the same?

Both parties love denouncing institutionalised corruption. But what about an institutionalised form of quietism, where things change only to remain the same?

As a commentator who I very much respect, rightly argued in this paper, the old barunijiet are now placated by this Government. My question is: Who made them barunijiet in the first place? Is that a guarantee that their old patron won’t oblige again if or when he comes back?

Thus the tribal discussion so proceeds: “We speak, but what are we talking about?”

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