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10 (depressing) things learnt from election 2017

'We remain enslaved by partisan politics and the pervasive culture of fear'

Gripped by Panamagate amid warnings of Armageddon, the 2017 election campaign has been a four-week binge of mudslinging, venom, misinformation and mass hysteria. So what have we learnt?

1We have failed abysmally on critical thinking.

Critical thinking means the ability to question, to challenge established ways of thinking, and to constantly reconstruct ideas and practices. Critical thinking is not something we are endowed with as a nation, nor has it ever been encouraged.

When the general election whistle was blown, our ability to reflect independently dissipated into thin air. We remain enslaved by partisan politics and the pervasive culture of fear where others speak for us. We are reluctant to speak our inner thoughts in case it doesn't resonate with our friends, family or colleagues.

Disagreeing with "our" party might be construed as being in the other party’s pocket. Instead of reaching our conclusions, we bow at the altar of "our" political leader because for five weeks we feel he's infallible. The abysmal failure of critical thinking remains our education system's biggest flaw.

2. ‘Post-truth’ is alive and kicking.

It is clear by now that for too many of us, objective facts are less influential than appeals to emotion. Throughout the campaign we've seen borders blurred between truth and lies, honesty and dishonesty.

It doesn’t matter that the claims of corruption are proven in black and white if our leader tells us they're lies intended to harm the good his party was doing. It doesn't matter that the uncouth/racist/corrupt candidate doesn't resonate with the party's ‘values’. The distrust of "facts" is worrying indeed.

3. Facebook will not sway an election.

We turn to Facebook to air our grievances/propaganda without realising we’re in an echo chamber, that we're often talking to like-minded people we call ‘friends’. Candidates need to take a crash course in creativity when shooting video messages with their mobile phone. The shot of the potbellied MP filming his political message through his mobile phone as he sits strapped to his motionless car won't win him plaudits… but plenty of derision.

4. Parties still think it’s 1981.

Candidates still persist in calling at people’s homes and asking “jekk għandekx bżonn xi ħaġa” on the eve of an election, as they deliver a hamper to your home. Parties persevere in harassing the elderly into asking if they need a lift to the polling booth. This is condescending and insulting.

But then I remember that instead of rejecting the system of patronage, instead of hitting back to such calls with a barrage of insults, too many of us choose to embrace it. No wonder political parties still treat us like idiots.

5. Malta has a seemingly bottomless pit of finances.

The past four weeks have read out like a Lidl sale bonanza, with the two main political parties promising to plunder the country to provide all the goodies you ever dreamed of. As much as we feel that the economy is doing well, we forget we are not Dubai, and that the tens of millions we are siphoning from the EU may soon be plugged.

Yet, we have seen proposals so outlandish that the Labour Party claims it can resurface all of Malta's roads in seven years, while the Nationalist Party is offering €10,000 for couples who want to start a family in Gozo. Glittering and sometimes irresponsible (short-term) electoral promises should not replace measures for the common good.

6. People have a right to speak without being attacked.

If anyone utters an opinion different to our own, then they must have a personal interest or an agenda. I personally know Pia Zammit and Felix Busuttil who both stood on opposing political podiums. While I might disagree with the way they put their weight behind a party, they have every right to be there. Though, of course, they should be subjected to scrutiny, they don't deserve the despicable way they were demonised for daring to nail their colours to the mast.

7. Parties still think they own the roads

While it has been depressing to see Malta's road network transformed into a perpetual advertising board during the past five years, the way the two main parties have plastered their slogans and erected billboards during the past four weeks shows we cannot eradicate their presence. It's a bit like eczema. If I condoned vandalism I would have been tempted to cheer the initiative by the so-called Billboard Guerillas who sabotaged the billboards on the night of May 23.

8. F*** you Jack, I’m alright

If you excuse my French, but this really gets me going. Personal interest is the modus operandi of many Maltese voters. We are prepared to ignore claims of corruption and incompetence, the all too visible rape of our natural environment, provided we can get that shameful planning permit approved, the traffic violation forgiven, that job promised by that desperate politician prior to election. Who cares what the corrupt politician has done

Who cares about the corrupt politician when you find his hamper outside your door? Who cares about the politician responsible for brutal environmental assault if he is standing under our party banner? During an election, we all turn blue and red with no shades of grey because ultimately nepotism reigns.

As three NGOs recently pointed out, it boils down to the fact that governance institutions have failed miserably in preventing and addressing abuses of political and administrative power, where institutions are being used as extensions of political party clubs or recruitment agencies.

 9. Convenient patriotism ‘a la carte’

We spend years pillaging the island as a result of selfishness and greed, pillaging the environment and turning more than a blind eye to the corruption that infests the country... provided we can have a piece of the pie. Yet, how many of us are the first to attack the foreigner who dares criticise our country and ways. Patriotism à la carte makes me sick. 

10. But the memes are getting better.

Whether it's Vladimir Putin’s sudden interest in Malta or Busuttil’s ‘sweaty hands’, we are getting creative with online memes. At least we learn to laugh at the political class. Pity we only crack jokes at the ‘opposing’ party.

 

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