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Muscat's progressive thinking

PM's address lifted progressive politics from perimeter of ideological spectrum

Prime Minister of Malta Joseph Muscat addresses 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Prime Minister of Malta Joseph Muscat addresses 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat's address to the United Nations Assembly gave food for thought, for reasons that go beyond the statesmanship qualities that many have praised.

As relevant as the leitmotifs of "cooperation", "dialogue" and "unity" may be, the Prime Minister's address stood out for its solid grounding in progressive thinking.

Although he made no explicit reference to the progressive standpoint, Muscat’s address was underpinned by an appeal for improvement of the human condition, which is central in progressive thought.

Progressive thinkers rely on progress and advancements in science, technology, social organisation and economic development to achieve improvement of the human condition.Address was underpinned by an appeal for improvement of the human condition, which is central in progressive thought

In this regard, the social ails cited by Muscat – such as human trafficking, terrorism and cyber terrorism - demand a broader understanding of what improving the human condition implies.

More specifically, improvement of the human condition cannot be limited to how much the human race (or part thereof) acquires power to control what may benefit or harm human beings.

In fact, Muscat’s appeal for collaboration in the fight against irregular migration, pollution and species extinction underline the fact that genuine improvement of the human condition cannot be genuinely and sustainably achieved at third party expense, even when that third party is the environment or marine life.

Moreover, improvement of the human condition, as framed by Muscat's speech, is both the aim and a method. It has a value in itself as well as an instrumental value.

The instrumental dimension is crucial because it secures the why. History has taught us that the moment any ideology becomes self-serving it also becomes inhumane. The same inhumanity that drove Magda Goebbels, wife of Nazi Germany's Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, to poison her own children (before committing suicide with her husband) because she would not have them live in a post-Nazi Germany.

Conversely, Muscat's address lifted progressive politics from the perimeter of the ideological spectrum, which too often overemphasises the association with state mechanisms of control and minority rights.

Indeed, Muscat's speech set free progressive politics from its stereotypical ideological straitjacket. Humanity, in its broad sense, is sovereign. This was reinforced by Muscat's references to "trust" and to how digital research and innovation may increasingly contribute to everyday safety. The concluding line: "in unity we do and we can have hope" synergistically sustains.

After all, hope is only human.

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