I started this blog looking to spotlight people making a positive difference in the world – and I shall continue to do so.
But I’m also half-Maltese and spent the first twenty-three years of my life on the rock. Try as I might to escape it (and I’ve lived abroad now for eight years) I was inevitably sucked back into its claustrophobic vortex when a car bomb in Bidnija took the life of someone I deeply admired and respected.
There used to be a time when you could voice a criticism of Malta’s parochialism and insularity and be met with something along the lines of “ah, but this happens everywhere ta! Not just in Malta”. It irritated me then and it especially irritates me now.
Because (whataboutery aside) the truth is that this does not happen everywhere. At least, not to the same extent, not with the same brazen shamelessness, and not with the same tacit acceptance from the community.
The rampant misogyny, corruption, assault on press freedom, state-organised attacks on government critics, the impunity – it doesn’t happen like this in all countries everywhere.
Perhaps one of the best examples of this is the way people communicate about Daphne’s assassination to this very day (over two years since her murder).
“Of course Daphne’s assassination was terrible but…”
It’s a popular phrase. It’s usually followed by a criticism. “Of course Daphne’s assassination was terrible but I didn’t like her writing”, for example.
You’re literally qualifying your condemnation of her assassination with a commentary on why you didn’t like what she did.
Implicit in this, the subtext to this objection, is the notion that on some level Daphne at least partially deserved what she got.
Sometimes it’s accompanied by the paranoid assertion that activists and the international press (and by extension every NGO, Civil Society Group, and watchdog) are part of some big conspiracy to dominate the conversation. No seriously. Usually by people who had a personal issue with Daphne.
If any Maltese person sat down to have a conversation with anyone from Ireland and said to them “Of course Daphne shouldn’t have been murdered but…” their audience would likely turn to them in horror.
“but what?” they’d ask.
Because that’s the thing, different cultures respond to things differently. In Malaysia, Spain, Iceland people resign for having Panama Accounts and companies in the British Virgin Islands. Not so in Malta.
In Ireland, when Veronica Guerin was gunned down in broad daylight, there was uproar from the community.
Not so in Malta. No Malta’s response was so horrific , and so widespread as to merit description as a kind of cultural sociopathy.
Some celebrated by hooting their horns and carcading, like ISIL militants celebrating another victory in their crusade against civilisation.
The Prime Minister Joseph Muscat could barely contain a smile in his interviews, and was very quick to frame the narrative in terms of how this so greatly wounded and affected him. How Daphne had been his most vociferous critic, and how much he had suffered.
Meanwhile Police officers publicly rejoiced at the news on Facebook.
It didn’t take long for government MPs to start attacking the family.
And of course the government’s lapdog Saviour Balzan joined in to defend his paymasters at every opportunity, and still does.
You also had the head of the European Capital of Culture Jason Micallef mock Daphne’s last words.
And you had people like MEP Josef Caruana, on the government payroll, quickly circulating the bizarre notion that Matthew Caruana Galizia might have been responsible, if not complicit, in his own mother’s assassination.
Then there’s the trolls – invariably from Labour hate groups though a sizeable chunk are also Adrian Delia supporters (because Labour and PN have now become indistinguishable from each other). Trolls by their hundreds who feel compelled to taunt, ridicule and smear the anti-corruption and justice for Daphne movements. More sinisterly they also seem to love actively attacking Daphne’s family.
This is the kind of cultural sociopathy that bears studying. Anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists and historians could have a field day.
Obviously this isn’t a reflection on every Maltese person. I shouldn’t have to spell this out. The thousands who showed up at the second anniversary of her murder, the civil society groups like Republikka, and the Occupy Justice activists, the journalists, the opinion writers, they’re the grassroots proof of a possible better Malta.
Of what Malta could be. Of A Dream That Was Once Malta.
But sadly they seem to prove the exception to a worrying and pervasive rule on the rock that needs to be fully acknowledged before it can really be addressed.
And so that’s why I feel obliged to, at least partially, maintain a blog that attempts to document and dissect this insidious, toxic cultural primitivism that seems impervious to education (free though it is in Malta).