Are we angels or demons?

Since a couple of years, I have started to notice a marked dissonance in Malta and its people. I go to shops, ask for and get a service, interact with the people in the brief periods when I visit. The persons who I deal with are nearly always so… sweet and gentle. In Maltese we have an expression: taz-zokkor, literally, made of sugar.

Contrast this with some (many) Maltese car drivers’ attitude – aggressive, impolite, verging on savage; the fact that they (we) have elected a band of corrupt criminals to lead the country, that the office of the prime minister is deeply implicated in the murder of a journalist and that in spite of this well known and established information, the majority of the people still support the party in government; the fact that vicious hate speech on social media and comments sections of online news beggars belief.

The former genuinely sweet, kind, helpful and gentle people and the latter… horror show. I want to believe that the hate criminals are a small minority. It’s the only way I can explain my overwhelmingly positive first hand experiences. The alternative would be that sitting behind a steering wheel and mentioning politics to Maltese people transforms many of them (us) into Mr Hyde.

“The will of the people”

“Are parliaments ignoring the will of the people?”, was the question being discussed on Euronews last night. Are they?

When I saw that question, another one immediately arose in my mind. What do they mean by “the will of the people”? For instance, I hope anyone will concede that I’m a member of the collective known as “the people”. And what is my “will”? What do I want to happen in the world? I’ll keep it as brief as possible:

  • halt population growth
  • phase out all national borders
  • phase out private car ownership
  • ban all firearms

Most people will disagree with the above list and certainly those aims do not form part of their “will”, but that doesn’t make me or them any less “people”. So, please, can we cut out all this constant “the people” want this or that? Different people want different things, and that’s basically it.

Going back to the question of whether parliaments are ignoring the will of the people. Really, Euronews (and many others, to be honest), do I really need to spell this out? Parliament is made up of the people’s representatives, delegated by the people to take collective decisions for them. If “the people” don’t like their representatives’ decisions… well, to begin with they should have been more careful when choosing their representatives in the first place. Secondly, the next time round they should choose someone they prefer better to represent them, or even run for election themselves.

So, basically, to answer your question, Euronews, parliaments ARE the will of the people.

‘The people’

The problem with the world today is the equivalent of ‘the people’ (ah, such a hallowed entity, ‘The people have spoken’, ‘The people have sent us a message’, the people this, the people that, as if we’re not all individuals with a million different opinions but a herd of goats)… Where was I? Ah, yes, the equivalent of the people choosing ‘one of us’ to drive the airplane in which they’re travelling instead of a qualified pilot. Or a classroom of ignoramuses choosing the class bully, also an ignoramus, ‘one of them’, rather than someone who is educated, respectable and respectful to represent them as class prefect.

Leading a nation, any nation but especially a large country or even a superpower, is not a joke! Having a thug at the helm in Brazil and burning up the Amazon could well push us even faster into climate catastrophe.

Mużew ta’ tfulitna

Fi Standard 4 tal-Primarja ta’ Raħal Ġdid, qed ngħidu l-bidu tas-70ijiet, dik is-sena li Malta qalbet għall-flus deċimali, inzertajt tlajt fil-klassi taz-Ziju Ġużi. Ħu missieri.

Niftakarhom pjuttost tajjeb il-preparamenti dawk iż-żminijiet li konna se naqilbu l-munita. Mil-lira sterlina Ingliża konna se nibdew nużaw il-lira Maltija. Aktar minn hekk, konna se naqilbu mis-soldi u x-xelini – 12-il sold jagħmlu xelin u għoxrin xelin jagħmlu lira – għall-milleżmi u ċ-ċenteżmi.

Niftakar tajjeb ukoll il-muniti. Is-sitt ħabbiet – li jsarrfu għal nofs sold – kienu saru rari għax il-prezzijiet kienu għolew biżżejjed biex il-ħabbiet kważi nqatgħu, tant li infatti ma kontx tara ħabba fiċ-ċirkulazzjoni. Is-sold (1 d.) kien fil-prattika l-iżgħar unità u kellu munita għalih, kannella skur. Ma kienx hemm munita ta’ żewġ soldi. Insemmi ż-żewġ soldi għax, interessanti, għal xi raġuni fl-inħawi ta’ Raħal Ġdid, il-Fgura u l-Kottonera ma konniex ngħidu żewġ soldi imma ġixx soldi, anzi preċiżament “ġissoldi”. Sabiħa ferm kienet il-munita tat-tliet soldi, kannella ċar, iżgħar mis-sold u forma ta’ skorfina. Is-sitt soldi – tkompli tiċkien u taqleb għal kulur il-fidda – assolutament qatt ma konna ngħidulha sitt soldi imma mfarrka mill-Ingliż: sikspenz. Tkompli tiela’: ix-xelin (1 s.), il-“ġixxelini” (2 s.), u l-favorita tiegħi, il-munita tal-ogħla valur qabel naqilbu għall-karti, it-tmintax irbiegħi (2 s. 6 d.). Isem ibbażat fuq sistema aktar antika li għal raġuni stramba kien l-uniku wieħed li baqa’ jintuża minn dik is-sistema. Bl-Ingliż “half crown”, li jimplika li “one crown” jiswa 5 xelini, imma dan l-isem ma kienx jintuża. Il-half crown biss, bil-Malti tmintax irbiegħi u valur ta’ 2 s. 6 d.

Tliet soldi. Ekwivalenti għal 3 ewroċenteżmi. Biha kont tixtri ġelat tal-cone ta’ Grezzju Caruana.

Min-nofs lira ‘l fuq konna nużaw karti. Nofs lira (tiswa 10 xelini), il-lira (20 xelin), 5 liri (imlaqqma “fiver”). Tenner u valur ogħla kienu rari ħafna.

Fl-iskola, dawn konna naħdmu s-somom bihom. Pereżempju, ikollok timmultiplika 5 s. 8 d. b’sebgħa. Tinsiex, 12-il sold jagħmlu xelin u 20 xelin jagħmlu lira. U dak mhu xejn. Tal-grocer (dak iż-żmien is-supermarket kien biss xi ħaġa tal-films) irid jaħdem il-kont mingħajr lanqas calculator, bil-lapes fuq biċċa karta. U ħaġa tal-għaġeb, wieħed wara l-ieħor iġibhom dejjem tajbin.

Id-data tal-qlib għad-deċimali kienet is-16 ta’ Mejju, 1972. Għadni sal-lum, 46 sena wara, id-data tas-16 ta’ Mejju tfakkarni f’meta qlibna għad-deċimali. Lira Maltija maqsuma f’mitt ċenteżmu, li kull wieħed minnhom jiswa 10 milleżmi. Kienu ħelwin wisq il-mils, tal-aluminju bil-pizzi, ikkupjati mil-Libja ta’ Gaddafi. Ir-role model tagħna ta’ dak iż-żmien…

Ovvjament, kienu kbar id-diffikultajiet li sabu n-nies biex jadattaw ruħhom anki għal sistema ħafna aktar sempliċi minn ta’ qabel. Min-naħa l-oħra, għalina t-tfal tal-iskola, fil-klassi taz-Ziju Ġużi, kien rigal mis-sema.

Ftakart f’dan kollu ftit tal-ġranet ilu meta jien u Sue morna nippassiġġaw sal-bini muniċipali ta’ Hemiksem, il-Belġju.

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Fil-ġenb in-naħa ta’ wara kien hemm mużew li tidħol għalih b’xejn. Inzerta kien jum il-Ħadd iddedikat apposta għal dan.

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Ma konniex nafu x’deħlin naraw, u tista’ timmaġina x’sorpriża meta l-ewwel kamra li dħalna fiha kienet prattikament il-kamra tal-klassi taz-Ziju Ġużi!

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Posti kien ikun il-bank ta’ quddiem fil-filliera tax-xellug. Fuq ix-xellug tiegħi Victor Camilleri. Tgħidx kemm kien bravu Victor…

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Il-kanal għal-lapsijiet imħaffer fuq quddiem tal-mejda kien magħqud f’wieħed minn tarf għall-ieħor tal-bank. Ħafna mit-tfal (konna kollha subien, ovvjament, il-bniet skola oħra li ma jmurx nitħalltu) konna norganizzaw tournaments fuq dawn il-kanali. Nimmarkaw spazju f’kull tarf tal-kanal li jkun il-“lasta”, xi ħames ċentimetri tul kull naħa. Ikollna crayon u b’subgħajna nixxuttjaw il-crayon li jitkaxkar fix-xaqq lejn in-naħa l-oħra. Jekk il-crayon jiġi kollu ‘l ġewwa mil-linja tal-lasta jkun gowl. Nispera li jaħfirhielna din it-trasgressjoni s-Sir, iz-Ziju Ġużi. Imma naħseb kien jaf u ħallieha għaddejja.

Sa anki basktijiet tal-ġilda poġġew fl-esibizzjoni! Erġajt sirt tifel daqs kemm fraħt inġedded il-memorji.

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Tant rajna oġġetti minn żmien tfulitna. Gomom, temprini, linka Quink għall-fountain pen, set squares, protractor, kumpass, ir-riga t-twila tat-technical drawing. Imbagħad fi kmamar oħra kien hemm oġġetti minn oqsma oħra tal-ħajja. Radjijiet daqs dinja, immarkati bl-ismijiet tal-ibliet minn madwar id-dinja li jindikaw il-frekwenza tat-trażmissjoni short wave minn dawk l-ibliet. Settijiet oħra qishom tar-Rediffusion. Typewriters. Magni tal-ħjata bħal dik li kienet tuża ommi, imħaddma bil-pedala taħt il-mejda.

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IL-KAMERA TAL-FAMILJA! Waħda eżatta bħal dawn ġibdet l-ewwel ritratt tiegħi tarbija.

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Qabel ma ħallejt id-daqna

Ġbidt l-ewwel ritratti li ħadt jien f’Katanja u fil-muntanji ta’ Sila, Kalabrija, fl-1980. Aperture, speed, focus… imbagħad ingerbeb il-film b’attenzjoni meta jispiċċa, fid-dlam biex ma nħassarx ir-ritratti kollha. Lura Malta nieħu l-film il-ħanut ta’ ħu Pullu Axisa ta’ ħdejna biex jiżviluppali r-ritratti. Nistenna l-ġranet u nispera li joħorġu tajbin. Xi 20 cents ‘il wieħed, 24 ritratt jiswew qrib il-ħames liri (12-il ewro, dak iż-żmien somma enormi) u m’għandekx garanzija li se joħorġu tajbin.

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IL-MECCANO!

U toys oħra bħal Lego jew Betta Bilda. Injam ikkulurit f’forom differenti. Mudelli tal-ajruplani jew tal-ferrovija jaħdmu bil-batteriji. Ah, x’memorji.

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Erġajna sirna tfal f’dal-mużew

Tal-għaġeb kif inbidlet il-ħajja fi spazju ta’ nofs għomor ta’ bniedem. Tfulitna diġà saret mużew, u wieħed mill-isbaħ mużewijiet li qatt mort.

Hemiksem, fejn jinsab il-mużew, qiegħed ftit kilometri biss ‘il bogħod minn Antwerp.

Vindication, qaltlu

Xi nies għoġobhom, ftit ilu, jipproġettaw kliem ta’ protesta fuq il-Berġa ta’ Kastilja. Mhux vandaliżmu (Alla ħares), għax il-kliem kien ipproġettat bid-dawl, mhux biż-żebgħa jew xi ħaġa li tibqa’ permanenti. Il-permanenza baqgħet bis-saħħa tar-ritratti.

houseofimpunity

whokilleddaphne

Messaġġ ċar u qawwi, u mistoqsija leġittima li rridu nafu t-tweġiba għaliha, li qabel ma nsiru nafuha l-pajjiż se jibqa’ avvelenat. Ebda bużullotti u spettakli ta’ aljenazzjoni u propaganda m’huma se jimpressjonawna qabel ma nsiru nafu min ordna l-qtil ta’ Daphne.

Id-difensuri ta’ “Malta”, naturalment qomsu. “Malta”, f’moħħhom, tfisser il-gvern ta’ Malta u l-persuni eletti fih.

There’s a fine line between freedom of speech and vindication,” qaltilna waħda għarfa fuq Facebook. Missha kitbet bil-Malti għax l-Ingliż ma tafux sew. Is-sentenza ma tagħmilx sens ħlief jekk tinterpreta “vindication” bħala “vendikazzjoni”. Min jaf, forsi lanqas bil-Malti ma taf tikteb. Għal ġieħna, il-profil ta’ din id-difensura qalbenija ta’ “Malta” jipproklama li għandha Master of Science…

Għall-ewwel ikkummentajt taħt din is-sentenza biex infakkarha li “vindication” m’għandha x’taqsam xejn ma’ “vendikazzjoni”, kif riedet tfisser hi. Imbagħad għidt, u xi ż-żigg, u l-kumment tiegħi ħassartu. Lanqas ħaqq il-ħela ta’ ħin jekk din toħroġ b’xi argument intelliġenti ieħor, u erġajt lura għas-silenzju tiegħi fuq Facebook.

Grazzi, Sinjura Difensura Qalbenija, M.Sc., talli qawwejtli r-riżoluzzjoni li nuża l-ħin prezzjuż tiegħi aħjar milli noqgħod nargumenta għalxejn. Kawża mitlufa jisimgħa magħha.

 

Jannar

Aħjar il-bard ta’ Jannar milli x-xemx li ma saħħanx, jgħid il-Malti. Jiġifieri fil-fatt Jannar mhux l-agħar ħaġa immaġinabbli.

Għalija, altru li mhux. Anzi, Jannar wieħed miż-żminijiet favoriti tiegħi fis-sena kollha għax huwa l-aktar żmien ‘il bogħod possibbli mill-festi tal-Milied li għad irridu nħabbtu wiċċna magħhom. Jogħġobni għax l-eqqel tax-xitwa u ma jkunx hawn storbjijiet ta’ lawnmowers kull filgħaxija. L-istaġun tal-futbol ikun fl-aqwa tiegħu. U minn issa ‘l quddiem il-ġurnata tibda titwal.

Waħda għandu stramba Jannar. Għal xi tliet ġimgħat, għal kull persuna li wieħed jiltaqa’ magħha jew li jikkorrespondi magħha bit-telefown jew bl-internet, irid kull darba jħaddem f’moħħu l-algoritmu li ġej:

  1. Il-persuna kkonċernata ltqajt jew ikkomunikajt magħha diġà jew le minn wara l-ewwel ta’ Jannar?
  2. Jekk l-aħħar kuntatt kien qabel l-ewwel ta’ Jannar, allura wieħed jawgura s-sena t-tajba.
  3. Jekk tkun diġà ltqajt jew ikkomunikajt ma’ dik il-persuna minn wara l-ewwel ta’ Jannar, allura wieħed jgħid “Bonġu!” għax jekk tirrepeti s-“sena t-tajba” lill-istess persuna tħossok daqsxejn ridikolu.

Dawn ir-regoli trid tosservahom tajjeb għax inkella toħroġ ta’ salvaġġ.

Il-problemi jibdew jinqalgħu madwar nofs Jannar. Jiġu nies lura mill-vaganzi u ma tkunx qed iżżomm rekord ta’ min kien bil-vaganzi u min le, u wara ġimagħtejn titlef amment ta’ min rajt u min ma rajtx fi ħmistax-il ġurnata. Jiġifieri l-algoritmu li semmejt hawn fuq aktar ma jgħaddi żmien isir dejjem aktar diffiċli biex tħaddmu bi preċiżjoni (u ma toħroġx ta’ salvaġġ jew ridikolu).

Hemm oħra. M’hemm imkien imsemmi fuq id-data sakemm jibqgħu validi dawn ir-regoli. Pereżempju jekk tixtieq is-sena t-tajba lil xi ħadd fl-ewwel ta’ Marzu tingħadda b’miġnun. Fl-ewwel ta’ Frar ukoll tkun qed tistieden ħarsa stramba. Imma x’tagħmel ngħidu aħna fl-20 ta’ Jannar meta tiġi wiċċ imb’wiċċ jew tikkuntattja persuna li ma tista’ b’ebda mod tiftakar jekk għadikx kellimtha jew le minn wara l-ewwel ta’ Jannar?

Ngħid għalija, ir-reputazzjoni tiegħi diġà mitlufa u nikkuntenta bil-“Bonġu!” li m’hawnx isbaħ minnha. Mill-bqija, kif semmejt qabel, Jannar m’hawnx isbaħ minnu.

Daphne’s murder

When I read on the phone the newsflash about Daphne Caruana Galizia being killed in a car bomb I was about to trim my beard, but I didn’t do it until several days later. I couldn’t do it because I was literally trembling with shock. That evening and the following day I just followed the commentary on TV and then on Facebook. Then I couldn’t take it anymore and drove to the Parc de la Hulpe, where I hiked among the autumn colours to calm down.

I’ve read almost all of Daphne’s articles since the early 90s, when an opinion piece entitled “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” appeared for the first time in the Sunday Times. It was so fresh and different from the humdrum writing we had been used to. Hard hitting. Interesting. Well written and striking a chord with me. She was putting into words my feelings about public affairs at the time, what I would have written myself if I had the ability and the opportunity to do it.

That makes 27 years of reading her views. It was as if a close friend had died, but maybe even worse, because other factors were involved. Factors of political, societal, national import. I, and I believe thousands of other like-minded people, went through a whole gamut of emotions after we heard the terrible news. I was shocked, stunned, lost for words. Sad, lost, confused. Anger came later. Anger at the corrupt regime in Malta that has allowed the country to become a haven for international criminals, money launderers and lawlessness.

I had written on Facebook, just a few hours before Daphne was killed, that Malta had become an immoral country. This next to one of so many stories on corrupt practices and crooks (“There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate.” – her famous last words give me goosebumps every time I read them). This is what I wrote: Malta tgħum fil-korruzzjoni u l-ħmieġ, u l-poplu jsaffar u jċapċap għax deħlin il-flus bil-bejgħ tal-passaporti lil miljunarji li ma nafux min huma u minn fejn ġabu l-miljuni. Pajjiż u soċjetà IMMORALI.

We are angry at Joseph Muscat and his gang of crooks because, not only did they allow, but they actively promoted the gradual erosion of the rule of law in Malta. The police only prosecute small fry and let the big fish get away with murder with impunity. This time I believe it will be literally, although they may well find a scapegoat or even frame an innocent. It’s been done before. Angry, because the direct result of general lawlessness and the apparent takeover of the country by the international mafia is the murder of one of the few rational voices in the Maltese political arena.

People turned to her website, several times everyday, to read her views, her criticisms – some of which were way beyond irrelevant and personal, it was her greatest defect, it has to be said – but most important of all her exposure of wrong doing by the high and mighty. She was the nation’s conscience. She held a mirror close to society’s face, exposing its many warts, and for this an army of people hated her. Viscerally. The fact that for most of her career she tore the Labour Party to shreds added to this. Her darkest moment was when she celebrated on her website Dom Mintoff’s death. I myself wrote a blogpost about this thoroughly distasteful act.

But did she deserve to be murdered for this? Many Maltese people think so and have no shame in publicly expressing this sentiment, not realising that by their yardstick they themselves also deserve to be blown to pieces in a car bomb attack.

And now? Journalists have been warned. Stay out of our turf, or else. The population? The marmalja are celebrating Daphne’s death. The nation has lost an extremely important voice, forever. There’s a glimmer of hope that others will take up the torch from her. Politically, we’re in the wilderness. The new leader of the Opposition is inexperienced at best (he came out of the blue, never having done one iota of politics at all in his life). Worse than that, he sounds fake. I don’t trust him. He has an unsavoury past exposed by – who else? – Daphne. In fact, since last summer her (as ever, harsh) criticism has been of Adrian Delia and the new Nationalist Party that is taking shape, so much that now even many PN supporters had joined the “I hate Daphne” club.

Which is probably the reason for her last poignant cry. “The situation is desperate.” We have no one and nowhere to turn to.

Good thing that physically I’m a thousand miles from all of that. Maybe I should just switch off and let the Maltese enjoy their l-ekonomija sejra tajjeb and their traffic jams, building sites, noise and pollution. I often consider disengaging from all that’s happening over there. With Adrian Delia and his new PN I had got to the stage of “uninterested”, and then this came up bringing the whole edifice crashing down.

Poor Daphne and her family. What a tragedy.