Friday 15 December 2017

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I see your true colours

This last week has once again opened the lid on the depth of hatred against African refugees which lies just below the surface of otherwise ‘decent’ people. I keep experiencing shocks of dismay every time someone I know starts venting on the issue. It has got to the point where I prefer to walk away (or not comment if it’s online) rather than start arguing in what I know will be a futile vicious circle where neither party will be able to convince the other.

Online comments have left me disturbed and flabbergasted as people unleash their true colours, claiming that this is about patriotism, when the bald fact is that they simply do not want blacks in Malta. Period.

And this could have all been avoided if the Prime Minister had chosen his words more wisely and not brought up the possibility of push backs at all. I feel he has failed to live up to the responsibility of his office in this very delicate issue because he has given permission (so to speak) to all those who have kept their feelings bottled up until now.

I’m not even going to call it racism; I’m going to call it a complete lack of empathy with other human beings who are ‘different’. This is what is scary about what I hear and read online and why his brinkmanship to force the rest of the EU to sit up and take notice, is very dangerous. Because this is not just about the Maltese who hate blacks; this is about the type of Maltese person who has absolutely no affinity with anyone unless they are exactly like him/her.

[We saw plenty of this ugly side of our national psyche in the election campaign as people threw derogatory adjectives around towards others purely based on their political affiliation].

Compassion stops as soon as the “others” are perceived as a threat – so it might give them a warm, fuzzy glow to send an SMS to donate a tenner to those who are starving in Kenya, just as long as you don’t bring them around here with their strange culture, pitch black faces and weird mother tongues.

It really speaks volumes about us as a country that on the one hand is bursting with churches, patron saints and religious festas, but has lost sight of what it really means to show basic human kindness to others. The blatant prejudice is pervasive throughout the country and not limited to the south of Malta either. Do you remember the ruckus which was raised when Muslims started praying on the Sliema front?

It has also become patently clear that whereas on a normal day we can be cheerfully at each other’s throats because of partisan politics, on this issue, PN and Labour voters have bizarrely joined hands across the yawning chasm which usually separates them. It is no coincidence, I think, that these are mostly the diehards – proving my theory that those who are fanatical about politics tend to be fanatical about everything.

Having said that, even some of those who claim to be open-minded and ‘liberal’ have demonstrated that, on this issue, they are anything but – because their allegiance to the Labour party comes before anything else. Or else they feel they must agree with everything Muscat does because – well,  just because they voted for him.  I find this attitude ridiculous because it is impossible to agree with every single decision made during a legislature, no matter who is in government.

Let us not be carried away either by the way the PN has latched on to this for its own ends.  Why was that judicial protest to stop the push back only signed by certain lawyers and not others? Well, because no other lawyers were aware of it, that’s why, and only found out about it through the media. A deliberate, calculated and cynical move no matter which way you look at it.

As things stand, it is depressing to realize that given a choice, most people see nothing wrong in pushing back the refugees to meet an unknown fate. What many are failing to grasp, however, is that if someone can speak so callously about other human beings just because of their skin colour, they can just as easily turn against others for a variety of other reasons: their politics, their religion, their lifestyle choice, you name it. Intolerance, once it is given the stamp of legitimacy, becomes uncontrollable.

In fact, it is already happening as I see Maltese people viciously  turning against each other, using names such as ‘traitor’ because they do not agree on how to handle the refugee issue.

Right now, as tempers flare, moderation is what we need, and a PM who speaks in the measured tones of a true statesman, rather than one who taps into the alarming underlying anti-African sentiments, stirring the passions of a people who are by their very nature very passionate and hotheaded.

National consensus on this is the best way forward if we truly want to put forward a solid case as a EU member state.  Bickering among ourselves is just wasted energy. And meanwhile, making it OK to speak in disparaging terms about other human beings is a reflection of just how badly we, as a nation, have completely lost our way.

  • Karl Gafa

    Its not about racism as such.
    They could be white or Russian.
    Pushback is a good message to stop them from coming in illegally.
    Since the EU wont help, its a solution.

    • Ludivine Bendotti

      Of course it is an issue for various reasons and for many Maltese people. I can grasp that concept.
      But it doesn’t justify deliberately putting fellow human being in harm’s way. Letting other people die of a slow death, lost at sea, is against all principles of Christianity which the vast majority of Maltese people (honorably) pretend to live by. Thumbs up to Josanne Cassar for speaking the truth. Intolerance is a plague triggered by an unreasonable fear of the “other”, a fear that propagates hatred and hatred can only result in very serious, uncontrollable consequences, such as violence – not only for the migrants, but also for your very own “kind”. I have read comments stating that the migrants are “cowards” because they decided to leave a horrifying situation in their home countries. Should we really judge that and if so, how could we? We have been blessed never to find ourselves in their situation. They are afraid of unspeakable horrors. We are afraid of their skin colour. Who’s the bravest here? And pushback is not a message nor a solution. It’s premeditated murder. Period.

  • Marie Benoit

    Racism goes back a long way. Shakespeare has used it in his famous tragedy Othello in which Desdemona elopes with Othello, a much older black man. If the text is analysed one will find traces of racism in this play. Black has always been associated with evil and there were women who used to be burnt as witches. All a question of perception and education.
    On the immigration problem in Malta: Dr Muscat was very brave to take a stand on the issue of immigrants. We cannot go on carrying the burden of hundreds of immigrants landing regularly on this small island.
    I believe many of those who do not want them are concerned mainly because we are ALREADY the most densely populated country in Europe. We are already breathing down each other’s necks on the roads, on the promenades, on the beaches… we cannot take in large amounts of foreigners whether they are African, long-legged and obliging Russians and East Europeans etc. That, really is the crux of the matter. I believe if regular boatloads of blonde men and women arrived each week the popular reaction would not be so very different.
    The EU has to organise itself regarding burden sharing. And we don’t want to wait another 30 years before something concrete is done.
    As to the lawyers and their petition: I wonder how many of them would not object if one of their children married a coloured man. All this was done to undermine the government further and not out of some great love for the immigrants. What a collection of hypocrites.
    I know of practicing Catholics who, when they give a donation, make it quite clear that the money is not to go to Africans. This sort of behaviour undermines the very precepts on which the Christian church has been built: one of love.
    To quote the The Little Prince: “Here is my secret. It is very simple. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.” It’s Christian charity all over again.

    • I beg to differ Marie…I believe if regular boatloads of blonde men and women arrived each week they would be met with an Isle of MTV style welcome party.

  • Miranda Fothergill

    Excellently put. Although I am an ‘incomer’ to Malta, and I try to understand the fear of the unknown people may feel…the strongest thought that keeps repeating in my head is ‘but for the grace of God anyone of us might have been born in a country where life is appallingly hard, even dangerous’…in fact what would have happened if the UK, Australia and Canada had refused to accept all the Maltese post-war emigrants? Because of those countries generosity subsequent generations of Maltese have been able to return to the Maltese Islands bring back wealth which has regenerated these islands.

  • I’ve had enough of going into shops and being told by the shop assistants “Sorry, I don’t speak Maltese!” It’s not about the colour of the skin; it’s about losing Malta to foreigners.

  • Danielle BC

    To me Political Parties do not interest me in this matter!!! Its these poor people fighting for their freedom, dignity and human rights!! We all talk about rights in everything where it concerns ourselves but once it has to do with coloured, or people different to us we forget that EVERYBODY IS A HUMAN BEING!!! Yes we do have a lot of immigrants BUT it does not mean that we should send them back to their dead bed!!! Live and let live has always been by motto and these people do not leave everything behind and sail on a dangerous journey for a holiday here. A solution needs to be found for the good of everyone involved. My husband had a couple of immigrants working at his workplace and I met quite a few myself and they were all decent people, respectful and hard working. A particular one has gone to America where today after studying nursing he has a career and has got married and settled down , so what is wrong in that in helping our fellowman make a new rewarding life just like you and me??????????

  • L. Galea

    Josanne I can understand your point however national perception has reached such high levels of intollerence because of a government that procrastinated and dragged its feet to the whims of the EU since 1998. Boat people have been coming since then.
    One has to understand that the Mediterranean is a place of conflict, the unrest is in Turkey, Egypt, and accross other african countries. Besides everybody blaming JM I have never heard anyone in the media or politicians as offering one true solution. Simon Busuttil who occupied an MEP seat for many years, made a u-turn simply not to co-operate with the government. This Politican divide has not helped our case because both Party’s MEPs could have tried to face the problem togther and prove to us that that is what they are there for.
    I do agree with Onor. Chichitto that criticised the pope’s visit in Lampedusa and said “Predicare non e fare governo”. Governing and preaching what is right they are worlds apart and we are trying to please a utopia. African immigrants travel to Europe because Europe still keeps its doors open, we also have internal immigration, because of the Schengen agreement and immigrants, whether African, Polish, Syrian etc. work for less. This has brought the European economy on its knees, besides our servitude to cheap products from China and Bangladesh to mention a few. We no longer can simply buy European products to support a European economy, because of the freemarket, which allows exploitation galore. (This is the larger picture which no body dares mention).
    People in Malta are frustrated by the situation simply because we a re labeled as inhuman by foreigners (Take Waschnig who is a German constantly contributing in the Times ad nauseam, calling us on to look at God’s workings when his own country never offers help) and fellow countrymen. Whilst Eddie Fenech Adami bowed his head at the Dublin treaty and signed to please Europe. European countries may choose not to share the burden so could you tell me what we are to do?

  • L. Galea

    @ Marie Benoit
    The Times would have been more sincere had it also said how many of those lawyers who petitioned are PN activists. These desperate political moves are a slap in the face to intelligent citizen. So many familiar names, Anne Fenech, Simon Busuttil, Gonzi, Caruana Galizia, Borg Cardona, Mifsud Bonnici, Victor Scerri just mentioning a few… The Times still can not help disguising its servitude to the PN. I am let down at the media in general for simply being Brussels parrots, I think the Maltese deserve better journalism!

  • juliana

    What’s going to happen in 20/30 years time when our children grow up,
    we’re going to be out and they’re going to be inn. At the rate the blacks breed,
    Europeans have no chance.
    Wake up EU !!

  • Adrian

    Now everyone want to be a saint, but the truth is, this is all fault of the Capitalism that all of you endorse. So why we don’t write an article of what is the real problem of Africa, and we are all part the problem.

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