Monday 25 May 2020

Justified complaints vs constant moaning 

This article first appeared in Malta Today

If I had to give you five minutes to write a list of what is wrong in this country, I am pretty sure anyone reading this could quickly rattle off a whole slew of complaints without even having to think twice.  I do not need to reproduce them here because I write about them myself often enough.

The Internet, of course, has made complaining that much easier. It is difficult to open FB these days without being bombarded by a wall of outrage and anger. In fact, I often agree with why people are frustrated and exasperated by things which simply do not work as they should, so I am not blaming them for that.  Where it gets a bit much, though, is when people take to their keyboards for every, petty little thing.  That’s when we enter the-boy-who-cried-wolf territory and it becomes hard to filter the justified complaints which deserve the full throttle treatment from those which should simply be shrugged off as constant moaning.

I do have to say, mea culpa, as there are times I have been swept away by (misplaced) online outrage myself. Take the example of the tents and stands reserved for karozzini horses near the cruise terminal: a few weeks ago someone posted a photo of cars parked instead of the horses, complete with the now customary howls of indignation.  I shared the photo as well, thinking it was pretty insensitive and inconsiderate considering that a horse had just collapsed on the roads, followed by a protest by animal rights activists.  However, shortly after I shared it I received a message pointing out that these stands are only reserved for horses when cruise liners come in. I checked this out with the Valletta Cruise Port administration as well as Transport Malta and they both confirmed that this was, indeed, the case.  Transport Malta told me that: 

The Karrozzini Stand at Pinto Wharf …can provide shelter for up to 14 karrozzini and is meant to operate in this way only during cruise-ship operations.  When there are no cruise ships in the harbour, there is no business for karrozzini from that stand.

However, part of the stand is reserved for karrozzini permanently. This is the area close to the water dispenser and provides shade for up to 3 karrozzini and is meant to provide karrozzini passing from the area easy access to the water supply.  The appropriate signage is in place in the area.”

Valletta Cruise Point meanwhile confirmed that the sign read: “Horse Cab – holding area during cruise line operations – stand for 3 during remaining hours.”

It was also confirmed that on the day in question there were no major cruise liners in port.  

My own rush to share the photo based on what can only be described as an assumption that the cars were parked there illegally, and that no enforcement was taking place, once again taught me the dangers and risks involved in sharing photos (and even stories) indiscriminately.   

The point is that when we make a huge issue over something which turns out to be not quite as it seems, it often dilutes and trivializes the other, more important issues which demand answers.  If everything is prefaced by adjectives such as ‘disgraceful’ and ‘shameful’, how can we gauge what is really important and what is after all, just a minor hassle and blip in our everyday life?  I sometimes read the opening lines of someone’s post and expect to find an earth-shattering calamity, only to find it is about a beauty therapist cancelling an appointment or something of that nature.  I think what is happening is that by making mountains out of molehills over everything, the truly atrocious things slide by, swept along in this perpetual sea of ‘outrage’. 

There is another aspect to this which never fails to set my teeth on edge.  Granted, there are infrastructural problems which require the Government to get off its backside and fix, and of course, I am forever harping about the lack of basic enforcement, which is the root of many of this country’s ills.  On the either hand, when it comes to other issues which require us to make a collective effort, we all have to chip in.  Yet when a possible solution is tentatively offered there is always the inevitable nitpicking and the ‘buts’ come down like a tonne of bricks to squash the idea, claiming that in Malta, it cannot possibly be done.  The tone of defeatism makes me wonder whether we are afraid to come up with solutions, lest we run short of things to moan about. 

Traffic and litter/rubbish collection are just two examples.  

Between May – June, the number of new cars on the road was 47 per day.  You can widen all the roads till kingdom come, but nothing is going to absorb that kind of vehicle capacity unless people change their transport habits.  One car per driver is all you can see everywhere you look.   But try suggesting alternatives and you are met with a barrage of objections. 

Then there is the litter problem: someone is dumping rubbish everywhere, but is it me? is it you? Nope, it’s never anyone apparently – it is all magically appearing all over the country by itself. People doing clean-ups are laughed at. We have mounds of stinky black bags festering in the August sun on our street corners but I was told that common wheelie bins for blocks of apartments “will never work”.

So between moaning about really silly things and criticizing any solutions which are tentatively put forward, it seems to be that we are quite happy to put up with the status quo as long as we can spend a few minutes every day venting on FB, feeling a sense of accomplishment that we have announced our pet hate of the day to the nation – and we can then just go back to our lives. 

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