Thursday 22 June 2017

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Politics of the surreal

I think our politicians need to get out more. Or, at the very least, they need to stop listening to the people who will agree with whatever they say no matter what, and be more prepared to face the harsh truth:  there are times when it’s best to say nothing at all.

Lately, every public statement they’ve made has bombed.

Take Simon Busuttil and his “don’t mistake my calmness for weakness”. Who is this man’s advisor? Doesn’t he know that you should never draw attention to your (perceived) flaws because by doing so you are actually giving them credibility? Sure, many have long ago pointed out that he has the personality of vanilla pudding and could do with a good shake every morning to give him some more spark, but why on earth did he think it would be a good idea to highlight this himself?  Now that he has acknowledged what many were thinking, that as a leader he seriously lacks charisma, any progress which was being made by his PR team (if he has such a thing) in the hard slog to make Simon appealing, has been nuked. As for those who never really thought of him as weak before, they can be forgiven for now thinking, “well, now that you mention it…”

Not content with that blooper, in another interview he admitted that he was finally coming out of his shell making me wonder whether he is deliberately sabotaging his own chances because he’s fed up of being PN leader.

The week continued with the story of Cyrus Engerer, a prospective MEP candidate for the Labour party.

Here is a man who was handed a two year suspended sentence by the courts for sending pornographic photos of his ex-boyfriend to the latter’s employer in a despicable act of revenge. As if that were not enough, he actually threatened further blackmail with a pen drive full of more pornographic images. Frankly, I have ended up with such little faith in people doing the right thing any more that I was not even expecting Cyrus to pull out of the MEP race, and when he did so immediately, I was actually surprised; which just goes to show how rare it is for politicians to shoulder responsibility for their actions. Good, I thought, finally someone is bowing out gracefully, knowing that their position is no longer tenable.

Silly me. I had obviously jumped the gun and assumed that what is so obvious to a lot of us, is not at all obvious to those who seem to live in their own little protective bubble in this surreal world of Maltese politics. Because rather than making a brief public announcement that he was dropping out of the elections and leaving it at that, Cyrus decided he needed to keep talking, making it worse for himself with each statement. Instead of leaving with what was left of his dignity intact, he chose to make it about politics, saying that all this happened because he had left the PN. I do not even have the energy left to argue about why he is so wrong, because I have expended all my energy debating this with people on Facebook.  I will only say that no one made him send those photos, what he did was a crime, and even though his former boyfriend forgave him, it is still a crime for which there are consequences.  It’s comparable to someone accused of domestic violence – just because the victim forgives the abuser it does not erase the violence. It happened. It cannot be justified and brushed aside.

What really aggravates me though is that there are blindly partisan supporters still defending Engerer, and almost trying to turn him into some kind of martyr with their messages of “Kuragg, Cyrus!

Come on, it is not as if he were the innocent victim of an unfair and untrue smear campaign in which case, yes, he would deserve all our sympathy and support.  But he only has himself to blame that what he did in a fit of rage at the age of 25 has come back to haunt him, which is why one should never enter politics with that kind of skeleton in one’s closet. After all, this behavior says a lot about one’s character and has to be put into the context of Engerer running for elections and actually asking for our votes to represent us in the European Parliament. Inevitably, there are those banging on about conspiracy theories and the ‘coincidence’ of the timing of the court’s ruling smack in the middle of the campaign, but again, the timing doesn’t have anything to do with the gravity of what he did. If the verdict had not come out now, it would have come out later, and then what?

As if to make matters worse, even Joseph Muscat proved that, in this case, he did not know when to stop talking either. Here you have one of your prime candidates found guilty of an unsavoury, criminal act, he steps down immediately which puts your party in a good light, but then you have to go and spoil it all by allowing him to address supporters the next day, giving him a bear hug and calling him a ‘solider of steel’. What’s that now?  Has everything been turned on its head and what is wrong has now become right, and we applaud what should be frowned upon? The PM didn’t need to say anything further about this case because Engerer’s withdrawal of his candidacy alone spoke volumes, and yet he decided it would be a good idea to keep milking the situation. I suspect it is because by painting Cyrus as a victim of the “cruel Nationalists” he found a hook by which to galvanize supporters who are not all that keen on voting and who need a cause to stir them out of their indifference. Or maybe shrewd Muscat is wary of Cyrus at this juncture and would rather keep him close (even if this means alienating those who believe that there is such a thing as correct moral behavior).

Meanwhile, in their own little corner searching desperately for a cause, the PN too has latched on to the Cyrus story for dear life. But once again, rather than letting public opinion take its course and use its own common sense to decide, Simon & Co have gone on the attack, going into overdrive and overkill by demanding that Cyrus be removed from the LGBT council and all his governmental posts. The political stunt in front of the Labour HQ with Beppe Fenech Adami and Claudette Buttigieg self-righteously demanding that Cyrus be booted out of the Labour party was the cherry on the cake of this surreal week.(To make it even more farcical, the PL set up a table with refreshments for them). I’m surprised the PN haven’t demanded that Cyrus be exiled to the Isle of Elba.

Maybe all our politicians should be exiled for a while, to give them some time to reflect on when it’s a good time to make a statement, and when one should simply just zip it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • joseph spiteri

    hi josanne first and foremost congratulations for the success of your page. I am afraid I have to disagree on one of your comments about the charisma of Simon Busuttil. My point is that the charisma or otherwise of a political leader or any body for that matter is not important at all. Yes I know that even in America charisma is important for a president. But what is important is the truth of what a person says. Let us take your case for example. Your article is very logical and matter of fact which is a very commendable approach and a relief of hot headed commentaries on both sides. Now going by your photo you seem to be a very pretty woman with a very attracive smile. But suppose your face was ugly would that change the substance of what you wrote? Unfortunately most people go for the charisma and do not try to see things logically as you do. So maybe you are right on that angle. In fact I think Malta and life in general would have been far better off without hotheads. Keep up the good work and God bless you.

    • Thank you for your kind comments, however in my opinion charisma has nothing to do with looks. Some “ugly” people are very charismatic because their personality is so forceful that it makes you forget their appearance. Likewise there can be attractive people (because, to be honest, Simon does have nice features) whose lack of oomph makes their whole persona fall flat.

  • Marie benoit

    Excellent analysis Josanne. I agree entirely with you about charisma… it is more to do with personality than looks. Simon Busuttil simply has none.
    As for Cyrus Engerer, he has simply had ‘greatness thrust upon him’ and he does not deserve it at all. I never agreed with him joining the Labour fold and I am happy he is out of it now. What exactly did he bring to the fold except perhaps a few gay votes. As to his going to Europe… some people really have no idea what their limitations are. Yes, politicians do not know when to zip it or when to resign.

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