Sunday 02 April 2023

So, what do we really, really want?

This article first appeared on Malta Today 

I was under the impression that the main concern of a country rocked by a high-profile murder would be to find the motive and culprits behind it and ensure that justice is served.

But the roller coaster of events since 16 October seem to indicate otherwise.

Let us take what happened last night with the Lovin Malta article. Referring to the open-air concert which was to take place in front of Parliament on 11 November, it reported that “informed sources told Lovin Malta some musicians have been warned by people high up in government they risk losing their jobs if they attend. This website is in possession of more details, but has chosen to preserve them so as to safeguard the workers’ jobs.”

Understandably this sparked outrage, but was soon followed by swift denial by none other than one of the organizers, Michelle Castelletti:

“I have not been threatened in any way, shape or form – far from it and I refuse to be used as a pawn in a political game.

It is with a saddened heart and immense disillusionment in society that I am hereby cancelling what was supposed to be a “silent” demonstration of unity, where music was to speak instead of words.

My sincerest gratitude and apologies to Arts Council Malta, who could not have been more supportive.”

In promoting the concert, the organizers had made the following appeal: “Let us all, as one nation, in solidarity, prove that this has not broken us, that we can still stand as one, that we are bigger than this, and that, together, we shall always stand up for what is right.
I believe we are stronger. I believe in Malta.“

What bitter irony that the concert, whose sole aim was to set aside partisan differences, was itself a victim of the very malaise it was trying to cure.

But is there even a cure? Or is it, as I wrote last week, something which will remain forever and ever Amen, inevitably a trait of this nation, especially as there are those who seem to have vested interests in retaining the status quo?

While I am trying to give this report the benefit of the doubt, it still makes absolutely no sense. What does anyone in Government have to gain by threatening musicians in such a way? With all eyes scrutinizing every step Muscat makes in how he is handling this tragic murder, he and his administration cannot afford to put a foot wrong. He has been called out repeatedly every time he fails to do something, or for using an insensitive choice of words; he was criticized for calling a day of national mourning only after the funeral arrangements were made and for not holding a minute’s silence in Parliament. His use of the phrase “tinfaqa’ f’wiċċhom” which was translated as “blow up in their face” was met by a collective wince and a horrified gasp.

Now I’m not saying it is impossible for someone to have been openly or subtly threatened (we all know of people who have been threatened with their jobs for voicing their respective political beliefs, even those who work with the private sector) – but my point is that in this particular case, for very obvious reasons, doing so would spell political suicide for an already beleaguered Labour Government.

At the time of writing, Lovin Malta is still standing by its story, but understandably, readers of the website are demanding for names to be named in order to decide who to believe. It is clear from the general reaction that there are many people who are simply not going to blindly accept a story based on vague sources just because a news portal said so. For, if our institutions are currently suffering from the public’s complete loss of faith in them, another casualty along the way has also been the media, which more than ever is being looked at with suspicion and mistrust as readers openly speculate about ulterior motives and hidden agendas in this highly charged climate.

When articles such as this are published, public opinion is thrown even more into a whirlwind as they ask themselves who they should trust as an objective source of news. Who can blame them? Even those of us who are news junkies for a living and who try to read absolutely everything to get every angle of a story, in order to get at the ‘truth’, are often flummoxed and bewildered. With a low attention span and an ever lower threshold when it comes to having the patience to read a full article rather than just the headline and blurb, I am not surprised that many just throw in the towel and switch off.

So again, do we really want justice to be served? And, just as crucially, do we really want our institutions to be strengthened and for true separation of powers which is essential for a functioning democracy?

If we really do want these things, then why do we keep getting tangled in that never-ending and futile mantra we have had on a loop for decades, “min mhux magħna, kontra tagħna”? (those who are not with us, are against us). There can be no shades of grey for some people, you are not allowed to see both points of view or question, but you must pick a side, choose a side and nail your mast to that side forever more.

But, here is a news flash, not everyone wants to pick sides, some of us simply want the truth.

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