This column first appeared in Malta Today
Like most people, I’m making a determined effort to enjoy my summer just in case the ability to do what we love is all snatched away from us again if the dreaded virus starts re-multiplying.
In the meantime, as I pop my head in and out of social media and various news portals, the headlines never fail to provide us with amusing snippets of life on this island, which is so full of contradictions.
Take the vouchers: so many people sneered and scoffed and derided the Government for this “ridiculous” idea, until this week, when they started being distributed and many of the same people indignantly demanded to know why they had not received theirs yet. If you don’t want them they’re transferable; if you think they’re merely a way to throw crumbs at the electorate to keep them happy, donate them to someone who needs them. What a waste of energy though, to gripe about something which is being given out for free.
Of course, there should have also been a more pragmatic solution in place for their distribution as well. They are being delivered as registered mail and if you are not at home you have to collect them from your local post office. The problem is that Malta Post has gone to the dogs and even if people are at home they often find that little notice claiming that, “you were not at home” (but I was! I was!). So then you have to trot over to your post office only to find….endless queues. Now this is a minor inconvenience for those who are young and healthy but in this scorching sun, it is doubly cruel for senior citizens.
It is such a contradiction to have a Ministry for Active Ageing making the usual speeches, and all this talk about the need to take care of our vulnerable older age group, but then we are doing nothing to make their lives easier and more convenient. This also holds true for our major banks which have taken the decision to close down various branches, which means that the branches which are left open have seen a doubling of their (usually older) customers who still prefer the personal touch when it come to banking and who are wary of online or automated transactions. They want to cash their cheques in person, and speak to an actual cashier. That means more endless queueing for this demographic who, rather than being accommodated, are almost being penalised.
Is there any enterprising bank out there which has it in their heart to be more senior citizen friendly? I am sure more of that generation will be happy to use your services if you bring the needs of your older customers first.
Trotting on the heels of even more contradictions was the announcement of a ship which is advertising “a cruise to nowhere”.
“Only Maltese residents will be allowed on board” was the selling point – 1000 of them to be exact, in what is being promoted as a way to deal with a nation which, apparently, is in depression. Whether there are that many people who are depressed I don’t know but, to be honest, being lumped with 999 of my fellow countrymen would drive me even further into the doldrums. Don’t take this the wrong way but, as much as I love my Malta and our often quirky people, I do need to have the occasional break away from it all to mingle with people and cultures from other lands, which is the whole point of travelling. The last thing I want is what sounds to me like a floating version of this island, especially with nothing to do but eat, listen to loud Maltese chatter and contemplate the endless expanse of sea with not even the chance of escaping for a few hours by taking an excursion.
Meanwhile on the perpetually fascinating political front, we had Andrew Borg Cardona confirming what many have often accused the Nationalist Party of secretly thinking: that for this party, there are different tiers of people, “those like us” and those “not quite like us”. His ill-advised post, which has since been deleted read, “Do the math: pro-Delia staying, the MLP and its trolls & assorted 3rd tier Nationalists. Pro-Delia leaving,1st tier Nationalists and people with a brain.”
Convoluted as it sounds, you get the gist. Never has one man ever successfully managed to insult so many with one fell swoop (except perhaps when Silvio Schembri insulted the entire foreign community, which he had to hastily retract). He may have done the math, but he has failed spectacularly at logic. What can I say, except that it is yet another glaring contradiction to be in the position of needing more people to be on your side to get rid of Delia, and the best thing you can come up with…is to be derogatory towards the very same people whose support you need.
Did the PN need yet another nail in its coffin? Has no one in that party ever sat down to carry out some thorough soul-searching to admit where the real problem lies? It’s useless pointing fingers at Delia at being the problem, or trying to make it Labour’s fault, which makes about as much sense as saying that Labour kept losing elections for 25 years because it was the PN’s fault.
But the week was not over yet, because out came Brian Hansford who accidentally live-streamed himself giving advice to Delia supporters on how to boost their numbers and gain more support. Hansford is in the awkward position of being a former One TV now turned PBS journalist with his own current affairs talk show, which carries with it certain broadcasting obligations and responsibilities. The obvious question on everyone’s lips was, why was Hansford so cosy with these Delia supporters and why is he so interested in the future of the Opposition Leader?
It is rather a contradiction for him to constantly describe himself as an “objective investigative journalist” who is only after the truth, and then give himself away so blatantly because of a technical gaffe. He has since tried to pass this off as freedom of expression but that really does not wash does it? It sounded more like someone giving PR advice. It also gives credence to the claim by many Nationalist supporters that Labour is actively “helping” Delia to remain where he is because, let’s face it, he is less of a threat politically.
The final contradiction of this week is all about boats. Big boats, small boats and commercial boats ferrying day trippers to the island of Comino. Boats, it seems have become the new SUVs, all jostling for a place to moor near the tiny island. Everyone wants to get as close as they can, and everyone is demanding their right to be there. The problem is that there is limited space, but no, the solution is not a god-awful 13 metre pier “to address the shortfall of mooring facilities in the Blue Lagoon.”
The only solution is to limit the number of commercial boat trips and private boats on a daily basis and treat everyone fairly. We have to face the reality that the only way not to ruin our areas of natural beauty is to put a cap on numbers. You do not make the place more accessible for mass tourism because that makes it unpleasant and unattractive and defeats the purpose of why anyone would want to visit. I also think that private boat owners need to accept that they should not have any special privileges either, and need to keep their distance if it’s too crowded. The reason one has a boat, I presume, is to be free to get away from the masses by sailing to any part of the island, so it beats me why anyone would want to go precisely into the heart of the hotbed of summer madness where everyone else is going.
But then, I can also never understand why anyone would want to go to Gozo during Santa Maria “for a break” when everyone in Malta has exactly the same idea and you are going to bump into the same people you bump into here anyway. Then they go on FB to shriek about the traffic and queues for the ferry for all the world as if they expect the traffic jams to part, like the Red Sea, just for them.