From the petit mal to the grand mal
I’m aware that, in the grand scheme of things, having your bank account and salary frozen, being overcharged on your utilities by 101% simply because you are not a homeowner, having your salary underpaid by circa €30 000 over 6 years, paying €762 in ACL fees on your car every year instead of circa €200, your family of 5 living on €300 per month after rent and Arms bills on the incorrect tariff (when the 2016 Caritas study indicated that a family of 4 needed an income of €953 per month to live a minimum existence, if the family lived in social housing and paid €18 per month on rent)…, isn’t a matter of life and death. After all, here we all are - homeowners now, situation stabilized.
We - I - could have easily chosen to circumvent all these problems. I could have left teaching and found a job that paid me better money. Enough to pay for the overcharges in the Arms bills, the ACL fees, the rent. Or we could have returned to Scotland. Or we could have given up the fight and become landlords ourselves. Somehow, I couldn’t do this, however. If someone or some entity throws me a gauntlet, I have to accept the challenge.
Sometimes I feel that I am not very good at making the point I want to be making. The point isn’t about our family situation or the situation for tenants or the situation for mobile teachers or the situation of every Arms customer or the situation for migrants moving to Malta with their cars.
The point is that there is something seriously wrong with Malta. There has been for a very long time. I couldn’t care less whether it is PL or PN who is in government. I would say exactly the same thing, no matter who was in government. I’m aware that there is a growing number of non partisan people but unfortunately the majority of people still ascribe to this toxic partisanship that is clouding over the extremely serious issues at the heart of Maltese everyday life. I so wish that they could see through that cloud or better still blast it away with resolve to finally see, to properly see.
From my viewpoint, all the above are linked. All the above are also linked to the ramping up of wrongdoing by the current administration. We gain momentum in our fall to the bottom of this seemingly bottomless pit at an alarming rate.
The failings of our institutions exposed irretrievably. Our justice system - completely without cojones. Watching Konrad Mizzi’s escaping justice is frustrating, for example. The impunity with which ministers, PM chiefs of staff, the managing director of the Times… own opaque financial structures in blacklisted jurisdictions u kollox jgħaddi qisu xejn m’hu xejn (and everything continues as if nothing has happened).
The libel suits of ministers, politicians against the solitary investigative journalist. The precautionary garnishee orders against said journalist. The many attempts at obliterating Daphne Caruana Galizia - financially, personally, reputationally and then - when these attempts didn’t work - her assassination.
The macabre takeover by vested interests of the PA and ERA so that these act completely against their remit, and the wholesale degradation of the Maltese islands continues. It hurts every time I’m on my way to what’s left of the Maltese countryside to see the encroachment of more concrete, of more ill conceived, slapdash pigeon coops, with the adjacent blank wall awaiting more of the same. I’m 52 years old. I remember the Malta of my childhood and the contrast is painful.
So much more I could say about the daily barrage of news stories of abuse and maladministration.
It’s all linked. The Venice Commission report published a few days ago confirms what many have always known. So, where do we go from here? Do we continue to be ostriches, seeing and hearing no evil? Or do we grow up as a nation and tell the political class NO MORE? No outside entity is going to be able to fix this. Not the EU, not the Council of Europe. Only we can fix this.
The full Venice Commission report
The Malevolent State
William Blake - Malevolence - 1799
Under the Montevideo Convention, these are the 4 conditions for statehood: the prospective state must have a territory, a permanent population - subject to the control of a government, and the capacity to conduct international relations (sovereignty).
Not a very high bar, is it? I suppose, this explains why we have states of varying degree of good governance. Behind every state, there is a history and a serendipity which brought that state to the current state of affairs.
I’ve often wondered how tiny Britannia managed to rule the waves for so long. How did tiny Britain make its language the language of choice in so many countries? France – what impact did the French revolution have on today’s France? What would Britain, France and every single country be like today if the vagaries of fate had been different vagaries of fate?
I think there’s much soul searching to be done on the impact of our history on the current situation in Malta. And yet everyone seems to be oblivious to the need for this to be done. We refuse to learn the lessons begging to be learnt. Instead we look away from ourselves. We apportion blame and ramp up the divide which no longer falls solely on a PN PL fault line. The flailing and the wailing will only delay the inevitable day of reckoning.
Ever since I returned to Malta in 2010, I have been asking myself why I get so exercised about the state of Maltese governance. Why can’t I just shrug my shoulders, ignore the dysfunction and circumvent it all?
I think the answer to this question is that I take the casual malevolence of the malevolent Maltese state personally. I can’t help it. It’s the lack of will of any administration to do things properly, as they should be done. With an eye for the long term, not the next general election. As soon as I set foot again on this infuriating country of mine, the malevolence of the state hit me in the face.
It’s not the fact that I had my prior UK teaching experience ignored when it came to my salary. Or that we had our bank account and my salary frozen when we refused to give the sole, state owned utility billing company money it had no right to. Or that we pay 762 euro per year in Annual Circulation Licence fees on a car worth 2500 euro because we moved to Malta in 2010 and not 2008.
This is only a tiny fraction of the malevolence. Everywhere I look I see evidence of a ‘malavoglia grandissima’.
The broken lines of former beautiful streetscapes, the encroachment of ugly concrete on outside development zones, aluminium replacing the traditional wooden balconies, the craters in the roads, the three storeys becoming four storeys, then five and then high rises, the widening of roads, the lack of any master plan for anything…
The way people are treated. As if they are feudal serfs who have to tug their forelocks at their political lords and masters. Who, in turn, are dancing to the tune of the shady, shadowy puppet master oligarchs.
In properly set up states, the politicians are the true servants and the institutions make sure that there is no oligarchy usurping the power of the state. I’m not saying that things are perfect in other countries, even in well governed countries. But, for goodness’ sake, give me imperfect any day. Just not impossible.
The SATA bank customers. Tenants post 1995. People on minimum wage. Pensioners. People on incapacity benefit. Pre 1995 landlords. Irregular migrants. The foreigner.
The failed institutions, the assassination of an investigative journalist, the impunity with which a minister and the PM’s chief of staff continue in their posts, having set up opaque financial structures in blacklisted jurisdictions within days of PL winning the 2013 General Election. The selling of Maltese citizenship. The sale of our common goods – our hospitals, our energy company, our ODZ land. The corruption.
This malignance is there in the ether of social media with the unbelievable bile and aggression if you so much as dare to criticise the Leader of the Opposition or the Prime Minister. This type of ill will is the hardest to bear. I really couldn’t care less about PN or PL. The problems were there in 2010, under a PN administration too. My salary underpayment, the Arms / tenant scam, the zero regulation of the post 1995 Maltese private rental market, the disastrous two tier annual car licence billing system, the lack of redress for any administrative shortcoming, the turgidly unjust justice system. I encountered all these in 2010 under a PN administration.
Where do we go from here? When will the dead end, infantile name calling stop? Who, what will lead us away from this pervading malevolence?