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?