It could be you. That’s the title of a cheesy program that for all the wrong reasons has thankfully not found its place on the national broadcasting station. I do not intend to discuss the demerits of Rachel’s program or the ridiculous state of affairs at the station formerly known as Xandir Malta. Instead the title of today’s issue refers to the lottery of life. You could be driving calmly down some road when, Hey Presto! a huge truck materialises out of the blue and sends you to kingdom come. You could be paddling along happily in Marsalforn Bay practicing your favourite backstroke when a combination of whirlpool, panic and shortness of breath lead to your drowning and premature termination of life on earth. You could be walking down Bisazza Street in Sliema when a kantun (Maltese limestone – globigerina please – building block) falls on your head thus dispatching you onto the fast track of “Miskin, kemm kien orrajt”.
In summus, you are here today but a variety of circumstances (about which Gakbu Sfigho could write an encyclopaedia) could conspire to send you off to the next world. In summus you can either choose to stay cooped up at home and only risk entanglements with faulty electrical systems or gas leaks or you could be even more adventurous and risk the perils of the high street. That is how one of the amateur firework men who had just witnessed the death of a colleague due to the zillionth firework blast in Malta justified the latest mishap. You could die swimming, you could die driving so why not take the risk of dying in a fireworks factory blast? After all it is in your blood. It’s just a different, more explosive way to see your pension plans go up in smoke.
This time the problem with fire occurred (ironically) at Saint Catherine’s Fireworks Factory (Zurrieq) and it would be testing the limits of propriety if I were to say that the works went up in a wheel of smoke and fire. But then this weak humoristic attempt at diminutio will never really justify the loss of human life. The so called pyrotechnic enthusiasts are risking a desensitisation of their plight. The more enthusiasts die under the blast of yet another shabby works, the less the general public will be inclined to empathise. Granted you will get your token visit of politicians to the funerary arrangements and the condolence letters from every electoral candidate in the district. But that is not empathy it is emotionless arse-licking of the macchiavellian kind. It’s the same kind of attitude that has led to a protracted problem of violence in the Italian football stadia.
Where is the nanny government when you need it? Where is the careful mother who removes toys that are dangerous if ingested from the hand of the innocent toddler? The pyrotechnic geeks are not capable of self-regulation – time has shown us that. They continue to risk their lives and limbs and I’m sorry but if they don’t care about their own I still worry about that of their neighbours and their neighbours neighbours. A system that encourages constant explosions can only exist in science fiction – like Pratchett’s Guild of Alchemists which never had a permanent house because of the constant mistakes by the concerned practitioners. (Often the last word that was heard in the previous establishment was “Oops”).
While in Kent I watched a documentary about the last remaining fireworks manufacturer (hand made) in England. Yep. In the land of Guy Fawkes most explosives, rockets and such are branded with that beautiuful moniker “Made in China”. Trust the Brits to have noted much earlier on that this is a “mighty dangerous activity”. Even this last manufacturer who is also a priest took extraordinary precautionary measures in the manufacture and storage. Bunkers, workshops for a maximum of two people with a maximum of explosives in each room etc etc. What struck me was his worry that “sometimes the weather can be dangerously hot” so extra care must be taken. In bloody England that is!
With all due respect to the immediate relatives of the deceased, J’accuse will not be mourning the latest victims of the pyrotechnic circus. We will regret to see the usual line up at the funeral services. We will cringe when we read the cliché comments on tomorrows papers. We will just remind you that statistically you are more likely to die in a car accident than on a flight – but although that does not mean that you fly to work every day it also has something to do with practical arrangements regarding your daily life.
“When Mister Safety Catch Is Not On, Mister Crossbow Is Not Your Friend.”
— Detritus learns about weapons safety (Terry Pratchett, Night Watch)