J’accuse’s Theory of Relativity

Relative In-Laws – Potentially
I’m still on holiday … only this is a different one. I just crossed the Chunnel and am busy introducing a group of French potential in-laws to the beauty of the Garden of England that is Kent. I write this article in a farmhouse nestled in the middle of the countryside close to the town of Ashford, not far from Hastings and Dover. It is a bit difficult to write after a lovely gammon steak at The Five Bells, a local pub – the first culinary experience Chez les Rosbifs having been a huge success with Les Grenouilles. I must soldier on however, not so much out of a sense of duty towards an editor and an impending deadline, but out of a missionary zeal that induces me to promote a new theory that I have begun to test over at my blog. It’s not a new concept you know. Pope Benedict for example has tackled a particular version of it. It tends to crop up more and more in today’s world and I think I might patent a local definition of it. I will call it Maltese Relativism. I have not come up with a scientific definition as yet but  I shall attempt to use a sample of this week’s news to give you an idea of where I am coming from. Readers are warned that the rest of this article is not for the partisan or weak at heart.

Relative Roots – Everybody’s Right

It all begins with a transformation of the man in the street thanks to the new media. The new media brings about a certain ease in communicating that is a double-edged sword. Whenever I chat with Ranier Fsadni he always seems to find a way to mention the letter writers of the Times pages when the internet was non-existent. They would revel in writing a letter or two a week condemning such things as those nasty topless sunbathers, the horrible fireworks noise and the perilous state of Sliema pavements. What with the new age of comments and commentators the number of old ladies has multiplied. Not literally of course but metaphorically. The busybody old lady in each one of us finds the facility of posting a comment with the click of a button a rather convenient ways to get something off their chest. From the Weatherman to the Bus Driver we have witnessed instances of tiny mass hysteria (let’s not get too big headed about the size) and the place of judge, jury and guardian of the people has shifted from the law courts and the police to the hoi polloi sat at their keyboards.

We’ve embarked on a trip that can only make us slide down down down… and the cause of all this is what I will begin to refer to henceforth as Maltese Relativism. It is a cynical term that explains the mediocrity with which our island is threatening to become infested. It began with the Mintoffian revolution, the lack of respect for professionals and the relativisation of values. It is camouflaged in a hypocritical assumed dominance of the Faux Catholique clique that has assembled some kind of idea of Malta Kattolika. And it is spreading all over the place. It does not stop there. It is all pervasive and is centred around Dun Karm’s “Jien” without any respect for “lil Hinn Minnu“. If the justification that “l-università tat-triq” has brought someone up to see the world with very wise eyes is not enough then you can always create your own tenets of what is the validator of arguments. And they will be relative. Thus one can avoid arguing by claiming that only married people are rational enough to carry a consistent argument – the rest is rubbish. Or maybe by stating that being a columnist, one is the only one capable of rational thought. There are those who proceed to spin the argument in the negative – the victims of Maltese relativism. You are not listening to me because I am a Labourite and you are a Naxinalist. Or better: “Why can’t I have an opinion about how the law should be interpreted if I am not a lawyer?” it’s all relative you know.

Maltese relativism allows us to argue irrationally from “kacca namur” to “murtali gol-kazin”. We have taken the right to have an opinion and dragged it through the mud and mire. It is difficult not to be insulting on this one. It is difficult to respect the politically correct barriers that allow a false sense of security into whoever wants to enter the ring. Having an opinion is one thing. Being able to argue it, defend it and recognise when you might be wrong is a completely different one.

Right now half the nation seriously believes that Lawrence Gonzi is a dictator because he appointed Gordon Pisani to a Communications post within his private secretariat. That very same half will declaim that it is their god-given right to hold this opinion and that our country is now undemocratic. What crap. Utterly unbelievable crap. They have been so traumatised by the pre-election spins that they actually believe that had Sant been in power he would have put Gordon Pisani as head of Communications – and that it would be more democratic. In a real world where political correctness would not hinder straightforward expressions and save us the problem of wasting valuable time dicussing the obvious the whole labour posse would be told to sod off, get a life and stop being hypocritical. Instead we have to explain, as though to a toddler, that the post in question HAS to be filled by someone biased. A lapdog so to speak. Gonzi is in his rights to do so. This is the PM’s Metatron … His Master’s Voice. Nothing undemocratic in that.

The other half are busy and schizophrenically reminding the nation that they are in government by democratic right. It’s the law mate – they’ll tell you. It’s black on white. Relative majority or not that is what the law stated at the time of the election and that is why we have one more seat than you (and why we do what we like and you are looooosers) Lovely. And they are right. What they do not like to hear in return is that when Mintoff and his Motley Crew marched triumphantly into Parliament in 1981 after gaining a minority of votes and a majority of seats they did so democratically. The law allowed the Labour Party to govern because there was no compensation mechanism. It was democratic guys. Pity the Nationalist party was made up of a bunch of whingers and chose to boycott parliament. Who’s an undemocratic tosser now eh?

Of course the argument is not nice to hear for Nationalist ears. X’gharukaza! He compared the gvern ta’ Gonzi to Mintoff. (Makes quick sign of the cross). Guz get the kids away from that article before they read it! It’s all relative isn’t it? What’s good for the idiot is not good for the imbecile and vice versa. Even my calling them idiots and imbeciles is relative. In the relative world I can. Because in the world of Maltese Relativism I can say what I like because it is my Opinion and My Opinion is what counts (bir-rispett kollu). In the world of Maltese Relativism I, and only I, am the intelligent ubermensch. All the rest are stupid.

In fact I am the only one capable of reaching a conclusion through rational thought. All the others are just losers, nationalists, labourites, alternattivisti, wankellectuals, wishy-washy commies, married bigots, unmarried prepubertal freaks, jackasses, gays, peacocks, albatrosses and more. There you are. Feel free to comment. It’s a case of speak to the hand cause the bighead ain’t listening.

Relative Thoughts – Everybody’s A Self-Made Genius

Kudos to you if you managed to sit through the last paragraph without switching to a new article. You must be ready for further samples of this theory of Maltese Relativism. Before I left for Kent I watched the streaming edition of Bondi+ and there was another illuminating moment on the path of relative enlightenment. Peppi Azzopardi – a man who deserves a monument for being the embodiment of Maltese relativism – was on a panel of experts of the Maltese language. He came up with the ultimate Maltese Relativist argument.: Let’s drop the “GH” from the Maltese language. It’s silent. It’s useless. It confuses people.

Why should people be left looking like fools because they can’t put the ghajn in ghasfur (although some would be quite happy to put other things in the ghasfur given the chance)? Peppi seems to believe that there is a hidden division of the police force that arrests people who spell Maltese wrongly when sending short mobile messages to their friends. Ever the populist, he argued with Olvin Vella that the “GH” is just an inconvenience.  Once we’re at it, why can’t people write “satax” instead of “dsatax“?

That’s it. Relativist thinking requires that everyone is brought to the same level by accepting even the lowest of values. Rather than getting people to learn how to write properly we will abolish the rules of spelling and grammar – that way no one seems stupid. It helps that we live in a politically correct society and that you can never get away with calling someone stupid. Unless maybe you are an arrogant columnist with some time on your hands. Relativist thinking leads to “anything goes” thinking. It is the race to mediocrity. Rules are loosened, values are diluted and before you know it “anything goes”. We are too special to be left out – even if “we” are at the bottom of the intellectual ladder.

Whether we are debating what is democratic, whether we are busy lynching the latest paedophile suspect or whether we are (alas) trying to decide what is the best quality of music for an international song contest we are fast losing any point of reference and reaching a point where “anything goes”. So long as you can throw in a phrase like “bir-rispett kollu”, as long as you can string a few words together in what seems like a sentence … so long as you can do that, then you are under the illusion that you have an Opinion (capital O). We are fast transforming into a country of Emperors walking around naked strutting their newfound opinions which exist only in their mind.

In order to point out the cruel truth you have to be either audacious, crazy or a bit of both.

You are not a Beautiful and Unique Snowflake
The theory is still baking. It lacks a basic definition but I hope you have managed to identify what I mean through the examples given above. Relativist thinking is everywhere in our daily lives. Look at your dad sitting at table pontificating at how government should have done this or that project. Look at the lynch mob glaring at the topless bather while failing to see the dead corpse floating in the sea. This is not a crusade against mass public opinion. It is more of a warning bell. Points of reference are being lost. The race to mediocrity is making a mockery of our social standards and expectations. Quality of life – not just economical – cannot improve if we accept this modus operandi of mediocrity. We run the risk of waking up one day and looking in the mirror and realising how ugly we have become – and it will be too late. A bit like what might happen to me tomorrow when I notice the new size of my belly after that pub lunch.

The end of the Palaniuk snowflake quote (in subtitle) goes like this: “You are the same decaying organic matter as anyone else, and we are all part of the same compost pile.” Or as one of the potential in-laws would probably say; “Nous sommes dans la merde”! (bir-rispett kollu).


8 responses to “J’accuse’s Theory of Relativity

  1. fabrizioellul

    The answer to 2+2 is relative to a given position. Sometimes it might be a 3,5, 10 or even a 100 but never a 4. Go and figure the whole system out. eh?!


  2. tghid kif jispelliha ghajnbaqru Peppi?

  3. As you well explain, the relativism you talk about is mediocrity and I would add subjectivity but again, people will decide if they want to go for it or not, if they want to embrace as points of reference, the opinions of those who display their arrogance as a badge as well as their closed mind.

    Not everybody has an opinion or not everybody decides to share it but it doesn’t mean that they are empty vessels either. We are all entitled to express an opinion in the cyberspace or through letters to the editor and that’s the beauty of the democratization of the media! How that space is used it is entirely up to us and to the reader who will decide what to read, watch, listen to; in a nutshell, how to feed the soul.

    There are some people who say/write whatever without thinking. They are the usual suspects and I call them the cybermob. That’s a good reason to make the sign of the cross! Read what they have to say or just ignore them. It is up to us after all. Yes, it is sad to read/listen to those comments and posts but then again…just don’t 🙂

  4. Look at what DCG wrote in an article published on 6th September 1998 – entitled “A Government for Half”
    she says:

    “Today’s winner would do well to remember all this. In Maltese elections, there is no such ting as victory. There is only relative victory, and a relative majority. Wise prime ministers should stay cogniscent of this brutal truth throughout their years in power, and proceed as though treading on eggs. Just as Caesar employed a slave to whisper into his ear “Remember you are mortal” so our prime ministers should have the message hung up, wherever they are most likely to see it throughout the day, “Remember you only represent 51 per cent of the population. The rest are against you. Given the chance they would throw you out on your ear.”

    Would she give this advice to Gonzi now (he does not even represent 51% of the electorate)

  5. Jacques,

    I have been following your blog for some time and for the first time I strongly disagree with your arguments. One cannot AT ALL compare the 1981 to the 2008 scenario mainly due:
    i) MLP in 1981 had a absolute majority of voters voting for another party – PN in 2008 has a relative majority voting for it. The reality is simple – in 1981 MLP did not have the most votes. In 2008 PN has.
    ii) the spirit of the two scenarios is completely different. In 1981 MLP, realising a majority was improbable knowingly and malicously “jerry-mandered” the districts to its benefit. (I have been searching for a 1981 map of the districts but unfortunately I can’t find one – any help?) The districts in 2008, on the other hand, were shifted, as per constitution, and by an independent-commission to a clear but unavoidable disadvantage of the PN (suffice to say that Gzira substituted Swieqi in the tenth district).
    Concluding – the 1981 situation was “orchestrated” by the Government – the 2008 situation was certainly not. Maybe by 2008 you meant the Zimbabwe election (not much of an exxaggeration coming to think of it!)
    On a different note – In view of the slender majority, it seems MLP are considering re-opening the “Maltin ta’ barra” vote debate once again. Alfred Sant yesterday tabled a list of over 2000 people who came over to vote. Maybe one should “frisk” the MLP leader candidates to see what they think of the issue!

  6. Anton Agius

    well said historian. that’s the exact definition of “two weight ans two measures”. ah well by now we should have realised that for DCG. it’s one thing when the nice, sweet, kind hearted nationalists are in government and its a totally different matter when bad, labour is in government ……

  7. Pingback: How burden sharing works « Malta, 9 Thermidor

  8. The topic is quite trendy in the net at the moment. What do you pay attention to while choosing what to write about?

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