J’accuse: The Rat in the Kitchen

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This article appears in today’s edition of The Malta Independent on Sunday.

The Rat

It wasn’t a rat really. It was a mouse. It wasn’t even a complete mouse. It was a mouse’s head.There’s nothing really wrong about a mouse’s head either. It can be rather cute in fact. Insofar as mice’s heads go it just had one problem. It was in the wrong place. At the wrong time. To begin with it was a bit like your average person’s dream house: detached. The rest of the corpus was nowhere to be seen – or found – it seems. 
There were desperate attempts to discover where the rest of the carcass (because as you know a detached mouse’s head is a clear signal of a dead mouse) might have ended up. Of course no one told us that. What they said was that they were trying to find out where the mouse’s head had come from. Sure. No one wondered whether some hard-working member of the health care fraternity had ingested the complementary three-quarters of the disembodied head while consuming their daily brunch at the canteen. Of course not. 
That’s not the kind of question you’d ask is it? At least not if your mind works within the normal parameters of a decent society where the paramount ethic is: do not ask awkward questions. Well of course not. You only ask this kind of thing when you know that there is only one thing worse than finding a worm after biting into an apple… it’s finding half a worm. Then again you would pose that question to yourself but surely you would not want half the health care crowd turning green while wondering whether that chicken ceasar salad had much more crispy bite than it ought to have had. 
The wrong place. The wrong time. Poor bodyless mousehead. I could not help but picture the surreal scene of a nurse comfortably sat at the  canteen table ready to dip into her (was it a she? in our mind nurses are always shes aren’t they? isn’t that sexist? am i sexist? what a rat!) plate of choice when she suddenly glimpses, through the corner of her hungry eyes, the sad innocuous eyes of a recently decapitated mouse. I wondered wickedly what the expression of a decapitated mouse would look like – remembering the stories I had read of the looks of fear on the heads of beheaded nobles during the revolution.
Picture the screaming the yelling and the fracas. It’s all in my imagination. For all I know it could have been a very controlled nurse who sauntered up to the nearest chef du jour and pointed out in a very tranquil manner à-la-John Cleese: “I wish to register a complaint”. I dismissed the thought that aforementioned chef, once au courant as to the nature of said complaint, would not resist the temptation to reply “But surely madam, we thought it was Souris d’Agneau you ordered”. Naah. He’d never say it. She wouldn’t get the joke.
Hickory Dickory Dock
So that was the incident of the week. At least as seen from my apartment in Rue de Bragance where mice parts are very much the order of the day. The fact that I regularly engage in the cleaning up of an assortment of rodent body parts is probably the reason why I could not understand why all the fuss. You see, Xitan (that’s my cat) is a very generous feline and rarely omits to leave a gift jigsaw puzzle called “Assemble the Mouse” under my computer desk whenever she has been lucky enough out on the hunt. It’s a tough life and I’ve got used to it … except maybe when the dissection has been too assiduous and I’ve got blood on the moquette (Xitan’s slogan: No Guts, No Gory, No Party). 
On the other hand this IS a hospital we are talking about. You would expect a modicum of Health and Safety going on in the establishment. Even if it is nosh that is full of protein (apparently mouse is the new chicken in Cambodia) and not immediately noticeable when dealing with industrial quantities of canteen food… there must be a plate checker. Or something. They quickly found the solution though. Blame it on the Belgians. Or the Dutch. Those ungrateful sods. There we were providing them with the best of spuds for their excellent frites to go with thefrikadel and what do they send us? A mouse’s head. As my dad likes to say… “Affarijiet tal-Belgju“.
In the meantime we had the usual crowd of wet blankets over at the competition filling the comments section with more nonsense than is dreamt of in our philosophy. And what a festival of nonsense it is. I cannot decide which was the crassest of them all but surely two geezers deserve the top spot. There was the one who asked that all important question: “Where is the Minister?” Right Minister Dalli. Your time’s up. Where were you when the bodyless head fell into the plate of the hapless nurse? What do you mean it’s not your business to patrol the corridors of Mater Dei’s kitchens on the hunt for inappropriate undigestable material that might have been unknowingly imported with all the other frozens?
In the words of the John “the Philosopher” McEnroe: “You cannot be serious!” What is wrong with you people? When we talk about Ministerial portfolios do we all understand that Food Production Line Surveyor is included under the section “Minister for Health”? Do we really? Don’t tell me it is a one off. I distinctly remember that one of the first jobs for PM Gonzi mark I was to rush off to Saint Barbara’s bastions in answer some citizen’s complaint that the trees were being shorn of too much of their foliage. You reap what you sow Mr Politician… but will we ever learn?
Then there was that package of fun, bundle of hystrionic humour and comedian of the year who wrote “An alternative illegal infiltration”. Not satisfied with his contribution to the annals of comedic history A Farrugia returned to the comments section an hour later and modified his contribution to “Another illegal infiltration to our islands”. It took me some time to recover from the uncontrollable fits of laughter. The genius. Do you not see it people? This savant of comment section comedy both came up with a joke that hit at the mouse problem (infiltrator / lovely word there Fred) AND reminded us of that scourge of the Maltese islands: the illegal immigrant. The only thing that has not yet “infiltrated” Chez Alfred Farrugia (if that is not a pseudo-pseudonym of the comment section type) are a couple of million grey cells to keep company to the lonely one that currently inhabits his cranium. 
No Mr Farrugia. That comment was below the belt. It was low. You bent so low that you could dance the limbo under a pregnant rat. That low. And it’s what we are to expect from the army of opinionated commentators that have invaded the ether in Melita. I wrote a while back of Maltese Relativism – where the right to hold an opinion is obviously confused with the right to shout nonsense to the four winds. Every week my theory is vindicated, and I notice that I am no longer alone in being irked by the situation. 
City Mouse, Country Mouse
Speaking of opinions and comments, the divorce debate shows no signs of abating. There is one simple, basic, idea that some citizens of this democracy fail to grasp. First of all, as Harry Vassallo rightly pointed out on Friday, the question is not about whether divorce should be made legal in Malta. It already is you see but not everybody has access to this right. Maltese law recognises certain divorces but does not allow others. 
The second, more important point is the fact that divorce is available does not mean that everyone is obliged to make use of it. If you think of divorce as a hideous scourge on society or if divorce qualifies as an abomination according to your religious beliefs then feel free to abstain from exercising that right. Feel free to live united until death doth you part (from your better half). In the meantime it is astonishingly astounding that you are unable to understand that the granting of the right to whoever wishes (unfortunately if you like) to avail of it will not in any way harm your rights as a non-divorced, law abiding citizen.
Trapped as we are in this country of faux liberal politicians and mouth pieces we will probably have to drag our legs a little longer while the Ubercatholics of the nation proudly proclaim to whoever is bothered enough to listen that Malta is a divorce free country. The question I most desperately would like answered is: are these people blind to the hypocrisy of their position or do they genuinely believe that they are helping their neighbour? To be continued…
Of Mice and Men
The mice in this case form the republican government of that great nation across the Atlantic. The men are the many volunteers who rush at the occasion of helping their fellow humans in distress. This week we had Hurricane Gustav. They had, really. New Orleans was in a panic and every sane person was cordially invited to abandon ship before the storm hit the town. Bush’s outgoing government made it a point to show it was present. What a show that was. Bush’s government wanted to show it cared. 
Yes Mr Bush. You cared. This time round. The problem is that some time back when Hurricane Katrina was busy wreaking havoc around the same area your reaction time was, to put it finely, pathetic. Without wanting to Bush has given us a new name for an age-old political reality: I call it the Gustav Syndrome. It basically boils down to a simple rule: if you are going to face a catastrophe or problem that needs immediate action then better pray that it happens in election year. 
It’s the same everywhere isn’t it? The period immediately following an election is wrought with broken promises, altered plans and toning down of enthusiasm. It is only in the run up to the day of public scrutiny that governments are suddenly eager to show that they are the automatic people’s choice. They will stop reasoning like the headless, unconcerned mouse and suddenly develop a level of empathy that would baffle the greatest sceptic. 
Rat Race
It would seem that the race is now open for the MEP seats. Some people are already caught up in a tabloid inspired enthusiasm and describing the whole shebang as a race to get on the gravy train. In all probability we will be facing the three horse race between MLPNAD. Once again we will be showered with the nonsense about the effectiveness of our supermen in Parliament thanks to their being part of the larger formations while the real value of MEP seats for our nation shoots right over our heads. 
We actually have a lovely constituency for a set of five (maybe one day six seats) that could be used to make a difference. We risk making it yet another power game for the MLPN statistics. Inhobbkom Joseph’s horses versus GonziPN’s thoroughbreds. They’ll throw in the token candidates, the token lady, the token guru. And the people? They will vote after that supreme vetting by Peppi Azzopardi on Xarabank. 
Somehow J’accuse is almost tempted to get on the train. There might even be a place for a movement that is built bottom-up. One that stands for the rest. The one that is constantly set aside by the power politics. The liberals that still cannot find a place they can call home. Watch this spot… you might be the first to hear of it. Yes we can!
Jacques has been relatively quiet this week on https://jaccuse.wordpress.com (work obligations come first you know). Do you have an opinion waiting to be expressed? 

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