J’accuse: Atonement (more than words)


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

The super- mega- giga- prize jackpot in the Italian Enalotto has finally been one. Some geezer (or a group of geezers who pooled in money together) in the Sicilian town of Catania guessed the winning numbers and is now the proud holder of a spanking cheque for … wait for it… one hundred million euros. That’s a one with eight zeroes after it. Funny how I started last week’s article with a reference to lottery dreams and this one kicks off with much the same subject. My flirt with Lady Luck and her multitudinous escorts continue – O Fortuna Imperatrix (although most times the temptation to call her meretrix is overwhelming – and no, I am not translating that one for you).

Anyways. Back to the picciriddi siculi who are definitely no longer worried about the effects of an ever more real recession. One hundred million euro. One million is more than enough for anyone to fulfil quite a few dreams. One hundred million? It’s luxury beyond luxury – surely it’s a sin. It’s too much. According to the BBC already in Catania a woman suffering from leukemia has posted an ad on the papers begging the winner/winners to share the prize.
Apparently the whole town of Catania erupted in much the same manner as the great volcano that throws its menacing shadow onto it at the announcement of the news. People took to the streets celebrating the fact that one of their brethren had won the jackpot. I find this bit of news absolutely fascinating. Surely they are not THAT happy? I would be even more depressed. I mean if lady luck had to roll the dice of destiny so close to my doorstep but miss me by a little bit… isn’t that really more of a reason to commiserate and drown my sorrows in litres of limoncello before committing hara-kiri by ingestion of hundreds of cannoli in a modern day remake of the rumoured death of the Bard of Avon minus the herrings and plus the Mediterranean delicacies?
Carcading because someone ELSE in the city is suddenly one hundred million euros richer? Give me a break. Is this some new found way of expressing empathy in this big brother world? Truth be said, altruistic worry had a big say prior to the drawing of lots and allocating of fortunate sums. The consumer associations in Italy had begun to grow concerned that the larger the jackpot grew the more people were frittering away their money on a hopeful ticket. They were hoping to stop this madness ordained by Mammon and other lesser evils that crawl the earth.
They are not all that wrong. Some people do sell prize possessions in order to be able to buy more and more tickets. It is dangerous. All forms of gambling are. It so happens that gambling is as old as the hills – because people like to hope and up their chances. Have you passed by one of those gambling rooms populated with sad looking people who have a mad glazed look staring at one armed bandits in the hope that the next tug of the lever will change their life? It’s more of the same carried on from last week I know but I am fascinated by this theme. There must be a lesson to be learnt when you can watch a documentary about a family in Denver Colorado finding it hard to make ends meet on a normal pay cheque and then switch to a reportage about mad lotteries and a town gone wild when the national lottery is won.
The Indians (that’s the ones in the subcontinent) have launched a rocket that will orbit the moon and take snapshots of our natural satellite to such levels of detail than has never been seen before. I must admit I giggled in a rather politically incorrect way watching the turbanned multitude in the Indian equivalent of Cape Canaveral following the countdown for lift-off with such fervour and excitement. What really got me going was the ending – you had the usual compte a rebours climaxing close to zero with the “five…four..three…two…” and just as you expected the “one” and the picture of the launch complete with the sound of “Goodness Gracious Me We Have Lift Off” you got the surprise… 
There was no monumental phrase, no weird accent proclaiming the launching of the rocket to the skies, no. The man counting down (who I nicknamed Pavinder in my mind) gave us a full demonstration of the Indian mathematical prowess that has long been exploited for the benefit of other countries and was now being rightfully used for the greater glory of the Indian masses: he switched to the positives: “plus one… plus two… plus three”… Unfortunately the sound clip faded off so I do not know whether Pavinder is still counting in that control room and for how much longer.
Like every other event nowadays this one did not go by without attracting its fair share of detractors and critics. How dare the Indian government invest millions of rupees into this kind of Space Project while millions of Indians are living below the poverty line? It’s not just Malta that has it’s share elves and harbingers of bad news. The last thing they want to associate India with is progress and development. India’s government chose to lift itself to rub shoulders with giants of space age. I’m with the Indian government on this one. Success and progress generate hope and encouragement that no amount of showers of aid money can give.
A telling moment was the BBC journalist in a room full of Indian school children at the science museum. Watch the sparkle in their eyes as they all lifted their hands in answer to the question “So which of you wants to become an astronaut?” The promise of hope, the inspiration of greater aspirations – worth more than a million lottery money cheques. Very much like the Obama revolution, India was shouting to its people (and to the world).. Yes We Can. Next stop Pavinder Armstrong… one small step for Mr Singh, one great hope for an underrated nation. (Queue a great Bollywood song in the background of course as the astronauts break into a collective dance). (Apologies for the over-milked stereotypes.)
The industrial and financial landscape as we know it is changing fast. Yep, it’s more Credit Crunch talk as J’accuse continues to follow with extreme interest the effects of the crunch on the world as we know it. Here’s a new buzzword for you : “Dirigisme”. It’s a French word and basically means that the state has a lot of fingers in the pie that makes the economy work. It means state control of more and more parts of the industry and finance in order to guarantee stability. For a picture of where it is all coming from we can switch our time machines to the era of Le Roi Soleil – the Sun King. It was in the times of Louis XIV and the debauchery at Versailles that a man called Jean-Baptiste Colbert championed the idea of building the economy around national giants.
He is not Le Roi Soleil and his economic guru is the wonderful Christine Lagarde not Monsieur Colbert, but Sarkozy’s speech to the European Parliament included a suggestion that this is the time for governments to take shareholdings in big companies and that Europe should set up the equivalent of sovereign-wealth funds to keep foreign predators at bay. The Americans are fast hooking on to the idea and just as the US Senate contemplated injecting another $150 billion into a stimulus package they are beginning to warm to the idea of more control.
Mr Summit – the man formerly known as Sarkozy – is still forging ahead with his idea of introducing a “common set of principles” for reforming the way international markets work and managed to persuade the Yanks to host a summit in Washington on the 15th November. 20 countries will be present – a mix of the heavyweights of international economy as well as the emerging economies (including the new members of the Space Race India – who said rockets were not useful?) Sly Nicolas has thus also made sure that he will be among the first European leaders to meet the president elect and he will not have to wait for the first visit of the new president to the old continent. The energy the man has never ceases to impress me.
The link to the motherland has been somewhat weak this week. Once again a hectic pace of life in Luxembourg has not given me much time to follow the trials and tribulations back home. I have just read that Glenn Beddingield will be warming the seat in the EP until the next elections, taking the place of Inhobbkom Joseph. I’ve lost count of the Dj’s and journalists that are making it big in the great landscape of Maltese politics. The greasy pole of electoral success seems to depend very much on access and exposure to a microphone of sorts – I am not convinced that it is a good thing in the long run. 
The Nationalist party – which has also produced its fair share of disc-jockeys cum politicians – has produced a working paper that questions the role of Christian Democracy in today’s world. A laudable exercise without any doubt. I still consider myself a Christian democrat of the Caldera mould for one. One that finds ways of reconciling values with the greater need not to oppress the minorities. Christian democracy that finds inspiration in values without transforming them into dogmatic proselytising can still be a valid tool in the 21st century. 
I still stick hard to the quote lifted from Caldera’s book: a real democratic palace is made of the whole people. In that I read the necessity to allow for other ways of thinking and not to suppress possibilities of living a full life by sticking to beliefs and practices that are no longer universal. Yes I AM referring to divorce. The role of the Christian democrat in society is related to a commitment to building the right structures for society to be fruitful around appropriate units. The fulfilment and encouraging of individual potential  as well as the prosperity of the family nurtured by a caring society and the right economic environment. It’s important that it does not end up being just words on another policy document.
Atonement (Hermeneutically Speaking)
Finally you must be wondering about the atonement bit. It’s mainly a religious concept. In Christian and Jewish tradition it is a process of forgiving and pardoning transgression. It is also a word not much used in every day parlance and means reconciliation. There are times when we regret something we have done and yearn for the atonement process to be swift in order to bring back a better state of affairs. In today’s world such concepts are fast losing their value. It is only when we are faced with the urgent need for atonement that we appreciate how important it is for our own good – as well as that of others.
True, sorry might seem to be the hardest word… but sometimes it is the time after the apology that takes most working on. The time it takes might seem to be disproportionately long. You’d love the dystopic situation to be over, the dismemberment to be fixed and the disconnection to end. 
That’s when hope plays a big part. Hope, trust and belief in the future. A good dose of caring is what it is all about in the end. Whether we are busy launching rockets, buying lottery tickets or rediscovering our basic values… it has to be there…it is an intrinsic part of our life here. It’s not just what keeps us ticking… it’s what makes us enjoy this beautiful life. Because as I love to repeat every day… life is beautiful (especially with great big doses of sunshine).
Jacques has been busy getting cryptic all over the place and not just on https://jaccuse.wordpress.com. Pop over and try to make head or tail of it!

12 responses to “J’accuse: Atonement (more than words)

  1. I’ve lost count of the Dj’s and journalists that are making it big in the great landscape of Maltese politics.

    Oh, come on. Can you name five?

    The greasy pole of electoral success seems to depend very much on access and exposure to a microphone of sorts – I am not convinced that it is a good thing in the long run.

    Or, as probably happened in this case and happens often in casual election, success also depends on the position on the ballot paper.

  2. 1. Robert Musumeci
    2. Glenn Beddingfield
    3. Clyde Puli
    4. Joseph Muscat
    5. Dolores Cristina
    6. Justyne Caruana
    7. Chris Said
    8. Luciano Busuttil
    9. Chris Cardona

  3. Of the list you mention, only Glenn Bedingfield is a journalist. You don’t describe people who did some journalism part-time years ago and who hold other professions as “journalists”.

    It’s like the “Christian” in “Christian Democrat”; it seems you do not have to be the first in order to be the second.

  4. Coming from a Nationalist sympathiser it is absolutely mind boggling how the definition of a journalist (or person elevated to popularity via radio programmes or the like) narrows and widens at your convenience.

    I guess it’s my fault… I forgot to mention Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando. Now now, surely a Press Card proves the man is a journalist doesn’t it???

    U hallina Faust.

  5. As for christian democrat – you might be confusing christian and catholic. Tant pis!

  6. Amazing il-Fauto!

    But he does have a point in a perverse kinda way. In the sense that quite a few persons on that list exercised the role of that very Maltese creature: the politicojournalist – a beast whose two heads merge into one political head once a certain amount of partisan exposure does the trick. ‘Journalism’ as career springboard as opposed to journalism as search for the truth.

    Inhobbkom Joseph being the most notable and successful case-study and David Agius being a chap you forgot to mention in your long list.

  7. U bravu Bonell. If fausto has a point it is very perverse. It is my point exactly – politicojournalism sucks. You are either a journalist trying to reinvent Malta’s version of Hard Talk or you are a politician supposedly with a political brain. Not both.

    Plus calling what the partisan journalists do on their media “journalism” is a bit too far eh!

  8. Wow! Now my mind is boggling! My definition of “journalist” is widening and narrowing “at my convenience”? Like what? Getting invited to the Christmas do of the Institute of Journalists or something?

  9. As for christian democrat – you might be confusing christian and catholic.

    Oh no, not at all. “Christian” is someone who believes Jesus Christ as the Son of God who suffered and died so that said Christian may be saved (hint: there’s “Christ” in “Christian”). “Catholic” describes those who, in addition that buys in the primacy of Rome and the non-Scriptural Church teaching.

    So Jacques, am I right in saying that, as a Christian Democrat, you believe in Jesus Christ as Son of God and your personal saviour? Or is it just a question of being attached to one sentence in an insignificant political tract whose author is only remembered today as the politician who made Hugo Chavez possible?

  10. Very amusing piece of work as usual 🙂
    The Bollywood stereotype reference has caused me to hum this for a whole day:

  11. u ma ninsewx lil John Bundy mal-lista, e. Kien hareg man-Nazzjonalisti f’xi erezzjoni minnhom.

  12. Jacques, I think you are confusing Christianity with Humanist values.

    A Christian Democracy is after all a contradiction in the principle of democracy.

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