This article and Bertu illustration appeared on The Malta Independent on Sunday (16th November 2008).
Baloo, Bagheera and Shere Khan
I’m back in Malta for some unfinished business (and a fantastic one-on-one course in emotional intelligence) and notwithstanding the rain, the heat and the not so spontaneous demonstrations and manifestations I feel a bit like that advertorial slogan… I’m loving it. Ok. It’s Friday morning and as the grey clouds gather ominously and the masses of the unhappy shift towards Valletta I find myself in the ironic situation of not having water pouring out of the taps in my Paceville flat. How’s that for drama of the gubernatorial kind? I wonder whether this is some energy-saving/bill-reducing measure being forced upon me without so much as a by-your-leave? Is it the government cutting down on my water consumption so I don’t have to bother with the fine details?
Gee thanks! Would have been nice had I been warned earlier so I would have gotten up at some unearthly energy saving hour and showered by candlelight (there’s no point in doing things by half). In Luxembourg – the land of the cold weather and cold bureaucrats – you are actually warned days before any rare power or utilities cut occurs. But that’s in Europe. We are only nominally part of Europe (incidentally the Eurozone is officially in recession as of Friday … wonder if that made it to a banner at the demonstration this afternoon).
Anyways. As I type ,the heavens are once again showing their complete disregard of the day’s weather forecast. It’s raining canines and felines in abundance together with the occasional flash of Zeus’ specials so it seems… I say it seems… that it is going to rain on their parade. The demonstrators’ parade that is. They’re there – like a box of spilled Liquorice Allsorts – a colorful assembly of the previously unjoinable yelling out in one voice whatever corny slogan has been coined up recently. Possibli flimkien? (Is it possible that they are together?) would have been a good one. Just drop the kollox (everything) out of the other slogan that got GonziPN into constitutional relative majority power after they told everyone under the sun that the economy was stable and crossed their heart that no nasty surprises were round the corner.
Frankly I am slightly bemused by all these reactions. It’s no use telling this columnist that he can afford to be because he lives abroad. Uh-uh. Not true. I pay for the water and electricity services just like everyone else. I might not use them as much – and on days like today I do not use them half as much as I would like to (that’s the third coffe mug I’ve had to use) – but I still am a consumer and payer of utilities and the bills they necessarily entail. I am bemused firstly at the general surprise and raising of eyebrows that the populace has when it comes to reassessing pre-electoral promises under the MLPN system. I am bemused by the masses flocking to protest about the rising cost of living, those same masses who never missed a beat whenever it was necessary to tick off those students whose biggest sin is that they only take to the streets when their wallets get pinched.
Colonel Hathi’s March
I am bemused by the need of not one but two shows of discontent. First a Manifestation of Courage (yes, they are using the word courage)… now a Demonstration of Tight Fists being waved at government. The Opposition Party had to do it alone because the other social forces would be protesting on Thursday (erm no sorry hi, but Thursday is no can do for some of us – ghax imsefrin – mela ok we do it on Friday ta’). Them of the unions united, behind one tight fist and Tony and Gejtu led the tight-fisted up whatever part of Republic street it is fashionable to yell “Enough” nowadays.
We had the man who had no clue about what Remembrance Sunday is about trying to appropriate the memories of Seventh June 1919 (and the “bread riots”) for the purposes of whatever economic grievance is afflicting the poor (and the latest addition of grumblers the middle-class). Somehow it all seems like a jungle to me. The tropical rain-pour that flooded Valley Road in 5 minutes is only nature’s poetic contribution. Pathetic fallacy some would say.
The aim of their patrol became, as the song goes, a question rather droll. It was marching orders to do what we do best – the village festa re-enacted on grander and angrier scale. Was that a pseudo-village band I espied on the news in the midst of the Manifestation? Pity that the Maltese equivalent of the bagpipe is no longer in fashion – a couple of zaqq and zavzava troupes would have whipped the crowd into an indignant frenzy, make no mistake about that. Would have gone down well with the appropriation of the national symbols (for a national non-partisan protest you see).
Trust in Me (Just in Me)
We’re vindicated every day that passes – us of the wasted vote. We’re vindicated whenever the workings of the MLPN dialogue play their role out in orderly fashion. The plot has long been writ and the actors play their part perfectly: It begins as always with the Nationalists getting elected thanks to having no apparent contender to the throne that makes an iota of sense. The nationalists then decide to transform into the Sun King and Papacy in one. L’Etat c’est eux and they know what’s best. Meanwhile back in the folds of the red army the early signs of reform and revival are quickly buried by the pulling out of the usual hymn sheets about our Long Winters of Discontent, about the Poor and Needy Crushed under the Baron’s Foot and the all-round favourite “We Shall Overcome…Someday”.
It’s not a battle for the electorate’s trust based on conviction and planning but rather a clash of entrenched stereotypes. Sorry to sound detached and insensitive but you still need the young man seeing the Emperor in All His Naked Ugliness. Ladies and gentelemen the problem is not the rise in cost of living, it is not the international economic crisis, it is not whether the reverse osmosis plant works at night or not… no the problem is, and will remain our political scenario. You could bluff with figures and come up with an otherwordly explanation about the falling cost of oil not being related to the rising cost of utilities. You could write fake Obama letters till the cows come home. The problem is with the tools we have to work with. They do not work in the interest of the people. They have their self-preservation in mind. An arrogant government and pathetic protests with no feasible alternative? We keep voting for that kind of stuff… so quit complaining.
The Bare Necessities
Last week I hinted at the frivolous complaints regarding certain budget measures. One which I have particularly to heart is the plastic bag tax. At 15 euro cents a bag this is quite a bargain. I think it is not enough. I have been trained to carry reusable heavy duty plasticky bags in my car in Luxembourg. I must have a hundred of them running around the house. Which is an investment. Because believe it or not each of these ecolux bags cost you one euro at the supermarket. All bags cost money in Luxembourg – even the cheap plastic bag variety but you see very few people walking out with those. Plastic bags are hideous anyway. Aesthetically they have loser written all over and once you revert to the “xoqqa” bag that grandma used to use you will see how pre-eminently cool you feel when placing your groceries in the latest fashionable tote bag supplied by some eco friendly company.
Another reason we should thank Gonz that plastic bags are out is the rubbish collection business. The streets in Paceville are littered with a wide disarray of plastic bags used for rubbish. In the absence of mini bins on wheels in which to deposit such rubbish bags, the random menagerie of assorted bags filled with rubbish is an ugly sight indeed. This is when I become nauseating: In Luxembourg (yep there again) rubbish is always discarded in standard black bags that fit in wheelie bins for rubbish collectors to empty. More than that the blue bags used to collect recyclable plastic are freely available from your local Commune (equivalent of Local Council). In other words just because we are grumpy about the utilities price hike does not mean we should criticise every measure. Actually I believe that plasic bags should, if possible, be eradicated as fast as possible. We should have a law that forces people who turn up at supermarkets without a recyclable bag to wear a Dunce Cap for the rest of the day.
I Wanna Be Like You
As we remain embroiled in budget politics, Barack Obama has started his run in to the White House. I found some very interesting discussions in the international media about whether Europe will ever get its own Obama. Somehow they seem to have overlooked Inhobbkom Joseph and his merry band of followers but on a more serious note it might just be that the Americans will now be having a pretty good laugh at our “backward” politics for a while yet. One interesting spin off of the US elections are the amount of articles examining the defeat of the Republicans. It has, in a way, signaled a defeat of the conservatives and their way of doing politics.
I must point out an excellent article in this respect that appeared in “The Weekly Standard” (www.weeklystandard.com). It is by P.J.O’Rourke and it’s called We Blew It. I will not give you the direct link because there are more numbers in it than in a budget speech (link posted on J’accuse for the search engine inefficient). It is a very thorough analysis of what went wrong in the Republican approach to the elections – by a republican. Look it up and you will immediately understand what I mean. Obama and his new politics aside, this is a brilliant example of what proper political cogitation is about.
That’s What Friends are For
Sine I am lucky enough that this visit coincided with the Malta Book Fair I will definitely be trying to break all overweight records at check-in by paying a visit to the Fair and buying my share of Maltese books. Ex-blogger Guze Stagno has another of his books out. His books are good, by any standard. He can shock because it’s easy to shock. He can speak the contemporary spiel and come out like some avant-garde author of his generation. He can generally make you laugh in a Xtruppaw kind of way. Yep. J’accuse is being a wet blanket here and saying that the guy’s books are good in a Nationalist Party kind of way… lovely, considering the competition.
Which is not to say we don’t enjoy reading Stagno’s stuff. We love it. I’ve read the first bit of Ramon et and it looks like I’m going to like the rest. In a similar vein I have rediscovered a blog that is becoming more and more of a fun read. It’s called Fuq tal’Linja and the blogger’s name is Edward (Dwardu) Grech. Lovely stuff you can enjoy at http://fuq-tal-linja.dwardu.info/. Another blogger back to the blogging circuit after a short leave of absence (short in the cosmic view of things) is Malta’s answer for conservatives and number crunchers. He blogs under the pseudonym Fausto Majistral and can be found at http://malta9thermidor.wordpress.com. Irritating and enjoyable – a stalwart of the Maltese blogosphere (and J’accuse’s moral punchbag).
My Own Home
That’s it for this week’s meanderings from home. Don’t forget to save on the light and water consumption, tie a knot in your hanky that could come in handy next election when you are flooded in MLPN propaganda and thank god that utility bills apart you live on such a busy island with so much going on. I’m off to the Duchy tomorrow… hoping to be back sooner than you think!
This has been j’accuse… not attending the demonstration so you have to.
Jacques has been travelling away from https://jaccuse.wordpress.com most of this week. Thank you all for the birthday comments last week… no trees were harmed in sending out this thank you note.