J’accuse: Everything but the truth


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

The truth is incontrovertible.
That’s two “truths” in the first two titles. Quite a heavy start I would say. Of course they are not really “truths” but two instances of the word “truth” that is of itself a combination of letters that we use to label the idea we have in our head – the concept we call “truth”. There is truth in the following statement: “You know you are growing old when you prefer VH1 classics than VH1’s Pop Music Weekend”. There is no instance of the word “truth” in that sentence but on the other hand you do get the nagging unfortunate feeling of helplessness that results from the fact that the sentence is a description of a true situation. But let’s get on with it… more about nonsensical philosophy later…

Panic may resent it.
It’s been a week of leaks hasn’t it? I mean I could hardly resist the whole business of puns regarding the vegetable affectionately known to those of a scientific disposition as Allium porrum. Those of no such disposition whatsoever tend to call it a “leek” and we tend to translate that to Kurrat in Maltese … which is not entirely right because the kurrat (Allium Ampeloprasum) is actually an Egyptian cousin of the leek. In any case, what we had is a Leekgate of rather gargantuan proportions – one of the heavy smelling, long lasting odour variety.

Basically, without putting too fine a point on it, the source of all the panic was the fact that intelligentsia from the MLPN ranks were busy accusing each other of fiddling, pirating and dealing in information that should never have been in their hands. There they were hanging their linen in public – not theirs really, that of the other side, but seeing that they mutually reciprocated in an effort towards Mutual Assured Destruction of the partisan kind we got to see everything but the frilly knickers that Austin Gatt must keep for special occasions.

The charade was imposing. Labourites indignant at the handling of MITTSGate by the government. Government MPs replying in no uncertain terms that Labour trafficked in information governmental on a daily basis. Then Pawlu ta’ Valletta’s email to the government departments urging them to share citizen information with that liberal party of his rose to the surface like that metaphorical faeces nonchalantly deposited underwater. The battle spilled into the ether and apologists on both sides rose to the occasion and unearthed Alfred Sant’s violation of corporate secrecy the day he tabled a list of passengers who flew to Malta to vote courtesy of a subsidy from the Republic’s coffers.

Before you knew it Karin Grech and Raymond Caruana where thrown in for good measure.Yes I know that the two poor souls had nothing to do with this data violation mess but they are two names that come up in the slinging match when there is no real answer that can justify the piggy-doings (hnizrijiet or as the French would say cochonneries) our two great parties are capable of conjuring when they really do not put their mind to it. We’re a sad nation when it comes to that. The right expression in these circumstances is “we cannot see the wood for the trees”.

Ignorance may deride it.
You see the problem to weird individuals like myself is not whether Austin is right or Joseph is wrong. The problem, is that this kind of discussion between the two behemoths of our political landscape always departs from the premise that it is normal for a political party to meddle with the kind of information that in any democracy worth its demos would be considered private. We are busy discussing over a pastizz and tea whether it is more acceptable for Paul to have his very own list of complainants to government (customer care PN style) than for Alfred to poke his nose around lists of voters flying in from abroad to exercise their right (some voters are worth more than others MLP style). We ignore the main point of it all. It’s not their bloody business.

Unfortunately we have been rendered immune to such thinking. We take it for granted that both the PN and MLP (and for all I know AD) do their utmost to keep databases of information about you and me. Those very same databases that come in handy on election day to torture you with that non-sensical phone call loaded with non-sequiturs: “Sir, we are calling to tell you that you have not voted yet”. They want to know so much about you and me. They want to know why you are angry with the government, why you cannot stand the opposition and most of all who you plan to vote for come E-day.

How can you blame columnists for almost condoning PBO and his email? It’s run of the mill political party work. He’s a decent chap he is. I know that. PBO is my friend. Which is why I am all the more pissed off at such ridiculous blurring of party and governmental lines. The thing is we cannot be surprised. We let them get used to this modus operandi. They do not give a rodent’s rectum about your right to privacy – they have shown it time and again – just look at the exceptions to the Data Protection Laws. It’s part of the same… you can choose so long as it is between PN or MLP, you have a right to privacy but it does not count as far as MLPN are concerned and if you are thinking that it’s all one sad big joke just remember one thing… the joke’s on you!

Malice may distort it
My Flesch-Kincaid grade level has gone down because of the last few long-winded sentence (like you care). Now there’s some truths to be told about language. Our language. I did visit the Book Fair as announced last week. There’s hope yet. More and more books are being published in Maltese and the book fair was a good indication of this. I did have the feeling that the Book Fair was much smaller than it used to be in previous years. Is there a commercial reason? No incentive? What? I stocked up on Stagno, as expected.

Flying and busing it back to Luxembourg I got to read Guze’s first and last works. Ramon u z-Zerbinotti turned out to be rather disappointing. It’s loaded with cliches and if you really have no time to read the full monty just read the blurb on the back cover and you have the whole story in a nutshell. Basically there is no real story but a long excuse to picture stereotype upon stereotype in an amusing (but boring after a while) manner. I suspect that Guze is playing too much for the masses.

The reason for my suspicion is that on the second leg of my trip I read his first book “Inbid ta’ Kuljum” and it rocks. It bites because its stereotypes are real and its characters flesh and blood. Its mood is tangible… which is to say that you could find yourself in quite a depression by the time you turn the last page. More of that please Guze – and leave the sensationalism to the politicians will you?

Then there was this book called Alte Vestiga by Austin Sammut. It has had quite an aggressive advertising campaign in black and white in the kind of design you would find in 60’s gentlemen’s magazines sandwiched between Haig Whisky and Punt e Mes Adverts. I did not buy the book. How could I? The bloke got four reviews by four gentlemen of the highest intellectual quality. I have a theory of how they wrote the blurbs – they must have chewed on a couple of pages of some complicated philosophy tome and then proceeded to regurgitate randomly onto a page. Frankly I could not make head or tail what they were on about.

Here’s Serracino Inglott: “How can one analyse the concept of ‘eternal recurrence’ underlying Anton Sammut’s novel without taking note of the fact that the structure itself of the novel is precisely a transcription of this concept? ” How indeed? Or take Oliver Friggieri: “In the formation of his “summa” the author submits all to the dimension of eternity…”. Never were the words ignorance and bliss more happily coupled. Good luck to anyone braving the book. I gave up after the blurb.

But there it is.
A brighter note regarding our vernacular landed on my desk at the Court of Justice earlier this week. There is finally a Maltese version of the Recueil – the printed collection of decisions of the Luxembourg court that is available in all languages. It’s lovely and will fill every Maltese heart with pride. Every language version has its colour code; for example the Italian is green, French is blue and English is purple. Being male I am unable to describe the colour of the Maltese version (I’d stick my neck out and say a palish cream bordering on the yellow in certain light) but I already think it is the coolest and most sober of them all. I can’t wait to be able to replace my current English and French collections with the Maltese one – even if I know that I will forever be frustrated by that ridiculous translation of Grande Chambre (Grand Chamber) to Awla Manja.

The Welsh too are celebrating. For the first time their language has been used in Council meetings. We will continue to hear from the naysayers who will repeat the usual cluck-clucking of “waste of money” and “one language is enough” but there is no denying that Project Europe is helping the cause of languages in its own way.

It’s been a relatively quiet week on the whole. The words “economic crisis” have been used sparingly though signs of more cracks are still evident. We may have fooled ourselves that the worst was past when the price of the oil barrel returned to more decent levels but there are signs that more trouble lies ahead. Mr Darling is preparing a sort of plan to deal with renegade banks in the UK. In the US the three major car manufacturing firms are facing armageddon. That’s ugly enough. What could be uglier is the European governments tempted to prop up their car manufacturing companies in order to weather the storm.

The international economic order is one of those temporary truths. We had got used to the free market and laissez-fairism. The state had retreated from being a main protagonist in markets and this retreat had occurred at quite a steady pace over the last 20 years. It’s all back to square one now. The states own most banks and they definitely plan to interfere in the economy for a while yet. It’s just the right time to reform Common Agricultural Policy. The truth of the world economic order is shifting shape. It has proven to be transient yet again.

A more steady truth is the arrival of that plonk in nice packaging every November. The Beaujolais Nouveau is back. It’s nothing special – just a good excuse to sip on some wine with friends (if you really needed it). Other truths keep on being reaffirmed – a woman has lost her handbag (in space), Brasil played football like gods (against Portugal), England think they are the best because they beat Germany in a friendly and hopefully by the time you read this article Juve will be perched on top of Serie A having caught up with scudettodicarta.

One last note. The subtitles of this article make up one full quote. It’s a Churchill quote of course. Hope you enjoy it… as the jewish saying goes… the truth… if I lie!

This has been j’accuse… speaking about the truth, so you don’t have to!

Jacques has been discussing data protection on https://jaccuse.wordpress.com. Why not come and eavesdrop on the discussion?


19 responses to “J’accuse: Everything but the truth

  1. Pingback: Is it an earthquake « Malta, 9 Thermidor

  2. Come to think of it, I should have stolen this subtitle!

    Good stuff!

  3. Pingback: Let’s talk MLPN, shall we? « Malta, 9 Thermidor

  4. It seems that Fausto sees nothing wrong in availing hmself of the freedom of Jacque’s blog while denying the same facility to others on his.
    I posted this comment on his blog:

    “The comparison between the Raymond Caruana and Karin Grech incidents is as invalid as the comparison between PBO’s order to ministers to supply info to the PN and Sant’s tabling of a list of people who benfited from public funds.

    Raymond Caruana was killed by a shot fired at a closed door which ricochetted off a wall and hit him. It was an act of vandalism which had tragic results. The case of Karin Grech, on the other hand, was deliberate, premeditated murder.

    Sant was perfectly entitled to demand explanations about people who benefited from public funds, how and why. PBO had no right to order ministers to provide personal data. Besides, the purpose for which the data was required are obscure and surely bode no go for those involved.”

    He decided to delete the first two paragraphs and only allow the third. It seems that, like his friend Daphne, he only wants to hear what he wants to hear.

  5. Fausto Majistral

    That’s right Ettore, at Thermidor irrelevancies get edited out. And unless you have a very smart argument to the contrary the murders of Karin Grech and Raymond Caruana have nothing to do with data security.

    Jacques’ comment policy is his business. Whatever he decides it to be has no implication on my comments policy. There’s no causality in the opposite direction either, of course.

  6. I think it was very foolish of you dismissing Austin (sic) Sammut’s novel without even reading it.

    Besides, I see nothing “nonsensical” with those blurbs. They’re just elementary observations vis-à-vis Nietzsche’s philosophy of history. If “you could not make head nor tail what they were on about”, I’m afraid your knowledge of philosophy must be awfully scant.

    In any case, that’s not the way one should evaluate a philosophical novel. I feel your comments were a shame, really.

    I strongly urge all philosophiles to buy Anton Sammut’s book. Much as I diverge from his views, I hold Sammut as one of the brightest philosophical minds of his generation.

    And no, his is not some university lecturer of philosophy…. he works at he shipyards.

  7. What is a shame Kevin is that what with all the “philosophile” readings you might have missed the basic concept of what a blurb is about.

    A blurb is about telling a reader (hopefully interesting him) what there is in the book. As an ignorant reader interested in frontiers new… I read the blurb. It did not tickle any interest.

    Shame. I might have been illuminated by the content had some phlilosophile wankellectual not deemed it fit to put me off by filling the cover with undecipherable claptrap.

    Shame indeed.

  8. Jiena ma qrajtx il-ktieb – u lanqas mhu ha nixtrih. Dawk il-blurbs ma jifihmom hadd. Kieku ried jattira n-nies missu qabad lil Ira Losco tghid kemm hu ktieb tal-genn u mhux erba minn nies li ma jinftiehmux

  9. I guess you know very well that each discipline has its own language and jargon. Most of your posts contain language that is hardly intelligible for the politically apathetic individual. But that doesn’t mean it’s “claptrap”.

    Those blurbs were perfectly adequate for that type of novel. It’s a philosophical novel written by a self-taught philosopher for a philosophical audience. Same goes for the reviews. What did you expect: “dar-rumanz cool?”

    Since you found the blurbs “undecipherable” and repugnant, I guess that perhaps you don’t belong to that audience, in which case it would be pointless evaluating it. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing, but why you deemed it fit to dismiss it like that it’s beyond me. I think that such remarks were uncalled for.

    If I had to review that novel, my take on its philosophical underpinnings wouldn’t be exactly sympathetic. I’m at odds with his fatalist historicism – we have been disputing this for almost a decade. Having said that, I can’t help congratulating him for producing such a singular brainchild.

    In any case, no personal offence was intended. I just consider those comments as disrespectful, especially towards the Maltese philosophical community.

  10. Jiena qrajt il-ktieb alte vestiga ta Anton Sammut,u ghalkemm la nqis ruhi bhala filosfu u laqas wiehed attirat mill-massa,pero nahseb li qieghdin tkunu naqa blind judgemental.
    Min dan kollu li qed tghidu ma hemm xejn,pjuttost flok noqoghdu nikritikaw li ahna l-Maltin ma ahna kapaci noholqu xejn u ma ghandniex sens ta intellett, jew inkella dejjem nghidu li hlief kotba medjokri u ripettitivi ma noholqux, wiehed ghandu aktar japprezza l-fatt li dan l-awtur flok qaghad gallarija bhal min generalment ihobb jakkuza, indenja ruhu li l-gherf li kellu f’mohhu rnexxielu jaqsmu ma kullhad bl-aktar mod semplici u umli

    Jekk miniex sejjer zball laqas biss launching tal- ktieb ma sar al kuntlarju ta hafna psewdo umli, ghalkemm hija xi haga ovvja li kellu jaghmel xi forma ta pubblicita biex il-ktieb isir maghruf b’xi mod.

    Il-kobor ta l-awtur u ta l-opra genjali li holoq, qieghda li min jahseb li fid-dinja jaf xi haga aktar minn hadiehor malajr jinduna kemm ghadu riekeb il bastiment tal port mentali tieghu.
    Ghal min haseb li l-kritici letterarji qabdu u hadu ftit spunti biex jehilsu hafif ,nixtieqkom taraw Is-Sunday Times 16/11/08 fil-pagna 13 fejn hemm l-artiklu ta’ Fr Peter Serracino Inglott bl-isem Three horror stories (nispera li did darba taqraw l-artiklu qabel ma tiggudikaw!!!!).

    Isma ftit minni ixtrih u aqrah ,ghandu mnejn titaghllem xi haga zajra u tinduna li dak li jidher tqil ghandu mnejn ikun semplici hafna aktar min kemm taqbad u taghlaq il-ktieb 🙂

  11. Madonna che palle. Lil psewdo wankers intelletwalli kollha li kitbu hawn fuq. Il-qoxra tal-ktieb ma jattira lil hadd hlief forsi lil dawk li kitbu dik l-indigestjoni verbali fuq wara. U dan mhux qed nghidu ghax inrid inmaqdar jew ghax m’ghandix demm Malti jbaqbaq go fija, imma ghax il-verita. Forsi l-awtur jifhem fil-filosofija imma ma jifihmx sahhta fil-marketing. Issa jekk irid joqghod jaghmilha ta wiehed li mhux kummercjali u jara l-popolin zibel ghax ma jridux jixtru jew jaqraw ktieb b’qoxra bhal dik, jaghmel hu.

  12. Fdal kaz tarmix perli fhalq il hnizer ax flok lgrazzi jikluwom u ……!!!!! keep it up issa haqu jijgi best seller maz zmien u tibda tmur andu al private lessons tal marketing!!

  13. Jien wiehed min dawk il-‘Kuragguzi’ li qrajt l-‘alte vestiga’ ta’ Anton Sammut. Meta qrajt x’qalu l-professuri fuq wara tal-ktieb flok ‘bzajt’ aktar hadt interess u t-tieni pass kien li ftaht il-ktieb u bdejt naqra minnu halli nara l-kontenut tieghu fiex jikkonsisti. Irrealizzajt li mhux kif kont qieghed nahseb jien, jigifieri li hu xi trattat filosofiku kumplikat u li jinftiehem biss minn dawk li ghandhom Dottorat fil-filosofija. Personalment nemmen li huwa Opra letterarja. Nissuggerih lil dawk li jixtiequ jiskopru min huma.

    Ma nistax nifhem kif kritiku ‘professjonali’ tal-kotba jigi ntimidat intelletwalment minhabba li fuq il-qoxra ta’ wara tal-ktieb hemm tlitt (mhux erbgha!) professuri li kitbu kritika letterarja fuqhu. Huma proprju dawn li jattiraw lil kritiku biex jaqra l-ktieb u jespandi l-orizzonti ntelletwali tieghu.

    Li xi kultant teghleb il-biza u l-pregudizzju fuq xi haga (f’dan il-kaz fuq Opra Letterarja) isservi lil bniedem biex il-quddiem f’hajtu meta jiltaqa ma xi haga li ‘tbezzghu’ jitaghllem jaccetta l-isfida u jaffronta b’kuragg u mhux jahrab u jiggustifika ruhu b’xi skuza medjokri.

    Wara kollox Kotba genjali kollha ghaddew mill-istess process ”hekk imsejjah uman”. Bizzejjed inharsu lejn L-Ulisse ta’ James Joyce u ohrajn…

    Il-bqija al ciascuno il suo

  14. carmen caruana

    erm….. hawn xi hadd normali hawn li qara dan il-ktieb u m’ghogbux????
    kif tistaw tigudikaw ktieb mill-qoxra???….jekk ma tifhmux un cazz mill-filosofija aqbdu u tixtru xejn, morru aqraw xi tom and kate tal-primarja imma nies intelligenti li johorgu ktieb bil-bajd haluhom bi kwietom jew ghall-inqas igudikawom fuq xoghlom mhux fuq il-faccata -_-
    Ha ntikom ezempju semplici ghax ijskom affarijiet semplici tifhmu…..ma tistax tivvota lil partit jekk ma tafx x’qed jiproponi u ma tistax tivvota lil partit ghax il-kap simpatiku u l-istess dan il-ktieb huti, aqrawh umbad igudikawh!!
    Jien la naqrah nigi nghidilkom l-opinjoni tieghi …..sa dak iz-zmien la nista nfahru u wisq anqas nikritikah!!!!

  15. carmen caruana

    btw indunajt li igudikajt il-ktieb bhala ktieb bil-bajd, ma kellix nigudikah imma nsejt ghal mument…….
    (tidefendi ktieb minn nies li qatt ma qrawh thalli certa pressjoni)

  16. Fausto Majistral

    In-nies superficjali biss ma jaghtux kaz l-apparenzi. Kieku jien kont Jacques l-istess kont naghmel ghax ktieb li l-“importanza” tieghu trid tigi mwiezna mill-kummenti ta’ tlitt professuri ma tantx jipprometti.

    U Ricky, qed thallas il-hass mal-bass, il-perli mal-biskuttini, il-hniezer mal-hmir u l-halq mar-riglejn:

    “La xxerridx gawhar qalb il-qzieqez ghax kulma jaghmlu jirfsuhom taht riglejhom”

  17. Fausto Majistral,champion int keep it up, u ibqa igudika mil kummenti ta nies. Kieku konna 2000 sena ilu probabli intom kontu tkunu min dawk l uhud bravi li tehilsu l barabba flok l kristu halli ma tkunux superficjali,bouna notte u sogni d’oro.

  18. carmen caruana

    @ Fausto Majistral
    So a stupid comment written in about 2min (that by the way was intentional) got your attention and critized me on the bases of what I wrote while a book forwarded by Prof.Serracino Inglott, Prof. Kenneth Wain and Prof. Oliver Friggieri got your attack on the bases of the cover.
    That’s what I call shame!!!

  19. Mhux ahjar taqrawh il-ktieb l-ewwel gejjien b`dawn l-iskuzi kollha.Biex tohloq xi forma ta`Konkluzzjoni jew gudizzju fuq ktieb li tant fih xoghol mirqum b`mizien intelletwali biex jinftihem minn kulhadd, irrid ikun hemm bidu mhux konkluzzjoni minghajr bidu.
    Ejjew inkunu oggettivi bir-rispett kollu dejjem irridu naraw x`insibu biex niggustifikaw lilna nfusna.
    Ghax biex tieqaf hekk hesrem fuq il-qoxra u l-kitbiet tal-proffesuri biss qisek qed go metro tistenna t-train tara,tieqaf,titlaq u ma tirkibha qatt.
    Nkunu Onesti ghax aktar facli naqbdu u nikritikaw specjalment fuq ktieb li ma nkunux ktibnieh ahna mhux ghax ma naqbilx ma kritika imma jekk taghmel dan almenu aghtiha ftit sustanza u kostruzzjoni mhux ccallas kitba biex nghidu ktibna xi haga.
    Nawguralek Anton Sammut veru ghamilt xoghol ta`valur inprezzabli li zgur huwa u jibqa`
    wiehed mill-aqwa Opri letterarji ta`dawn iz-zminijiet.
    Ma nbena qatt Munument ghall-kritici,imma ghall-dawk li Verament huma puri f`qalbhom u taw kontribut lil Umanita`
    Grazzi Hafna.

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