This article and accompanying toon appear in today’s edition of The Malta Independent on Sunday.
The investigations on the miraculous landing of the United Airlines flight in the river Hudson have just concluded beyond any doubt that the accident was caused by both plane’s engines hitting birds upon take off. With the engines debilitated the experience pilot, Captain Sullenberger, had to think quick and take action in less than a minute. We have all been in situations sometime in our life when panic takes over, the brain goes into overdrive and we try all kind of irrational solutions and say all kind of irrational things. In moments of heightened tension most of us could come up with a load of gibberish at most.
Not Captain Sullenberger. The tapes of his (very short) conversation with the control tower have been released and you would have a hard time believing that this is a Captain flying an engineless plane with his landing options vanishing within 20 seconds of noticing how bad the damage is. There is a part of the conversation that is unforgettable. If there is a prize for quote of the year this one has to win it. It’s the point where the control tower guy is still shooting landingstrip options on both sides of the Hudson (last option is a landing strip in New Jersey). Captian Sully cooly dismisses each option as impossible given the condition of the plane and then informs Mr Control Tower that he may have to land in the Hudson. “Can you repeat that?” is the baffled answer of Control Tower man.. and the last words (thankfully only for the purposes of the conversation) of Captain Sully is “We’ll be in the Hudson”.
All this is spoken in the same tone of voice of a man sleepily ordering his morning frapuccino on his way to work. Captain Sully is either a hero or someone who can develop a quasi-catatonic emotionless state when in the direct line of danger and death. He also must have inadvertently kicked off a new trend of life saving manouevres. The same day that the tapes were released, a private aircraft pilot in Darwin, Australia landed his dual-propeller Piper-Chieftain in the sea thus saving his life and the lives of six passengers. We’ll be in the Hudson, indeed.
Fasten your Seats
There’s some seats that are dearly won and none are more coveted than a seat in a parliament of a modern parliamentary democracy there to represent the people through wise debate and reasonable action. Parliaments have long been the symbol of the strongest check on the executive branch of government and much as we may quibble and dislike the manners of some parliaments to do nothing but disagree, their business it is to do so and the more space for disagreement (reasoned as it may be) the healthier the democracy.
It so befits the executive branch of government (which branch was inherited from or autochthonously created to replace a monarchy) to submit itself and its actions to the scrutiny of the representatives of the people so that the latter may have their say even if such say amounts to nowt more than a “Pooh pooh” here and a “tut tut” there. The performance of an executive throughout the years it enjoys the trust of the people is also examined in the light o its having operated with the leave and grace of the representatives of the people.
Many a monarch in the past has toyed with the representatives of the people and their right to scrutinise, propose and rightly represent. Louis XVI of France summoned what was then an equivalent of parliament and then tried to dismiss it only at his own peril. Charles the First of England also came up with the not too brilliant idea of dissolving parliament when its services were no longer required and they had become an obstruction to the general running of the land as His Majesty had intended. Dissolve the parliament he did, not without some trepidation of course.. he even issued a long-winded letter justifying his action to the people:
“Howsoever Princes are not bound to give Account of their Actions, but to God alone; yet, for the Satisfaction of the Minds and Affections of our loving Subjects, we have thought good to set down thus much by Way of Declaration, that we may appear to the World in the Truth and Sincerity of our Actions, and not in those Colours, in which we know some turbulent and ill-affected Spirits (to masque and disguise their wicked Intentions, dangerous to the State) would represent us to the publick View.”
Alas for the purveyors of modern government there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of ill-affected Spirits who would love to represent today’s government in a very uglie publick View. We might not end up with beheaded monarchs but the charade of motions and countermotions that were witnessed in parliament over the last weeks do show us the contempt for parliamentary dignity that government seems to hold. The debates and votes in parliament are strongly conditioned by number of parliamentarians. The machinations and philandering of past electoral bouillabaisses still have not sufficed to allow today’s governments to govern with absolute serenity.
You see they still rely on the “pairing” which is another way to say – you can debate all you like but in the end there will always be one more of our block voting selves than you so we can pass all the laws we like. They could still rely on pairing until Inhobbkom Joseph uttered the words “Forget Pairing”. That was because the nats had decided they could not wait any longer and they would condense the business of voting in Parliament to Wednesdays. They did this for pairing, they did it to avoid uncomfortable Private Members’ Bills, they did this to simplify that tedious process of having to risk losing a vote that could be passed anyway if only everyone obeyed the rules and voted only when there were more nationalist minded beings in the house.
Ah. Those bastions of liberal democracy & christian fanaticism rolled into one provoked a former leader to yell “fascist”. Well, judging by previous outbursts of the man I ‘d say he probably shrieked. His was dramatic hyperbole but there is much to be said about this nonchalant dismissal of most of the tools of parliament. This is an executive that stands on two weak feet and is tormented by the whiff of rebellion within its parliamentary ranks. No I am not confusing branches of state, the PLPN have gotten us used to the executive/parliamentary mix ages ago. What the nationalists want is to be able to follow Sun Tzu in his advice in the art of War: Do not wage a war that you know you can lose. Unfortunately this is not a war but the business of parliament…. and sometimes risking losing a vote is much more democratic than stretching the limits of parliamentary representation to oblivion.
In Flight Entertainment
The race to the other parliament of interest has long started. We have had a few interesting debates that still centre mostly around the Nationalist Party’s green credentials. I was going to print out the proposed National Policy on Climate Change for my weekend reading until I noticed that at 239 pages that would turn my ecoprint into that of a bigfoot. Early indications show that while the Labour Party will continue to blow its own trumpet about the “brilliant quality” of its candidates, most of the Nationalist strategy involves rubbishing the Greens and attempting to take over the green agenda. The Greens’ knee-jerk reaction will be crucial at this early stage – criticise the NP too much and they are labelled Labourite friends, react too little and get smothered by the Nationalistspeak.
Meanwhile Johnny Public who is really the one needing representation here is left to swim in a mire of propaganda trying to decipher which candidate best suits his needs. Thank God for blogs and bloggers then. Allow me to redirect you to http://themaltachronicle.wordpress.com in the hope that you will not only enjoy the reading but also try to contribute yourselves. Later in the day we intend to start asking questions of people who count (or who think they do). One item that was in the limelight this week insofar as the EP elections were concerned were the fringe parties. John Zammit’s ALD, Emmy Bezzina’s Alpha and the National Alliance all hit the (blogging) headlines for various reasons.
Even Stormin’ Normal is trying to get his walking stick back in the race by taking his case up to the Constitutional court. Spiridione Sant and tal-Farfett passed away to pastures new but they have found their rightful heirs in the hodge-podge of liberals who are peppering the net with videos that are worth an hour of two of entertainment. There’s the inimitable Jean-Pierre Sammut who splits his time between Mintoff like speeches to empty chairs and baffled European Liberal representations and selling his latest invention online. As if the PLPN Circus act were not enough we have the fringe entertainers. Really… you can never get bored.
I have posted an interesting ‘rough’ documentary that discusses Malta’s outlook on abortion and divorce (why do these two completely unrelated subjects get lumped together? … it’s the freak show parties that do it that’s why). I intentionally did not comment on it myself, preferring to see the different perspectives of different minded readers. It speaks volumes, not simply about the topics themselves but about the way Maltese (pundits, and freak show movements included) perceive others and themselves on this topic. Whatever happens I do hope Emmy Bezzina and John Zammit go a long way… not vote wise of course.. but we do need a pause from taking ourselves too seriously every now and again.
Someone who takes himself too seriously is violinist, lawyer and TV presenter Joe Chetcuti. Somebody ought to tell him, and if the guy has no real friends who will do so then might as well be a passing acquaintance like myself. The video of Violin Joe performing “Kamikaze Lover” for the next Eurosong is fast becoming an internet viral. The presentation is horrible, the music sucks and the lyrics… well the lyrics are hopeless. It’s beyond trash – it’s beyond unprofessional… and as far as I am concerned the saddest thing of it all is Violin Joseph’s belief that he is the bee’s knees. No way Joe. Get out of it before it’s too late… unfortunately it might already be.
Joseph, Emmy, John Zammit, and i could add more… they are all products of the sieveless society based around that great theory of maltese relativism. It’s no secret that over 95% of the people in entertainment or politics have no place there. But they soldier on, firm in the belief that people love them and adore them. Oh of course some do. Which does not justify their existence but makes it all the sadder. We prefer freak shows to talent, we prefer voyeurism over cultured appreciation and we like to be told what is good by the merchants of kitsch, bad taste and ignorance that have long monopolised our lives.
Which is why we generally tend to get what we deserve. Why we can agree with a columnist saying a Parliamentary Secretary is not responsible for his brother’s actions, and then also agree with the same columnist a few months down the line when she says that a Minister is an achilles heel to his party because of his brother’s actions. Why we will vote for candidates who claim to be green when they run for elections in the name of a party that has little to show in green credentials. It is why setting up a popular blog like J’accuse on a new site costs me €20 plus €6 a month while it costs a local union €65,000 in eurofunds to set up a similar blog without as much as a reasonable post therein (thanks Fausto for the tip).
When the birds hit the engines and cut them out, some passengers will scream and some people will panic, some people will yell that they are far from the runway. We like to think that among us there are still some people who stand out from the mad, irrational crowd…. we like to think that we could stand beside them and say… come look for us… we’ll be in the Hudson.
Jacques is test driving his new site at http://www.jacquesrenezammit.com/jaccuse/ … posts are not as frequent yet but he would appreciate your comments. Thanks to Karl Agius, Sandro Vella and LL for the tips and early feedback.