Occasionally a landmark speech turns up in the House of Commons. Ken Clarke’s speech during the Brexit debate on the 31st of January is one of those. A lesson in democracy, representation and history it is a breath of fresh air in a world of fake news and alternative facts. Sadly it seems like politicians like Clarke are a dying breed.
The self-imposed hiatus is still on for akkuza.com. I managed to go through December resisting the temptation to type many a post. 2017 promises to be an even harder time for blogs of this type that exist in the limbo of old-fashioned punditry resisting all types of clickbait-inspired metamorphoses. In this limbo we look around at the newly formed constellation made up of “fake truths”, “hyperreal information overload”, leaks and counterleaks, big brother propaganda and social media madness. Like the italian songwriter we are constantly in search of a permanent center of gravity – deceiving ourselves with the notion that change only happens to others.
Maltese politics is still firmly planted in the parroting phase – wherever you look – there is nothing that has not been done somewhere else before. Opportunism is disguised as cynical realism as the last bastion of democracy seems to have abdicated his role. In case you are wondering who that is then stop doing so. Just look at the mirror. It is you. You can sense the general feeling of resignation that has overwhelmed the public in general. No podemos. No we can not. Obama is gone, the British are fleeing the ship that we don’t understand and the alternatives to government seem hopelessly in disarray. In the land of the one-eyed men that is mired in scandals, shit and hypocrisy the self-appointed “influencers” toy with their amateur analysis and play around with leak and counterleaks provided by that part of the population who are only to happy to feed the circus animals more fodder.
There is no plan though. No big idea to step out of this zombie producing mediocrity. This blog had long warned that we were heading to the bottom. We are now living the life at the bottom of the barrel. Everything stinks. No matter where you look and no matter who you turn to.
I spent December and part of January binge watching Romanzo Criminale and Gomorra (series in both cases, not the movie). Romanzo Criminale is an ideal place where to begin looking at and understanding the complex web of dependencies between the “powers” that run this earth – from politicians, to spiritual leaders, to the police and secret services, to the sports world, to speculators and businessmen. All through our lifetimes we lived the illusion that we were building a free world – an open society of liberal democracies based on the rule of law. Fiction based partially on fact shows us that instead we were living an illusion. The powers that be will not let go of their stranglehold easily – and we can cry about the environment, about poverty, about social and economic rights till we turn blue. The truth is that somewhere out there there is someone plotting the next coup, the next “roadmap” that will line the pockets of the few and will con the eternally duped for another few years.
“Tutti l’agnelli se fanno lupi quanno vedono du quatrini”
The Authorities (capital A) have decided that the status known as Temporary Humanitarian Protection N(ew) – THPn in short – will no longer be renewed for what seems to be hundreds of migrants living in Malta. You may have seen stories in the press by now about Malta-born kids to Eritrean families who face imminent deportation thanks to such a decision. It does not matter whether these families are gainfully occupied, whether they are fully-paid up on their taxes and whether they have somehow integrated into our way of living – none of the above matters – they will not have their THPn renewed and this will mean their being sent back wherever they came from (if possible).
Prime Minister Muscat is quoted as having said that “We would have no credibility with the EU if, after we have been insisting so much on the country not being able to take in immigrants, we fail to repatriate immigrants who have been found to be here illegally.” It’s a matter of credibility then. There is already a bit of a fallacy there since the issue of legality had been dealt with pretty superbly under national sovereign law with the creation of this TPHn system – it is now, and only now, that the labour government has decided to change this state of affairs in line of the winds of change propelling the likes of Trump to the seat of power. Also, after all, the nation holding the rotating presidency of the EU must lead by example no?
There is a deeper issue at play here though. This is not your normal immigrant/refugee situation that falls under the black and white category of whether a nation is willing to take on the “burden” of life saving. The deeper issue is the value that we attach to humans – the human value – in our political field. If these were just souls wandering in on a dinghy and waiting the cynical sorting that goes on in such situations it would be a “simple” immigration issue. Instead we have discovered that these carriers of THPn permits might run into the hundreds (a very conservative estimate would be around 600). Most of them have settled in one way or another and are earning their bread in gainful employment
Suddenly the mass deportation of a substantial figure of Malta’s working population has direct consequences on the economic market. The more cynical among us might not have batted an eyelid when it came to deporting individuals straight off their dinghies of death. Instead we saw genuine concern by employers of these people who are set to live in a short limbo of uncertainty that will culminate in a loss of employees. This is not some trumped up figure of record unemployment thanks to an incucio between the GWU and government magicking thousands off the record books. These are real employments that risk being wiped off the fragile Maltese markets – and funnily enough it might finally give Maltese society as a whole a reason to care.
This news comes at a time when the Nationalist Party is trying hard to attract what we used to call SME’s to the fold with new taxation incentives – for those who behave a 10% tax. Numbers and money all seem nice as the PN and the PL vie for the title of champion of the businessman. With the party in government selling off anything they can get their hands on, the PN opted to champion the middle ground in business terms and good for it.
What happens now though when the two parties notice that this move of cutting out completely the holders of the THPn will end up with a huge gap in the employment market that will not and cannot be easily replaced? Will we finally see some value in the humans that they are because they can be quantified as real contributors to the economy? Will we be cynical enough to take a step back (in the case of government) or champion their cause (in the case of the opposition)? Or are the winds of Le Pen, Trump and Geert Wilders too strong for comfort?
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On the day that Labour’s former deputy leader Toni Abela and former Gozo party president Grazio Mercieca joined the judiciary, Chief Justice Silvio Camilleri warned against bashing and ridiculing judges and magistrates. There is no doubt that the judiciary is not a sector of society that should be basking in permanent ridicule or “bashing”, if anything the judiciary should be deserving of the utmost respect what with its being one of the main pillars of a modern liberal democracy. That the Chief Justice would parry any bashing and ridiculing in advance goes a long way to show the state of the judiciary today notwithstanding the much vaunted reforms that, according to the claims of many paladins of democracy, are supposed to have made judicial appointments a much more transparent and balanced exercise.
The problem though is that one cannot expect from a government that has not got the least respect for the concept of meritocracy to suddenly change its tune when it comes to a particular branch of appointments. Worse still these appointments might be asked to hold that very government accountable in the near future and we all know the allergy that this government has for accountability. Maybe, just maybe, the Chief Justice’s appeal not to further ridicule the judiciary was a subtle plea to the government itself to stop the tomfoolery of blatantly biased appointments.
Franco Debono may end up copy pasting endless links to his Quixotic exercise of “pushing in a reform against all odds” but the sad truth is that the patchwork set of changes have not in any way changed the way such appointments are made and the interests that are underwritten in this sense.
“Ridiculing” and “bashing” the courts is one way of putting it. Another would have been to ask the press to renege on its duty to highlight the anomalies and conflicts of interest that are being served here. It would take a Donald Trump to ask a drama troupe to refrain from “offending” a vice-President with their opinion… I am quite sure that Chief Justice Camilleri would have none of that.
Donald Trump is set to revolutionize the balance in the US Supreme Court thanks to the next nominations. It is part of the way the US Constitution is set and a consequence of the liberal vs conservative divide. The “jerrymandering” of the judicial balance in Malta is not a constitutional requirement but rather the abuse of an anomaly that has not been corrected. In fact it goes against the very spirit of the constitution.
Asked to comment on Trump’s recent victory, comedian John Stewart made a fair point when he stated that one point that struck him during the election was that no one had asked Trump what was needed to “Make America Great” again. We don’t have the “metrics” to measure how Trump will achieve this greatness because we were never told what was missing for the “Greatness” to be there. It’s not just a question of metrics it is also a matter of not knowing what to aspire for. Make America Great sounds like a great project and to participate in that project would be an inspiration for every citizen ideally. Is it though?
Back in Malta I noticed a post on facebook by a professional graphic designer named Corinne Cutajar. Here is what she had to say about the logo adopted by Malta for its period of EU Presidency:
Waking up to this… don’t know whether to feel amused or pissed off for having my logo (right) copied. Last year I got hardly any exposure for my work and yesterday this student’s copy was blown out of proportion! #goodriddance
Yep. It’s quite a blatant rip-off. This from the government that is supposedly all about artists and their freedoms and development. Let us not forget the high rise tax that is supposed to be channeled to a fund for artists or something of the sort. Malta’s government and its Minister of Culture who is somehow obsessed with fantasy novels are desperate to Make Artists Great again. If you want to get a finger on the pulse of what people really are bred to think about artists and compensating their efforts then look no further than this article on Illum where a hairdresser complains about the annual fee that he has to pay to the Performing Rights Society in order to play music in his salon.
The Hamilton business was also an interesting turn in the first days post-Trump’s election. By now we have all heard of the drama troupe that decided to take advantage of the presence of Trump’s VP-elect in the auditorium to read out a sort of liberal declaration reminding Pence of the diversity of the electorate and of the hope that no body will be left behind when making America great again. I must admit that I do find it ironic that the message in the theatre piece is not enough and that a troupe has to hijack the audience after the curtain falls in order to add a bit of its own drama full of bourgeois menace. At the same time the reaction by Trump and his supporters is outright ludicrous – surely VP Pence is made of sturdier stuff than one that wilts when confronted with a different message than his own.
Only this morning we got reports that Trump has backed out of an interview with the New York Times because he does not like the way they report him. Very un-presidential. Our very own Trump-at-home and his minions are making it a habit of engineering press conferences and tailor-made Q&A’s in order to be in a position of answering only the questions he/they like/s. The difference is that the veil on Making Malta Great has long fallen. We are now in the phase where the masks are thrown and the only inspiration left is the jobs for the boys, the few lies that still fall on fertile ground and the ever-widening ‘establishment’ that is none other than the circles of beneficiaries of the decisions of a government that is the antithesis of greatness, of meritocracy and of decency.
FIFA, the world football organisation, is set to fine the English and Scottish FA if they go ahead as planned and wear football gears emblazoned with the poppy in tomorrow’s World Cup Qualifier. The problem is not that England and Scotland will wear the poppy on their gear during the football match. The problem is that all the other countries won’t.
“Lest we forget” is not an exaltation of war heroes it is a timely annual remembrance of the follies that the whole world descends into on an all too regular basis. Rather than fining the English and Scottish FA’s for wanting to wear the symbol despite the sanctions, FIFA should be using its world stage to encourage ALL countries to wear signs of remembrance.
Because yes, we do forget. Too often. Too quickly.