Steel at the Orpheum
That night at the Orpheum Joseph Muscat had gathered the party diehards into a mental and physical fortress. The theatre named after a Greek mythical figure who had ended up dealing with the god of the underworld had a talismanic hold on the hardcore labourites. This was Macina-style territory where the sun of the dear departed leader Dom Mintoff had shone many a time in order to rally the troops with the feel good invincible rays factor.
All this was sorely needed after Labour had taken a not so metaphorical bashing with the forced dismissal of Michael Falzon – the latest in a series of cabinet casualties. The whole Labour philosophy – an elaborate web of promises about meritocracy, transparency and collective wealth – was once again in danger of being uncovered as being the web of lies that it really is turning out to be.
So Muscat needed to rally the troops. Morale would inevitably have been down. Even the most blinkered of diehards and flag-waving troopers could have sniffed the new bombs of insecurity that were beginning to weaken the bastions of blind faith that had been so patiently constructed throughout the Taghna Lkoll election campaign. During that campaign Michael Falzon had famously (and weirdly for that campaign we could also say incongruously) let out his “Fejn huma l-iljuni?” (Where are the Lions?) speech. Montekristo they all answered – not really. This time Falzon was part of the problem. How best to solve it?
Well. Magritte came to the rescue. Muscat chose to inject a botox-cannon of talismanic fervour to the flaying bastions of belief. Ceci n’est pas un politicien corrompu! (This is not a corrupt politician). He brought down the stage by hailing the very politicians who have until now borne the brunt of the effects of the fading make-up of Labour politics. Take one good look at Euridyce, Muscat yelled, here is Manuel Mallia, here is Michael Falzon, these are men above men, these are your soldiers of steel.
Astounding really. Mallia and Falzon were dragged from the muddy pits of political incompetence and limbo to the dizzy heights of Feigned Olympic Glory there to meet that other great soldier of steel – Cyrus Engerer, yes, the very one who was found guilty of crimes that Minister Owen Bonnici would later in the week describe as heinous and disgusting – revenge porn.
While the net effects of his blatant ignoring of any kind of good governance are still to hit Muscat and his band of high flying rhetoricians, the Supreme Leader of Spin (sorry, the Salesman) prefers to hang on to the old trick of rhetoric that is probably only good for the red-eyed accolytes who actually bother to go to the Orpheum. Holding up disgraced politicians as soldiers of steel is nothing other than a retrenching in the unconstitutional ways of hapless governance. The lack of institutional respect, the disdain for a proper system of rule of law, the incredible ability to ignore all semblance of separation of powers – they are all part of the death ride on which this Labour government is taking the nation.
Having struck a pact with the lords of the underworld Muscat is hoping to get away quickly but is still unable to resist glancing back over his shoulders and taking one look at Euridyce. At this rate he will have little hope of success.
Silk in Pieta’
Speaking of the wrong sort of talisman. While Muscat was engrossed in selling his talismanic soldiers of steel at the Orpheum, PN’s Busuttil had a golden opportunity to sit back and watch Muscat’s party choke on its own doings. Which is why I was surprised and dismayed to see the clip of Busuttil waving some old party ‘kerchief claiming that it was of a historical value and that he would keep it in his office to remind him of the party’s history and his supporters’ fervour.
Now I must admit that to me political party memorabilia – whichever party it is – is tantamount to anathema. At most I can appreciate it in a kitsch collector’s sort of way or in the sort of artistic and historic interest I may take in blasons, symbols and mottos. I cannot stand, abide, tolerate, stomach, suffer or put up with any form of memorabilia waving that represents the blind fervor that I mentioned earlier. Flag waving and flag touting party supporters are the worst kind of demographic when it comes to assessing politics. There is no processing going on in their minds other than “we have to win, the others have to lose” – victory being the ultimate purpose itself.
There is no nobility, no value, no reason behind fanatic affiliation of political parties. That we have developed a large core of party-blind voters in this country is no boon. That party politics is full of the kind of fanaticism that should only find its place on terraces in sporting grounds (and hopefully with a sporting behaviour that goes along) has long been part of the problem of our local political scenario. “Blue till I die” makes little sense outside Manchester or Cardiff (when the oriental bosses are away).
It is for this reason that I cannot imagine what went through Busuttil’s head when he chose to sing the praises of the (purported to be) 100-year old handkerchief/flag and laud the fanatic fervour of the supporter who had donated this talisman to him. I would see no problem with Busuttil having had a quiet word in private with this supporter, thanking him or her for his/her donation and promising to hold it in his travelbag as a good luck charm of sorts. In private though.
This is not a crime of the calling Mallia, Falzon and Engerer Soldiers of Steel levels. It is still a faux pas on some levels.
Given the state of the government, Busuttil and his party have a duty towards the electorate : that of concentrating on the construction and development of the new form of politics that has until now eluded us as a nation. It is a politics that is based on a pact of trust, on governance, on institutional respect and on rational debate. There is no place for the maduma, the silk handkerchief and the glorifying of the fanatical supporter in that equation.
Shed those talismans Simon, before it is too late. Otherwise you might paint yourself into a corner and find yourself having an Orpheum moment too.
Trust me, that cannot be good. No matter how much he smiles.
(Illustration: Ancient Roman talisman found in Germany. Not sure if they’d call it a soldier of steel… but it’s pretty close).