Us and Them

This cannot be comforting news but it did ring a familiar bell. The Italian region closest to us has an unfortunate reputation among most other people – whether Italian or foreign. For a very long time the word Sicily would conjure up ideas of shopping trips and a quick and cheap escape from the socialist regime of monotonous shelving and bulk buying.

Yesterday’s Rai 1 news carried the item that the economic growth of Sicily has surpassed Lombardy. I am not surprised. Having visited Sicily and divested my brain of the unfortunate stereotypes that I still carried from my youth I could not but agree with the idea that this was a promising region that knew where to go next.

Sicily could not be further away from Malta in terms of planned development and growth. Old maladies notwithstanding , the impression you get is of an eager region ready to pounce on the next opportunity that is offered. Add on the measure of Mediterranean beauty and Italian style and you have a formula that could be a winner.

This bit of news is what remains of the little, sad comparisons we can make with the sister island up north (from

Esplode fabbrica di fuochi
due morti nel Catanese
A Santa Venerina, sul posto varie squadre di vigili del fuoco

Due persone sono morte e un’altra è rimasta ferita nell’esplosione avvenuta in una fabbrica di fuochi d’artificio di Santa Venerina, nei pressi di Catania. La deflagrazione, seguita da un incendio, è avvenuta poco dopo le 9.30. Sul posto numerose squadre dei vigili del fuoco, oltre a polizia e carabinieri.

(10 gennaio 2011)

Some things will never change.


November gives us not one but two days of remembrance. Today, the first, is the 5th of November – associated with Guido Fawkes and the failed gunpowder plot against James I of the United Kingdom. In six days time the second day of remembrance – emblazoned with the words “Lest We Forget” will once again remind us of the millions of dead in last century’s darkest moments. In the US there’s also Thanksgiving – another day in which events past are recalled. It might be because I was born in this month (and therefore a heavily biased Novembrino) but I always felt that the month was intended as a period of reflection before the great renewal and restart that would soon be celebrated just after the hibernation. Here’s V reminding us what he was all about and a Last Post from XI.XI. (Image from “the Shepheard’s Calender” – November)



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Tom “Desperation” Waits – November

Do You Feel Lucky?

Writing in yesterday’s Sunday Times, Inhobbkom Joseph told anybody who cared to listen that he was “deeply saddened” after the nation “experienced another frustrating and an-gering fireworks tragedy”. He went on to tell us that we have waited too long for legislation on fireworks and that he too lives in dread of the next explosion. It might not all boil down to Joseph’s dad being an owner of a chemical importing business (of the kind used to make fireworks) but Joseph’s Times appeal smacks of opportunism of the highest PLPN degree. While Lawrence was on radio pointing fingers at some sort of PL protectionism for the failure to regulate party funding (and PL answered with their own dose of just as predictable finger pointing) Joseph had a little problem.

He had to look like he was in favour of taking action against the irrational way in which the whole firework industry is managed and run. We are used to Inhobbkom’s reactions now – the moment public feeling is on a high about something, Joseph is quick to leap onto the bandwagon and tell us how he feels and empathises with the people’s situation. He then promises some form of knee-jerk legislation that might (only might) solve the problem. In this case though there are too many ties that bind him to the situation. The ugliest tie of them all, and the most difficult one to shake off will undoubtedly remain his dad’s business. There’s no two ways of going about it. Now J’accuse was among the first to insist that Joseph should NOT be held responsible for his father’s deeds and actions. In saying that we do not even intend to imply in any way that Muscat Senior is responsible in any way for what has been happening.

We are bound however, to take the role of the Senior into consideration when Junior tries to create a Private Lives of Saints moment with his parable of the old man who lost his palm saving a kid. After a lot of faff about the history of firrework legislation (probably written for Joseph not by Joseph), the Times article ends in a little parable:

I was inspired to write this article by a man who years ago at a village feast saw a young boy he barely knew parading an unignited petard which he was banging against a wall. The man lunged towards him, yelling at the boy to stop what he was doing because the firework may go off. He managed to seize the petard. As soon as he did so, it ignited. The boy was unhurt. The man lost part of his right palm.

Had the man failed to act, the young boy would have lost his arm, his eyes, possibly his life.

During his long term in hospital, the man, a humble salesman who earned a living from writing and carrying boxes, learnt to write with his left hand and how to handle things with his disabled body part. Years of practice led him to re-learn writing with his right hand.

He never complained, always feeling it was his duty to save the young boy, whom he did not know, and he would undoubtedly do the same again. That man was my father.

You might be moved to empathise with the father – and indirectly with the loving son who is being “martyred” by the spin in cerrtain quarters. We are not. To us this parable is equivalent to the story of the weapons dealer who walks in on a kid playing with a pistol and ends up getting shot while wrestling the pistol from the kids’ hand. We could come up with many more distressing stories of the kind but the end game is really not that difficult to perceive. Even in Joseph’s parable the danger is not represented by the child but by the petard. The petard is a dangerous product whether or not it is manufactured under the right conditions. The point at issue in Malta right now is whether the country can afford protracting its lackadaisical approach to the whole matter.

That Joseph has such close ties to the firework industry is unfortunate. That he tries to turn this tie into some story of a martyr and a saint instead of coming clean about his ties is even worse. The same goes for each and every MP and politician who is into the clans of firework enthusiasts and festa committees up to his neck. MaltaToday have published a list of these MPs (well done sleuths – still waiting for newspaper version though). That these clans of enthusiasts might operate with the illegal secrecy of weapons dealers might not have been any clearer had not the Malta Independent on Sunday broken the news that there actually were witnesses of the Gharb explosion but they are refusing to speak.

We have Joseph coming up with biblical parables worthy of George Preca, we have a body of MPs torn between the votes of the faithful and reasonable action and we have an industry worth millions of euros and thousands of votes that seems to be reistant to all forms of intervention.

In wondering whether we need new regulation politicians just need to ask themselves one question:

“Do I feel lucky?… Well do you, punk?”