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A class of their own

Keith Schembri + Joseph Muscat

One of my favourite films of all time is Good Will Hunting – the story of a defensive, prickly, working class boy from south Boston whose immense potential is hampered by his deep-set insecurities and lack of faith in himself and others.

Every offer of help, every attempted intervention by outsiders, is met with aggression and stubborn, juvenile defiance. Instead of fulfilling his potential, Will would rather languish in the safety of his mediocrity, closing himself down emotionally, simultaneously cocooned and imprisoned in the narrative laid out for him by his childhood.

It’s not too much of a stretch to draw a comparison between that defensive working class boy and Malta. Like Will, the Maltese have been beaten and belittled throughout their historical ‘childhood’ – by coloniser and Church alike – and like Will, the Maltese need to liberate themselves from that learned behaviour, in order for the island culture to mature and find its true self, its true identity and autonomy.

Yet the Maltese are foregoing the opportunity to find and foster their authentic voice, opting instead to raise the drawbridge and put up walls – be it against critics, foreigners or refugees – ensconcing themselves in their parochialism and insularity.

What then is authentic Maltese identity currently replaced with?

Well a status on Facebook by Luke Azzopardi seems to sum it up. Malta’s soul-searching is replaced by “overcompensation: in an attempt to cling so hard onto the romance that this country has with its own fantasy, and to counteract the overactive sentiment of displacement, we blow things out of proportion, often tastelessly”.

We all know what “tasteless” means. Generally, it denotes something vulgar, unattractive and jarring with the context in which it is found, and can be used to describe both an aesthetic and social ignorance or inappropriate behaviour.

Instinctively many of us know that “good taste” is about putting your best foot forward. A broad idea I know, and you can argue that taste is both subjective and arbitrary, but we can generally tell when someone or something is not the best version of itself.

So it follows that the Maltese are resistant to appeals to taste, even regarding them as condescending, or an expression of class prejudice or snobbery by the “holier than thou”.

The Labour Party has played to this idea of class condescension, to the idea of being the underdog, throughout its history. They’ve hijacked the fight against inequality by their lazy, easy narrative which helps them instead pitch one set of Maltese against the other – those who think Malta has better to give of itself, and those who are content with mediocrity.

Read more: Underdog-eats-dog

In fact you don’t have to walk too far in Malta to see how the Maltese are trying to fill the void in their identity by tastelessly opting for the loudest, brashest, most ostentatious, gaudy displays of over development – and this is seemingly all neatly forgiven and endorsed by the very people chosen by the Maltese to represent them on the world stage: The Labour Party.

So it is that the Labour Party presides with impunity over a skyline increasingly filled by cranes; the racket of fireworks and mindless shotgun shells of hunters’ guns; the techno beats of our V18 celebrations; the reek of tuna pen waste; corruption and criminality; and the cries of a family who have lost their daughter/wife/mother/sister to the blast of a car bomb.

Because this was also one of their chief tools in attempting to discredit one of taste’s main proponents on the island – Daphne Caruana Galizia. They accused her of snobbery, of thinking she was better than them, when all she was really doing was telling the Maltese people that they are better than this.

As Robin Williams’s character tells Will in the film “And look at you… I don’t see an intelligent, confident man… I see a cocky, scared shitless kid.”

In that sense, some Maltese are being imprisoned in a class of their own making.

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