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When did we become like this?

Photo: Valentin Salja

Over the last few weeks, I have found it increasingly difficult to make myself read the news coming out of Malta.

I am no stranger to the abuse, hatred, racism, sexism, misogyny and threats that are part of parcel of being both a woman and an opinionated public voice, but the things I have witnessed recently have taken my breath away.

There is something festering in Maltese society. It has always been there, but over the last couple of years I have seen it put down roots and grow like poison ivy, taking over and slowly suffocating the voices of those who few who still possess morals and ethics.

This terrifying takeover is extending its tendrils into every crevice of society, and social media has become the place where it devours its nutrients, fuelling its ferocious fire that is set to envelop everything that we know.

I am talking about the incredible increase in the number of people that publicly display such an utter disdain for life. This could be the life of an asylum seeker, the life of a stork, the life of migrants and life in the sea around us.

It does not seem to matter whether it is a person or an animal; the value and lack of respect extended towards someone or something’s right to live seems to be diminishing rapidly.

When news spread that the last of 18 visiting storks was missing and presumed dead, the silence from both sides of the political spectrum was as deafening and flaccid as you would expect. Scared to lose a percentage of their voters, ‘mum’ has been the word, because in a country where very few care about the murder of a journalist or the plight of a pregnant woman with life threatening conditions, what is a mere stork?

This hatred of life was fuelled further by the ongoing refugee crisis. Thousands of desperate human beings are making the treacherous and life threatening journey to leave countries destroyed by war, famine, economic collapse, corruption, authoritarian governments and the bleeding of their resources by Western powers.

But instead of offering even just an ounce of humility, we are not bothered when they drown while making the perilous crossing to Europe. The failure to offer even one ounce of humanity or sympathy, and the lack of knowledge when it comes to suggesting solutions is just overwhelming.

When did wishing death, pain and, misery to others become the norm? When did wanting to honour and respect life fall out of fashion?

To be honest, it genuinely worries me that I share oxygen, bus seats, streets and public places with people who rejoice in death and encourage more of it.

It is ironic that this disdain for life comes against a backdrop of vociferous calls for ‘the right to life’. People scream for the lives of the unborn but they are not prepared to consider the lives and wellbeing of those around them.

Many could not care less about destroying the marine habitat that surrounds us – as long as our wedding or festa looks pretty with balloon releases and confetti cannon – who cares about the ocean and its inhabitants?

Those who dare to criticise are dismissed with arrogance, and told in different terms that the fun and frivolity of human celebration is more important than the life of a living creature.

There are more examples: in the way prostitutes receive jail terms, yet their pimps walk away with a fine equivalent to a week’s profit; in the way newspapers report on the way a murder victim was dressed, rather than the inexcusable crime that took her life; in the way the veil of faux-sadness surrounding the brutal assassination of a journalist has well and truly fallen, leading anyone who mentions her name to be harassed.

Then there’s the way paedophile priests are allowed to retain their position despite ruining the lives of numerous victims and putting other children at risk; the way that death is wished upon people that had the cheek to ask to be treated in a fair and equal way after they arrive on these shores; the way horses are worked to death on our streets for profit, and let us not forget the bludgeoning of a kitten and others wrapped in bags and abandoned.

When did we become like this? When did wishing death, pain, misery and restriction of human rights become the norm? When did wanting to honour and respect life – be it an animal or a human – fall out of fashion?

When did people advocating for love, life, respect and humanity become targets of vicious verbal attacks? What I see now, what I read, what I hear, makes me truly ashamed to be a part of the human race.

Unfortunately, this is a reflection on the state of mind of much of the Maltese public: the obsession with only caring about oneself, the lauding of an autocratic populist government and its revered demi-god, and the social acceptance of the abuse, threats and harassment of journalists and writers – the list gets longer every day.

When we think it can’t get worse, it does. At what point do we decide that enough is enough?

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