This must have been the longest December in the history of Maltese politics. The 40-day countdown until Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s actual resignation is literally dragging by at a snail’s pace. It has not been a biblical wandering of 40 days in the wilderness of the desert, even though the self-pronounced Messiah did play with the electorate’s nerves by flying to the Holy Land for Christmas.
Funny though. The news that December brought us concerning the disgraced Prime Minister (freshly Corrupt Man of the Year), does seem to point to his having made various pacts of the tibidabo kind involving anything from a Bvlgari watch to expensive wine and a list of unaccountable holiday trysts to the land that seems to be the source of all evil. Christmas has not been a normal season though – what with an “investigated” chief of staff being given leave to travel, a disgraced prime minister intent on gathering as many travel miles as possible and the charade that is L-Istrina – people were glued to their screens for any scrap of information they could gather. And there was no Running Commentary to do so.
In the absence of the blog that would in such times garner everybody’s attention, we have witnessed a new phenomenon that is actually a huge step for our democracy. The people have taken to their keyboards and they are speaking out in ways they have never done before. The people now address their supposed representatives and challenge them directly. It’s an encouraging wave of anger converted into the very essence of what democracy is about – a functioning society where politicians are held to account.
A generation finds its voice.
History has a funny way of throwing things back at you. A friend of mine recently sent me a photo from deep history – that’s 1991. It’s a photo of six young students from Saint Aloysius College (SAC) sixth form who had decided, in their free time, to form a political organization which we pompously named the Liberal Reformists. There he was, in the top right of the picture, a seemingly innocuous chubby, curly-haired smiling boy who would provide us with the services of his dad’s printing press to print the second edition of our journal Lehnek! (Your Voice).
We parted ways when we left sixth form and the next time I would hear about Keith Schembri and the printing press (now Kasco I presume) would be a good 20 years later, following his rise to notoriety together with another SAC alumnus. My last article for Lehnek carried the same title as this one today and it included a reference to the works of a columnist who was beginning to attract attention at the time. Yep, you guessed it. It’s a small, small world.
Looking back to the college days I do not remember thinking that someone like Keith Schembri would have any major impact on the future of this country. Neither, for that matter, do I have any memories of the disgraced prime minister and his time at college. They both were non-entities in every sense of the word. It’s not as though no students would stand out. Some would be naturals – future stars you would say – the kind of all-rounders who would have the world as their oyster.
I’ll mention one in particular. Christian Grima might not be a familiar name to some readers but he has gathered a huge following on social media in recent days. I did not know him well at the college but I got to know him better in our time at law school. Multi-talented does not begin to cut a description of the guy. However, while Chris would, under normal circumstances, be interested in a myriad of things, he would definitely not be the kind of person to be drawn to politics.
Recent events though have brought out a new trait in him. Probably frustrated by the bubble of Whatsapp chats, Chris took to the keyboard with vehemence and has increasingly addressed his posts to our former schoolmates who happen to be part of the clan that has fast-tracked the country towards a ruinous situation.
Chris’ posts undress the various Joseph Muscats, Keith Schembris, Chris Cardonas, Edward Zammit Lewis’, and more, from their uniform of governmental impunity and being untouchable. His language speaks directly to the boys they were – dressed in a school uniform and still as vulnerable as the others in line at the first whistle by the prefect of discipline. His posts do not include the false sense of reverence with which most political interaction is imbued, notwithstanding all evidence should point to a different attitude.
I could go on. Chris is not alone in this newfound space. Other people have been pushed into the arena of political engagement – take the women of Occupy Justice, take the Mario Vellas of this world who have long nailed the type of attitude one must have to face the politicians and their bloated sense of self-importance. Even former party apparatchiks like (Book Council chairman) Mark Camilleri have taken the bold step of speaking out against the “business as usual” attitude of what is being falsely proposed as a change from past ways.
Their words are an encouragement that goes far beyond the technical explanations of why sovereignty lies with the people. These are the new leaders of our society – the ones who have the courage to take the first step in calling out our politicians and who have understood that it is time to break the partisan mold.
The people are finding their voice and it is a voice that politicians will only ignore at their own peril.