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The Unbearable Ugliness of Being Joseph

Protesters filled the streets of Valletta in an anti-corruption protest. Photo: Joanna Demarco

Kemm hu ikrah li tkun intom. (How ugly it is to be you.) Those are the first words of an epic poem written by my great friend Antonio Tufigno dedicated to the people in power today. The words are not a simple aesthetic appreciation, but they are profound – as the rest of his poem aptly highlights – because their ugliness is a result of an emptiness of being. Fraus omnia corrumpit – fraud corrupts everything – the Latins would tell us, and Tufigno’s poem is a vivid vivisection of the actors at play at every level.

As fate would have it, I listened to Antonio’s reading of the poem while driving across the Fernpass heading to an overnight stop in Bavaria. Outside temperature was -3 degrees Celsius but that was not what gave me goosebumps as I listened to every word that manages to paint the sad picture of our society’s plight. Bar a few days confined to bed with a heavy bout of man-flu, I had just spent the holidays in the land of symbolic national pride where rivers such as the Piave are revered as holy and where, back in 1848, men in the street had united in the name of an ideal.

Revolutions do not happen overnight. Granted, they do have key moments, but they happen in steps. There are advances and there are setbacks. People need convincing. They need to understand. Which is why the reactionary forces invest much in ignorance. “ (…) r-riżma tagħkom – Li biex tinħass importanti – Issus tkompli biex tiżgura – Lin-nies jibqgħu injoranti.” Ignorance is fundamental for those in power – fundamental because the ignorant are most easily manipulated.

The God Delusion

One of the best ways to manipulate the masses is to operate through illusion. From the early days of the Taghna Lkoll government, I had identified a trend in its modus operandi. At the time I called it the Magritte Effect. Muscat’s government converted the idea of accountability into something akin to a student convincing his teacher that he had done his homework even though the dog had really eaten it. Instead of bothering with facts, Muscat’s team honed the skill of selling Potemkin Villages wholesale and, due to the fact that for a large chunk of the population engagement with politics really translates to “Labour till I die”, this was easily done.

We spent all December watching a tsunami of illusions. A Prime Minister resigned (but he didn’t), he would only do day-to-day administration (but he wouldn’t), he would wrap up the show decently (but he flew to Jerusalem, Dubai and London), he would tell us about those gifts (but he didn’t), he would keep everyone answerable to investigations (but Keith went abroad). As things stood, had Castille sponsored a giant firework in the middle of the Grand Harbour in the shape of a middle finger aimed at the nation, nobody would have been surprised.

Most of all, the two horses vying for the Kink’s throne have both gone to great lengths to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the whole Labour Movement has absolutely no intention of changing tack. There will be no change. What there will be (and it is easy to decipher this one) is more cosmetic twists pulling on the heartstrings of partisan vocabulary. Chris Fearne, for example, has shown an innate ability to speak to the right masses whether tongue-in-cheek or not. The noises coming from the satellites of the corridors of power are an indication that the tsunami of anger that is represented in the national protests and rallies has not sufficiently shaken the system’s foundations. Lackeys such as Jason Micallef or that excuse for a journalist Stagno Navarra will help perpetrate the us-and-them game that distracts from the deeper ills of the nation.

2020 is here. Over 800 days from the brutal assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. Over one month from the fast-forward moment in the investigation that has precipitated events in the eyes of the world. The biggest danger is that we fall for the illusion that change has actually begun to happen. The orchestrated performances of the Muscats and Fearnes and Abelas point to anything but a promise of change.

That is why the anger must not subside. That is why the protests and rallies are crucial. That is why the realization of the ugliness of those in power is an important phase in the development of our society. As civil society rediscovers itself, it will also be able to take control of its own destiny.

You’re Beautiful

Allow me to thank each and every person and organization present at Sunday’s protest against corruption and concert. I am proud of people like you. You are the answer to the ugliness.

You are beautiful. (Especially Mario Vella.)

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