Trying to get into the psyche of a nation is a difficult job. It is hard to fathom what makes a nation tick and what people want.
There are of course polls and surveys that might go a long way in finding out. Dominic Cummings’ team used and abused the powers of the web to go that extra mile. What irks people and moves them into action is the type of information that is worth its weight in gold.
In Malta, it is not only about the truth. Getting the truth, or strong hints at what the truth may be is not enough. Some truths, glaring as they may be, remain unpalatable and will be challenged with vehement determination and dogged conviction.
Most times it is because they fall under the category of painful truths – a truth we do not love to hear. Other times it is because these truths feed into our immense stock of cognitive dissonance.
When the British prime minister refers to official statistics that somehow put our nation at the top of Europe in the obesity league we are furious. How dare Boris Johnson use us as a comparison?
Julia Farrugia Portelli also had to face a few uncomfortable truths while answering questions about Malta’s reopening policy on prime UK TV. Were we to give the tourism minister the benefit of the doubt and assume that she understood the questions put to her by the panel we would still be left scratching our heads.
Farrugia Portelli was being asked, in no uncertain terms, what would happen to tourists who turn out to be infected once they are in their hotel. She could only faffle and fluff with the mantras of best healthcare system and that we are fully equipped.
The uncomfortable truth that we are gambling for money’s sake was written in huge letters behind her for anybody willing to see.
The saga of Joseph Muscat’s gifts from Yorgen Fenech continued with an admonition by the Public Standards Commissioner and a referral to a parliamentary committee. On the Committee that has an effective Labour majority, Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis (Muscat’s travel buddy) insisted that this was a minor foul by the disgraced former prime minister. Nothing that a slap on the wrist would not solve.
As usual, a painful truth was countered with a dose of whataboutism – remember Tonio Fenech’s Maltese clock and the flight to London? Because one way of dealing with painful truths is to unearth more of them until they magically balance each other out.
Another painful truth that had to be faced this week was the fact that the Maltese are not a ‘breed’ let alone “pure breed”. It is not surprising that we still have copious amounts of troglodytes among us who think in terms of race and breed.
Painfully they have a right to voice their thoughts (I would say ideas or opinions but that would be too grateful). The brainless assault on an aspirant beauty queen reminded us, if any reminder was necessary, of the cesspit into which our values have fallen.
Those who are prone to speak in terms of ‘breed’ also tend to wheel out the barrow of “traitors of the nation”. A large contingent of these patriots had been stoked into angry incantations by exponents of the Labour government when civil society and some members of the Opposition had highlighted ugly truths about the passport sales programme. For a long time, criticism taken to international quarters was described as treacherous and a betrayal of the nation.
I, for one, have long held that the scheme conflicts with our EU obligations and should be scrapped. Robert Abela’s cosmetic changes continued with a touch up of the scheme under the guise of a reformed residency programme with stricter conditions. It was an admission of the blatant abuse the former scheme had enjoyed as one of the pillars of corruption under the Labour government.
The truth will out, they say, and in this case, we are only seeing a version of the truth because the most corrupt government these islands have ever seen is literally wetting its pants in fear of the upcoming Moneyval report.
That reminds me of another ugly truth that we are slowly learning to live with. As scandal after scandal unfurls, the weakness of our institutions and organisations that should be watching over the administration is exposed.
At the root of the weakness is Muscat’s much trumpeted meritocracy wave. As they all fall down, one by one, the madness of a system that placed puppets and yes men in positions of control is exposed.
Which brings me to the ugliest truth of them all. When all is said and done, notwithstanding the mountains of empirical evidence that prove these truths to us all, we remain a nation that for the majority chooses to live in denial.
Truth has little or no value at the end of the day. It has been elbowed out by ambition, materialism and egoism.
While we bide our time for the day when the truth will be accepted as self evident, we remind ourselves that they are just angry because the truths we speak contradict the lies they live.
Follow Jacques Rene Zammit on his blog J’Accuse.