“Now, class. Sit up straight, pay attention. Today is your first lesson on Politics. Now, who can tell me what Politics is all about? Yes, Mario.”
“Miss, is it about voting PN or PL? Just like Mum and Dad? Dad says he supports his Party whatever happens, just like his Dad before him.”
“There is just a little bit more to it than that, Mario. Anyone else? Sarah.”
“It’s about shouting at people very loudly. People who don’t know what they are talking about, Miss. And my mum says she doesn’t really care anyway.”
“Can anyone else tell me what Politics is all about? Anyone? Ah, Carmel. Your hand is up?”
“Miss, it’s a system of governance which aims to improve the lives of others. The government is chosen by the people who normally choose a political party to support. The choice of Party must be closely linked to one’s beliefs.
Those beliefs may be freedom, greater prosperity for all, basic human rights, less State intervention or they may be for more State intervention with less attention to other matters. People have a whole range of beliefs and they have the freedom to choose which political party most closely matches those beliefs. It is perfectly fine to change your party of choice, if you feel it no longer matches your core beliefs anymore.”
Well, Carmel. Socrates himself would have been justifiably proud of that answer. The Greek philosopher was born in the 4th century B.C. but it would seem that our islands have learned little since our young democracy sprang to life in 1964.
So many years of a two-party system, and each election brings with it armies of followers, rallies, concerts, abuse, ridicule and real hatred. Weeks and weeks before a national poll, both Parties thunder their policies to the masses via TV, radio, social media, billboards (legal or not), phone calls and texts.
Amusingly, if one or other Party proposes a popular policy the other will follow quickly with a counter move, much like a game of poker.
I give you, ‘The Great School Tablet Debate of 2013’. Notwithstanding the Arriva debacle, the fallout from the divorce referendum and the huge energy issues at the time, both parties raised the stakes in ‘the Battle Tablet.’ Just last year, our educators reported that only over 11% of our children used the devices on a daily basis.
Over the years, I have attended a number of political rallies – of both hues – and it strikes me that each major Party is preaching to the converted. Playing to their respective galleries, the speakers are only too aware they will be rewarded with chants and cheers whatever they say.
Sooner or later we must realise that our politicians are required to conjure up more than populist ideas, gimmicks and a ‘we can do better than them’ message.
People need to be released from the shackles of voting time and again for the same Party. We need radical ideas and policies that will make a difference to the lives of our people and for that, we need completely fresh individuals, unfettered by Party hierarchy.
Where are we going to find these people? Do they even exist? Will they step up?
This horrendous situation we all find ourselves in at the moment should sound like a clarion call for change.
We have all concentrated on looking after ourselves and our loved ones, taken care of doing the ‘right’ things and thinking of the health and wellbeing of others. During the COVID-19 period, it came as a shock to all of us that we are fragile. That nothing matters more than taking care of ourselves, our environment and our future.
Yes, we will have a huge economic, uphill climb but let’s use the challenge as a force for change. Change the way we ‘do’ politics.
Who cares which Party you are from, come out of the woodwork and show us a better way. Lead us, united towards a common goal of an improved and happy life for us all.
You must be out there somewhere.
Tom Welch is a retired UK Regional Newspaper Publisher living in Gozo.