Politics, for what it’s worth

Your average cynic believes that the world is made up of people motivated purely by self-interest. It is a world ruled by selfishness and devoid of honour. In Oscar Wilde’s overworn and overused words, ironically used to describe cynics, we inhabit a world where everyone knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Take our political class. It has become increasingly obvious that the net worth of a political career is calculated not in the value of service to the community but rather in the price of monetary returns. The hijacking of the whole system of checks and balances is attributable to the conversion of democratic institutions into machines for personal profit.

Back in 2013 (and before that), I had chronicled what I termed to be ‘The Barter System’ – the method by which the two political parties manage to thrive economically in defiance of all the rules of economics. In ‘Funding Fundamentals’ I pointed out that “They (the PLPN) are the parties who either barter or spend their way to kingdom come safe in the knowledge that they cannot be caught by the laws they refuse to write. Safe in the knowledge that they will be back whether in government or in opposition.”

Until recently, in fact until Labour pumped the system with steroids, anthropologists like the late Jeremy Boissevain could speak of “how smallness fosters clientelism”. We are beyond smallness. Our political system is completely overtaken by individuals who are into politics for what it’s worth. And what it is worth is a seemingly bottomless trough of public monies to distribute among the favoured.

The Malta Film Awards are under public scrutiny because what was supposed to have been a cultural festival promoting a budding industry on the island was transformed into a Banana Republic-style event replete with political posturing and an undisclosed bill footed by the public purse. Speculation is high that this event was yet another Trojan horse used to direct public monies into private purses that would in turn compensate the Party in government with bartered favours in the run-up to the election.

It’s not like our politicians have had to resort to surreptitious devices to conceal their profligate ways with public funds. We are at a point where the employment of relatives onto the government payroll has become a matter of fact. The implacable use of direct orders to bleed public funds into private coffers is a standard. Ministerial funds are brazenly dispensed and flushed into the relevant electoral districts. Development, a synonym for rape of public land, is contingent on similar networks of political patronage.

Supervisory authorities are beaten into submission either by the placing of subservient yes men in positions of power or by neutralising their efficiency. The legal system is used to wear down any opposition. Freedom of Information requests face crippling obstacles and delay tactics. The worth of politics has been calculated in the very smallest of details leaving nothing to chance.

Do not for a moment labour under the illusion that career-oriented politics is a problem endemic to the Maltese islands. Just look at the travails of the Party in government in the UK. Unable to face the problem that is the bumbling prime minister, they are equally at sea in their foreign policy. The latest sabre-rattling from the Russian Bear is met with an equivocal response.

On the one hand, the UK would seem poised to join those nations warning Putin of the dire consequences of invading a sovereign country. On the other hand, the unravelling of the extensive links of dirty Russian money in the nation’s capital and of trails leading to the coffers of the Conservative Party leave scope for much worry as to the real extent with which the UK could really tackle a nation that is so familiar and friendly with its corridors of power.

The truth is that our political system is compromised. Politics as a service to the citizen and for the common good only exists on paper. In the real world, the worth of politics is calculated in euros and cents that can accrue to a potential politician. Ask Robert Abela how his retainer at the planning authority ballooned with the rise to power of his Labour Party.

Our politicians seem to know what their brand of politics is worth. We are left with a dearth of values, sitting back unrepresented and victims of a daily heist while cynically observing the decline and fall of our republic.

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saviour mamo
saviour mamo
3 months ago

We haven’t seen a scandal like this before that Labour in collaboration I say, with the prime minister and the finance minister made it so obvious to pass public funds to Labour’s electoral campaign.

3 months ago

They require supervision and strict control – much like the distracted teenager stuck in video game fantasies.

carmelo borg
3 months ago

Din tal Robert Abela tas 17000euros fix xahar qed tahsibni. Dan lis skandlu tghid hareg issa wara is search ta Muscat f Bummarad? Din il manuvra mhiex xi patt imxajtan iehor li tal labour ihobbu jaghmlu. Din mhix xi hadma (kongura) min xi hadd ta gewwa ta Muscat bi tpattija u biex joskuraw lil Abela ghax ma qabis ghalih hux. U kif it Times kienu jafu b dawn l affarijiet issa ? Fil politika dejjem hekk hu . Ma tafx min ikun bl istalett min ta gewwa lest biex innigzek min wara.

Gianfranco Selvaggi
Gianfranco Selvaggi
3 months ago

Indeed your piece exposes the true aspect of today’s politicians and politics and the pathetic reality of spineless citizens who provide fertile ground for these to thrive. In my humble view, this situation is compounded by the fact that there seem to be very few ‘leaders and champions’ who walk the talk and that one could truly trust. Dishonesty in all its forms unfortunately reigns.

Janet Wojtkow
Janet Wojtkow
3 months ago

It’s called Trumpism, isn’t it?

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