The survey published by US analytics company Gallup that revealed the Maltese to be some of the angriest people in the EU serves as a handy reminder of just how hollow political statements can be and how they fly in the face of people’s daily experiences.
The recent survey results found that a quarter of Maltese surveyed for the study replied they had experienced anger a day before being questioned, while 64% of those interviewed said they were worried about something at some point in the day before taking part in the survey. Half of the Maltese respondents also experienced stress the day before their survey interview.
What a contrast to the rhetoric of “peace of mind” and “serenity” so often uttered by our politicians. One of the last times we were told how “peaceful” and “serene” Malta is, was in February when the eyes of the world shifted towards Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
As Ukrainians started to flee their homes, our prime minister went on record to reassure his supporters about the unfolding tragedy by saying that he is grateful that he lives in Malta where one can appreciate the “serenity, peace of mind and peace” that the country enjoys, while other countries, including fellow EU member states bordering Ukraine, are concerned about the influx of refugees.
Every time we hear some mealy-mouthed statement by politicians that includes the word ‘serenity’, there’s a good chance it was spoken by individuals just as trouble was about to catch up with them.
“Stai sereno” was what Matteo Renzi told former Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta and fellow member of Italy’s Democratic Party (PD) just before the party ousted Letta and handed the premiership to Renzi.
“I’m serene” is what former interior minister Matteo Salvini declared before heading to court charged with kidnap and dereliction of duties when he prevented a migrant boat from docking in Sicily.
“Profound serenity” is apparently what Joseph Muscat experienced as he stepped down in disgrace as Malta’s prime minister, although that serenity appears to have dissipated recently.
The results of Gallup’s survey together with other surveys suggest that the country’s emotional state is deteriorating and are further confirmation that “serenity and peace of mind” couldn’t be further from the country’s current collective mindset or the mindset of our current administration.
You can’t expect much by way of “serenity” in a country where the construction lobby has such a stranglehold on our politicians and ‘regulatory’ authorities where land and green spaces are regularly gobbled up by abominable “blocks”, destroying habitats, viewscapes and historical architecture.
What peace of mind do residents have when they’re constantly on the lookout for the next planning permit to oppose or the next yacht marina knowing that the Planning Authority – with no planning or much authority – favours the interests of the mega-developers and not their own?
Does Malta’s traffic enigma inspire serenity and peace of mind? Roads have been widened, flyovers inaugurated, pesky centenary trees removed, and direct orders dished out a-plenty, but everyone’s daily commute is as miserable as ever, the roads still flood where they shouldn’t, and traffic still backs up as soon as there’s an accident. It’s only the public coffers that are worse off.
There is also absolutely nothing serene about an administration that has subverted the public procurement process and turned public funds into a snatch-and-grab bonanza for ministers to do with public funds as they please.
It does not matter whether this has led to maladministration, corrupt practices, unethical behaviour, or the haemorrhaging of public funds if somewhere, someone has personally benefitted.
Surely, there cannot be a more anxiety-inducing mindset than the snatch-and-grab and “what’s in it for me?” attitude, which is pervasive across Maltese society, ages and backgrounds.
This mentality is why the Labour party in government has been using everything at its disposal to nurture this attitude and why in March, people received cheques in the mail during the election campaign signed by the prime minister instead of the tax commissioner.
Imagine the energy that goes into thinking up a scam, sustaining the scam and then making sure nobody discovers your scam. And the effort that goes into weaselling yourself out of being held accountable once the scam has been discovered?
From your phantom consultancy jobs with the government to large-scale ill-fated projects such as Electrogas and Steward Healthcare? Just imagine the summersaults of those involved because there was a profit to be made – not just any profit but a big profit.
Think of the great lengths to which the government goes towards blocking access to information that is in the public interest and the contempt with which it treats independent journalists and its critics and, ultimately, the taxpayer.
Think of the time wasted in parliament dedicated to speeches attacking independent institutions that are critical of the government’s practices and of all the resources the governing party invests in propping up its propaganda machine and in bringing the state broadcaster to heel – an administration confident in its work would not need to do that.
There’s no “serenity” in any of these actions. In a country that has yet to see justice for the murder of one of its journalists, serenity is a long way away.
That is not to say that honesty, integrity, altruism and beauty cannot be found in Malta. They can be, and there are many people who know what these values are and where to find them, it’s just they’re constantly drowned out.
They’re drowned out by propaganda’s empty promises of a better future while the present crumbles before our very eyes. The least our politicians could do is start by casting “serenity” in the cliché dustbin where it belongs, once and for all.