We do not get to choose our birthplace. We are Maltese, living on a sunny (most of the time) island in the Mediterranean out of pure chance, nothing more, nothing less.
The quality of life on the island is what it is, take it or leave it, and the more time goes by, the more it seems that “leave it” is becoming the better option.
I have been speaking and writing as an expat for the past 18 years, so I can also claim a different perspective on the matter. I have seen Malta change gradually and come to expect that the Malta I have left will never be there to welcome me should I ever decide to repatriate.
Should I stay or should I go? The choice of sticking with our birthplace and what it offers or ‘spreading one’s wings’ has been in the news this week. An article carried by another paper compared the lives of the Maltese who quit Malta for other shores to those of non-Maltese who have opted to set up base in Malta.
Meanwhile, speaking at the monthly Daphne Caruana Galizia vigil, Kristina Chetcuti ruffled quite a few feathers with her exhortation to the young to leave the island.
Daphne Caruana Galizia was also a regular ‘offender’ on the matter of upping and leaving the island – especially when addressing younger generations. Often, she would take pride in the fact that her sons did just that and got a world education far from the claustrophobic island confines.
The choice, as I said earlier, seems to be increasingly one Hobson would be proud of. The problem is that the changing Malta is changing for the worse.
An angrier nation has seen living standards spiral downwards rapidly. It gets worse, there does not seem to be either the awareness of the problem or the willingness to tackle it. Rather, the nation is programmed to self-destruct and seems comfortable with that choice.
What do you choose?
Do you choose increasing numbers of cars, construction, roads, congestion and development? Or the ‘balance’ between commerce and commerce to the detriment of your environment?
Do you choose a political system that rewards fidelity over competence? Or the daily depreciation of your living standards in exchange for government handouts?
Do you choose higher rates of violence? Do you opt for a system that rewards noise, cacophony and exploitation?
Do you choose to shrug your shoulders and say, “it has always been like this”, or “we can never change”? Do you raise the white flag after the latest concrete obscenity dwarfs another heritage site or encroaches on the last patches of what goes for green?
Do you just hold your nose and hope to survive in a nation where the majority does not share your values and ideals?
Do you instead hold desperately onto the last hopes of opposition for change? Do you have any faith in the little pockets of reasonable resistance that occasionally make their voices heard despite our politicians?
Do you really think the bulldozer of progress will finally have a spoke driven in its wheels? Do you believe that a polluted system of institutional representation could ever be purged, or will they completely take over?
These are indeed sad and depressing thoughts, and yet they are inescapable truths. After all, even the prime minister escapes the country when he needs a real quality break.
You will not see Robert Abela and his family squabbling for prime spots on the deckchairs at the Blue Lagoon, no. He has swapped the threatened protected site for the marinas in Sicily.
Then again, there is little difference between one powerboat-packed hell and another. That, too, might be at the root of the problem. The majority on the island seems to be content with – or aspire to – these standards. The urbanised agglomeration of the thrifty middle class – that Dubai in the Mediterranean (but shabbier) – might be the utopia of the masses.
For the rest of us, there is only one alternative. Get out.