Among the proposals included in a public consultation document issued by the Social Policy and Children’s Rights Ministry is a ban on cigarette sales to individuals born after a due date. Such proposals show a healthier side of our political society.
Let’s face it – it is the kind of decision that is vote-neutral. Few, if any, of the yet-to-be-born persons would hold a grudge against a government for depriving them of the choice to smoke themselves sick.
Also, the voting repercussions would, in any case, be incurred by another generation of politicians altogether. There is not much damage for those taking the decision now. It’s not the point I want to make, though- I’m more interested in highlighting how we are in dire need of this kind of legislative intervention in our society. Laws that plan create safety nets for the vulnerable that aspire to a better future.
In retrospect, we should have been legislating this way in the early nineties as warnings started to filter on climate change and sustainability.
A caring society would have gone beyond what turned out to be sterile measures such as polluter pays or Corporate Social Responsibility. That was a more challenging call than outlawing tobacco for future generations.
When you ask people to sacrifice their way of life to hope for a better future, you start hitting brick walls.
Therein lies the Gordian Knot.
Our political system was conceived to have a select group of planners catering for the welfare of all of society. Beyond representation, there was also a guarantee that politics was at the service of the common good. The equation faltered, though, when politicians realised that legislating for people’s immediate gains and comfort was far more popular than working out the tougher rules that would guarantee an investment in a better future.
The modern political class goes to great lengths to seem to be the conscientious legislator we all expect. In Italy, for example, the representatives spent hours of debate before introducing a bill prohibiting “synthetic meat”. In the land of salami, prosciutti and mortadella, the idea of synthetic meat was declared to be anathema. Pity there is no such thing as synthetic meat, anywhere.
The Maltese government, on the other hand, is preparing a new law to criminalise virginity testing. There is no information on whether such tests are carried out in Malta, but if there is a law to criminalise them, it’s always good, right? Just in case.
Back to the laws for a better future.
Our collective administrative framework currently seems to run solely for the benefit of enterprise, development and exploitation. It’s an age-old cliché, but it does apply to the country of building permits, concrete expansion and destruction of the last few trees left standing.
Future planning? Forget it. It is too expensive vote-wise. It causes too much discomfort.
The laws that we have in place, the legislators that we choose to enact and amend them, these all reflect the society that we live in.
Ask yourself, hand on heart, do you think you live in a caring society? Do we factor in the lives of our future generations?