A very clear choice: either black or white
That there is no end to political controversies is well acknowledged. It is a national characteristic.
Ifind nothing wrong in this, unless the much touted national good succumbs to parochial and personal interests. Unfortunately, the PL has once again failed to protect the national good and distinguish between black and white. For almost four years, Messrs Edwin Vassallo and Peter Micallef were barred from participating in the House, following mistakes committed during the counting process in the last general election. The PN was forced to seek redress from the Law Courts, and after a hard fought legal battle, the Constitutional Court granted two additional seats to the Nationalist Party.
Here I deal with other black and white issues.
Of course, I will not be dealing with the more-than-a-centuryold black and white photographs of Malta and Gozo, showing various localities, streets or historical buildings. Some of the places are beyond recognition.
Nor will I raise the nostalgic sensation one gets when a black and white photograph of a distant family member coincidentally surfaces while re-arranging the books in the library at home.
I will not deal with the late 1960s BBC TV variety programme The Black and White Minstrels Show which locally attracted hundreds of viewers. This show did not receive the same positive feedback elsewhere, to the extent that a campaign for racial discrimination was launched calling for the BBC to remove the show from its schedule. After 11 years of campaigning, in 1978 the final episode was broadcast. Back then, Malta was still trailing behind on issues of discrimination.
But here, I want to give vent to some black on white issues; issues that should not raise hesitation as these are founded in sound values that our society has embraced so that everyone can feel safe and which ensure that basic rights are protected at all times. To put my cards on the table, I have been brought up in a black and white environment. When I was growing up, colour television was not available.
Notwithstanding, I have great recollections of the days when, like the rest of the children in Villambrosa Street, Hamrun, we played for hours during the school summer holidays. In those days, there was little room for shades of grey and less room for interpretation. As I grew older, I realised that different shades of grey are necessary and inevitable. I have learnt through experience the art of compromise, while holding on tight to my core values and principles. These are a no-go area.
I write because successive governments, and rightly so, have advocated for and introduced a wide range of rights to society at large. But unfortunately, different administrations have failed to adequately inform society what such rights bring with them.
School corporal punishment has long been abolished. Back then, teachers were allowed to give pupils a few good smacks with a wooden ruler. I have to admit I had my fair share. I still have vivid recollections of a corpulent female teacher at the Hamrun Primary Boys School. She used to scare me to death with her stern looks. God bless her soul. Quite often, she used to meet my parents. They were often in touch despite the fact that mobile phones and other means of electronic communication were not available. To put you in the picture back then, persons found in possession of a walkietalkie were arrested and questioned at the police headquarters.
By no means am I advocating the re-introduction of corporal punishment in schools, but instead I am soliciting for a continuous national campaign to reinforce the fact that there are no rights without duties. And the higher the responsibility one carries, the higher accountability is expected. Respect is not submissiveness and authority does not command blind obedience. Individuals and policy-makers can, however, make a difference.
How they manage change, how they nurture people’s development and how they facilitate progress enables society to, wherever possible, own the changes. Individuals can contribute to form better a society, but more importantly perhaps in today’s context, individuals can help shape a better, fairer and more inclusive society.
Parents, educators, the media and not least politicians should use the pen and the microphone to foster greater respect towards the national good. The national good is supreme. Rights and values should not be confounded.
How’s that for starters.
The Malta Independent Tuesday 29 November 2016