An Afghan wed­ding

Over the course of the past 16 years, dur­ing which the war in Afghanistan against Osama Bin Laden and the Tal­iban has been fought, of­ten enough, tragic ca­su­al­ties in­cluded wed­ding par­ties.

Malta Independent - - NEWS - Rachel Borg is an in­de­pen­dent colum­nist based in the tourism in­dus­try

In 2013 For­eign Pol­icy mag­a­zine re­ported that the US has bombed at least eight wed­ding par­ties since 2001. That makes a stark con­nect between or­di­nary life and pol­i­tics, with war as the most bru­tal form of ag­gres­sion es­pe­cially when the vic­tims are in­no­cent peo­ple cel­e­brat­ing a happy fam­ily event. It means that no mat­ter where you are and what you are do­ing, you do not have the priv­i­lege of ex­clud­ing your­self from the de­ci­sions and ac­tions of others and the pos­si­ble con­se­quences, whether or not you live un­der a cor­rupt regime.

Yet here in Malta, we think we can be se­lec­tive about cir­cum­stances and at­ti­tudes around us. When we go to a wed­ding, dressed up and fancy, ready to mix and min­gle and en­joy a re­lax­ing time at the plea­sure of the bride and groom, we be­come one ho­mo­ge­neous group. If there are peo­ple of dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal back­grounds at the same bash, then there is a tacit agree­ment not to talk pol­i­tics and to just talk about foot­ball or busi­ness or the fam­ily. Should there be no con­flict of in­ter­ests in the crowd of wed­ding guests, then there is a long, hot dis­cus­sion about Joseph Mus­cat’s/PN’s lat­est re­sults. The cul­tural trend is ba­si­cally to avoid con­fronta­tion at any cost and that out­side our own in­ter­ests, we should not need to in­ter­fere or crit­i­cise any in­di­vid­ual or pol­icy.

But just as Afghan, Pales­tinian or Is­raeli wed­dings can end in dis­as­ter, can we af­ford to live in de­tach­ment, re­moved from the re­al­ity of po­ten­tial threat and harm around us? Peo­ple here go to great ex­tent to pro­tect their fam­ily and their fam­ily name and go through life un­der its shel­ter. Moth­ers do not of­ten tell their sons they are wrong to do what they do. Fa­thers pre­tend that all is ex­cused by busi­ness and it can­not be helped if the son-in­law has frauded the fam­ily. We live in not just a “Bar­illa” per­fect fam­ily but a com­plete vacuum of re­la­tion­ships.

When, in the mid­dle of all this com­fort and ease, some­one or some­thing comes along to ex­pose the truth or ques­tion a smug and ar­ro­gant at­ti­tude, all hell breaks loose and there is noth­ing else to do but shout “Witch” or wal­low in self-pity and de­pend on like­minded friends and en­e­mies to stand by our good name and de­fend the ac­cepted code of con­duct by os­tracis­ing the one who merely shone a light on the mask on your face.

The re­al­ity is that pol­i­tics can be a part of life and death and much of what comes in between. It is not just cock­tail party ban­ter and we are not sim­ple id­iots who chase af­ter a hot look­ing leader or their spouse or part­ner, like the next re­al­ity star. There has to be some weight to our choices and form­ing those opin­ions is im­por­tant and of ben­e­fit to you and to so­ci­ety around you. That is where in­for­ma­tion has value.

It is true, that, in the past decades the bench mark for po­lit­i­cal de­bate was none-other than Xara­bank – with ev­ery re­spect to it, as it is up to us to eval­u­ate its con­tent – but now that Peppi Az­zopardi was domi­ciled, even the lit­tle chal­lenge that the pro­gramme of­fered is neu­tralised. Which leaves us with an oc­ca­sional de­bate with the in­ter­viewer on a stool and the sub­ject on a wob­bly chair, spin­ning be­neath him, re­hash­ing the con­ver­sa­tion he had at last Satur­day night’s wed­ding.

The lead­ers’ de­bate at the Uni­ver­sity re­ceived much the same treat­ment ear­lier this year be­fore the elec­tion. The de­bate of­fered by stu­dents is poor and un­imag­i­na­tive and has had no im­pact on so­ci­ety to speak of. There is some ac­tiv­ity by NGOs in the en­vi­ron­men­tal sec­tor and one new group has been set up with a view on bring­ing is­sues to our at­ten­tion that need it such as ram­pant cor­rup­tion. They are look­ing for fi­nan­cial sup­port and should get it be­cause they are alone, as far as I know, in demon­strat­ing with di­rect ac­tion.

The only lit­tle win­dow of hope is in the wider trav­els that stu­dents and some grown adults are mak­ing. Ven­tur­ing fur­ther than the Manch­ester-Arse­nal match or San Siro has led to some ex­pan­sion of the mind and sen­si­tized peo­ple more to the cul­tural and so­cial dif­fer­ences and sim­i­lar­i­ties between na­tion­al­i­ties and the im­pact of be­hav­iour and choices. The com­mit­ment made by jour­nal­ists, groups and or­gan­i­sa­tions to con­trib­ute to po­lit­i­cal de­bate is also some­thing you can be­come aware of when trav­el­ling abroad or by sim­ply fol­low­ing such pro­grammes on for­eign TV.

But very of­ten, all it takes is a short walk through Malta In­ter­na­tional Air­port to bring back the folk­lore of the is­land. We just go on miss­ing the wood for the trees as we re­ject and re­pel any crit­i­cism or at­ti­tude that makes us un­com­fort­able.

It is se­ri­ously time for Malta to grow up and to stop shel­ter­ing un­der con­ven­tion. The im­ma­ture and re­gres­sive cul­ture has gone past its sell-by-date. Now we think that be­cause we have em­braced all the lib­eral views and are just short of le­gal­is­ing drugs, abor­tion and eu­thana­sia, that we do not need to give any im­por­tance to those lit­tle slips of char­ac­ter that have re­sulted in debts of mil­lions of eu­ros which are un­se­cured. And when we learn of how our lead­ers were busy tak­ing com­mis­sions and trans­act­ing deals to jour­ney that il­licit money to a for­eign coun­try where it can sud­denly as­sume a new na­tion­al­ity, we are “yeah, uh, il­lallu, u ijja”.

With the trial run all tested and tried, how then can we turn to the next guy and say that he should not be of the same mind? That would need some ma­jor dis­cern­ment and wed­dings are not places for think­ing about the heav­ier things in life. We are here to be happy and boast about our lat­est ac­qui­si­tion. The gen­eral trend is, if this leader or other public fig­ure, can in any way con­trib­ute to my as­sets, then where is the prob­lem?

Where is the prob­lem, in­deed? Per­haps it is in the wed­ding party that got blown up or the child whose fa­ther has dodged the bul­let. If we are not go­ing to take cor­rup­tion and per­sonal fail­ings into ac­count then we are never go­ing to evolve be­yond a dirty, medi­ocre, even re­gres­sive and child­ish so­ci­ety.

Nat­u­rally, it does not mean that we will hound per­sons or so­ci­eties for their be­hav­iour or po­lit­i­cal lean­ings but it does mean that we can judge them on that ac­count and see if it is nor­mal that we elect them to power and whether it will ben­e­fit us and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions to sup­port a par­tic­u­lar po­si­tion or not. It is es­sen­tial that we keep an open mind and not be con­di­tioned by man­ners or pop­ulism.

The more we lower our stan­dards and favour a thug­gish and abra­sive men­tal­ity, the fur­ther apart we grow and hon­est sup­port will be some­thing that will take decades to re­store, if at all. Rel­a­tivism is dan­ger­ous and un­pro­duc­tive and leads to long last­ing dam­age of our so­ci­ety, our en­vi­ron­ment and our econ­omy. Let us all make a con­scious ef­fort to re­alise we are not alone and can­not af­ford to elect failed lead­ers from what­ever party. Let us en­able our­selves to make a dif­fer­ence.

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