Faces, young people and the (usual) moral panic
Dr Andrew Azzopardi Dean Faculty for Social Wellbeing, University of Malta & Broadcaster – Għandi xi Ngħid www.andrewazzopardi.org
One of the most rewarding moments in my Deanship is that instant when you are sitting ‘on the boards’ watching the faces of the graduates immensely satisfied that they have managed to see through the project they started three or four years earlier. Their face says it all, they are telling us; ‘do not stifle our enthusiasm’, ‘we want to take the lead now’, ‘you had your chance, now let go’. Much as this might sound painful and disturbing to people my age and even older it is fundamental that we heed the message. I remember being 18, 20, 24 years old wanting to bring the so much needed changes in the post 80’s era. I wanted to crack open the Malta I wanted for myself and for my children, family and friends. Not that I had any expectations to change the World but I surely believed that one could transform or at least leave an impact on the circle around him/her. I was never happy resting in my cosy corner, I gave it a shot, I did my part.
Our generation had some success and numerous failures.
Notwithstanding, that some of the social dents I used to see as a 20-year-old I did not manage to repair yet I gave the forces of iniquity a run for their money. And yes, we need to start letting go. The thousands of graduates collecting their certificates during this month are ready to lead and take this Country to the next level.
I will start by congratulating Pulse for the victory they recorded last Friday during the elections at Junior College. It is a pity that the celebration had to take the twist it did. The injury to the police officer was deplorable and objectionable whatever the circumstances. The excessive fireworks and hysterics are silly knowing well-enough that with exaggeration you risk lack of focus.
However, if one had to remove these senseless details, I do not agree that elections should in anyway be stopped. I believe that these elections are a useful exercise and the competition that ensues is good and has a positive impact. At certain points I get confused. In this Country we want young people to be involved in decision making, we want them to get engaged in organisations and then if it’s a political group we get our knickers in a twist. Yes, political engagement is good and maybe it should be encouraged further. Political involvement is not bad, neither is assimilation to one party or another. My god this is so Stanley Cohen and his moral panic. The moment we associate an accident to a young person, all hell breaks loose and it is ‘koccuti’, bla kontroll’, ‘psataz’. I just cannot understand why young people never win with the older generation. Safety, yes. But other than that let them compete, let them chose, let them campaign and battle it out, let them try to bring about change in the way they know, let them have a judgment and outlook – aren’t these experiences that they will be facing when they grow up.
Listen more, talk less
When life is so competitive, one might ask, how do should we measure success? And this is what I told my freshers’;
First measure: Simple, you are able to listen more than you talk... keep tabs on the inputs and the outputs... the more inputs you are gauging the smarter you are;
Second measure: Even simpler, you are able to run an argument without feeling this inept fear of annoyance, irritation or resentment - if you are proficient in engaging with someone’s argument, even if you might not agree, and still feel serene, composed and unruffled, then you are good.
Third measure: Hardly possible you might think, but yes even simpler, Uni would be a success story, if people start telling you, ‘how you have changed’ – because inconsistency - is a virtue. Not holding ‘desperately’ to what you think, is good. On the other hand retaining composure in what you believe in is paradise, perfection, sunshine…
‘The Clicker Generation’
Finally, I would like to quote some morsels of what a colleagues of mine, Prof. Saviour Formosa, Head, Department of Criminology (Faculty for Social Wellbeing) said during his brilliant Oration (13/11/2017 UM);
Everything must be weaved in Context. Today I am addressing the millennials, the first clicker generation. I am addressing the generation who have access to vast knowledge caches but are compelled with the need to tweet simplicities, upload or exhibit one’s assets to social media in an increasingly connected world.
In an effort to understand society, one could attempt to weave together the Alma Mater’s role in keeping this nation’s sanity on the right track, as such is a good place to start.
Compare our society to another social organisation - the ant colony: an aggregate and structured machine that works in tune to an organised core.
The same for the state and our University. We have much to be proud of, but we must prepare our students to think critically to make the jump and move from data to information to knowledge to organised action.
And this is where CONSCIENCE appears.
L’Università ta’ Malta IS the state’s conscience and has an obligation to society to guide, nurture and promote social change. Are we being reactive as against proactive?
Where was our conscience when the Maltese state depended on the strengthening of those social cohesion factors that sustain our social capital?
Academics should be there to enlighten those who veer onto an alternative level of politics and resort to parochialism and self-mutilation in their zeal for country bashing, in exchange for a few presumed political brownie points.
Such include hedonism, panama, a culture of rare resignations, push-back, citizenship crusade uturns, corruption, oil scandal, calls for insurrection, the demeaning of public figures, attacking the social capital entities and institutions. These, in conjunction with the continuous anti-Malta instigation in foreign fora have managed to dent the outsider’s perception though we strive hard to reverse such.
Education has become statusbased not skills-based. Are we teaching skills or simply awarding certificates to students in a perpetual cycle that gives graduates the perspective that they instantly become knowledgeable in all things PREFET? We have created a caste system based on MQF level... the new Brahmins, the new Vaisyas, the new Shudras. We have created the new Ayatollahs of knowledge who preside over the masses through access to information based on how many avatars we have or have not and how we can use those to do our work.
Education has become a rote in routine, such that students perceive university as just another step in their primary-secondarytertiary transition and not as a source of pride based on the achievement of skills.
Within these different realities, we need to ground our students to approach academic life with vigor and a realistic sense of the world out there. The lack of reading is worrying. References to wiki and junk is a knowledge killer as is the new plagiarism plague.
Competition is good for this Alma Mater and we can notch it up in the league of universities. But we need drive, loyalty, cooperation, trust and a modern operand.
It is time to carry out a review of academic effort to encompass one’s impact on society, particularly where more intra-inter-faculty collaboration is enacted.
The current siloisation of academia needs to be confined to history.
Life’s not fair but through hard work it becomes fairer.
My experiences were strange, scary and wondrous. I experienced war, fear, surprise, discoveries, self-reliance, friendship and fatherhood. This is what shaped me and it reflects reality out there: it is what we do to in order to better society that makes us the country’s conscience.
How can you know poverty if you never fell low? How can you understand failure if you always passed or found an aide to push you through? How can you understand your job understudies if you never started from the bottom? How can you know hunger if you never wanted? How can you understand fear if your worst nightmare is in CS Go? How can you feel compassion if your boat trip was a boat party to Comino, Ios or Ibiza? How can you understand the reality of war if you never smelt death? How can you experience the natural environment if you never smelt dew? How can you understand a pedestrian if you always drove a car? How can you understand reality if you spend your life in the glassticking domain? You graduates are tomorrow’s conscience, do us proud.
The Malta Independent Wednesday 15 November 2017