The ‘us and them’ syndrome
Notice the way politicians answer questions put to them.
They hardly ever give a straight answer, preferring to go round in circles, often arriving nowhere. By the time they finish answering, they would not even remember the question that they had been asked.
If they are questioned about apples, they answer about oranges. If about oranges, they mention apples.
What’s more, on most occasions they bring up the opposing party into the equation. They always seem to find a way of doing it.
“I would like to remind you what the others did”, is a phrase that is often used, with the “others” an obvious reference to the political opponents. It does not matter that years would have passed since the “others” did or did not do something. It always seems timely for politicians to recall what the “others” were responsible for. And how they did things in a better way.
In a country with a two-party system like Malta, this mentioning of the “others” comes from either end of the spectrum, irrespective of which party is in government and which is in opposition. In general terms, the Labourites remind the Nationalists about the 1960s, and the Nationalists remind the Labourites about the 1980s. More specifically, the two parties are always in competition on who did the most for Malta, and who was to blame for the mistakes committed.
This situation has created a political division that is hard to restrain, let alone eliminate. There are times when one starts to think that, somehow, we have started to turn a corner. But then something happens and we’re back where we started, if not worse. The more an election approaches, the more it rips us apart. Needless to say, the social media has not helped to assuage tempers; if anything, matters have degenerated. Families are known to be divided because of politics. Friends, too.
What is worse is that politicians thrive on this. Many of them share friendship or at least a form of camaraderie with their political opponents outside of Parliament’s chambers, and yet they then point fingers at each other and often insult the other side when the cameras are on.
There are politicians who are not on speaking terms with some of their counterparts, at times even some of their colleagues (especially those in the same electoral district), but generally speaking they have a good personal relationship. This might not appear to be so in public, but it is, in private.
But it is in the politicians’ interest that the “us and them” syndrome continues to be present in society, in families, even between brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, parents and children. It is a despicable situation brought about by their constant arguing, accusations, lack of solidarity and pushing of agendas because, after all, what they want is power.
The power to lead the country, with all the perks that things brings with it.
And the power to retain the “us and them” status, the one that sees families, friends and the country divided.