Sex, money and let’s not rock the boat
Politics is a hard, stressful occupation and many politicians ask themselves why they are in it. Some that they want to change society and do something for the common good, the definition of “common good” obviously being as elastic as it is idiosyncratic. Stress for a politician can be created by past actions, by problems at home, by the other side’s dirty tricks, strong divergences of opinions with one’s own side, and possibly the politician’s own reaction to all this.
Too much stress can be lethal, so caution is advised, as nothing is more precious than one’s health. Then, of course, there are those who are having the time of their life. Just consider Konrad Mizzi – despite everything, he still wants to contest the next elections.
Stop nodding at the Panama shenanigans
There is something extremely wrong with this government. It is more than rotten, but I cannot find the mot juste yet. We are not alone to have this feeling. At least two Ministers – Evarist Bartolo and Edward Scicluna – seem to be somewhat embarrassed by the shenanigans going on at the top levels of the country’s administration.
With the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff and what could be Joseph Muscat’s equivalent of Madame du Barry messing around with secret companies in secretive jurisdictions, big business, energy and all that, it is a mystery how only Ministers Bartolo and Scicluna seem embarrassed.
Worse still, Dr Muscat’s fluffiest Minister not only seems not to be embarrassed... he actually seems to be enjoying the ride.
Now I know for a fact that Owen Bonnici can be finicky if he wants to. At the same time, he can also forget the woods completely and just look at the trees, or vice versa, he can ignore the trees while embracing the view of the woods. He is quite intellectually versatile.
But in the Panama Shenanigans Saga, Minister Bonnici is being too intellectually versatile. Not only did he not keep his distance from the two honorary Panamanians, but he also engaged – as a person of trust no less – the mastermind behind the entire imbroglio! Brain Tonna, of the infamous Nexia BT outfit, has been engaged, at €5,000 a month, as a person of trust by Minister Bonnici. Unbelievable.
The fiasco (for a fiasco it is) was even a Reuter’s news item. Appalling.
One has to ask to what extent the web is tangled.
And one has to ask whether we the People are also comfortably numb, unable to realise the untold damage being done to the country’s reputation.
But for the moment, perhaps Minister Bonnici should stop nodding at the shenanigans and start behaving with something sort of close to dignity, inspired by the likes of Ministers Bartolo and Scicluna.
As for these two Ministers, upright citizens expect more of them if they are to retain the thinking public’s respect. They should voice their concern loudly not whisper their disapproval sotto voce. Otherwise, unless they really start putting Malta first, we might begin to suspect that theirs could be nothing more than mere pretence and ostentation.
Where is my tongue?
I have seen on Facebook that there is a group of undeterred citizens who are voicing their concern. They want to protect a morsel of land called Tal-Qares somewhere or other in Mosta. The reason why? Because it seems there are some archaeological remains on the land. Meaning? That it should not be developed.
Now this seems to me complete and utter misplaced pious claptrap. If we were to pander to the silly instincts of all the hoitytoity tree-hugging do-gooders who have a soft spot for archaeology and all that nonsense, we would be halting the progress and development of this country. We cannot afford that, can we now? We need to build, higher and higher if necessary, expand the swathes of concrete, more construction, more construction material dumped into the sea, more economic activity, more GDP, more wealth. That’s the way forward.
Hey, stargazers, leave ’em kids alone! All in all, it’s just another brick in the wall!
Do find the group on Facebook and give them your support.
In the meantime, don’t forget that this afternoon there is a prolife manifestation starting from Castille Square in Valletta at 3:30pm. Do turn up. The country needs less Neoliberalism (a byword for environmental and moral degradation) and more decency.
A couple of weeks ago, writing in another newspaper, my friend Ranier Fsadni mentioned the colloquial use of the adjective “Fascist” by “some of the Muscat government’s critics”.
I have often referred to Dr Muscat’s government as Neoliberal. I have actually devoted an entire chapter of my book LAqwa fl-Ewropa to analyse its Neoliberal character. I have often said that I think the current strain of Liberalism is Fascist. So, here goes my friendly comeback.
Indeed, there are at least three ways of using the term “Fascist”.
There’s the first way, which is historical. I certainly do not mean that (to use an American expression) Prime Minister Muscat is following in the footsteps of Prime Minister Mussolini.
There’s the second way, which is, as Mr Fsadni pointed out, colloquial.
“Fascist” can be used as a term of abuse, a byword for “authoritarian”, or even “conservative”. Let’s borrow an example from popular culture: a scene from Carlo Verdone’s 1980 comedy, Fun is Beautiful ( Un Sacco Bello in Italian). Mario voices his worry that his son is not thinking about having his own family, and, what’s worse, he has found a girlfriend who is certainly not family material. Fiorenza, the girlfriend, retorts that she has already spat in her own father’s face and warns Mario, “Be careful, fascio, it would take me nothing!” To which Mario angrily replies, “You’re calling me fascio? Me? Listen here, little tart, I’m not a Communist like this [he raises his left fist] – I am a Communist like this!! [he raises both fists]”.
That’s the term of abuse, in its colloquial manifestation.
But then there is the third meaning, which is the meaning I have in mind and refers to the in- herent contradiction of intolerant liberalism.
Just a few examples to illustrate my point, all of which you can describe as “Fascist”, even if they take place in democracies.
Incredible as it may sound, a few days ago German kindergartens were given a brochure instructing assistants on how to identify girls coming from farright families: they usually wear dresses and braids. The kindergarten assistants were told how to deal with the children’s parents in order to avoid further diffusion of far-right ideas. One criticism to this approach was that it resembled too much the modus operandi of the Stasi, the secret police of the former East Germany (a Communist State) which used to spy on people. What the criticism meant was that the approach was “authoritarian”.
But let us look at examples from “fiction”. Equating the tendency toward law and order to “Fascism” is a theme which appeared in movies and novels up to some time ago. Consider the beautiful 1970 movie Investigation of a Citi
zen Above Suspicion, a political satire on the authoritarian practices of the police force in a democratic State (Italy), including the morally distasteful practice of keeping records on all the homosexuals living in a city.
Then consider Manuel Vázquez Montalbán’s noir novels, which he started writing in the 1970s about the Spanish detective Pepe Carvalho, a former CIA agent and former Communist, whose girlfriend is a prostitute in Barcelona. In one of these novels, we find the Dutch Police keeping files on everybody... in The Netherlands, of all places, the avant-garde personal freedom haven par excellence.
Then consider Alan Parker’s 1982 movie, Pink Floyd – The
Wall, and the in-your-face use it makes of fascistoid imagery to criticise the education system and the pop music industry, both happening in Britain, the mother of liberal democracies.
Some nine years ago, I was thinking to myself that the Liberals had stopped being liberals, because you either had to agree with them or they would “excommunicate” you. What kind of liberal does not tolerate conservatives? I deduced that it had to be a Fascist Liberal. I went through this reasoning on a flight to London, and – in a classic example of synchronicity – when I arrived in Luton, I found a book in the airport bookshop called... Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg.
It had been a New York Times bestseller the year before, clearly demonstrating that many people were feeling uneasy with what liberalism had morphed into. I bought a copy and decided to adopt many of Mr Goldberg’s views on Fascism.
Law as a tool of cultural hegemony
Unlike the original incarnation, the new Fascism, the Liberal variant, is soft. It does not gas, or otherwise dispose of you in a concentration camp. Nonetheless, it is as intolerant as its predecessor.
Because it believes, yet again, that the State is omnipotent and that it should, softly this time not harshly, regulate as many aspects as possible of the life and thinking of its citizens.
Fascism is the elevation of politics to the level of religion and the attempt to make everybody believe in and practise the tenets of that religion.
Just consider the French law banning and punishing attempts to dissuade women from having abortions. How can this be a liberal law? Abortion is a liberal “achievement”. But – and this is the big contradiction – to conserve the “achievement”, the Liberals have to adopt Fascist tactics and punish conservatives who dare openly to disagree with the liberal stance and act upon that disagreement.
In other words, everybody has to be liberal. Or else they are punished by the Liberals and the laws they enact.
Take the case of Chapter 567 of the Laws of Malta (it’s two years to the day since it was enacted). This is the gender identity law and it punishes (both a fine and imprisonment are contemplated) not only “conversion practices” if applied to “vulnerable persons”, but also the advertisement of such practices. The definition of “vulnerable persons” is so wide that it could include anybody.
Everybody has to be liberal, because the State has so decided.
I think that when everybody is obliged not to rock the boat and to adhere to the dominant ideology (or else face criminal punishment), we can safely talk of Fascism. In this case, Liberal Fascism.