I am not sure whether it is a curse or a blessing but my brain seems always to be in overdrive. Thoughts are constantly developing and evolving at a pace faster than I can transfer them to my memory, let alone record them for posterity.
One thought that refuses to go away is the realisation that lessons from the Brexit referendum or the Trump election have not been learnt. People express outraged shock and horror at these two seemingly cataclysmic events but still persist in continuing blithely as before. They do not see the part they played in these events. Nor do they see that their carefree, comfortable lives are at risk.
Nowhere is this more evident than in Malta. Growing up in Malta, I was very much insulated from groups of people who were struggling in ways I couldn’t completely comprehend. Until very recently, that is. Our brush with penny pinching living has fortunately ended but now, wherever I look, I see reasons for the Brexit vote and for the Trump vote.
I would imagine it is the same in whichever country you live in. But maybe because Malta is small, this divide between the ‘them’ and the ‘us’ seems to be more pronounced. I cringe when I hear somebody make fun of ‘lesser’ mortals – I feel the same shame and humiliation that these would have felt if they heard the same sneering disdain. I am angry when a tenant struggles to pay the rent. I am angry when people are overcharged on their Arms bill. I am angry that I write to the Prime Minister and Konrad Mizzi about the systemic overcharging of tenants in 2013, and yet this still goes on in 2016. I am angry when defensive landlords complain about how terrible it is to let their property out, which ‘only’ gives them a 10% yield on their investment. I am angry that while a tenant could be paying 600 euro per month for a substandard bedsit in Marsaskala, another tenant could be paying 200 euro per year on a house in Sliema. I am angry when teachers, nurses, workers... have to work 2 or 3 jobs just to make ends meet. I am angry with the state for deciding that tenants, mostly non-Maltese, and therefore non-voting, are a suitable, sacrificial lamb at the altar of our ‘successful’ economy. I am angry when I hear all the platitudes of all the politicians as they try to justify their stance on housing policy, which, of course, includes a policy of no rent control (Ma tarax). I am angry when both main political parties compete with each other as to who can reduce social housing costs, of 200 euro per year, more. I am angry when vulnerable, struggling people are deemed ineligible for social housing. I am angry when overcharged Arms customers shrug their shoulders and accept a ‘What’s done is done – no, you cannot get a refund’, from Arms staff. I am angry when the state turns a blind eye towards tax evasion or tax avoidance.
But most of all I am unhappy when I see the shrugs of shoulders, the ‘X’nista’ nagħmel jien’ (What could I possibly do to change things), the defeated acceptance of mediocrity and of unjust administrative social policy.
The pity is that many of the increasing number of people who are on the ‘lower rungs of society’ ( how I hate labelling them in this way) deflect their anger, their shame and their humiliation on totally the wrong people – the ‘foreigner’, the irregular immigrant, the EU... They do not blame the people responsible for this increasing dysfunction - the politicians. Politics is not working. There is no moral leadership. Politicians only have an eye for the next general election. Not the greater good of the country.
Do we have to experience desperate situations in order for us to understand the ‘them’ as opposed to the ‘us’? Would I have been so sensitized to the above situations if we hadn’t gone through a version of them ourselves?
If I’m honest, the answer is probably no. I so wish that in my own small way, I am able to make more of us walk a little in other people’s shoes. Even if just one more person reading this, looks more closely at people, and sees what I’m talking about.