The passion for politics

Maltese society certainly makes for an interesting socio-anthropological study. Across vast swathes of the population one finds three potentially dividing lines – football, religion (il-patrun u l-festa tar-rahal) and politics.

Football demands and expects total loyalty. That’s the way it should be because football is nearly completely based on strong underlying strains of passion – in other words you do not change football team. There are a few exceptions but any change is normally half-hearted and dictated by specific circumstances.

Religion on the other hand is based in faith. Changing religion has become commonplace and accepted – ultimately most religions are similar and to some extent identical in their demands on our morals, conscience and beliefs in particular the monotheistic ones like Islam and Christianity so any change is not so demanding or extreme. However it would not occur to anyone to change the patron saint of the village they come from especially in those cases where the same village has one, two or more festi dedicated to different patron saints. Again here it is a matter of passion which is very similar to the passions which run amok in football.

It is unfortunate that the same passions also run through our political belief. I use ‘belief’ with clear intent – it should be a political leaning or an opinion but for us Maltese it is truly belief. This is where we err. Politics should never ever be based on belief. As soon as our political opinions became beliefs we automatically elevated our politicians to the level of patrons and saints. We do not dare think that they could ever go wrong. We will go to great lengths to justify every slip up, even the most heinous of crimes by our politicians … if we are of the same ‘belief’. And God help them if we are not.

What we have not understood yet is that politics is embedded in discussion not belief, in making coherent arguments and implementing policies for the good of all; not in impassioned speeches on what makes a good laburist or a good nazzjonalist. The politicians of old from both sides put country before party – even those
most reviled did this when occasion demanded. Not any more. The struggle for power now dominates our political arena. This has been grossly fomented by an overly consumeristic and materialistic society. Malta has thrived over the last three decades in particular and this has shifted our politicians’ focus. We had some nice slogans in 2013 but they remained just words on billboards.

Time for change is ripe – we need to take politics back to its right place away from our hearts and passions, closer to our minds such that we can formulate impassioned policies and proceed to their timely and proper implementation.

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