One of the main topics people talk about these days is the hot weather, with some longing for the colder autumn and winter months and others making the most of summer. I used to be a ‘winter person’ though in recent years I have come to appreciate better the warmer months of the year. Apart from the long spell of very hot weather we have experienced almost uninterruptedly over the past couple of months, summer is undoubtedly a season when we seem able to enjoy the good things in life more.

Malta has a lot to offer in terms of our quality of life. However, we still seem to be complaining a lot. Personally, I often feel frustrated when I realise how far better off we could be if we pay more attention to the detail. In so many aspects of life, we seem to be lacking what it takes or, even worse, sabotaging any effort being made to add what it takes to make these islands the paradise we could become were it not for the short-sighted mentality of some who would gladly sacrifice the greater good for their own selfish reasons.

What is lacking in this country is spread across all levels of society. I believe it starts from the top levels. Just try to follow the parliamentary debates, especially since they have started to be broadcast live on TV, and I am sure you would agree that what is referred to as the highest institution in the country often fails to inspire, to say the least. My point is that if politicians are meant to lead by example then no wonder our standards still leave much to be desired.

I still recall being struck by comments by Louis Grech and Simon Busuttil, then still members of the European Parliament, at a conference some years ago. They confessed how in Brussels and Strasbourg they work closely together and adapt to the less confrontational ‘European style’ of politics yet, once the aeroplane back to Malta passes over Sicily, they switch to local mode which, let’s be honest, is a style of politics that hinders us from any genuine aspirations towards achieving higher levels and a better quality of life.

I don’t dispute that we have our own way of doing things and that we should not seek to become a carbon copy of other countries. Yet, I’m afraid we sometimes use this argument to justify the unjustifiable. For example, turning a blind eye to even minor contraventions on the pretext that we are not as disciplined as the Germans or the Scandinavians translates into this free for all attitude that keeps us stuck in what I sometimes think is still a remnant of colonial times.

‘Our way of doing things’ should never be a pretext for justifying blatant disregard for the basic rules that truly define a modern and civilised society

So much so that when the authorities finally decide to start enforcing laws and regulations, this becomes headline news as was the case with the action taken by the Malta Tourism Authority to clear public beaches that had been taken over by commercial entities.

In other countries, individuals and commercial entities pride themselves in being law abiding. Here, the opposite seems to be the case; we boast about our ability to being able to get away with flouting it.

‘Our way of doing things’ should never be a pretext for justifying blatant disregard for the basic rules that truly define a modern and civilised society. Unfortunately, the trend I see in our society is of individuals being more concerned with their own personal interests than in any notion of the common good. We love ourselves more than we love our country. We are becoming increasingly self-centred with an almost total disregard for others.

I could list countless examples of this that appear even more blatant in summer. I’ve already referred to the beaches in relation to the praiseworthy enforcement action taken. Even more importantly is the need for individuals to be more concerned about, for instance, cleaning up the mess they often leave behind or not throwing waste into the sea.

On the positive side, I note a growing number of ‘clean up’ initiatives by NGOs, though I am still angered by the fact that civic-minded citizens have to clean up the mess left by their compatriots when there should have been no mess in the first place.

The ‘waste’ issue is a still a serious problem I fear. Although we have made great strides over the years, I still see TV sets or computer monitors and other stuff dumped in the roads despite a very good bulky refuse system operated by local councils and the numerous civic amenity sites that offer a free daily service.

Another major problem is the traffic and the road network. We now have a pledge by the government to revamp all roads over the coming seven years. This is sorely needed. One of our major frustrations is driving on roads that kind of turn the entire country into a mini rollercoaster experience.

However, laudable as the initiative to redo all roads may be, traffic also needs to be seriously addressed. There are clearly too many vehicles on our roads but there is no plan in place or in the pipeline to address the situation. People need to be convinced that there are alternative ways of getting around that are more efficient and economical than driving their cars. So far, this is not the case and can never be the case with a public transportation system, for example, that cannot guarantee punctuality because there are too many obstacles along the bus routes that make it impossible for a bus to be at a particular stop at the time indicated.

I sometimes try to take a shortcut through Tarxien to avoid Tal-Barrani. Many times, the traffic is at a standstill because the waste collection truck is blocking the road (during rush hour) or else the bus cannot stop in the bus bay near the church because some other vehicle has parked there or we get stuck because a number of vehicles stop in no parking zones at the junction between Paola road and Xintill Street so the owners can grab a coffee and have a chat at the nearby café. Not to mention the roads that are often closed due to construction works without any prior warning being given and sometimes without the necessary permits.

I still believe we could do so much better. We have registered much progress in so many respects that it is indeed a great pity we sabotage any ambition to achieve the highest standards because of our ignorance, selfishness or greed.

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