Every society has its problems and even here in Malta we sometimes tend to be rather too pessimistic about the state of Maltese society today. We often mention the crime rate, the decline in moral values and other negative phenomena without stopping to reflect on the positive progress that has been registered in Maltese social development over the years due mostly to the efforts of different Maltese governments, both Labour and Nationalist. There is, indeed, a world of difference between perception and truth.

The truth is that Maltese society is going through a period of transition, which is very positive. A major development has been the shedding of Malta’s traditional insularity due to the impact of technological advances that have made it possible to keep up with what is going on in the rest of the world not only on a daily basis but on an up-to-the-minute basis. The internet is a prime example of this. Add to this the interaction with other cultures as a result of tourism, travel by the Maltese themselves and the impact of Malta’s European Union membership and it is no wonder Maltese social horizons are broadening and ideas and concepts are becoming more liberal.

Maltese social life today benefits from unity in diversity. A healthy debate is going on throughout the country on important social, political and economic issues, like divorce, good governance, economic restructuring, etc. Such issues may sometimes descend to the level of being divisive among members of Maltese society and the various social groupings. However, all this is a healthy manifestation of democracy in action. Furthermore, although we might differ on the course of action to be taken with regard to such important issues, there are still many other aspects of social life that bring us together and provide a welcome unifying balance among the Maltese social strata. Take, for instance, sports, feasts and other religious functions, cultural manifestations, etc.

Awareness of issues which in the past tended to remain latent and unattended to is another positive development today. Environmental awareness is a prime example. Do you remember the bad old days when people used to pass through the main street of Valletta and litter it by simply throwing away the wrappings of chocolates and anything else they happened to be eating? Do you remember how it was common to discard old white goods in the countryside? Yes, I know, these abuses still go on today but they have become the exception now and not the rule as in the past. Moreover, it is refreshing to see people marching to protest against environmental abuses and other issues which in the past were mostly neglected.

Maltese society is today addressing several other problems which deserve our attention. Domestic violence, animal welfare, the rights of children, all these issues were neglected before but today we are giving them the attention that they deserve.

The future of Maltese society is also assured because we are witnessing a good number of youths playing their part towards progress in the Maltese islands. Participation by youths in non-governmental organisations is quite encouraging. The same can be said about politics. It is true that old-timers like me are perhaps a bit cynical when we deal with the subject of Maltese politics but let us be honest with ourselves and admit that all the political parties have enthusiastic and dynamic youth sections, which augur well for the future. These idealistic youths are out to change the world and their impact on Maltese politics can only be positive.

Have I been too optimistic? I don’t think so. However, if the social renaissance is to continue, we have to address pressing social problems which, if not dealt with at once, could seriously damage our social fabric. We have to ask ourselves important questions and do our utmost to seek the answers.

Why do we still have a serious drug problem in our country? What can we do to alleviate the lot of those families who are living on the brink of poverty? How can we strengthen the family without imposing our values on others who have different ideas and concepts about marriage? Who are those people who still feel their rights are not recognised in our society and what can we do about it? How can we assure the security and welfare of our pensioners? How can we continue to improve education in Malta, which is so crucial for national development? How can we translate into facts the maxim that politics is at the service of the community? How can we eliminate corruption from public life?

Positive social change is an ongoing process and we have to consolidate our gains and build upon them. Otherwise, social regression is just round the corner.

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