We all feel slightly – or totally – powerless in the face of our elected, selected, co-opted or arbitrarily chosen leaders. Politicians of all hues keep promising more transparency while becoming more and more opaque.

Instead of our leaders becoming more answerable, they keep hiding behind more smokescreens. People power keeps ebbing away.

Governments and governors come and go. Elections, those straightforward- sounding manifestations of citizen power, keep politicians in check. In theory, at least, that is how it should work.

Governments should be in awe of people, not the other way round.

Those who get elected by promising grand schemes of good governance, better care of the environment and the eradication of corruption but then deliver nothing but state kleptocracy, congestion and destruction of all things worth saving, should, in an ideal world, be facing oblivion. Political oblivion, exclusion and derision.

In Malta, the opposite happened and is happening. The more the Labour Party rides roughshod over its citizens, the more said citizens seem to love it.

We sound like the wish fulfilment of all masochists. Whipping –  and hearing uninterruptedly on state-sanctioned PBS that all is fine – is our national fetish. We suffer and smile. We are kicked and we ask for more. More ferocious kicks please and, why not, please sir, please, add on a punch.

Yet, some time ago, in 2019 – an impossibly distant time when COVID-19 was but a small scare in a far-off land – we saw in direct ways the power of the citizen. We saw action, counteraction and results.

A few good men and women – mainly great women – clanged pots, slept outside in the cold, whistled, and shouted out for justice. Government people moved. And people in power who seemed stuck in their posts for eternity were removed.

Let us rise and show the authorities we are not just here to be stamped upon

The country was swept by a wave of change caused mainly by people, people in the street. It was citizen power at its most effective.

We should all take heart from such momentous days. And start moving, fighting for our little bit of ground. We do not need to cause upheaval as happened in 2019; ideally, we should have kept up the pressure. Sadly, circumstances demanded otherwise.

Yet, pandemic or not, we should not let the government, or any entity or organisation, ride roughshod over us. If people join forces, they can perform miracles. Miracles happen when we act.

Bullies fear action: they fear joint fronts. If we think only the big picture – the national one – is important, we are totally wrong. We should all fight for our rights. Protest when we should. Show our anger when things are done badly, shoddily, and when we are treated like fools who will accept all that’s done to us.

Besides the national issues which concern our national liberties, we should also be ready to fight for the other big things like stopping the present government’s obsession with roads, highways, tarmac, flyovers and the destruction of trees and greenery. We should clamour for more and more open areas which provide lungs for our towns and villages and the preservation of our valleys.

If we join in the fight, if we make our voices, our protestations, vociferous our presence will be felt not just once every five years but daily.

Even on a smaller scale, we should snap out of our attitude of not speaking up. If there are works going on in our street and pedestrians are not offered proper passageway, we should do something about it. Not just – as we are wont to do – grumble and moan in private about the terrible state of affairs.

If we stop complaining about the little things, the demigods in power will know we can be cowed into subservience. Let us rise and show the authorities we are not just here to be stamped upon.

If we learn how to act effectively on small things, the bigger ones will happen seamlessly. As we saw in 2019, governments cower in the face of citizens’ power.


Victor Calleja, former publisher

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