Years ago, I watched a segment by an Italian journalist where he spoke about the worth of a life in a hostage situation. An American life, he stated, was worth three or four Italian ones, but then one Italian life was worth several African ones.

The political power and geography of a country have much to do with the way its people are perceived by the world, and therefore, their value increases and decreases based on that. I’ve often thought about that interview and dwelled in disgust at the truthful cynicism of it all.

This week, we found out how many deaths it takes for someone to suspend themselves (whatever that means) from a role of responsibility in Malta. It apparently takes 14. Fourteen lives gone, 14 families that will never be the same again. Numerous reports of abuse, several articles written about people’s experiences in prison, and it took us 14 deaths for someone to suspend themselves.

Sadly, it’s easy to see why it took 14. You see, on our fair islands, the parable of the Prodigal Son has always stuck in our throats. We’re very good at granting mercy to ourselves but have never been particularly great about giving it to others. If the comments are to be believed, once you get the label of convict for whatever reason, your life automatically decreases in value. If you didn’t want it to be worth less, then well, you should have done better.

There is no room for mistakes, no tolerance or empathy allowed for those who have lost their way, and if you suggest any such thing, you are met with the ubiquitous phrase: “What would you do if he had hurt your son?” If we could stone people in our village squares legally, people would be queuing up for the honours.

Our archaic laws and even more archaic ways of looking at those who have broken the rules are so much part of the fabric of our society that we can’t afford people compassion- Anna Marie Galea

I often find myself wildly grateful that the elements brought St Paul to this speck of land because if this is the result after hundreds of years of being told to turn the other cheek, I shudder to think what the alternative would have been like.

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be punished for breaking the law: God knows, there are plenty of people that should be in jail spending their seemingly endless bail time acting like retired pop stars, but what I am saying is that our archaic laws and even more archaic ways of looking at those who have broken the rules are so much part of the fabric of our society that we can’t afford people compassion.

If we are a country that still wants to tout that every single life matters, then should not every life matter whatever the circumstances surrounding it?

Or does our worth solely depend on whether we can conform? And then by how much can this fact be extended?

Do you deserve to be ridiculed and heckled because you don’t want to submit to the status quo? Do you deserve to be murdered in cold blood because you refuse to stop speaking about corruption?

How many have silenced themselves for fear of being shunned and seen as inconvenient?

Even just a few days ago, as Moira Delia was being shouted over and called a liar on TV, people still tried to make her sound like a drama queen for doing the civilised thing and leaving a table where respect was clearly not being served.

Here’s to us all being as inconvenient as possible: it is only through inconvenience that we and this country can grow.

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