On Monday, October 16, 2017, the Maltese psyche shook, splitting to its core. A nation’s soul is revealed in the way it treats its victims. There can hardly be a more palpable victim than the one intentionally blasted into burnt pieces of flesh. So the aftermath is an evocative sign of the state of our soul.
Some dismissed or ignored the event altogether. Others domesticated it to fit into culturally acceptable narratives, like the amoral populist “she got what she deserved”, or the modern liberal myth preaching “je suis DCG”. But for a few, the murder of a lone voice, but also a wife, mother, sister, daughter and friend, will remain etched forever as the day when everything changed.
But what exactly has changed?
Ranier Fsadni chose ‘war’ as the word that captures most poignantly our new reality. Since our enemy is invisible, ‘act of terrorism’ seems more fitting still. Nonetheless, the most chilling aspect of terrorism is not how it restricts freedoms, turning us all into victims, but how it manipulates minds.
Paradoxically, even if Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder was intended to terrorise (at least a few), its most chilling effect is the realisation that many – perhaps the majority – were blind to its moral implications. Thus, October 16 marks an unbridgeable divide between the few who were profoundly disturbed and the many who remained indifferent.
The ‘everything’ that has changed on October 16 is that one brutal murder exposed the ‘corrupt’ soul of our nation that enables and tolerates such violence
Contrary to our indifference, in a gesture that was described as “rare”, Pope Francis acknowledged the gravity of the event and promised “his spiritual closeness to the Maltese people”.
Still, it is the following words in his 2016 World Day of Peace message that should echo ominously: “Indifference to one’s neighbour, born of indifference to God, finds expression in disinterest and a lack of engagement, which only help to prolong situations of injustice and grave social imbalance.”
The normalisation of violence breeds more brutality. But it is also a symptom of something deeper: an indifference to the transcending principles of justice, goodness, truth and beauty that give meaning to any decent human life. Those who are indifferent to such ultimate values are morally stunted, their conscience blunted, their heart corrupted.
As Pope Francis said in 2014 in his address to the delegates of the International Association of Penal Law: “The corrupt person knows neither brotherhood nor friendship, but complicity and enmity. The corrupt one does not perceive his corruption. It is somewhat like what happens with bad breath... [I]t is unlikely that the corrupt person will be able to recognise his state and change through inner remorse. Corruption is a greater ill than sin.”
The ‘everything’ that has changed on October 16 is that one brutal murder has exposed the ‘corrupt’ soul of our nation that enables and tolerates such violence. Our many sins were already screaming at us: greed, hedonism, entitlement, ecological abuse... But the indifference to the victim’s murder reveals that we are very much at ease with our collective sins; that they are our new norm, drowning us into that state of moral depravity where nothing moves the heart to shame or regret.
Sleeping with the devil of ostentatious wealth, power and favours has made us frivolous, feeble in mind and soul, easy targets in that one war that truly matters: against propagandists and twisted cultural norms that devour our individual minds and souls. Our soul died on bloodstained concrete walls, through the decadence of our lifestyles, in the burnt body of the dead.
Now, only a taste of hell-on-earth could wake us up. Until then, we revel in our moral indifference.
Nadia Delicata is senior lecturer in moral theology.