I have lost count of all the people I know who are carrying Ventolin inhalers in their bags and reaching out for it to curb nasty coughs which linger persistently for weeks on end. Wheezing and shortness of breath have become the order of the day lately.

The weather does not help; it’s mid-May and rain is still pouring, the clouds still loom, and this dratted wind sounds like we’ve adopted a pack of wolves in the garden. A farmer told me the other day, that he’s never seen this kind of weather in 40 years “Id-dinja qed tinqeleb” (the world has gone topsy turvy) he said, shaking his head in a mournful manner.

But clearly, this is not just about spring allergies. Pollution is catching up on all of us. Sometimes, I’d be driving past some areas – say Birkirkara or Paola – and I can actually feel my chest cage in as I inhale the air fumes.

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Malta registered the second highest increase in carbon dioxide emissions from 2017 to 2018 courtesy of the drastic increase in transport and traffic. 

According to a latest report, since the election of a government colour-blind to greenery in 2013, Malta has failed to reach emission reduction targets every year and it seems unlikely we’ll reach goals set for 2020 – unlike other European countries.

But it doesn’t matter does it? Because a) the government told us there’s going to be a cut-off date beyond which we can only buy electric cars and b) the government told us we shall be having a new ‘spazju kbir’ (vast space) in Ta’ Qali.

Of course I’m all for electric cars and spazji. However, a) are we sure we can all afford electric cars?

Because the last time I checked these are more expensive even when you factor in the subsidy (disclaimer: it could be that this argument applies only to me because I am not privy to l-aqwa żmien and maybe I really need to buy a ticket for Joe Sammut’s Fiat Panda). 

And b) turning disused factories into open spaces is all well and good, but will this give our lungs the much-needed fresh air that they need? Wouldn’t it be more useful to have properly planned urban green areas spread all over the island so that on Sundays we don’t all drive to the same place at the same time and by the time we get there we’d have sucked our Ventolins dry?

Elections

Another thing which makes me reach out for the inhaler is scaremongering. I watched NET news the other day and by the end I was pretty certain that the doorbell was going to ring and I was going to find a bunch of EU socialists behind my door ready to grab me and perform an impromptu abortion on the doorstep.

That’s the problem with EU elections. We, the people on the street, have no precise idea of what the EU really does and not, and so it is very convenient (albeit irresponsible) for political parties to use the EU as a scaremongering tool.

Another thing which makes me reach out for the inhaler is scaremongering

It’s obvious then that the European Union cannot keep on waiting for the MEP elections every five years to start advertising/explaining what it does and does not (for example, no, the EU cannot force a nation to introduce abortion). It is high time it starts running ongoing information campaigns, targeting all sectors of society, so that everyone understands the concept of having a united Europe, of being European and citizens of the world.

Perhaps that would finish off the misconceptions as well as the rise of the far-right. There would be no neo-Nazi in Sweden; no Matteo Salvini wanting to fine NGO rescue boats €5,500 for each migrant they disembark on Italian soil; and no cold-blooded murder of migrant Lassana Cisse in broad daylight in Malta.

Meanwhile we can only hope that following these MEP elections, Commission president Junker is not replaced by his second-in-command Frans Timmermans – he who approves of prime ministers protecting corrupt people in Cabinet, and he who needs to look up his English-to-Dutch dictionary to understand the meaning of rule of law. With Timmermans at the helm, we might as well emigrate out of the EU, straight to New Zealand for some real ‘spazju’.

Let’s channel the Eskimos

The Guardian last week ran a piece about how the Inuit people of Alaska never get angry. Eskimo parents never get cross with their kids, or give them punishments or tell them to go in their room and think about their actions. Instead they use storytelling and role play to encourage young people to learn for themselves.

As a result, the children grow up into adults who do not yell, do not shout and are not generally loud. In their culture, anger is “devalued and minimised” which leads to a calmer life because there are no rages, rows, rants and anger is seen as pointless.

Why is this? It seems that the Inuits are non-individualistic community and therefore there is no need for anyone to assert their territory and power. Level-headedness and diplomacy is what they do.

We’re not exactly Inuit are we? After I read The Guardian piece, I felt very self-conscious of my Mediterranean trait of err, expressing emotions err, very visibly and audibly. So I made a decision to channel zen and kumbaya. Reader, it lasted all of 10 minutes, till I got in the car, turned the corner and got stuck in traffic.

krischetcuti@gmail.com
twitter: @krischetcuti

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

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