A few weeks ago, the news broke that a group of Turkish workers were going to in essence be imported to Malta in order to work on the site formerly occupied by the Fortina Hotel. So far, so golden.

What was less than golden were further reports of where they would be allegedly living. I’m not going to take this issue to task today because that will take many, many column inches and I’m here to speak about an entirely different and mostly ignored kettle of fish.

Now, I’ll be the first one to say that I have no issue with people coming over and working in our country legally. As far as I’m concerned, if Mehmet from Izmir, Turkey wants to come here and work at a faster pace than an unshelled snail (which is the rate that many of our local builders work at), I’m all for it. But what I don’t appreciate is the rationale behind it and the fact that nothing is being done in our society to encourage people to want to take up trade jobs.

There has been an open war brewing for a very long time, whereby government administration after government administration has unabashedly fed into stereotype and prejudice, and even though the country is now on its knees, we have not stopped flogging this dead horse. In the past, being a builder, a plumber, a plasterer, a mechanic was something that people respected.

Yes, the hours were long and the manual labour hard, but people knew that we needed each otherin order to function. However, it would seem that government after government has contributed to the stripping away of dignity from these jobs by constantly funnelling all its human potential (capable or not) through its more formal academic structures.

Trade schools were closed and snajja’ reduced to a dirty word (now known by the horrible word artiġjanat, even though it means the exact same thing), with children instructed to study hard whether they wanted to or not or had any passion for it. Everyone became obsessed with having a ‘Doctor’ in front of their name. This has been of a great disservice not only to the country itself but to us as individuals.

As hard as it is for some people to hear (and honestly, it really shouldn’t be), not everyone was born to be a lawyer or an architect and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

By pushing our children to be third class lawyers when they are struggling to grasp the basics, we are robbing the country of what could have been a great tiler. It’s mind-boggling to me that instead of us understanding and respecting each other’s differences, we just keep lowering the requirements to get into university so that everyone and their mother will get a degree.

How is this going to be sustainable in the long-term? There is little point in having 500 lawyers graduating a year (and let’s face it, how many of them are going to be exceptional?) if we don’t have a single plumber to unblock our toilets. Meanwhile, we are also losing our trades and crafts: will we have a single weaver, cobbler or master mason left in ten years’ time?

We need to get real and get educated about our attitudes towards manual labour and stop being so narrow minded. Not only does all work need to be given back its basic dignity, but we also need to have respect for our differences to make sure that in every sector we have people who are actually meant to be where they are. Let’s always try to keep in mind what undisputed genius Albert Einstein himself said after being called stupid by his teachers at school: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

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