I came to teach in Malta some 15 years ago, ended up staying and have now lived in Gozo for 10 years.
I have been struck by just how many positive things the Maltese have going for them – the geography of the place, its location (in one of the world’s most historic and innovative regions – the Mediterranean), a very rich and diverse history and culture) and, traditionally at least, a very beautiful architecture.
But what I have never been able to fully understand is why, in such circumstances, Maltese can be so very nasty and poisonous towards each other and also towards foreigners.
This nastiness is visible at one level on the roads, in queues, in attitudes to noise, dirt and rubbish, when building projects are underway and, of course, in some of the most horrible political debates I have witnessed anywhere.
It is most strikingly visible online, where commentators not only engage in vicious ‘political’ exchanges (unfortunately they are so rarely actually political) but also do so with a gratuitous nastiness that is simply plain ugly. Trading insults of the most venomous kind almost appears to be a national sport.
I didn't abandon my brain and critical faculties when I chose to live here
I fully appreciate that this is fuelled as part of a calculated and deliberate political strategy but I fail to understand why ‘ordinary’ citizens wish to wallow in it so much and in the degree to which they seem to enjoy it.
Allowing political party tribalism to dictate how we treat each other is madness.
The nastiness is damaging Malta and Gozo horribly. At another level entirely, it is to be seen in the most basic disregard for neighbours, for others' right to enjoy these islands’ wonderful environment; in the 'I'm gonna be a millionaire by Tuesday next even if I trample on others in the process' and in the extensive plundering of public and common resources and wealth for entirely personal benefit.
The nastiness can be heard in the hugely dishonest and deeply insulting pronouncements of far too many business, political and cultural leaders. It can be seen in the daily compromising of almost all key state positions and institutions (and in the glee expressed in the process).
And, it can sadly be seen in the ‘one-fingered’ responses so easily incurred on a daily basis, especially to anyone challenging what is happening here on these islands.
I am fully aware I am a ‘foreigner’ and I have thought long and hard about writing this piece and of the likely nasty responses it will generate. But I didn't abandon my brain and critical faculties when I chose to live here. I feel it is everyone’s duty to challenge this ugliness and dishonesty.
I am sad writing this because Malta, Gozo and their people deserve way better than this.
I could write lots about the wonderful dimensions of living here (there are very, very many - it can be a magical place) but at the moment it doesn't feel appropriate to so. It seems that a majority of Maltese and Gozitans want instead to cheerlead ugliness and dishonesty on a grand scale.
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