As a rule of thumb, one should never trust the media reporting on statistics. More so opinion writers, especially when such statistics are blatantly reconfigured to bolster a writer’s sense of self-styled moral superiority.
Lately, it seems that this has become the trend among a good few Nationalist-leaning opinion writers. Their newly discovered fondness for statistics, mostly through EU sources, is mostly concerned with proving by way of numbers that the Maltese population is not truly European in its outlook and values.
By some convoluted logic, the ‘ergo’ that follows links this “moral deficit” of the Maltese to the three successive general election defeats suffered by the party. In other words, as the narrative goes: why do the Maltese keep voting for the Labour Party despite all the scandals and corruption? Bingo! Because the Maltese don’t hold the right values, they are not European enough.
The latest fodder to this narrative came in the form of an EU barometer survey about priorities in EU countries, where the Maltese respondents were more inclined towards the ‘mundane’, prioritising price stability, then towards the ‘sublime’ values of freedom and democracy.
In this very newspaper, Kevin Cassar wrote that “Malta is ready to give up everything for comfort and convenience. Malta will sell its soul” and then went on to quote (of all the people lecturing about freedom and democracy) NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg pontificating about how “Freedom is more important than free trade, the protection of our values is more important than profit.” Yeah, tell that to the marines.
The first thing that immediately strikes me is how latently racist this narrative is. The underlying assumption is that so-called European values are inherently superior to those held by other cultures; that, somehow, those who do not adhere to such values are somewhat backwards or less civilised and/or that non-Europeans aren’t capable of holding such lofty values equally at heart. Gibbon would have applauded.
But, then, what are we talking about? Since the fall of Communism, the rhetoric of ‘freedom’ has been predominant all over Eastern Europe. Even right-wing governments, like the PiS-led coalition in Poland or Orbán in Hungary, consider themselves to be champions of freedom.
Since the beginning of the war on Ukraine, ‘freedom’ in countries traditionally hostile to Russia, especially bordering countries that have a turbulent past with their obtrusive neighbour, has become a rallying cry against all that Russia represents. The proximity to the theatre of war and historical hatred certainly have an impact on what the populations of these countries hold to be their priorities.
The realisation that the Maltese are European manqués dawned upon them only after the PN lost the government in 2013
On the other hand, ‘freedom’ in Germany or France or the Netherlands is mostly interpreted as freedom from the state and democracy as free choice of lifestyle without state intervention: quite a sore point considering all the state impositions in light of the COVID pandemic, sore enough to enlist such luminaries as the philosopher Giorgio Agamben among the huge anti-vaxxer movement accusing the state of fascistic population control.
The reality is that ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ may be moral concepts held common across European nations (though not exclusively so) but that does not entail that they hold a common definition of such values. There might not even be a shared understanding of the same values within a single country, let alone within a whole geographical region made of nations each moulded by its own history.
The idea of a single European moral code, or of shared common European values, is simply a myth first propagated by European imperialists to justify their colonial ambitions (the so-called white man’s burden: civilising savages) and then by the EU to justify its continued existence.
Let’s not forget that when an EU constitution was drawn exalting such European values, the populations of Europe voted against it – in those few countries that valued democracy enough to give the final say to the people (against the wishes of the Brussels establishment that then encouraged governments to overturn the people’s vote).
Let’s also remember that, as much as Europe may stand for freedom and democracy, it is also the same continent that thrived on slavery, colonialism and the destruction of whole indigenous populations. It is also the continent that bred fascism and nazism, invented the concentration camp and carpet bombing of civilians.
It is this Europe, that still closes the doors to thousands of migrants and marginalises minorities because of their skin colour and religion, that discriminates against Roma people, that strikes energy deals with dictators and bails corporations that swindle the poor and exploit workers in other parts of the world.
Like the rest of the Europeans, the Maltese hold values that they consider to be relevant to them today but which are also rooted in their history, a history, lest we forget, mostly marred by poverty and want.
Of course, some illustrious personalities might feel that they belong to a superior breed, that such mundane values as wanting to lead a decent life are below their sublime aspirations and this gives them the right to be condescending towards the rest.
What I find somewhat perplexing is how this realisation that the Maltese are European manqués dawned upon them only after the Nationalist Party lost the government in 2013.
Equally, I am still trying to figure out what utility this narrative might have to reconnect the party with that big chunk of electorate that migrated towards Labour.
If anything, in my humble opinion – amoral and unEuropean Maltese that I am – it only justifies why the ordinary citizen feels so distant from the Nationalist Party.
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