There was a time when I could write my weekly column a couple of days before I was meant to send it in, but thanks to our Netflix-series-style-way of doing things in this country, so much changes in an hour or two that I’m always concerned about how things will have developed by the time everyone else gets to read my article.

Then again, what I want to discuss today doesn’t seem to show signs of abating any time soon, so write about our ingrained short-sightedness as a people I shall.

On Wednesday, the BBC published a blistering, short but very not very sweet, article about our government stepping in to host mass parties that literally no other European country is willing to take on.

The article’s opening words, apparently simple but loaded with unsubtle irony, are what struck me most: “In a parallel universe…”.

You see, as unremarkable as those words might seem to someone who hasn’t been here for the last few years and witnessed journalists being murdered and millions of our taxes disappear into fishy deals while people cheer, it often feels like we are living in a parallel universe for the precious few who maintain an objective, critical gaze upon our country.

When Prime Minister Robert Abela decided to open our doors to tourists, I was not happy, but I understood that as an island which relies heavily on tourism for survival, it was needed.

We seem to be living in a completely different dimension

I was also slightly more reassured when he proposed that tourists would be coming from safe zones. As usual, this sense of reasoned calm was not to last.

In our characteristic way of acting first and thinking later, coupled with our magnificent propensity for greed, we decided that we knew better and that we would not only open our doors to all and sundry but on top of that, we would take this golden opportunity to take on the parties that everyone else wouldn’t touch with a barge pole.

We did all this armed with our prime minister telling us that the war was over and our tourism minister, who would fare a lot better reading out the points for the Eurovision than holding ill-advised, ill-prepared interviews with the BBC, telling us that it was okay because they knew what they were doing.

Even while I’m writing this, I can barely believe the sheer, unvarnished stupidity, arrogance and ignorance of it all. Even more hysteria-inducing is the fact that, as our COVID numbers climb, our Public Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci is nowhere to be seen. They might as well have locked her in a cupboard under the stairs and thrown away the key.

Inevitably, to the tune of our country burning up a fever and our doctors and nurses screaming blue murder, the backtracking has already begun, with the tourism minister telling us that we need to see what exactly went wrong. Really, Julia, love? I’m no astrophysicist but would you prefer a list e-mailed to you or would you rather have it hand-delivered to your door?

I know many of our countryfolk probably appear to be as thick as cottage cheese to most of you, but I can assure you that there are very many who have instinctively, if not rationally, grasped that inviting thousands of drunk revellers over to an overcrowded island during a pandemic that thrives in exactly those circumstances is not the best way forward.

Forget a parallel universe, we seem to be living in a completely different dimension.

[Editorial note: This article was submitted before festival organisers announced that they were cancelling the events.]

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us